JACKSON, Miss. – A plane crash here Tuesday evening killed three of Civil Air Patrol’s Mississippi Wing members – Col. John E. Tilton Jr., former member of Civil Air Patrol’s Board of Governors and Alabama Wing and Southeast Region commander; the Mississippi Wing’s standardization/evaluation officer, Lt. Col. David Williams; and Capt. William C. Young, finance officer for the Maj. James McKinnie Composite Squadron.
The Piper A-32 the three men were flying in crashed in a residential area shortly after takeoff about 5:10 p.m. from Hawkins Field Airport, according to authorities. The plane wasn’t part of CAP’s fleet, and the men weren’t on a CAP mission; they were headed to a FAA safety meeting in Raymond, Miss., about 30 miles away.
“The CAP family is deeply saddened by this tremendous loss,” said Col. Carlton Sumner, Mississippi Wing commander. “These fine men served selflessly in the military and/or in CAP. Their legacy will be marked by tireless service, devotion to duty and with great personal integrity and character. They touched innumerable lives as friends, business associates, mentors, instructors and leaders.”
“My condolences go out to the families of these great Americans,” Sumner said. “May their families know their service to the members of their respective communities as Civil Air Patrol volunteers was greatly appreciated and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the organization.”
Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr, CAP national commander, cited the “tremendous loss suffered by Civil Air Patrol.” In a message to the organization’s 61,000 members nationwide, he said, “Each of us in the CAP family is shocked and saddened by this loss, and I ask that you keep the victims, their families and friends in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”
Tilton, who joined CAP in February 1998, was 65. He had served as the Mississippi Wing’s safety officer since June 2011. His wife, Col. Rebecca Tilton, is the wing’s government relations adviser.
Tilton served as Alabama Wing commander from April 2002-February 2006 and as Southeast Region commander from February-October 2006, then as national safety officer from October 2006-December 2007. He served as an at-large member of CAP’s Board of Governors from August 2007-November 2009. He was an experienced aviator, having flown as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, where he retired as a lieutenant colonel and held FAA qualifications as a certified flight instructor.
Williams, who also served as the McKinnie squadron’s operations and standardization/evaluation officer, joined CAP in August 1994. He was 69. He previously served as the wing’s vice commander, chief of staff and director of operations. He had also been the McKinnie squadron’s deputy commander and Web security administrator for the Singing River Composite Squadron. His aviation credentials included military service as an Air Force F-101 fighter pilot, and he held FAA qualifications as a certified flight instructor.
Young joined CAP in May 2011. He was 78. His aviation credentials also included qualifications as an FAA certified flight instructor.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating the crash.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to nearly 27,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 71 years.