Civil Air Patrol pilot Captain Neil Schmid of the Sioux Falls Composite Squadron recently earned a significant aviation achievement. Flying one of the South Dakota Wing’s CAP aircraft, Schmid completed his “Fly South Dakota” Gold Level Award.
The Fly South Dakota program, which began in 2010, is sponsored by the South Dakota Pilots Association (SDPA) to promote general aviation within the state. The three-level program (bronze, silver, gold) involves attending aviation safety seminars, visiting South Dakota museums with aviation displays, and landing at South Dakota’s public airports. The Gold level requires a pilot to have have landed at all 74 of the state’s public-use airports. The SDPA issues each pilot-participant a “passport” in which his activities are logged and certified.
Schmid has been a pilot for more than 25 years and has seen much of the country from the air. In June 2010 he registered for the Fly South Dakota program and began flying to the airports near his home in Sioux Falls. By 2012, he had flown to over half the state’s airports and in 2013 to over three quarters of them. In October he landed at the final six airports in a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 172. His four-year journey was accomplished in nine different single engine aircraft.
“My fondest memory is my first landing at Custer County Airport in the Southern Black Hills after flying by the Mount Rushmore monument and the Crazy Horse mountain sculpture,” he said. “This airport is breathtakingly beautiful, surrounded by pine trees.”
“While checking off the airports in the Passport logbook, about half of the flights were solo. I’ve also landed at many of the airports with others on board,” he added. “I enjoyed sharing the experience with all of the co-pilots who traveled with me to some of these remote and stunning places in South Dakota.”
The South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, with squadrons in South Dakota in Sioux Falls, Brookings, Rapid City, Pierre, Custer and Spearfish has approximately 300 members, six aircraft and 17 multi-purpose vehicles. These assets are available to federal, state and county governments, emergency responders and law enforcement agencies to perform search and rescue, homeland security, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and counter-drug missions.