The Civil Air Patrol‘s National Radar Analysis Team guided searchers Jan. 8, 2017, to a Colorado Springs couple and their downed plane in subzero temperatures in a remote area about 32 miles east of Meeker, Colorado.
The couple was taken to Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker for treatment of minor injuries.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center assigned the search and rescue mission to CAP’s Colorado Wing at noon after the plane, a Cirrus SR22, sent a distress call and crashed into the Flat Tops Wilderness in Garfield County.
The CAP radar team was activated and produced a radar track of the plane’s path.
A plane diverted to the radar coordinates spotted the downed Cirrus and the couple outside the plane. The temperature was reported to be 18 below zero, with 2 to 4 feet of snow on the ground.
Lt. Col. Mark Young, incident commander for the mission, as well as assistant director of operations for the Colorado Wing and a member of the CAP radar team, said the team was able to nail down the crashed plane’s location within five to 10 minutes.
Only an hour and 47 minutes passed between the time the team was notified and the time the couple was hospitalized, Young said.
He attributed the mission’s success to effective planning: “We set up a unified command with the county sheriffs, AFRCC and all of the emergency service providers, allowing us to make suggestions and immediately run with them.
“It was an awesome team effort by team Colorado and the National Radar Analysis Team with their quick work,” Young said. “NRAT’s Google Earth file showed the radar track and where the airplane went down; it was emailed, so everyone had a copy and could see three-dimensionally the path the aircraft took and what the terrain was like. It was of tremendous value to the first responders.”
The radar team has participated in seven missions this year, successfully tracking its target each time, according to CAP officials.
The unified command set up among all the involved agencies coordinated on a conference call that stayed online for the entire mission.
The Garfield and Rio Blanco County sheriff’s offices coordinated resources and plans to support the mission. The High-Altitude Air National Guard Training Site in Eagle, Colorado, was activated and sent a Black Hawk helicopter to assist if needed. The Colorado State Division of Fire Prevention and Control launched its Multi-Mission Aircraft to assist with communications.
Two civilian medevac helicopters were also launched by St. Mary’s CareFlight and Classic Helicopters. Meeker Fire and Emergency Medical Services assisted with setting up a landing zone for helicopter operations if needed.