Training exercise helps prepare for air searches
Staff from the Division of Aeronautics hovered over maps and tables in what resembled a war room Friday (Feb. 22), looking for the location of a lost aircraft. . They focused on an area between Banks and McCall.
The object of their scrutiny – the state-owned Cessna 206 single-engine plane – never crashed; indeed it was never missing. The mock search-and-rescue effort was a training exercise for Aeronautics personnel and representatives of the department’s Communications Office.
Division Administrator JV DeThomas organized the exercise as a way of reviewing the Aviation Emergency Response Action Plan. It also enabled ITD staff to function under the stressful conditions of an actual search.
The drill, explained DeThomas, “simulated an accident with our C-206 south of McCall on a VFR (visual flight rules) flight plan.”
ITD personnel operated under the scenario that DeThomas was piloting the state aircraft with one, non-state passenger. It reportedly departed from McCall under difficult winter flying conditions and was last reported seen over the Cascade airport.
According to the training scenario, county search-and-rescue crews reached the crash site by snowmobile and discovered the plane had crashed into trees near Sage Hen Reservoir – with no survivors.
The training exercise had a better ending, though. A post-event debriefing identified a number of areas in which information gathering, verification and notices could be improved. And it will lead to subtle changes in the Emergency Response Action Plan that was revised in mid-December.
“This drill was extremely valuable in identifying areas where we can improve and be more efficient when responding to an actual search,” DeThomas said. “It was an excellent place to begin and provides us with a good benchmark from which to move forward.”