Aeronautics still responsible for air searches
(Note: the following appeared in the summer 2008 issue of Rudder Flutter, produced by ITD’s Division of Aeronautics.)
Division of Aeronautics
The one subject that has generated the most questions about aerial search in Idaho is the delineation of responsibilities during the search for a missing aircraft.
Who really carries the responsibility for the search? The county sheriff? The Civil Air Patrol (CAP)? The Bureau of Homeland Security? Who?
The Division Aeronautics has formally held the responsibility for the aerial search for lost and missing airmen and aircraft since Title 21-114 was first passed in 1947. Currently, as stated in Idaho statutes, “…Search and rescue coordination shall be under the direction and supervision of the chief of the Bureau of Homeland Security within the Military Division, with aerial search operations coordinated by the department, Division of Aeronautics.
Over the years, Aeronautics has changed from a department to a bureau and finally to a division within ITD. Although responsibility for aerial search was eventually transferred to the ITD director, that responsibility continued to be delegated to Aeronautics. In 2005, aerial search was moved from ITD to the Bureau of Homeland Security under Title 46-1006 of the State Disaster Preparedness Act. However, in spite of this change, the Division of Aeronautics retains its responsibilities stated under Title 21.
The greatest confusion revolves around the division of authority and responsibility between Aeronautics and the county sheriff(s). Effective July 1 of this year, Senate Bill 1279, signed into law by the governor on Feb. 27, amended Title 31, Counties and County Law, adding a new section, 31-2229, further defining the sheriff’s jurisdiction during an aerial search:
“For the purpose of this section: (a) “Aerial search” means a response by the Bureau of Homeland Security and the Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aeronautics to a missing or overdue aircraft or airman. (b) “Rescue” means a response by the sheriff to recover lost, missing, injured, impaired or incapacitated persons in imminent danger of injury or death. (c) “Search” means a response by the sheriff to locate an overdue, missing or lost person… (3) All aerial search assets shall be under the coordination of the Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aeronautics. The ground aspects of the search and rescue of lost aircraft and airmen shall be under the supervision of the county sheriff, in coordination with the chief of the Bureau of Homeland Security and the administrator of the Division of Aeronautics.”
The bottom line is that we, Aeronautics, have been given the responsibility of coordinating all aerial searches for missing aircraft and airmen within Idaho. However, Idaho’s aerial search program is a joint effort. In order for it to be successful, it is imperative that every volunteer understand that we need his or her cooperation and assistance.
We must ensure four things:
1. The effort is well coordinated
2. Every lead has been thoroughly investigated
3. Search resources are used as efficiently as possible, and
4. Your safety
Some of the greatest concern has been expressed by groups of pilots or aerial posses who have attached themselves, whether loosely or formally, to a particular county sheriff or ground search organization.
My purpose here is not to wave the law… as a red flag or attempt to separate you from your commitment to another search agency or to interfere in any way with that commitment. However, in an aerial search, you must understand that not only for the success of that search but also for your own safety, we must work together.