SPEARFISH, S.D. – The dedication and skill of volunteers from the Lookout Mountain
Composite Squadron was recently put to the test during five search and rescue (SAR) missions.
All Civil Air Patrol SAR missions are assigned to units by the Air Force Rescue Coordination
Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, usually at the request of local emergency managers.
Civil Air Patrol (CAP) performs about 90 percent of the inland SAR missions in the continental
U.S. as tasked by the Air Force and maintains a fleet of six aircraft in South Dakota. This
includes the plane based at the Black Hills Airport in Spearfish.
The activity began on September 9 when the squadron was activated to search for a missing
plane near Valentine, Nebraska. A CAP aircraft and crew were placed on standby at the Black
Hills Airport, but bad weather kept them on the ground. Sadly, the two occupants of the missing plane were found deceased several hours later.
The next day (September 10) the squadron was again pressed into service in the search for a
missing 78-year old woman in Harding County. Six flights were conducted by two CAP aircraft
(Spearfish and Rapid City) to look for the missing woman who was found alive by a deputy
sheriff later that day.
After a two-week respite, the unit was again activated, this time on a multi-day search for a
missing hiking in Custer State Park. No CAP manned aircraft were used in this search; however, in a first for the organization, small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS commonly known as drones) were used. Four CAP volunteers from Spearfish assisted with the ground search which ended tragically when the hiker’s body was found on September 25.
On October 2 the squadron was activated for a fourth time on another multi-day SAR mission.
This time the focus was on locating a missing hunter in the southern Black Hills. Several days of snowfall kept CAP aircraft, manned and unmanned, on the ground although three Spearfish
members joined other local SAR teams with the ground search. Once the weather cleared sUAS were used to try to locate the missing hunter. Efforts to find this individual are continuing.
The final mission in this spate of searches began when a plane was reported missing on
October 9 near Aberdeen, South Dakota. CAP was assigned this SAR mission a day later and
soon aircraft and crews from across the state were dispatched to the area, including volunteers and the plane from Spearfish. Four CAP aircraft and nearly 90 CAP volunteers were utilized during a 12-hour period at the search’s height. In the end, an area larger than the States of Rhode Island and Delaware combined (approximately 3,700 square miles) was searched at least twice. Unfortunately, the remains of the pilot and the wreckage of the plane were found earlier this week.
The volunteers of the Lookout Mountain Composite Squadron remain committed and ready for
the next mission. New members are always welcome. The squadron meets most Thursday
evenings at the Black Hills Airport.
The group is also holding an open house on Saturday, November 9, 2019, to showcase the exciting opportunities available through the CAP Cadet program.