Exercise helps Civil Air Patrol hone communication skills

By Flight Officer Cole Oakland
Kansas Wing, Civil Air Patrol

Getting real time information into the hands of first response teams is critical to saving lives and property during a disaster. However, transmitting that information may be a problem when cell towers and phone lines are down as a result of the disaster.

Cessna 182 flown by the Kansas WIng of the Civil Air Patrol
A Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182 taxies to takeoff at New Century AirCenter to support a Kansas Wing communications exercise March 21. (Photo by CAP Flight Officer Cole Oakland)

A March 21 communication exercise gave members of the Kansas Wing, Civil Air Patrol, the chance to practice how to respond to a disaster when such services are down.

“Conducting routine training such as this allows us to keep our skills sharp, test new ideas, and get new members familiarized with how we operate,” said CAP Lt. Col. Mark Lahan, project officer for the exercise. “Civil Air Patrol’s communications system provides a means to conduct missions during normal conditions and when commercial infrastructure is unavailable or unsuitable.”

The exercise used real world scenarios to improve the ability of Civil Air Patrol to respond when normal communication channels are interrupted.
Kansas City Composite Squadron, Shawnee; Heartland Cadet Squadron, Lenexa; 77th Composite, Emporia; Lawrence Composite Squadron; Flint Hills Composite Squadron, Junction City; Smoky Hill Composite Squadron, Wichita, and Southeast Cadet Squadron, Cherokee, participated on the ground and communicated using high frequency radios for ground communication or very-high frequency radios to talk with aircraft. New Century Composite Squadron, Olathe; Topeka Eagle Squadron; and Emerald City Composite Squadron, Wichita, conducted both ground and air operations.

The Kansas Wing flies Cessna 172 and 182 high-wing, single-prop aircraft. Some of these aircraft are equipped with Garmin G-1000 “glass cockpit” instruments, which consists of four computer screens that have flight control information in addition to maps of the terrain below.

The exercise flights lasted approximately one hour with most flights taking off between 6:30-7 p.m. The aircraft were flown to designated points to attempt communication with ground stations. Crews logged the strength and readability of the signal and messages passed.

“One of the reasons that we train the way that we do is so that we can still communicate even if the phone system and the internet fail,” explained CAP Capt. Sid Ashen-Brenner, CAP director of communications, Kansas Wing.

“The communications program is particularly import as it supports Homeland Security, search and rescue, emergency preparedness, disaster relief, and other operational missions,” said Lahan.