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EAA Opens Doors to CAP in Florida for Hurricane Irma Relief

September 21, 2017 - After Hurricane Irma moved through Florida, the Civil Air Patrol needed to launch several missions to respond and provide relief. In order to get easier access to the runways at the Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), the CAP asked EAA Chapter 565 if they could use their facilities.

In the typical EAA spirit, the chapter flung open its doors to help out. Chapter President Stan Smith said there was some cleaning up that needed to be done, but luckily the hangar didn’t take much damage from the storm and everybody was able to get to work pretty quickly.

“We helped them set up some of their items such as a communications trailer,” Stan said. “We went out to assist if they needed anything.”

CAP Lt. Col. Jeffrey Carlson said that PGD was close to the most hard-hit areas and had fuel after the storm, making it an obvious choice for CAP operations, and that Stan and Chapter 565 postponed a chapter lobster dinner and made other accommodations to ensure the CAP could do what they needed, for as long as they needed to do it.

“The EAA facility is well equipped to handle mission needs, the location of the building allows CAP aircrews to have easy access to the ramp area designated by the airport for the mission’s flightline,” Jeffrey said. “The Warbirds SQ 24 offered an adjacent building for CAP’s flight operations. Outside, there is room for the CAP communication trailer and ample parking space.”  

“Warbirds Squadron 24 stepped right up and the president over there said yes, if you need to use the facility which is right next to ours, use it,” Stan said. “They sustained a little bit more damage, we basically had none but they had some to their roof, but they used their facility as well.”

Jeffrey said the CAP and EAA have a long history of working together all across the United States.

“Many CAP squadrons and EAA chapters across the country work together on a daily basis,” he said. “The two organizations share a common purpose to promote general aviation and to create opportunities for youth to gain an appreciation for the personal enjoyment of flying as well as discover career opportunities. The EAA’s Young Eagles program and CAP’s cadet orientation flights expose thousands of youth each year to the joy of flying.”

The CAP knew they had friends in their local EAA counterparts thanks to the two groups having a history of working together in day-to-day activities. CAP Lt. Col. Jim Kaletta is also a director of Chapter 565, and the chapter’s website manager, Mikehla Hicks, is a CAP cadet preparing to get her pilot certificate and attend the U.S. Air Force Academy. Jim was the one who initially reached out to Stan about the CAP using Chapter 565’s facility as part of their support missions.

The Civil Air Patrol has been flying missions since Tuesday, September 12 and will continue to carry out those missions for several weeks, according to Jeffrey.

“CAP is responding to requests from federal and state agencies for aerial photography surveys of area affected by Hurricane Irma,” he said. “Once collected, the digital images are uploaded and used by emergency management officials to make decisions for deploying resources.”

This example of partnership between EAA and the CAP is helping to save lives in Florida, and Jeffrey believes it shows how effective the two groups can be when they work in tandem.

“Organizations like EAA and CAP depend on partnerships to serve the local community,” he said. “In this case, the collaboration helps to strengthen both programs. There is much potential for local squadrons and chapters across the country to explore by working together.”

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