Civil Air Patrol Sends Cessnas to the Bahamas for Hurricane Dorian Response

Civil Air Patrol sent Cessna 206s—like the one shown here—and Cessna 182s to the Bahamas to provide humanitarian assistance in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. CAP photo.

Civil Air Patrol recently sent eight of its Cessnas to the Bahamas to help assess damage inflicted by Hurricane Dorian, in CAP’s first international mission in 10 years, CAP National Commander and CEO Maj. Gen. Mark Smith told Air Force Magazine in a Sept. 16 interview at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md.

CAP has an established track record of assisting with aerial photography and search and rescue—even earning praise from First Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Marc Sasseville in August for its humanitarian support in the wake of Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

“I’m excited to see how CAP continues to evolve in its reach and impact,” Sasseville wrote in an Aug. 1 letter to Smith. “With the new 3D high-definition imagery system tested in ‘Waldo Air’ that’s proving to be highly effective, and your [Civil Air Patrol’s] innovation in bringing to bear small Unmanned Aerial Systems for Defense Support of Civil Authorities, CAP is poised to be even more indispensable to our nation.”

But the fact that the sky over the Bahamas is technically British airspace made the Dorian mission unique, Smith said.

He explained that after the Bahamas asked the US for help via a State Department request, State coordinated with the Pentagon “for support for different resources,” one of which was Civil Air Patrol.

“So, Civil Air Patrol was asked to go down and perform aerial imaging, as well as airborne sensors… for aerial surveys of key infrastructure and airfields and those types of things,” Smith said. “That was done for several days before the next phase of recovery operations needed to start.”

Most of the participating CAP aircraft were Cessna 206s, but Cessna 182s also took part, with four aircraft being flown at a time, he said.

“It was an honor to be able to do that for the time period we were tasked,” said Smith, a retired Air Force colonel and former fighter pilot.

Civil Air Patrol also helped with the domestic response to Dorian. CAP efforts included manning an emergency operations center and assisting government agencies with establishing evacuation centers in North Carolina before the storm’s arrival, helping with search and rescue and evaluating infrastructure damage in South Carolina, assessing storm damage in Georgia, and more.