Reaping the Lost

Airmen used an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft launched from Holloman AFB, N.M., to help locate missing kayakers in the Gila National Forest near the base. This was the first time that an RPA was allowed to operate outside of Holloman’s FAA-approved airspace to assist in a search-and-rescue mission, according to Holloman officials. “To be able to fly in the national airspace, there is a lot of coordination that has to take place to allow this to happen,” said Maj. Dustin Pittman, assistant operations director of the base’s 29th Attack Squadron, a flying training unit that operates Reapers. “This is a big step forward to . . . extend ourselves outside our normal flying ranges,” he stressed. Air Combat Command received the call for assistance on the search and “as soon as the approval came, the 29th Attack Squadron had plans ready and people in route,” added Pittman. The Reaper provided overhead imagery of a riverbed, aiding authorities in locating the two missing sportsmen on April 2. (Holloman report by A1C Colin Cates)