Missions marked by hurricanes, a famous oil spill and SAR
Mississippi has been hit with 16 hurricanes since 1851, a total that jumps to 86 if neighboring Louisiana, Alabama and northwest Florida are taken into account. Two of those have been Category 5 hurricanes — Camille in August 1969 and Katrina in August 2005, both among the largest on record to hit the U.S. mainland. The Mississippi Wing responded in both cases in support of Mississippians affected by massive flooding and wind damage and great loss of life. Missions included materials transport, aerial photo reconnaissance, communication links, distribution of relief supplies and search and rescue. Numerous smaller hurricanes have spurred the wing into action with aerial assets, ground teams and communications equipment.
Another major mission for the wing involved the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. For four months after the April 20 incident, CAP launched more than 1,000 sorties totaling more than 2,500 flight hours over 700 miles of coastline. The long flight hours enabled volunteers to capture more than 28,000 pictures. These pictures were essential due to the GPS coordinates, dates and times attached to each, enabling state and federal agencies to assess the oil spill’s potential effects on the coastline, barrier islands, wetlands and fishing industry. Deepwater Horizon has been described as Civil Air Patrol’s largest mission since World War II.
The wing is also well-known in search and rescue circles because of Dennis Steinbock’s book “Miracle in Mississippi,” which detailed the Oregon pilot’s dramatic rescue in June 2007. After crashing his new single-engine Zodiac plane in the remote woods of northeast Mississippi, Steinbock survived 54 hours pinned underneath the wrecked plane before he was found by one of the wing’s ground teams and taken to safety.