The Real Ones
This is a listing of the real accidents I've been to or that I've
been involved with with the intent of passing my experiences on to those
who may benefeit from them. The details of the find are listed for
your benefit. I'll admit the list is rather short, but nondistress
finds are not included. Besides, this isn't a counting competition.
I've found it interesting to search the NTSB files for supporting
information. Additionally, its interesting to find out what actually
caused the accidents versus your suspicions at the time of the find.
My first search was for a doctor and his assistants that were flying out
of the small Wisconsin town of Shell Lake. I wasn't called until very
late in the search and never deployed to the search location. As a
young person involved with this business, however, it made me realize
how deadly serious and real it could be. This is the search that
primed me and motivated me to prepare for future searches. A friend's
involvement in this search also helped me with the midair we found at a
later time (see below). See the
for this accident.
AZTEC IN THE DIRT
Another search I was involved with was for a Piper Aztec, a twin engine
light airplane. We began the evening thinking that this would be more
of the same: I figured we were searching for a non-distress ELT in
someone's hangar. After a long evening, we located the aircraft in a
freshly plowed field. The
for this accident gives some details. The damage done to the aircraft
was rather surprising. The left main gear had dug into the soft field
and then spun the entire wing around its main spar 180 degrees. When
we got there (about 0300 the next morning) the left main was sticking
straight up in the air. No one was on board: they had walked away and
neglected their ELT. Good for them. I wish I had a picture of that
While I was a student pilot in a CAP aircraft I was onboard when we
found two aircraft that had been involved in a midair. Details of this
accident can be read on this site as
#8, Critical Stress Incident Debriefing. The
gives another account.
While attending a regularly scheduled Emergency Services exercise, or "Bluecap"
as we called them, we were activated to search for not one but TWO
seperate and distinct ELT signals. One was quickly located on the
grounds of the mission base airport. The other one wasn't as easy.
We eventually located the aircraft at about 2 a.m. I've always found
it interesting when you knock on someone's door at that late an hour:
"Excuse me, ma'am, I'm Scott Lanis with the Civil Air Patrol. We are
conducting a search for a missing aircraft. Would you know anything
about that?" Her response was, "sure, its out back! I'll take you
there." She later told us that the gentleman who piloted in the
aircraft had requested that she not call the Sheriff about his
off-airport landing. He said he'd return the next day with a truck to
haul off the aircraft. Since she suspected something funny, she
naturally called the Sheriff when he left. Too bad local law
enforcement doesn't know about shutting down ELTs. See the
for this accident.