Civil Air Patrol takes flight into Canada to help monitor expected flooding Print
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Steve Cox   
Friday, 24 May 2013 12:20

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – In what is another first for Civil Air Patrol, aircrews from the U.S. Air Force auxiliary’s North Dakota Wing are flying into Canada to take aerial assessment photos in advance of expected flooding from spring thawing of ice and snow.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley approved the CAP imagery flights, which began last Friday over the Souris River basin and could continue for the next two weeks. The request for CAP’s assistance came from North Dakota through the state’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk.

The CAP flights are unique in that the aircraft are taking off and landing in the U.S. but are being flown in Canadian airspace.

“We greatly appreciate the secretary of the Air Force’s approval for North Dakota Civil Air Patrol to conduct incident awareness and assessment flights into Canada,” said Sprynczynatyk. “This is a very distinctive mission, and based on years of flood experience, uniquely suited for our pilots. It is exciting to work with our international partners to the north to better understand the impact of flooding along rivers, which we share as a common concern.”

The Souris River, or Mouse River as it is known in the U.S., is 435 miles in length. Originating in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, it flows south into North Dakota through the city of Minot and reaches its southern point at the town of Velva, and then back north through the central part of the state into Manitoba, Canada.

“We took the Ward County Emergency Management with us on Friday, so they could get an idea of what is coming our way,” said North Dakota Wing Commander Col. Bill Kay, incident commander for the CAP flights.

Ward County and its county seat of Minot have experienced significant flooding several times in recent years and more is expected this spring because of higher than usual snow packs during the winter, as well as heavy rains over the past weekend.

After last Friday’s initial flight into Canada, rains grounded CAP aircrews over the past few days, but they were expected to return to the skies over the Souris River today to collect new imagery. “Now that we’ve got the secretary of the Air Force’s permission to fly across the border, we can launch when the weather permits,” said Kay. “That new imagery will give us a better idea of what we’ll be dealing with in coming days.”

In addition to using CAP’s aerial photos to predict where high waters might occur in North Dakota, the state is also sharing the imagery with the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization, so officials in the Canadian province can monitor the flooding potential there.

Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress in 1941 with a 501(c)(3) designation and pre-dates the Air Force. CAP consists of 61,000 unpaid professional members nationwide, and operates a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 26,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP is a force multiplier to the Air Force CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 71 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans.