Forsyth County resident Captain Dayle Yates has thousands of hours as a commercial airline pilot, and after retiring he decided he wanted to "give something back" to his country and community. So he joined the Dahlonega Squadron of the US Civil Air Patrol.
"It seemed a shame to put all those years of experience behind me and not put them to good use," said Yates. "So I looked and asked around, and joined the Civil Air Patrol. I enjoy flying and really like that I can give back some of my experience."
But other members of the squadron arrived from different paths.
For example, Dawsonville resident Courtney Brooks has a PhD in Aviation History, wrote much of the official NASA history of the Apollo missions and recently retired from IBM.
Oh, and did we mention that he learned how to fly last year?
"I spent years researching pilots, talking to pilots, writing about pilots and dreaming about being a pilot. Last year I finally got to achieve my dream, and I only wish I hadn't waited so long," said Brooks.
Brooks and Yates put together a "Mountain Flying" course for the Georgia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol Nov. 1 and 2, which was hosted by the Dahlonega Squadron.
"It was fun doing the research and putting it into a format our pilots could use," said Brooks. "And Dayle Yates did his usual masterful job of presenting during the classroom sessions."
Because the Civil Air Patrol flies over 90 percent of all search and rescue missions in the United States (typically saving over 75 lives each year), its pilots and air crews are often called upon to fly over mountainous terrain while searching for aircraft and listening for aircraft distress beacons.
"Flying low and slow requires precise control and attention to detail," said Yates. "Not to mention the challenges such as updrafts and downdrafts and the quickly changing weather in the mountains."
Brooks said, "It's unfortunate, but most pilots know of people or situations where small aircraft pilots weren't careful around mountains and lost their lives. This course was intended to make mountain flying safe for pilots and aircrews and to make people with little or no mountain flying experience more experienced and more competent pilots."
The course was taught in two phases: first, a classroom session was taught on Saturday, Nov. 1 at Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville. Then on Sunday, Nov. 2, the pilots climbed in their aircraft with a highly experienced instructor in order to demonstrate their proficiency and to fine tune their skills.
Lt. Colonel Will Hargove, Georgia Wing Standardization Officer said, "Dahlonega's the perfect spot to teach this course. The runway is smaller than most big-city airports, so our pilots get much needed practice not only in flying in the mountains, but in flying in and out of a mountain airport."
The Dahlonega Squadron is comprised of pilots and non-pilots from Forsyth, Dawson and Lumpkin counties, all of whom share a love of aviation.
For example, Lt. Colonel Richard Ivy of Dahlonega is a retired US Naval aviator with over 50 years of aviation experience and thousands of hours as a military pilot, commercial pilot and Civil Air Patrol Command Pilot, including Apollo recovery missions.
"If you like to fly, the Civil Air Patrol will certainly put you to work," said Ivy. "This year I've flown so many volunteer Civil Air Patrol missions that my wife kids me about my needing to go back to work so I can get some rest."
You don't have to be a pilot to be in the Civil Air Patrol.
In addition to air observers, the patrol also uses search and rescue ground crews, radio operators, information technologists and many other skills.
"We welcome anyone with a love of aviation," said Ivy. "Most of our members live in Forsyth County, and Dahlonega is the closest airport for most of us. But we need more non-pilots. One of our frustrations has been a lack of ground team here in North Georgia and more people for our air crews. Anyone that loves aviation is encouraged to check us out at www.ga447.org."
As the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP has now been placed under the Air Force Homeland Security Directorate. The Civil Air Patrol directly assisted after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, provided security for the Winter Olympics and provides NASA with security flights above its spacecraft launch sites. CAP increases our nation's security capabilities by providing airborne reconnaissance and imagery, disaster and damage assessment, airborne transportation of personnel, equipment and critical supplies, and multi-layered communications support. Using local pilots, the Civil Air Patrol can put a manned airborne platform over any major city or strategic resource in the country in less than two hours, safely and cost-effectively.
While the CAP is sponsored by the Air Force, it is not an operating reserve component under the Air Force or the federal government. It performs three congressionally assigned key missions: emergency services, which includes search and rescue (by air and ground) and disaster recovery operations; aerospace education for youth and the general public; and cadet programs for teenage youth.More information on the squadron can be found by visiting www.ga447.org or by telephoning Public Affairs Officer Ross Statham at (770) 886-0801.