11:16 AM

CAP Honored for Public Benefit Flying

Award from Natl. Aeronautic Association Cites U.S. Air Force Reaper Training Program 'Shadow Escort' Flights

Civil Air Patrol received a 2017 Public Benefit Flying Award Wednesday night for its “shadow escort” flights for the U.S. Air Force Reaper Training Program in central New York.

The National Aeronautic Association, in partnership with the Air Care Alliance, a nationwide league of humanitarian flying organizations, recognized CAP for Outstanding Achievement in Advancement of Public Benefit Flying as a result of the flights, which CAP has provided since June 2016.

The award, one of four presented at NAA’s Fall Awards Dinner at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, were created to honor the nation’s volunteer pilots, other volunteers and their organizations engaged in flying designed to help others, as well as those supporting such work.

In presenting the award to Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander and chief executive officer, NAA President and CEO Greg Principato said, “Civil Air Patrol has distinguished itself as an exemplary organization in support of public benefit flying through its shadow escort flights for the Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing. As part of the U.S. Air Force Reaper Training Program for pilots and sensor operators, CAP aircrews accompany the MQ-9 Reapers to and from Military Restricted Airspace for training exercises. This support has helped save taxpayers over $1 million and has increased MQ-9 training by 25 percent.”

Smith, accompanied by former Northeast Region Commander Col. Dan Leclair and MQ-9 Escort Program Manager Lt. Col. Bill Hughes, thanked the NAA and ACA for the award and congratulated Leclair and the other CAP personnel responsible for conducting the mission.

“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of CAP,” Smith said. “The award speaks highly of the excellence and professionalism of the volunteers who support this important Air Force mission. Our team provides support four days a week, every week, for this mission.

“Volunteers from 35 wings have traveled to Syracuse to be a part of the mission, which generates some 1,200 flying hours per year. I extend my thanks for a job well done to our outstanding volunteers!”

In the first 14 months of the mission, CAP pilots and aircrews from the New York Wing, Northeast Region and across the country made 622 flights without incident at the request of the Air Force. This helped the Air Force qualify over 150 new MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators since the program began, and over 150 pilots and sensor operators are now expected to qualify annually following this initial phase of training.

CAP was also one of several recipients of the Public Benefit Flying Teamwork Award, which recognized hundreds of volunteers from public benefit flying and other groups that created a large relief effort for communities affected by hurricanes and wildfires in the fall of this year.

Other top Public Benefit Flying Award recipients Wednesday night included:

Distinguished Volunteer Pilot
Over the past 12 years, John Billings has completed 380 patient flights as a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic. At 94, Billings continues to average one patient transport per week and has been awarded AFMA’s pilot of the year award five times since 2009.

Distinguished Volunteer
The Legacy Flight Academy is a nonprofit organization that conducts character- based youth aviation programs drawing upon the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. In 2017, Maj. Aaron Jones, Capt. Eric Johnson and Staff Sgt. Johnnie Blount were part of the core planning team for the LFA’s quarterly event, “Eyes Above the Horizon,” in Valdosta, Georgia. Their dedication and commitment to the event resulted in the largest and most successful such event to date.

Members of the 2017 Public Benefit Flying Selection Committee were Jeff Bennett, 2016 Distinguished Volunteer Pilot; Linda Daschle, president of LHD & Associates Inc.; Dan Meyer, former president of the Air Care Alliance; and Jane Nicolai, 2015 Distinguished Volunteer Pilot.

About NAA: The National Aeronautic Association is a nonprofit membership organization devoted to fostering opportunities to participate fully in aviation activities and to promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. NAA is the caretaker of some of the most important aviation awards in the world and certifies all national aviation records set in the U.S. 

About ACA: The Air Care Alliance is a nonprofit public service organization supporting the work of dozens of volunteer-based charitable organizations whose members fly to help others. ACA is devoted to fostering, enhancing and promoting public benefit flying in the U.S. and other countries.