09:25 AM

South Dakota Wing's B1 Crash Photos 'Pivotal,' 'Groundbreaking': Air Force Investigator


SDWG-Patch-1200px-300dpiThe South Dakota Wing’s photography mission proved “pivotal” and “groundbreaking" in the aftermath of a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer crash Jan. 4, according to the president of the safety investigation board studying the mishap. 

The bomber crashed while attempting to land at Ellsworth Air Force Base. The crew ejected without serious injuries. The Air Force interim safety board tasked the South Dakota Wing with flying photography surveys around the area, acting in Civil Air Patrol’s role as the auxiliary of the Air Force.   “Your assistance ... was not only pivotal, but groundbreaking for mishap analysis,” said Col. Christopher Chandler, safety investigation board president, in a memo of appreciation.  

“The tireless support, dedication, and cutting-edge technology was invaluable to the success of our investigation efforts.” 

About 15 wing members participated in the sorties and served as mission staff. 

“We used cameras in a small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), or drone, to provide high-quality photos of the mishap area to the safety board investigators,” said Col. Mike Beason, the wing’s incident commander for the mission. “From those photos, we provided an overview map of the area to the investigators. 

“We also captured aerial images taken from a handheld camera in a CAP aircraft,” Beason added. 

A leader in CAP’s drone program for years, the South Dakota Wing was the first to use a small remote-piloted photography drone on an actual search and rescue mission in September 2019.  The search for a missing college student was designated as a Find by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. 

“Civil Air Patrol’s single-engine aircraft and unmanned aerial system photography drones are ideally suited for this kind of air-to-ground photo survey work,” said Col. Michael Marek, South Dakota Wing commander. “We’re here to support federal, state and local agencies.  

“One of our squadrons meets on base at Ellsworth, and we are happy to make this photography mission part of our auxiliary and active-duty partnership.”