Monday, March 17, 2014

Civil Air Patrol Joins Search For Missing Malaysian Airliner

CAP Joins Search For Missing Malaysian Airliner

This is an example of how the CAP Radar Analysis Team is able to take radar data and visually show searchers where to look. On this particular mission, the wreckage was found within 65 feet of the estimate.

“It’s a normal search and rescue mission,” Lt. Col. John Henderson said of Civil Air Patrol’s role in the search for missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370. 

Henderson, a radar analyst for the U.S. Air Force’s 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron (RADES) at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is vice commander of CAP’s 10-member National Radar Analysis Team. 

”CAP brings different and unique tools to the table,” said Henderson, who is working 24/7 to narrow the search area based on the airline’s radar forensics information.   

“We have a lot of experience using different types of radar data, and our software tools are designed to use a lot of different formats of radar data. The goal is to utilize the radar data and radar signatures from the aircraft to determine its ultimate flight path,” he said.

"Between the 84 RADES and Civil Air Patrol, we have a very robust capability to reduce radar data into usable and actionable forms, to include stitching together tracks from multiple radar systems,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ian Kemp, commander of the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. CAP performs 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the AFRCC. 

Henderson’s SAR track record is impressive. In 13 years, he has participated in more than 600 CAP radar analysis missions with “well over 150 finds” and about 45 lives saved, he said.

In 2007 he helped narrow the search for Adam Flight 574, an Indonesian B-737 that went missing during a flight between Surabaya and Manado with 96 passengers and six crewmembers aboard. Recruited by the U.S. State Department for assistance after a massive effort to find the jet failed, Henderson was able to direct searchers within a mile of the crash site in 6,500 feet of water in the Makassar Strait.

“Searchers were having a hard time picking up the black box pings, and the more time that goes by, the weaker it becomes,” he said, adding, “My analysis got ships in a very close position so they could pick up the pings.”  

“The black box is really key to knowing what happened, besides finding the wreckage,” he said.

Radar analysis “can be extremely accurate,” Henderson said. In the CAP team’s case, “over 90 percent of the time we narrow the search area based on forensics information. We’ve come within 65 feet of where a crash occurred and sometimes miles. It depends on the radar environment.”

Courtesy of Civil Air Patrol -CAP