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Christmas miracle: CAP helps rescue downed pilotChristmas miracle: CAP helps rescue downed pilot

The Civil Air Patrol added another "save" to its 2017 tally after a Cessna 172 pilot who was reported missing in western North Carolina Dec. 24 was found safe Dec. 25 by CAP crews searching the hills near Asheville.

Civil Air Patrol volunteer pilot Scott Faulkner preflights a Cessna 182 in this file photo. Photo by David Tulis.

High winds initially stymied Asheville-based rescue operations and forced the pilot to spend the night in the woods near Lake Lure, a popular resort destination that gained notoriety in the film Dirty Dancing

The Asheville Citizen Times reported that the pilot was “conducting a practice approach” in a “remote part of Rutherford County” when an engine problem arose on Christmas Eve night.

The CAP noted in a Dec. 27 news release that "high-altitude aircraft" picked up an emergency locator beacon signal. The electronic signature allowed one of the group's flight crews to concentrate on an area of concern a few miles north of the lake shortly after daybreak the next morning.

Local rescue officials were dispatched to a wooded area and “were able to find the plane and pilot, who had minor cuts and bruises,” the news release noted. The North Carolina wing, including mission members Lt. Col. John May, 2nd Lt. Nicholas Gulla, and 1st Lt. Hazard J. Bentley III were “credited with a save.”

CAP spokesperson Steve Cox said the rescue was the result of good old-fashioned search and rescue work—the type of mission the all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary considers its foundation.

National commander Maj. Gen. Mark E. Smith complimented the wing for actions that “reflect what is great about our organization.”

North Carolina Wing commander Col. R. Jason Bailey thanked the search crew team who “spent their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day” on the mission before spending time with their families.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Aviation Organizations, Public Benefit Flying

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