Montana Search Pilot Clinic 2002
Each September about 30 volunteer pilots from the
State of Montana congregate for a grueling weekend of search pilot
training. The "students" (many are experienced mountain pilots)
devote their time and energy and pay a small fee for the privilege.
course begins on Friday evening with an introduction and ground
Saturday finds the group divided where some go to
flight training and others participate in ELT training and hands-on
survival skill training.
For the flight training, six airplanes are used.
Three students accompany an instructor and fly to a staging airport.
Two students are dropped off to wait their turn to complete the
search lesson. Students receive two hours of flight instruction, one
hour each from a different instructor. Scheduling generally has the
student fly once on Saturday and once on Sunday.
The lesson plan is available as an Adobe pdf file
(127 KB) download
Jeanne MacPherson, Montana Aeronautics Division,
Chief Safety and Education, Chief Pilot and Chief Flight Instructor,
fueling a Cessna T-41B.
before the search pilot clinic was to begin, Jeanne received
information that aircraft wreckage was spotted on the west side of
the Chinese Wall (east, southeast of Kalispell).
was made to the approximate coordinates of the reported wreckage.
The bottom of the line in the photo to the left represents the area
of the wreckage.
passes over the wreckage, using GPS coordinates to pin-point the
spot, we were unable to spot the wreckage until sunlight reflecting
from its surface disclosed its position.
out that the aircraft, at the bottom of the arrow, is a Piper PA-24
that had been wrecked years before. Often an aircraft wreckage is
marked with an "x" to indicate it has been found. This airplane did
not have any markings and its status was determined by a computer
maneuvering, a bear is spotted in the trees, and he turned out to be
far easier to see than the aircraft wreckage.
Friday evening is the volunteer
pilot's first orientation meeting that covers the rigorous
schedule, training area, grid system, and contour search.
Next is a ground school to learn mountain flying and search
Ferry flights with three
students and an instructor are made to the staging area. Two
of the students are dropped off.
The instructor, with one
student, departs on the training flight.
During the climb out from the
assigned airstrip (Spotted Bear airstrip in this case), the
student practices coordination exercises, flight at minimum
controllable airspeed, visualizing lift, and a review of the
basic premises before the practice of approach and crossing
ridges and flying in canyons.
Smoke from small
lightning-caused fires is visible near Hungry Horse
Reservoir during the climb out. Once in the canyons, the
student practices the box canyon turn, contour flying, false
horizon illusion, emergency landings, escaping downdrafts
and turbulence procedures.
contour search is performed with 20 degrees of flaps and 70
knots indicated airspeed while maintaining 500-feet vertical
and lateral separation. (Elk near the strut-wing junction
and flap-wing junction).
drainage (over-the-top) search is also practiced. (Note the
elk on the ridge near center of the picture.)
perfecting the search procedures, the student is exposed to
the techniques for finding and investigating a crash. (Elk
The Meadow Creek airstrip with its 2,830 feet
of available landing area almost seems like an
approach for landing is to the north on runway 35 at Meadow
Creek. It is recommended that you takeoff
and land on runway 35 because of the trees. If a
go-around is necessary, use caution for
tree obstacles and rising terrain.
|This is a
beautiful setting to escape the rigors of our hectic lives.
It is hard to find the "standard" 50-foot obstacle used for
flight tests among these trees. They are
all 70 feet or higher.
|Meadow Creek Airport