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Alaska Air National Guard rescuers save downed pilot

By Alaska National Guard | August 07, 2017

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued a pilot Aug. 3 after his plane crashed in the vicinity of Ptarmigan Pass about 130 miles northwest of Anchorage.

The pilot's brother contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center Thursday morning with concern that the pilot was expected to return Tuesday. Aircraft wreckage was found during a search within a few hours of the call, and the pilot did not appear to have sustained serious injuries.

"The pilot was traveling with a satellite tracking device that can be used to send emergency messages via text and also sends a signal of the aircraft location periodically," said Lt. Col. Scot Milani, director of the RCC. "The last known coordinates provided by his brother assisted in identifying a general area where the plane was when it last submitted a transmission."

The RCC notified the Federal Aviation Administration, which prompted an overdue aircraft notice Thursday morning. The RCC initiated a search mission and requested support from the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing rescue units.

An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and two pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron departed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and conducted a search in the general area of known coordinates.

"The mission was conducted in inclement weather, with low ceiling and reduced visibility, rain and fog," said Milani. "They conducted the search low and slow."

The wreckage was spotted in rugged, mountainous terrain at about 3,000 feet elevation, and the survivor was helped to the helicopter. He was released to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center at 1:30 p.m.

"It's important for pilots to have a plan—letting someone know where they are going, their planned route, when they plan to depart and return—and be packed with food, gear and shelter," said Milani. "They should be equipped to spend an extended period of time surviving until rescue forces are able to locate them in the event of an emergency."

For this mission, the 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded with one save.