NEWS | July 6, 2021

Alaska Air Guard rescues 7 people in separate incidents

By David Bedard, 176th Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing rescued seven people in two incidents, aiding plane crash victims and hikers.

On July Fourth, a single-engine Citabria aircraft with a pilot and two passengers on board crashed on a river sandbar near Palmer. 

The aircraft's 406 emergency locator transmitter activated on impact, and the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson received the signal.

Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, AKRCC superintendent, said the AKRCC controllers were able to speak to the pilot, who reported minor injuries among the party.

The Air Guard's 176th Wing sent a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and a 212th Rescue Squadron pararescue team (PJs)

The Pave Hawk landed near the crash site and the two PJs evacuated the party to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

Budd said the 406 ELT is a great improvement over older models like the 121.5 ELT. While the older model narrows the aircraft's position to 12 to 15 nautical miles, the 406 ELT narrows it to one to three nautical miles, vastly reducing search time.

"The 406 ELT is a fantastic piece of equipment that gives us precise coordinates to quickly find aviators in distress," he said.

Budd said another benefit of the 406 ELT is the data registered to the device, which includes aircraft type, pilot information and, most importantly, emergency contact information.

"It is imperative that ELT users keep their registration up to date to ensure we can rapidly reach out to the pilot if he or she has a satphone, or to a loved one who may have flight plan information that can help us carry out the rescue," he said. "If the 406 information isn't up to date, it can delay our response."

For this rescue, 210th RQS, 212th RQS and AKRCC were awarded three saves.

Two days earlier, on July 2, Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing rescued four hikers at Hatcher Pass near Mint Hut.

Alaska Air National Guard Capt. Brent Kramer, Alaska Rescue Coordination Center senior controller, said the hiking party activated the "SOS" on their satellite communication device when one of the hikers fell and suffered a head injury.

The Alaska State Troopers received the signal and requested assistance from the AKRCC, which asked the 176th Wing for help. The wing dispatched a 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and a 212th Rescue Squadron pararescue team (PJs) from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The 210th RQS special mission aviator hoisted the PJs near the party with a Stokes litter. The team hoisted the injured hiker to the helicopter with an accompanying hiker. A PJ was left with the remaining two hikers.

The injured hiker and accompanying hiker were flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

The Pave Hawk stopped at JBER to refuel before returning to Hatcher Pass to hoist the PJ and the remaining two hikers.

Kramer commended the hiking party for using a satellite communications device and stressed the importance of having a reliable means of communication when venturing into the Alaska wilderness.

"Having an inReach or some sort of SATCOM device was super beneficial for them," he said.

For this rescue, 210th RQS, 212th RQS and AKRCC were awarded four saves.