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NEWS | Oct. 1, 2014

Alaska Air Guard rescuers save pilot three days after crash

By Sgt. Balinda O'Neal Alaska National Guard

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Airmen with the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons rescued a man Sunday after his Piper J-3 crashed, 40 miles east of Fort Yukon on Sept. 25.

According to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, the 60-year-old pilot had not filed a flight plan, nor did they receive any signals from emergency location transmitters in the area. A good Samaritan spotted his aircraft and reported the coordinates to the Fairbanks Flight Service.

The Alaska RCC was notified at approximately 1 p.m. after the Alaska State Troopers reported they were unable to respond due to another search and rescue mission.

The Alaska Air National Guard accepted the mission and responded by launching an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron and an HC-130 King aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron, each with a team of Guardian Angels from the 212th Rescue Squadron on board, from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Guardian Angel teams are highly trained medical personnel made up of a pararescueman and a combat rescue officer who specialize in conducting high-risk rescue missions.

The HC-130 supported the mission by performing two in-air refueling operations to ensure the Pave Hawk had enough fuel to cover the distance of the round trip.

After arriving on scene, Guardian Angels hoisted the man onto the helicopter and flew him to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he was released in stable condition at approximately 7 p.m.

"This is a perfect example of why aircraft owners should invest in a 406 MHz ELT beacon," said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Carte, superintendent with the Alaska RCC. "This aircraft crashed on Thursday and was not discovered until Sunday; had a 406 beacon been activated in the crash, Alaska RCC staff would have been notified within minutes."

According to Carte, there are several satellite-based communication devices on the market now that allow distressed persons the ability to call for help. He suggests pilots do research around local outdoor stores and find the best fit for their needs.

"Kudos to this pilot for surviving three days in the wilderness," added Carte. "Alaskan pilots are a tough and resourceful group, but even the toughest person can't last long without food, water and shelter."

For this mission, the 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were awarded with one save.