Civil Air Patrol Practices Search and Rescue

The three Gulf Coast units got together Saturday afternoon to practice their search and rescue missions in the air and on the ground.

The Civil Air Patrol has just got word that a plane is down somewhere in Jackson County. Their mission: find the wreckage by searching for an ELT, an emergency beacon, every aircraft is required to have.

"Our main purpose is to find an airplane that is lost or down," said the director of Mississippi Air Patrol, David Williams.

After the pilot and crew locate the crash site from the air, they deploy a group of young cadets to find it by foot.

"What he's got here is a directional finder and they're looking for an ELT," said Willliams.

Cadet Walker demonstrated how the tool is used to locate the beacon on the ground.

"I got it, it's about out there somewhere," said Cadet Walker.

Although this is just a practice drill, organizers say it's important that everything goes smoothly from take-off to landing.

"It's a training exercise so that when we have the opportunity to do the real thing, we'll be ready," said Bill Barksdale, director of the Singing River Unit.

At only 14 years old, Cadet Matthew Walker recognizes the importance of his mission. Right now, he's helping to park planes, but he knows at any moment, he could be called on to search for a downed one.

"It's a big feeling knowing you're helping out, helping people," he said.

Credited with saving 100 lives each year, the group hopes all pilots will know the "Eyes of the Homeland Skies" are always watching.

The program is open to all licensed pilots who want to volunteer, and students from sixth grade to age 21. For information on how you can get involved, visit their web site at