Highly trained mission photographers play a crucial role in damage assessment
flights, capturing aerial images of the impact of natural and man-made disasters on
residents, buildings and infrastructure on the ground so that emergency response
agencies can gauge how to most effectively deploy relief resources.
Then-Capt. Warren Ratis, left, Lt. Col.
Jacques Heinrich, center, and Capt.
Andrew Feldman made the only civilian
flight allowed over the World Trade
Center wreckage the day after the 9/11
terrorist attacks. The New York Wing
mission: Photograph the
smoldering remnants of the Twin Towers.
With an eye toward outstanding
continued service, CAP forges its way
into the future as an ongoing asset
assisting its public and private partners.
Return to its Roots
As the terrible shock of the 9/11
terror attacks sunk into the national
psyche, Civil Air Patrol found itself,
along with the rest of the country, facing a new and uncertain future. The
unprecedented loss of life in New York
City put Americans into a state of
mind that emphasized the collective safety and security. The rather
minor threat of international terrorism
had become a clear and present danger.
CAP was born amid a similar
28 Civil Air Patrol Volunteer
mindset in the beginning years of
World War II. The threat of German
U-boats along East Coast
propelled the organizing and training
of civilian aviators on a national level.
The burgeoning aviation-minded
clubs and groups scattered across the
country lacked practical effectiveness
in the absence of large-scale coordination and standardized equipment and
training. A national organization was
needed. After authorization was signed
by President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
CAP National Headquarters opened
its doors on Dec. 1, 1941.
Fast-forward 60 years, and Americans again found themselves faced
with the threat of attack. Terrorists
hijacked four airliners carrying full
loads of passengers and turned the jets
into offensive weapons, crashing two
into New World Trade Center
and another into the heart of U.S.
defense planning, the Pentagon, in
were a heavily search and rescue and disaster response-focused
organization prior to said John
Desmarais, director of operations. all changed then, and we
went from training and supporting
those missions to doing so much
The day following the attack, a
CAP Cessna 172 took to the air over
New York City to document the
destruction. The still-smoldering remnants of the World Trade Center were
later confirmed as the site where nearly
3,000 people perished. The Cessna aircrew was able to provide some of the
first aerial images of the devastation.
The presence was challenged by
a New York City Police Department
helicopter, but authority to fly
from the Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration was confirmed
via radio from authorities at John F.
Kennedy International Airport.
Elsewhere in the area, in addition
to obtaining aerial photographs and
videos, CAP members also transported
blood and medical supplies to area
hospitals. On the ground, crews
assisted with communications, as most
phone service had been routed
through the now-devastated World
Trade Center complex. CAP chaplains
offered their support and counseling
for grieving families of the victims.
One positive takeaway from the
post-9/11 response has been
expanded role and the realization that
the organization can be relied on for
not only airborne imagery collection