Lieutenant Colonel Neil Taylor spent several decades in the United States Air Force and has never seen a fight quite like the COVID-19 pandemic. But as a Squadron Commander for the Kansas Civil Air Patrol New Century Composite Squadron, Lt. Col. Taylor said he was ready to help in any way he could.
“I like to give back to the community,” Lt. Col. Taylor said. “The community that we live in but also the state of Kansas. These are things that all of our members take great pride and joy in, being able to help our local citizens here.”
The Kansas Wing Civil Air Patrol is assisting the Kansas Department of Emergency Management (KDEM) on transportation of personal protection equipment (PPE), critical lab specimens for testing and other resources amid the pandemic. Utilizing vehicles and a range of CESSNA piston aircraft, volunteers are taking specimens from rural western Kansas to the KDEM lab in Topeka and taking masks, gloves and other PPE out to the rural hospitals in return.
Civil Air Patrol volunteers are also filling in at emergency operations centers in Topeka, handling logistics of supply donations and transportation and allowing KDEM workers a break after extremely long shifts.
“Our capable volunteers are always willing to serve when needed,” said Wing Commander Col. Linette Lahan. “For several years now, our volunteers have transported blood for the American Red Cross, and we welcome this new opportunity to serve as our state responds to this health crisis.”
Sometimes, the volunteers are up against the clock. To be effective, the specimens must arrive at the lab within 48 hours to test for COVID-19 because they are only viable for 72 hours. Lt. Col. Taylor said one specimen got stuck in Nebraska and his squadron flew it’s Cessna 182 piston aircraft to retrieve it and get it to the Topeka lab in time.
Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Dutton said having the aircraft is vital in assisting during COVID-19.
“As the Kansas Incident Commander for our transport mission, it has been vitally important that I have assets that are ready to go at a moment’s notice and when I have needed the wings aircraft, our 182's have been the asset of choice,” Lt. Col. Dutton said. “Using the wings 182T's have allowed us to support requests from the Kansas Department of Emergency Management that we could not otherwise support because of the time and distance involved.”
With roughly 550 aircraft -- most being Cessna -- the CAP owns the largest fleet of single engine piston aircraft in the nation. Since the late 1980s, the CAP has embarked upon a recapitalization plan to transform its equipment from a mixture of DoD-screened and member-furnished equipment to today’s standardized and state-of-the-art equipped general aviation aircraft.