Search and rescue crews are training at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The Civil Air Patrol is affiliated with the air force but they are an all-volunteer organization. They are the lead organization for missing planes in California and they also assist law enforcement crews in search and rescue missions. Cessna's with the red, white and blue markings of the Civil Patrol are taking off from Fresno all weekend; each plane and pilot embarking on a rescue scenario, to search for a missing plane, or a missing person.
"We have practice beacons so we can simulate a missing aircraft transmitter so they can go out and look for that, we also have targets on the ground for them to visually look at, we try to make it as real as possible," Said Jospeph Brinkman with Civil Air Patrol.
Each plane carries two mission pilots in training and an instructor in the back. Mokhtar Chamli has been a civilian pilot for years before joining the Civil Air Patrol. The Palm Springs pilot is trying to prove he can fly search and rescue missions.
"We're here to train and learn new things. It's been intense visual and electronic searching, that's exactly the goal for us to be here. It's excellent," Chamli said.
But it's not just for trainees to earn new wings. It's a chance for experienced pilots to hone their skills as well as the support volunteers who provide briefings, intel and logistics.
"It's one of those things if you stop using it you lose it. So we want to make sure we're training in the right way," Brinkman said.
There are nearly 70 volunteers taking part in the training missions, in the ground and in the air. They are utilizing the Valley's skies from Bakersfield to Merced, internalizing what to do, how to act, in case of an emergency.
"The goal here is to train them the right way and make sure everybody is being trained uniformly," Brinkman said.
The air force pays for this cost of the training, and the crews will be training Sunday until about 4 p.m.