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Civil Air Patrol Cadet Ethan Kelley of Conway displays survival items he learned how to use during search-and-rescue training at Hawk Mountain Ranger School in Pennsylvania. Local CAP members are holding a search-and-rescue training exercise today in the fields and skies of Fryeburg, helping cadets hone search and communication skills. The day also functions as a recruitment event. (ROB BURBANK PHOTO)

FRYEBURG, Maine — If you notice a bit of extra buzzing over town today, it could be the sound of Cessnas flying a Civil Air Patrol training mission, helping young cadets to hone their search-and-rescue and communication skills.

Five CAP aircraft are slated to fly into the Eastern Slope Regional Airport today, arriving between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Senior CAP members will be piloting those planes while CAP cadets perform various communications tasks as members of a ground crew, explained Maj. Mark Hyland, Maine Wing public affairs officer and commander of the Lewiston-Auburn CAP Squadron.

“We fly these missions very low and very slow,” he said, noting that special training is required for such flying.

The day’s exercises are designed to teach cadets ground-to-air communications skills and how to receive and track down alerts sent by such devices as personal locator beacons.

Airport Manager David Cullinan said a “target” will be designated in North Fryeburg, and cadet teams will work to determine its location, much as a search-and-rescue team would carry out a search for a lost hunter or hiker.

In addition to providing training, the day will also focus on recruitment, and young people interested in joining the local CAP group, known as a “flight,” are welcome. Cullinan said senior CAP members will be in abundance at today’s event and “it’s a chance for the public to see how CAP operates.”

The CAP cadet program provides training in aviation, aeronautics and leadership for boys and girls from 12 to 18. Young adults can remain in the program to age 21 and can become senior members after that.

Cullinan also said the day will offer photo opportunities for the public. Best times would be during the morning hours when aircraft are likely to be at the airport and cadets are slated to partake in an indoor classroom session, he said.

“The CAP will allow their aircraft to be utilized in a static display,” he said, during which senior members can show the parked aircraft to the public and people can photograph them. Plane rides are not part of the day’s activities.

According to Hyland, aircraft participating in the day’s training exercise include a six-passenger Cessna 206, two four-passenger Cessna 182s and two four-passenger 172s.

“Mostly, they’ll fly in the afternoon. When they go out, they’ll be buzzing all over the place. People are welcome to check it out,” Cullinan said. He said the planes are very colorful — red, white and blue.

According to Cullinan, 21 cadets had signed up to participate in the training exercise. He said there was the possibility — unconfirmed — that the day may include a performance of a CAP color guard, with members wearing their dress uniforms and carrying various flags as one might see in a Memorial Day or Independence Day parade.

Aircraft are expected to depart around 3:30 or 4 p.m.

The training event is the latest in a reinvigorated effort to establish a local Civil Air Patrol squadron that began with an open house meeting at the airport last month. Cadets and adult leaders have been meeting weekly since, and the local group now has eight cadets, according to Cullinan.

Squadron status is the goal of local organizers, and that requires a minimum of 15 members. “We have some good momentum,” said Cullinan, citing the eight local members and efforts to expand that number. Until then, the group is considered a “flight” and it functions under the aegis of the Lewiston-Auburn squadron.

The group is also looking to recruit adult leaders and pilots, as each squadron needs a minimum of three senior members, he said.

Cullinan said the airport intends to host another open house event in coming months to continue to build interest.

A licensed pilot, Cullinan is in the process of becoming a mission pilot with CAP. His long-term goal is to have a CAP plane based at the Fryeburg airport.

Members commit to a weekly meeting and a monthly Saturday event and a weeklong campout in summer.

Becoming involved with CAP allows a youngster to experience flight, acting as a co-pilot with a licensed CAP pilot. They are entitled to five fixed-wing flights and five glider flights when gliders are available.

Formed in 1941, the Civil Air Patrol is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The all-volunteer, non-profit organization focuses on cadet programs, aerospace education and emergency services.

CAP’s aircraft fleet numbers 550, and its members top 60,000. More than 25,000 cadets are involved in the organization, which is headquartered at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

Prospective Fryeburg squadron members can get more information by contacting CAP Maine Wing Commander Blain Cote at blain.cote@mewg.cap.gov. The Eastern Slope Regional Airport is located at 210 Lyman Drive and can be reached at (207) 935-4711.

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