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MN Wing Civil Air Patrol Members Conduct Aerial Survey Ahead of PGA Open Tour

July 15, 2021

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By 2nd Lt. Liz Botkin, Assistant PAO, North Hennepin Composite Squadron

During the second week of July, a Minnesota Civil Air Patrol pilot, public affairs officer, and emergency services personnel responded to a request from City of Blaine to take aerial shots of the TPC Twin Cities golf course. Their objective was to perform an aerial survey of the venue that will host the upcoming Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour called the 3M Open from July 22-25th.

Second Lt. Chris Damsgard, North Hennepin Composite Squadron’s PAO, who is, himself, a longtime PGA volunteer, joined aviators, Capt. Bob Swearengin, and Capt. Eric Priewe, flying aboard a CAP Cessna 182 capturing images of the course from three different altitudes. According to the incident commander, MN Wing Emergency Services Director, Maj. Tom Fitzhenry, “the photos will be used by the emergency services in the event of an emergency. If someone needs assistance and they are in for example, tent three; thanks to our survey, the emergency responders will know the exact tent location and the quickest route to them.” This kind of information and will save lives in the event of a major health-related incident.

The Blaine PGA tour is expected to draw 10,000 spectators during each of the event’s four days. Cory Richter, GIS Coordinator with the City of Blaine was very happy with Civil Air Patrol’s involvement, telling public affairs, “The communication from the Civil Air Patrol was outstanding. They provided a perfect overview of the course structures. This is going to be incredibly useful for our teams, especially Allina EMS and the SBM Fire Department.”

Civil Air Patrol treated this request from the City of Blaine as a training mission to fine tune their emergency response skills. According to Fitzhenry, “I always believe we need real world training. This was an opportunity to receive a customer request, respond efficiently, and delivery a quality product that will serve the community. It is this type of work that reflects the great asset Civil Air Patrol is in our communities.”

Civil Air Patrol volunteers are responsible for most annual U.S. inland search and rescue missions and operates the largest fleet of small engine aircraft in the country. The July mission was staffed by Capt. Todd Hamiter who served as the air branch director who formed the aircrew and relayed the mission goals to the team. Pilot, Capt. Bob Swearengin, and aerial photographers, Capt. Eric Priewe and PAO, 2nd Lt. Chris Damsgard, formed the aircrew. Major Fitzhenry told public affairs drone use was out of the question, necessitating a manned-mission because, “A drone (or sUAS) mission would have been difficult because the course is located just north of an airport. The altitude restrictions would require numerous flights with many photos to stitch together. We found using an aircraft gave more flexibility in a controlled airspace. The challenge was getting good quality photos from and aircraft operating at higher altitudes and speeds.”

Training missions like this offer CAP members a chance to focus on improving quality and performance without the added pressure of life and death circumstances such as missing person searches. According to Damsgard, “My son and I have volunteered for the 3M Open for the past seven years so I know that course like the back of my hand. It was really exciting for this to be my first mission with the Civil Air Patrol.” Damsgard joined the Civil Air Patrol in November of 2020 and has completed the rigorous training required to be mission ready.

Photo Left to Right: 2nd Lt. Chris Damsgard, North Hennepin Composite Squadron; Capt. Bob Swearengin, Viking Composite Squadron; Capt. Eric Priewe, North Hennepin Composite Squadron

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