Civil Air Patrol acts as eyes for oil mission

Mobile, AL - (WALB) -  The Civil Air Patrol is a huge part of managing this coastal crisis. Pilots fly the coastline to monitor and document oil control efforts. They're taking pictures of booms and passing the info back to BP.

These volunteer pilots have logged nearly 11,000 hours in the last two months in an important mission that touches the hearts of even the toughest guys.

Pilots Randy Stastny and Chuck Mason prepare for what's become a daily flight for the Civil Air Patrol. They are pilots in the Georgia wing of the C. A. P. They and 30 other pilots in the Southeast Region, fly the coastline from Mississippi to Florida every day of the week.

"We're basically taking aerial reconnaissance photos of the locations of the various booms that are deployed to catch the oil as it comes in," said Southeast CAP Commander Col. James Rushing.

And the photos they take are an important part of the oil spill disaster response. At BP's Incident Command Post in Mobile, the CAP photos provide valuable information.

"It's critical to this because a day is an eternity in this event because if a boom gets out of place or is misplaced, it's not there to protect what it's supposed to," said Eric Songer of Geographical Information Systems.

And so they fly… 62 days so far. For the Civil Air Patrol pilots, it's an opportunity to help out with an environmental disaster.

"When you fly over the beach line and you see all the people on the ground actually doing the work and on the water and it's huge," said Chuck Mason.

And all these CAP pilots are volunteers. Many of them are taking time off from their jobs, using their vacation. This gives a sense of accomplishment; being able to do something. "Exactly. It made me feel significant. I can't believe this," said Peachtree City CAP Pilot Capt. Randy Stastny.

The heart behind one of the largest missions in Civil Air Patrol history. "I'm kind of grateful to the CAP because I got the opportunity to come down here to work on this. I don't see how else I would have been able to."

80,000 digital images have been taken so far in the Civil Air Patrol's quest to help manage this coastal crisis.

The CAP pilots pull Sunday to Sunday shifts and usually fly about eight hours a day. The Southeastern Commander says this is their largest mission since World War II.