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At approximately 1:40 p.m. Dec. 13, 2021, Corpus Christi International Airport air traffic control (Corpus Approach) received a distress call from a privately-owned Piper Cherokee declaring an emergency that they were above the clouds and unable to navigate through them to land safely. Air traffic control then contacted the nearby VT-28 pilots, who were conducting formation training in two T-6B Texan II training aircraft over Corpus Christi Bay, to see if they could get a visual on a clear area for the Piper Cherokee to get below the clouds.
TAR IPs Lt. Cmdr. David Indiveri of Succasunna, New Jersey and Lt. Billy Morse of Tucson, Arizona; and active duty SNAs Marine 1st Lt. Casey Joehnk of Port Orchard, Washington; and Ens. Christophe Theodore of San Francisco quickly found a suitable area for an emergency Visual Flight Rules (VFR) descent and notified Corpus Approach. They were then asked to proceed to the distressed aircraft and guide the pilot to the opening in the clouds about six miles north of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Once they gained visual contact with the aircraft, they matched their airspeed, and guided the pilot to the cloud opening after which he was able to safely descend and land at KRAS.
“In the military, when someone asks for help, you’re always willing,” Indiveri said. “There wasn’t much thinking about it, we made a safe judgment call and flew over the field and watched him land safely.”
Theodore is a student pilot who is only two flights away from completing his primary flight training.
“This was a pretty unique experience to get to help someone during primary,” Theodore said. “We get into Naval aviation to help people but it’s very exciting to do something that helps this early in our training. It’s very fulfilling.”
“While our primary role here is training future Naval Aviators, when emergencies arise, our pilots stand ready to answer the call,” Cmdr. Brian Higgins, commanding officer of VT-28. “This is the second time in less than a month that our crews have answered that call to assist pilots in distress and potentially saved the lives of our fellow civilian aviators who share these skies with us every day. I am extremely proud of the Ranger flight crews and am glad they were the ones who got the call, because true to our squadron motto, 'Rangers Lead the Way.'"
At the time of the rescue, pilots from VT-28 had recently been involved in helping another civilian pilot in distress. On Nov. 15, similar VT-28 crews assisted a Coast Guard helicopter and a civilian vessel with a search and rescue mission helping locate and rescue a civilian pilot after a crash landing in Copano Bay in Rockport, Texas.
VT-28 is one of two primary training squadrons attached to Training Air Wing Four in Corpus Christi, Texas, under the Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA). Currently, 90 TAR personnel and more than 280 Selected Reservists provide 23% of production and 22% of flight hours supporting the CNATRA mission.
CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world's finest combat-quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.
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