By John Howell
BATESVILLE – The Civil Air Patrol’s Northwest Mississippi Composite Squadron, which moved its home to the Panola County Airport in January, is celebrating the recent arrival of an aircraft for its use.
The squadron has received a Cessna 172 painted in CAP colors red, white, blue and gray. The Cessna “will be available for missions in the local area and for pilot, observer and scanner training,” squadron commander Captain Richard Albee of Water Valley.
Coinciding with the arrival of the plane was a visit last weekend from the pilot who is the squadron’s most celebrated rescue. Dennis Steinbock’s experimental aircraft disappeared over north Mississippi during a cross country flight last June.
Fifty hours later Steinbock was located in a wooded area of Lafayette County where he had been trapped in the crashed, upside-down aircraft.
It was the squadron’s ground crew – Joshua Locke and Meder Lanius of Oxford and Captain Albee and his son, Andrew Albee – who finally pinpointed Steinbock’s location, triangulating from the plane’s electronic locator signals that were skewed from bouncing around in the hilly terrain.
The squadron’s role in Steinbock’s rescue was duly lauded, but Steinbock “came back to thank the ground team and air crews for finding him,” Albee said. Now recovered from injuries that included broken ribs, a punctured lung and dislocations, Steinbock has joined the Civil Air Patrol himself, Captain Albee said. He is now public affairs officer for the squadron at his home in Kalmuth Falls, Oregon.
Steinbock is also writing a book about the experience, Albee said. “Miracle in Mississippi” is the working title.
Steinbock’s return trip to Mississippi coincides not only with the Composite Squadron’s new aircraft, it also comes as Captain Albee firms up plans for squadron activity at the Panola County Airport.
The aircraft will be used to provide orientation rides for Civil Air Patrol cadets, Air Force ROTC cadets from Ole Miss and Air Force Jr. ROTC cadets from “the University of South Panola,” Albee said.
The Civil Air Patrol offers many training programs starting with youth age 12 while fulfilling its search and rescue, disaster relief, homeland security and counterdrug reconnaissance missions as designated through the Air Force as its civilian auxiliary.
The Northwest Mississippi Composite Squadron meets weekly on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Captain Albee encouraged people who might be interested to contact him at 662-473-9876 for further information.