Colorado Wing Grounded for Unsafe Flight Operations

Colorado Wing Commander
Col Andrew J. Alexa, Colorado Wing Commander

By Skip Munger | News of the Force

News of the Force has exclusively obtained a copy of a letter written by the chairman of the Civil Air Patrol’s Board of Governors to its members, regarding the grounding of an entire CAP wing.

Sources provided this letter to News of the Force. It has not been made public, or otherwise circulated until now. The text of the letter follows:

“Members of the Board of Governors:

“Al was kind enough to call me this morning and fill me in on the Colorado Wing Situation that was recently reported in the Air Force Times (29 Dec 2003, page 5). It is unfortunate that we were left out of the loop on this issue and had to read it in the Times, or at least in my case to get the information from irate Colorado congressmen. To have to admit to state senators that I was not aware that the wing was grounded, has been embarrassing, to say the least. I will work on the internal communications problems with Al, since the national commander has refused to respond to my request for information on your behalf.

“I am not aware of a CAP wing ever being grounded in my 48 years in the organization, but Al indicated that is not all that unusual these days and the HQ considered it “routine.” The National Board was advised of the situation, but not the BOG. “The reason that the wing was grounded was given as a “lax safety program” in the wing.

During the past two years, the Colorado Wing has had two aircraft landing accidents, and two incidents where aircraft were pushed into hangar doors. One of the accidents was not reported as required by CAP regulation. There were other incidents where crews failed to obtain flight clearances before entering special use airspace, and some wing staff members flew aircraft that were grounded for maintenance.

“You may also be aware that the Col Andrew “Drew” J. Alexa, Colorado Wing Commander was relieved several months ago for other causes. He appealed to the Membership Action Review Board (MARB) and his removal was upheld by a three-man MARB, instead of the five person MARB required by the CAP regulations. At our 2 December 2003 meeting, we approved three new members of the MARB. The “new” MARB will re-hear the Wing Commander’s case in January. The rash of complaints from Colorado Congressmen and CAP members to the NHQ, Gen Kehoe and myself, and perhaps some of you, have the appearance of an organized opposition to both the change of command and grounding of the wing’s aircraft.

“A letter from Gen Bowling, to the Colorado congressmen, was sent out on 30 December 2003. It explains the situation and will hopefully calm the waters. In addition, the new Wing Commander has put an effective safety program into effect, and it is anticipated that the Wing will resume flight operations next week.

“I hope this will bring you up to date on the situation and give you enough information to respond appropriately to any inquiries you may receive.

“Thank you for your continued outstanding service to the Civil Air Patrol, and for the prestige your membership brings to our organization.

“Best wishes for the New Year.

Sincerely,
Robert C. Bess, Col,
CAP Chairman, BoG”

The letter provides information on the reasons for the grounding of the CAP’s Colorado Wing, and also indicates that although the CAP’s in-house national board was aware of the grounding, no one bothered to tell the Air Force-appointed oversight board.

The letter also indicates that, once again, the CAP — through it’s Membership Action Review Board (MARB) — did exactly as it pleased, with complete disregard for the organization’s own regulations.

If Col Bess, however, had subscribed to News of the Force, he and the members of the Board of Governors would have been aware of the grounding of the Colorado Wing at least a week sooner.

The letter also indicates the mismanagement that still permeates the Civil Air Patrol. Obviously, there’s no excuse for the fact that a board, appointed and installed by the Secretary of the Air Force to oversee its own auxiliary, has to find out what’s going on within the organization through the media.

The CAP’s National Commander, CAP Maj Gen Richard Bowling, who personally issued the order to ground the Colorado Wing, apparently did not feel it was necessary to notify the organization’s governing board — and, by extension — the U.S. Air Force.