May 7, 2020

General aviation aircraft continue to provide a critical link throughout the COVID-19 crisis. In New Mexico, members of the state’s Civil Air Patrol (CAP) wing have stepped in to fly coronavirus screening kits from the city of Las Cruces to Albuquerque for processing, saving valuable time in the process.

According to a CAP release, the operation began last month with members of the New Mexico Wing, acting as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, assisting the New Mexico National Guard in transporting COVID-19 test kits from Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces following a request for assistance from the NM Department of Health. Review the CAP press release about the New Mexico Wing’s efforts.

Driving the kits from Las Cruces to Albuquerque would take more than three hours, while flying them from Las Cruces International Airport (LRU) onboard CAP’s Cessna 172, 182 and T206 aircraft cuts that time roughly in half – enabling faster testing by the state’s Scientific Laboratory Division and quicker results for patients and physicians.

“We have the aircraft, vehicles, safety protocols and trained volunteers to help our fellow New Mexicans at this challenging time and we welcome the opportunity to do so,” said CAP Lt. Col. John Grassham, incident commander for the mission.

The CAP missions, including ground courier support to transport the kits between airports and medical facilities, are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As KRQE-13 reports, CAP has since conducted additional COVID-19 screening flights from the Las Cruces area to Albuquerque, including expedited testing for employees at a meatpacking facility in nearby Santa Teresa, NM.