In simulated missions, Civil Air Patrol volunteers spent the weekend scouring the mountains in Routt County for lost hikers, downed aircraft and possible terrorists.
The missions were part of an annual CAP Search and Rescue Exercise based at the Steamboat Springs Airport from Friday to Sunday.
Held at a different airport each year, the training is designed to help seasoned and new CAP pilots brush up on searching and mountain flying skills.
The Civil Air Patrol, a U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, specializes in missions involving search and rescue, disaster relief, aerial drug searches, homeland security and transport of time-sensitive medical material, such as donated organs.
Eleven of the 14 CAP aircraft in Colorado, mostly Cessna 182s, were in Steamboat this weekend.
The pilots tackled more than 40 missions, including pinpointing a radio beacon near Hayden and trying to locate a ground crew using signaling mirrors on Rabbit Ears Pass.
Volunteers also tried to find a red Jeep -- representing a suspected terrorist -- parked near Steamboat Lake, local CAP pilot Kent Hornor said.
"Some were (successful), and some weren't, but that's what the exercises were all about. We have a lot of new trainees," said Thomas Benson, a Jefferson County mission pilot.
Pilots new to Colorado also got acquainted with flying in the mountains, where thin air and fast-changing weather make it hard to control aircraft, said John Mitchell, a mission pilot from Fort Collins who led the mountain-flying course.
CAP volunteers include retired commercial and Air Force pilots, civilian pilots as well as nonpilots or "observers."
There are more than 25 members in the Routt County CAP squadron. Training and operations are based at the airport in a building donated by the Hayden Power Station and Xcel Energy, Hornor said.
Nationally, CAP conducts 95 percent of all inland aircraft searches. Volunteers dedicate as many as 1,000 hours a year to training and missions, Horner said.
Although Colorado tends to have more search and rescue missions than other states, the number of searches has dropped dramatically compared with 20 years ago, Mitchell said.
Pilots now have a lot more help from global positioning technology and better weather tools, including Automated Weather Observation Stations, which tell pilots at any given time about the weather on mountaintops, he said.
The Civil Air Patrol always is looking for new members. For more information, call Hornor at 871-1100.