Civil Air Patrol saved man’s life 40 years ago

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Using a small piece of yellow paper, Dr. F. Peter Simmons describes how a wallet kept his lung from collapsing after he was injured in a single-engine plane crash in the Adirondack Mountains of New York in August, 1969. Simmons, who was insstrumental in the developm,ent of the Hubble telescope, credited his survival after the crash to the Civil Air Patrol unit that found him. He was speaking to a gathering of the Grand Junction Civil Air Patrol at First Christian Church on Saturday.

F. Peter Simmons remembers very little from the plane crash that nearly cost him his life.

All the Battlement Mesa man knows is the tail of the single-engine plane he was flying hit a tree. From there, his memory is fuzzy because the plane crash happened 40 years ago.

His memory also isn’t as clear as it once was because Simmons, now 83, broke more than a dozen bones in the crash, including bones on the entire left side of his face. His face had to be surgically repaired by using a photo identification card he was wearing at the time of the crash.

Simmons survived because of one organization.

“CAP saved my life,” Simmons said Saturday at First Christian Church in Grand Junction. CAP is the Civil Air Patrol, a national organization of volunteers who help with aerial searches and recoveries. The local Thunder Mountain Composite Squadron of CAP sponsored Simmons for a brief presentation Saturday.

Founded in 1941, the Civil Air Patrol is a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. It consists of aerospace education, emergency services and cadet programs nationwide. Cadet programs for youth ages 12 to 20 give them the opportunity to learn to fly.

Simmons is a retired aerospace engineer who was employed by Grumman Aerospace at the time of the plane crash in 1969. Simmons was a major contributor in the development and implementation of the Hubble Telescope, a telescope still in orbit that was designed to be serviced in space.

Simmons shared his experiences to an audience of nearly 40 people and had advice on becoming a pilot.

“You can find people alive,” he said. “The important thing was because of the flight plan, they found me.”


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