About Squadron 59


About Squadron 59

Hemet Ryan Composite Squadron 59 was chartered on July 16, 1988. At that time there were 20 chartered members and there is still 1 founding member active with the squadron. In 1989 the squadron became a composite squadron (adults and cadets) with 14 new cadets. There are currently about 60 members in the squadron with 30 being cadets.

Because Hemet Ryan has been designated as a mission base and has qualified base staff, ground teams, and aircrews, Sq. 59 had been the host unit for an average of 2 Search and Rescue missions per year for lost or missing aircraft.

Sq. 59 also participates in an average of 10 missions per year locating Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT), which turn out to be false alarms. ELT's are made to activate during a crash but can also be activated by a hard landing or during servicing. On average only 25% of the ELT's actually survive post crash or are activated during a crash. Sq. 59 has also supplied qualified personnel for homeland security missions, counter narcotics missions, to search for shuttle debris, natural disasters, and 911 transportation requests.

Sq. 59 hosts an average of 1 Search and Rescue/Disaster Relief training missions per year to help gain and maintain proficiency.

A mission can require as few as 9 members or can range up to 150 members or more based on the requirements. Missions can last hours or weeks depending on the situation.

Squadron 59 has in the past operated one Civil Air Patrol corporate owned Cessna 182Q. It was based at the Hemet Ryan Airfield. The Cessna 182 is an ideal aircraft for CAP because of it's powerful engine and steady flight characteristics.

Hemet-Ryan Airport


 Ryan Air Attack Base, November 2003 Ryan Air Attack Base is named after the late Claude T. Ryan who is most famous for having designed the Spirit of St. Louis airplane and who began the Ryan School of Aeronautics in Hemet during World War II.  Through contract with the federal government 14,000 Army cadets were trained to fly.  With the end of WWII and the need for pilots diminishing, training ceased.  The facility eventually became a public airport owned and operated by Riverside County.

 In 1957, the United States Forest Service commenced air tanker loading operations, and in 1959 California Division of Forestry (now the California Department of Forestry) began their operation at Ryan Field.  Both agencies maintained separate parking, loading and mixing areas but the initial stages of a joint base operation had begun.  In 1969, the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the California Division of Forestry (CDF) truly merged into a joint agency air attack base sharing the base operation, responsibilities and facilities. The joint base concept successfully continued operation until 1998 when the USFS moved their air tanker base operation to the larger and recently vacated Norton Air Force Base.

TBMs assigned from the late 1950s From the beginning of Ryan Air Attack Base, CDF and the USFS used privately-owned, contracted WWII vintage aircraft. The type and sizes of aircraft varied based on vendor, availability of flyable airframes and spare parts.  As the years counted off and the flight hours increased these airplanes became static museum displays or were robbed for parts to keep the dwindling fleet flying.  Because of the dwindling air tanker fleet, CDF acquired excess U.S. Navy Grumman S-2A submarine hunting aircraft.  These planes were converted from military use to firefighting aircraft using a design developed by Hemet Valley Flying Service.  The first two aircraft build-ups were completed by Hemet Valley Flying Service and tested at Ryan Air Attack Base.  The basic aircraft design has been in continuous state service since 1975. 

Bell UH-1F, early 1980's In 1977, CDF began a two-week pilot helitack program utilizing a contracted helicopter.  Headed up by Captain Emil Derdowski and two firefighters, the program was extended to a total of four weeks.  The success of this pilot program brought on line Hemet-Ryan Helitack Base using a full time contract helicopter staffed with three captains and nine firefighters operating out of Ryan Air Attack Base.

In 1981, CDF acquired Bell UH-1F Hueys helicopters through the Federal Excess Property Program (FEPP) leasing them from the Air Force through the USFS for one dollar a year.  This program now allowed CDF to operate and manage its own fleet of fixed wing and rotor wing aircraft. 

 Tanker 73 providing support on the Melton Fire In 1992, CDF acquired several of the larger Bell UH-IH helicopters through FEPP with Hemet-Ryan Helitack stationed at Ryan Air Attack Base receiving one of the first buildups.  These helicopters were further upgraded with larger engines, main rotor and tail boom assemblies making them the "Super Huey" model.  CDF now has 11 of these helicopters in service with nine based throughout the state.  In 1993, the OV-10 replaced the older Cessna 337 as Air Attack 310 base at Ryan.  In June of 2001, CDF replaced the older S-2A's at Ryan with Tanker 72 and 73, both new S-2G Grumman models.  The upgrades include constant flow 1,200 gallon tanks and turbine engines allowing for better capabilities and performance.

Hemet-Ryan Airport is located in the San Jacinto Valley of Riverside County and provides convenient access to the mid-county region, including the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto. Highways 74 and 79 provide easy access to neighboring communities and Interstates 10, 215 and 15. San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties and the balance of the Inland Empire are within an hour's drive.

  • Ground support services
  • On-field fuel services
  • Maintenance and aircraft storage
  • Ground transportation
  • Ground support for the recreational flyer
  • Sailplane instruction
  • Sailplane maintenance and storage

For nearly 50 years, Ryan Air Attack Base has played a vital role in wildland fire suppression efforts in Southern California and Riverside County. 

Ryan Air Attack Base is one of 19 tanker bases strategically located throughout California.  Because of climate, weather, fuels, geography and fire occurrence, Ryan is strategically located. The base provides initial attack aircraft service to over 17,000 square miles of private, state, and federally owned lands.  Up until 1998, Ryan was statistically the busiest air tanker base in the United States delivering an average of 1.5 million gallons of retardant annually.  With the USFS moving to San Bernardino, these statistic have dropped dramatically.

Recently, Squadron 59 has had to move from the Hemet-Ryan air attack base due to airbase expansion projects, and is currently seeking a new permanent headquarters location. (2022)

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