What gives this faded, wrinkled uniform a place of honor in the CHP Museum? This is a shapeless, one-piece overall type uniform. It is faded in the creases and is a little frayed at the edges, yet it is very special. This uniform once belonged to Pilot Officer Gayle Wood Jr. On September 1, 1978, Officer Wood and Observer Officer James McCabe were on routine patrol in the hours before darkness in a CHP Helicopter when they struck a powerline and crashed, killing both. Officer Wood was a ten-year veteran of the patrol, five of which were spent as a pilot. Officer McCabe had served in the CHP for seven years and had been an observer for six months. This uniform was donated by Officer Wood’s wife, Ilene, and, while not perfect, is an actual uniform worn by the man who gave his life serving California. His family added the mustache on the mannequin and often leave flowers at the base at annual memorial events that take place at the CHP Academy. It is displayed with pride so that we may never forget the sacrifices made by officers Wood and McCabe and their families.
Since the 1940’s, the CHP has maintained a fleet of aircraft to patrol the state. The pilots and observers are all sworn CHP officers who work the road prior to being assigned to Air Ops. CHP observers in helicopters are also paramedics so they can quickly land or be winched down to assist people injured in collisions or treat and rescue injured hikers and climbers in areas difficult for ground units to get to. Air units monitoring events on the ground using state of the art equipment have been responsible for finding countless injured hikers and lost children from inaccessible areas of coastline or mountainous areas. Ten CHP officers assigned to aircraft have been killed in the line of duty.