Civil Air Patrol Operates The Largest Fleet of Single-Engine Aircraft in The U.S.
More than 150,000 citizens who were concerned about the defense of America’s coastline petitioned The U.S. government to organize a volunteer coastal patrol. Just one week before the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was founded.
Originally CAP was placed under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Forces,and during WWII CAP pilots flew more than one-half million hours, were credited Submarine Leadership with sinking two enemy submarines and rescued hundreds of crash survivors during wartime.
On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman established CAP as a federally chartered benevolent civilian corporation, and Congress passed Public Law 557 on May 26, 1948, making CAP the auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force. CAP was charged with three primary missions: aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services.
When domestic aircraft fail to reach their destination… it’s CAP to the rescue.
During 2008 CAP members were credited with saving 91 lives
Today CAP consists of 52 wings (all 50 states, D.C and Puerto Rico). The country is divided into eight geographic regions. -CAP includes approximately 1,600 units nationwide -Currently has over 53,000 members -Operates one of the largest fleets of single-engine piston aircraft in the world, with 550 currently in the fleet -Flies, through volunteer members, nearly 110,000 hours each year and it maintains a fleet of 1,000 emergency services vehicles for training and mission support. When domestic aircraft fail to reach their destination… it’s CAP to the rescue. During 2008 CAP members were credited with saving 91 lives The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center assigns more than 90% of its inland search and rescue missions to CAP. This includes missing or overdue aircraft, emergency location transmitter signals and missing persons.
CAP senior members and cadets are authorized to wear uniforms and insignias similar to those worn by U.S. Air Force personnel. Senior members provide their own uniforms, while cadet uniforms are supplied at no cost by CAP.
CAP participates in disaster relief missions by supplying ground teams and aerial surveillance. Its involvement with Homeland Security has increased significantly and CAP aircraft are used for aerial surveillance during counter drug missions.
Many of our citizens recall that day of the terrorist attacks as, “A day that will live in infamy.” On September 11, 2001, when the truth of what had happened became apparent, the FAA ordered all domestic aircraft currently airborne to land at the nearest airport. In a short time silence ruled the skies. But then the sound of a single engine, four-seat, red, white and blue Cessna broke the silence above the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. This CAP aircraft provided the world with the first aerial photographs of the devastation below.
CAP’s part in Homeland Security began during WWII when CAP aircrews not only sank and damaged a number of Nazi submarines, they towed targets through the skies providing aerial gunnery practice for the nation’s military pilots.
Today CAP continues Homeland Security service to our nation by flying into No-Fly-Zones and Temporary Flight Restricted areas providing real-time moving targets for intercept missions by military aircraft.
When a hurricane moves ashore, CAP ground teams move into stricken areas to assist in evacuation of survivors, fill sandbags, provide radio communications when the phone lines are down and whatever else needs to be done. When the clouds blow away, CAP aircraft are airborne taking aerial photos of the destruction and sending them via satellite to ground stations and local emergency management officials.
CAP pilots are among the best trained…
CAP members maintain peak proficiency by regular training missions that simulate the worst possible scenarios. Pilots are required to undergo an annual flight review with CAP check pilots. Civilian pilots are required to do this every two years. CAP cadets are eligible to apply for the National Flight Academy, where they can qualify to fly CAP aircraft. Ground teams train during Search and Rescue Exercises (SAREXs). They learn map reading, radio direction finding and air to ground communications.
Mentoring the cadets is an important function of CAP. Great things happen when these young people see a need and then fill it. For example, Cadet Kyle Zobel, a member of the Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron, which is based at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, wanted to see his high school sponsor a cadet squadron. The Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School had an active leadership program and was looking to expand it with more hands-on programs. Zobel collected facts and figures that chronicled CAP’s achievements and he took his proposal to school authorities. Ms. Bridget Bryant, coordinator of the leadership program, stepped up and assisted Zobel in his quest. Bryant’s dedication to the project was evident when she applied for CAP membership. The Bulldog CAP Squadron is the first to be sponsored by the North Carolina public school system.
It was a distinct privilege for the author to attend the ceremony when NC Wing Commander, Col. Roy Douglass presented the squadron its charter.In a gymnasium packed with students, families and friends, The Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School Cadet Squadron became a reality, and as the word spreads throughout the school, membership continues to grow.
CAP Isn’t Just For Pilots
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
CAP isn’t all about flying airplanes. While many CAP members are aviation enthusiasts, a host of other specialties are needed. CAP maintains a nationwide network of Very High Frequency (VHF) repeaters and High Frequency (HF) long range communications system. Administrative, Personal Development, Finance, Safety, Legal, Medical, Chaplain Service, Drug Demand Reduction are just a few of the specialties available.
Senior members may join at age 18. There is NO mandatory retirement age. CAP boasts many highly skilled pilots who are beyond the age for receiving Social Security benefits. The age for cadets is 12-18, but a cadet may elect to remain a member as a cadet until age 21.
FBI criminal background checks are required for senior members. Seniors enter CAP with no rank but after completing the Level One and Cadet Protection Training they may be promoted to 2nd. Lieutenant. The top grade for seniors is Lt. Colonel. Members receive promotions, just as they do in the military, they earn them. Wing Commanders receive the rank of Colonel when serving in that position. The highest rank in CAP is Major General. This rank is reserved for the CAP National Commander. Maj. Gen. Amy Courter is currently serving in this position. Yes, that’s right–there is no Glass Ceiling for women in CAP.
Cadets working through the training programs learn discipline, leadership and are immersed in aerospace education. Cadets attaining officer rank are eligible for many scholarship opportunities. Former CAP cadets are currently enrolled in the nation’s military academies. Nearly 10% of the freshman class at the U.S. Air Force Academy each year are CAP Cadets.
The Commander of the most recent Space Shuttle Mission was Eric Boe, a former CAP Cadet.
This great nation wouldn’t be so great if ordinary people stopped devoting their extra time to volunteer their talents to something worthwhile. The typical CAP squadron will have doctors, lawyers, office workers, computer specialists, truck drivers, factory workers, sales persons, fast food workers, you name it–we have it. We all joined at the senior level of membership, but…the sky is the limit!
Civil Air Patrol is a collection of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Civil Air Patrol: Citizens Serving Communities… Above and Beyond
For more information and how to find a CAP unit near you, visit CAP Headquarters at Maxwell AFB, Alabama please CLICK HERE <===
Capt. Don Penven is the Director of Public Affairs for the North Carolina Wing, Civil Air Patrol. He is a regular contributor of ezine articles and he works part-time as a technical writer and commercial photographer. He and his wife Margie divide their time between Raleigh and Brandywine Bay, in Morehead City, NC.