Civil Air Patrol


Well-Known Member
Anybody done it/doing it? I was curious about the "Senior" part of it, or whatever they call it, not the cadet part of it. Just curious about how much time it takes up on average, opportunities to fly (both squadrons near me have their own planes), and really, just what you do as a member. I've looked at their website, but I was curious if anybody on here's done it.
I was a cadet from the age 13 to 20 so I know a little bit about CAP. If you are going to join to strictly fly you can, but it depends on what geographical area. Basically if you live in an area that has a lot of accident potential in it, or an area where a lot of ELT's go off then you could possibly fly alot.

If you want to join only to fly then I would forget about it. There is so much more that CAP has to offer than flying.
I'm looking more for the SAR training aspect of it, and the other opportunities, not just flying. Eventually I'd like to be a check airman or whatever, but I'm not looking at just flying.
Well then if it is SAR you want to get into, a CAP Senior Member is the person to be. CAP is the first call made to SAR.

Are you thinking about joining here in Tulsa? If so, I have a few local contacts that could probably answer some of your questions...

I was involved as a cadet for about two years when I was in Jr. High. I was in it for the flying, which incidentally didn't happen too often at the Claremore squadron.

I have thought about joining the senior squadron though, primarily for the flying that is involved. I do know you have to have a minimum of 200 hours before they will let you fly their aircraft. I'm sure that's not an issue with you, but I'm sitting at 105 hrs right now, going through my instrument.

I'll see what other information I can gather and let you know...
I do know you have to have a minimum of 200 hours before they will let you fly their aircraft.

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Not true, actually, at least where Oklahoma is concerned. The CAP-owned fleet in OK consists of 6 C-172s, which only require Pvt ASEL or better and a checkout--but all you'll really be able to do at that point is use the aircraft for proficiency flying and post-private flight training, at your expense (though it's considerably cheaper than your local FBO). To get involved with funded flying on Air Force-directed missions requires additional experience; to become a "transport mission pilot" requires 100 hrs PIC and at least 50 hrs XC. Transport mission pilots are limited to transporting members or parts and equipment to/from mission bases, ferrying aircraft to/from mission bases, or flying "high bird" communications relay sorties.

Becoming a full-fledged "Search & Rescue/Disaster Relief Mission Pilot" requires a bit more experience--175 hrs PIC--and some CAP-specific training in search flying. The good news is that even without the 100 PIC, you can fly as a mission pilot trainee and gain some of the flight experience needed while flying with an experienced SAR/DR pilot.

The more mountainous states will have fleets composed primarily of C-182s and C-206s, for which you'll need to have 100 hrs PIC plus 10 hrs and 25 takeoffs and landings in a high-performance aircraft to get checked out.

Best thing to do is go to a local unit meeting and see things for yourself. Unfortunately, the quality of CAP units varies widely (the perils of a volunteer organization); if your local unit is a good one, you'll have a good time with CAP. If not, you won't.
flyitup, I was either thinking of joining over here, or over in Tulsa. Not sure which one though. I guess i'd be leaning more towards the wing over here unless I move to Tulsa.

aloft- thanks for the info on the numbers. I've passed all those, so hopefully that'll help.
Thanks for the information Aloft, I guess I got my numbers mixed up...

Have you done quite a bit of flying with CAP? I'm not too interested in the military lifestyle, therefore I was hoping I could be involved primarily for the flying and humanitarian reasons...
Back when I was younger I did quite a bit of SAR flying as an observer (the guy who runs the ELT DF gear and CAP radios and visually scans the terrain for the search objective), but haven't done any flying as a pilot yet since I haven't met the PIC mins to fly CAP's C-182s out here.

Don't worry about any "military lifestyle", as the ops side of the house is pretty un-military aside from the uniforms--which are really only required when flying, anyway.

Best thing to do is go to a local unit meeting and see things for yourself. Unfortunately, the quality of CAP units varies widely (the perils of a volunteer organization); if your local unit is a good one, you'll have a good time with CAP. If not, you won't.

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I can vouch for that point right there.
I have another question. This may be the ONLY way to fly easily in the DC area. So I'm wondering if CAP flights are considered military flights. If they are, then I'll be signing up for the CAP really soon!
The "C" in CAP stands for's never considered military. CAP may be able to fly in TFR's, I don't know, but they definately aren't considered military.


PS--CAP should not be funded by taxpayer dollars!
I don't think that CAP flights are considered military flights unless they are coordinated with the Air Force, NTSB, FEMA, or other Federal agencies.

That meaning if you are flying in a CAP airplane to complete a BFR or checkout in the airplane, there is no way you are going to be able to fly in a TFR. I doubt any CAP airplanes would have any reason to fly in a TFR unless an ELT went off or they are conducted a SAR.

Chunk - CAP is partially funded by the US Air Force because it is THE offical auxillary of the US Air Force, and CAP conducts 80-90 percent of all SAR missions done in the US, when the aircraft is not military, and I have not even mentioned the numerous disaster relief abilities and responsibilties that CAP is called on when needed. However, almost all CAP is volunteer, with the exception of the National level staff. Those who state Wing (state) level positions are all volunteer.
Well, Chunk is right in that CAP isn't military in the strict Geneva Convention sense (though there is some debate about that; somebody once pointed out that one of the Geneva categories seems to apply), but when it performs its Air Force-directed missions of SAR, Disaster Relief and Counterdrug Ops (and soon, Homeland Security ops), it does so as an instrumentality of the federal government, kinda like the Coast Guard (which I don't believe is military in the strict Geneva Convention sense, either).

To iceman21's point, CAP flight operations fall into three categories; most flights in the first two would be considered essential US government flight operations and would not be subject to the limitations of a TFR if mission requirements so dictate. During the nationwide ground stop on 9/11 and afterward, CAP operations were among the few non-military flights allowed (FEMA airlift, blood and live organ transport, mostly). In fact, CAP performed the first aerial damage assessment flight (part of our Disaster Relief mission) over the WTC site on 9/12. CAP can and has had TFRs established over areas where concentrated SAR operations are in progress. Obviously, stuff like training, proficiency flights and Cadet orientation flights isn't considered mission-critical.

Virtually all of CAP's SAR operations are coordinated by Eagle's counterparts at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley AFB--CAP doesn't make a move until AFRCC issues a mission number. CAP's disaster relief activities are conducted under the direction of the Air Force National Security Emergency Preparedness (AFNSEP) office, which oversees all aspects of Air Force Military Support to Civilian Authorities (MSCA), Continuity of Operations for the Air Staff (COOP), is the principal USAF Point of Contact for Homeland Security and is the liaison with other federal agencies in all these areas. Finally, CAP's counterdrug activities are under the direction of US Customs and the DEA via an agreement with USAF.

And again, Chunk--your argument that CAP shouldn't be funded by taxpayer dollars is "pennywise and pound-foolish"--which doesn't surprise me in the least, given your support of similarly foolish budgetary choices by the Bush administration. SOMEBODY has to do what CAP does; that CAP members do it for no pay or benefits is one of the greatest bargains the US government enjoys today. Here's a simple comparison: to put up a single HH-60 for an hour costs about $800 solely in operating expenses and doesn't include the cost of the aircraft or the pay and benefits of the crew. To put up a single CAP aircraft for an hour costs about $90. In FY01, CAP flew 10,712 hours in support of SAR (saving 61 lives in the process, incidentally); at $90/hr, that's about $964,000 (less than $16,000 per save--not a bad deal at all). To fly the same number of hours in an HH-60 would have cost the taxpayers just over $8.5 million. Which tab would you rather pay? The taxpayers will always have to pay for SAR unless and until somebody decides the beneficiaries of such services should bear that burden exclusively. Can you say "mandatory SAR insurance"? I can only imagine the premiums.

Anyway, I'll look into what impact the new DC NOTAMs are having on CAP flight ops and let you know.
aloft, where did you get those figures from? That $800 seems quite high for a HH-60. Lets see, for last month our cost per hour for the MH-60 was around $280/hour. I was in both the CAP and Naval Sea Cadet Corps. Both are outstanding organizations.
I don't know H46bubba....I know when I was in the H-53 community, we could burn $600 worth of fuel in an hour. Of course, I remember the military, we never counted the cost of manpower or parts or airport fees....the tax payers cover that....
I would imagine so in a H-53, geez, that is a beast of a helo. I got to swap with a Marine counterpart on my second deployment. That thing has a lot of power. There is a formula as too compute cost per hour. Right now JP-5 is running about $1.02/gal and commercial Jet-A is about $1.66 for military using civillian fuel sources. Cost per hour is total fuel used, divided by total flight hours flown. Lubricants, parts and pay are not a factor.
Yeah, the H-53 is a pretty big girl....I was a powerplant technician in my Marine Corps days so I understand what you mean about the power. 4,380 SHP X 3!!! The -419 engines have even more than that and they had to be torque-limited because of airframe stress!!!

I've heard that formula used, but it would be kind of unfair to use that when comparing actual operating costs with the CAP. In civil aviation, you have to figure in maintenance, parts, lube, manpower, training, storage.....all kinds of things into the actual operating expenses. When it comes down to it, the tax payers foot the bill in full whether it's a 172 flying the patrols from the CAP, or an H-60 doing it. And me being the peace-loving civilian that I am now, I say let the skyhawks do it...that's why we have a Civil Air Patrol!!!
aloft, where did you get those figures from?

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I believe it came from AFRCC; don't quote me on that. No idea how it's determined. I suspect, however, that the figure includes more than just the cost of fuel/oil/lubricants (FOL) as that simply doesn't accurately reflect the actual cost to the taxpayer to put that asset in the air for an hour. You have to consider the direct operating costs of FOL plus the flight-hour-maintenance requirements for the aircraft (including parts and manhours), plus pay & benefits of the crew.

If you're going to compare only direct operating expenses though, CAP's hourly expenses are then only about $30-35/hr. In other words, the math still supports the assertion that CAP is the most cost-effective option for aerial search on a nationwide basis. For the same fiscal reasons (and also to help minimize the effects of high USAF personnel tempo), CAP is expected to assume substantial taskings to support Air Force homeland security efforts in the coming months.