The mission of the Civil Air Patrol analysis

Civil Air Patrol has performed very well in the United States considering that it is an all-volunteer organization, made up of pilots and other young citizens who care enough about their country to put their time into a worth cause. The CAP has served a valuable purpose in WWII, has helped in thousands of search-and-rescue missions, and most recently was a big part of the rescue and support operations when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Recently, the CAP was put under the Department of Homeland Security, and continues to not only provide valuable services, but also helps train young people to be leaders in aerospace and in Air Force-related activities.


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The mission of the Civil Air Patrol is broken down into three functions: “emergency services, aerospace education, and cadet training,” according to the U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet called “Civil Air Patrol” (

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) members fly “more than 95% of the inland search and rescue missions” that are overall managed by the Air Force Rescue and Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. In fact, the CAP flew more than 3,000 search and rescue missions “and was credited with waving 73 lives in the year 2005, the Air Force Fact Sheet points out.

The CAP also gets involved with the U.S. Customs Service, with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and with the U.S. Forest Service, when it comes to helping fight the war on drugs. In the year 2005, CAP volunteers flew “more than 12,000 hours in support of the nation’s war on drugs”; those efforts by CAP volunteers resulted in more than $400 million worth of illegal drugs being confiscated, the fact sheet explains.

Meanwhile, if there were ever a need for proof that the CAP provides a vital service to America, that proof was given during the disastrous Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast in 2005. The volunteers of the CAP “sprung into action” during that terrible catastrophe and provided relief assistance “wherever possible,” according to a story in Air Force Print News (AFPN), September 20, 2006.

The first thing the CAP did was to establish a “round-the-clock command post” in order to coordinate flight crews and search and rescue teams; there were requests from local, state, and federal authorities for the CAP to provide “aerial reconnaissance and rescue.” In the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, 1,734 members of the CAP were on hand to “prep and deploy aircraft, communications equipment and supplies,” according to the AFPN article titled “Civil Air Patrol honored for Hurricane relief contributions.”

The CAP volunteers – from as far away as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – rushed to the CAP command post and used their “intensive training to quickly provide digital photos of the damage.” The imagery the CAP volunteers provided helped in the safe recovery of the storm’s victims. In some cases, those volunteers flying over the damage, were seeing the catastrophe’s brutal effect on their own homes, the article points out.

But the CAP wasn’t only offering help through the air; volunteer CAP teams went “door-to-door through demolished neighborhoods to find trapped victims,” the AFPN report explained. When the initially search and recovery efforts were finished, the CAP volunteers had surveyed 4,266 homes and made 8,524 contacts with people affected by the hurricane. The CAP volunteers had flown 1,848 hours over the widespread area affected by the storm, and had contributed over 35,495 hours of hands-on assistance to the effort.

For their service, the CAP members received the prestigious Summit Award for efforts put forward during both Katrina and Rita. The Summit Award is sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership’s Associations Advance America Committee.

Another article in the AFPN (“Air Force Link”) titled “CAP proves worth during Katrina relief” (Duff, 2006) credits the efforts of CAP members from 17 states for the work that was done after the storm. “Volunteer aircrew members from all of the country, leaving behind their families, careers and even paychecks, flew more than 2,000 hours of flight time” in support the aerial missions, Tech Sgt. Phyllis Duff wrote.

The CAP has been serving in non-combat programs and missions in support of the Air Force for 65 years, Duff reports. The work that the CAP did during Katrina was “the first operational use of CAP by joint and Air Force commanders” under new guidelines for the deployment of the Civil Air Patrol. Those new strategies meant that for the first time in CAP’s history, its units were fully integrated into the joint task force structure during “a real-world contingency, serving as a vital component of both JTF-Katrina and JTF-Rita,” according to James Tynan, public affairs manager at CAP national headquarters, and quoted by Phyllis Duff in the article.

The “largest Cessna fleet in the world” is operated by the CAP, the article continues. The “vast majority” of the Cessna aircraft are Cessna 172s or 182s. More than 200 volunteers from 17 “wings” – which is the name for a CAP unit – pitched in and went house to deliver food, water, and medical supplies to devastated families along the Gulf Coast, the article continued.

Following the CAP’s successful support effort during Katrina, the Department of Defense (DOD) asked the CAP to join in the rescue and support effort for hurricane Rita which struck south Texas; responding to the call for assistance the CAP provided nine aircraft for DOD use in transportation and aerial imagery missions. After Rita landed on shore and passed through the Houston area the CAP provided 150 air missions with more than 350 hours of flight time in support of the overall effort to help people and protect property.

The deputy chief of staff for air, space and information operations in Washington D.C. is Lt. General Carrol H. Chandler; he said the “Air force auxiliary continues to stand above the rest in its dedication and compassion for others.” He continued, “We fly and fight as a team, and in this case, the fight at hand was to save lives.”

In the Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine (September 25, 2005), the writer reported that the CAP is getting a major equipment upgrade. The CAP is receiving 500 new Cessna Model 182T Skylanes, which are equipped with glass cockpits and “special avionics equipment.” These new aircraft will have a “modern avionics suite that will significantly increase mission efficiency,” according to journalist Edward H. Phillips.

The 182T plane is powered by a “naturally aspirated Teledyne Continental engine” which has a “…useful load of about 700 pounds,” Phillips reports. Those 700 pounds “can better accommodate people and mission equipment” and is more weight than most of the currently operating CAP fleet can carry, Phillips continues. A typical CAP mission only requires about 30 gallons of fuel, but the new planes will be able to carry up to 87 gallons.

There was one original drawback to the new 182T aircraft, in the opinion of Captain Philip E. Jossi, who is a CAP pilot with the Nebraska Civil Air Patrol (located in Lincoln, Nebraska); he says during special missions the planes used by CAP volunteers there is a need for “dual audio panels for dual control of the communications radios.” The dual controls are required in order to isolate “pilot and mission radios,” Jossi stated. However, although the Garmin G1000 system avionics suite was not originally designed to provide those technological services, with upgrades it now can perform properly.

The CAP planes (even the older Cessna 172s and 182s) can take digital photos and transmit them via VHP to a receiver on the ground, where they come up on a video monitor. In fact, some of the first aerial photos of the World Trade Center were taken by the CAP.

Volunteer members of the CAP do not carry firearms, according to an article in, titled “Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the Air Force, is a volunteer, non-profit organization with its national headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.” The CAP members also do not make arrests, nor do they chase suspected drug traffickers, which they are clearly not trained to do.

But the CAP’s aerospace education programs “provide its membership, and the educational community, information about aviation and space activities,” according to are around 200 aerospace education workshops for teachers at 150 colleges and universities around the country, the article reposts, and those workshops help to prepare around 7,000 teachers who are teaching subjects that entail aerospace-focused topics in schools around the nation.

The aerospace component of the CAP also helps to create curriculum and it writes and published educational materials on aerospace topics for students in schools around the country, the www.about.comstory explains. Why have a CAP program? Is it just for support of the military? Actually, the article reports that the purpose of the Cadet Program in the CAP is to “inspire the country’s youth to become leaders and good citizens through their interest in aerospace,” the writer explains.

Who can join the Cadet Program for CAP aerospace? Candidates must be between 13 to 18 years of age, or have at least finished the sixth grade, no matter what their age is. The cadets in the aerospace program get immersed in leadership programs, educational activities, “moral leadership and physical fitness.” Along the way to getting their training, the aerospace cadets can earn advanced ranks (just like the regular military enlistees do), they can get awards and certificates, and they “may become eligible for CAP national or international special activities” and compete for scholarships,” the article continues.

What are the requirements for individuals to become an airborne part of the regular CAP? They have to have a private pilot license, journalist Phillips writes in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. They also have to have accumulated 200 hours of flying time, but they can begin training for missions after 175 hours of flying time. “A special check ride is required before approval to train as a mission pilot,” Phillips explains. Also, all mission pilots are required to take a check ride each year, in order to stay active as a flying member of CAP.

The average pilot in a CAP program flies about 25 to 30 hours every year, mostly (except in the case of an emergency or disaster like Katrina) “practicing search profiles and other mission-related operations, including instrument approaches.” Part of the regular training of a CAP flier is to learn how to look for aircraft that have gone done.

When the CAP began actually performing disaster recovery missions – above and beyond its traditional “search-and-rescue operations” – the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began paying for the training of pilots in “observation techniques,” Phillips explains. An example of that work is when a “major tornado nearly destroyed the town of Hallam, Nebraska,” in 2004; the CAP was in the air taking photos of the devastation and “transmitting them to emergency agencies in Nebraska,” according to Captain Philip Jossie, quoted earlier in this paper.

The agencies in Nebraska that received the transmitted photos from CAP planes in turn sent imagery to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington (FEMA). “Our relationship with [disaster relief agencies] and the DHS will grow in part because we can go up for about $70 an hour,” Jossie explained. It costs much more to send military planes or other government planes into the air.

While it was pointed out earlier in the paper that the CAP members do not carry weapons and do not chase after drug dealers, the CAP was in fact right in the thick of the fighting in World War II, according to an article in the journal World War II. Writer Nick Jacobellis points out that in WWI, the CAP dropped 82 bombs or depth charges on 57 German submarines, “sinking or severely damaging at least two of them.” The CAP also located 363 survivors of sunken ships, spotted 17 floating mines and 36 bodies. The CAP also flew 86,685 combat missions and completed 5,684 special convoy missions. The CAP patrolled 24 million miles of ocean in support of the war against the Nazis, and in the process lost 90 of its aircraft and 26 pilots and co-pilots.

The CAP officially got into the war on December 1, 1941, six days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, when by presidential order the CAP was made officially an “auxiliary air arm of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF). Once the USAAF began to recruit volunteers, Jacobellis wrote, “volunteers answered the call from every corner of the country.” Young and old, rich and poor, disabled men too – they “came with a mixed bag of talents and aircraft to staff coastal patrol bases that were established on a shoestring budged from Maine to Texas,” Jacobellis continued.

With a number of good volunteers ready and willing to serve, the call then went out to private aircraft owners who were “…willing to rent their planes to the CAP.” What the government offered to do was pay the owners of small aircraft between $10.65 and $41 per hour, depending on the horsepower of the plane that the government was renting; the pay per hour also depended on whether or not the plane would be armed for combat, Jacobellis explained.

The main purpose for the planes was for “antisubmarine” activities. Imagine a civilian pilot who volunteered to help fight the Germans, and who rented his plane out to Uncle Sam; now he also is being given 100-pound bombs and 325-depth charges to drop on German submarines. That is how the war was fought, though, and in the end, it is how the war was won.

Works Cited (2005). Air Force Fact Sheets: Civil Air Patrol. Retrieved 2 Dec, 2006, at

Air Force Print News Today. (2005). Air Force Search and Rescue Crews Combing Coast, Civil

Air Patrol Assessing Damage. Retrieved 2 Dec. 2006 at

Air Force Print News Today (2006). Civil Air Patrol honored for hurricane relief contributions. Retrieved 2 Dec. 2006 at

Duff, Phyllis. (2006). CAP proves worth during Katrina relief. Air Force Link, Retrieved 2 Dec. 2006 at

Jacobellis, Nick. (2003). Flying Minutemen of the Civil Air Patrol. World War II. 17(7), 62-66.

Phillips, Edward H. (2005). New Wings for CAP. Aviation Week & Space Technology, 163(11).

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