When I was in Flight School in Norman. At a flight school that now I hear is closed the CAP was in the next building over. They seemed "civil" enough. A very active youth program. As for the flying portion of it.... I dont know much. They do have a 172 that has a nice paint job and they keep VERY clean! ( I guess if you dont fly it at least you can wash and wax it)
I don't know anything about the Norman, OK, unit, but if you are a private pilot or above and want to log cheap or free hours in nicely equipped and maintained airplanes, the CAP is a good way to go. I've probably got 150 hours in their Skyhawks and Skylanes. They all have nice avionics and a GPS, and are good for IFR proficiency flights.
1. a fair number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through (not too much, though)
2. dorky uniform requirement while flying
3. some members who have no real military experience try to make up for it by nagging you about things such as the "proper shoes to wear with your uniform," etc.
Overall, a good way to help yourself (logging time) and perhaps help someone else one day (looking for downed pilots, helping measure flood damage, etc.).
We have pretty good airplanes, including some G1000 equipped C182's. In my state, we charge $20/hr dry for 172's and $25/hr dry for 182's for personally funded proficiency flying. Most mission flying we do is fully funded by other agencies, such as USAF.
We also have a cadet program for teenagers that is military-oriented and somewhat rigorous. It is not for everyone.
We are not a military service - we are a federally chartered community servcie organization (charter similar to that of the American Red Cross). We have a few members who think that we're a military service, but we try to correct that misunderstanding. We are heavily supported by the USAF, and many of our activities are tasked to us by the USAF. When we are doing things tasked to us by the USAF, we have status as the auxiliary of the USAF.
You must wear a uniform to fly our airplanes, but usually that's a blue golf shirt and grey dockers. A few choose to wear the USAF uniform, but most do not. If you choose to wear the USAF uniform, you will be expected to wear it exactly to USAF standards (their rule, not ours).
Most of our flying is Search and Rescue (practice or actual, including ELT hunts and actual overdue aircraft), aerial photography, proficiency flying and flying cadets (teenagers) - they have a multi-sortie flight orientation syllabus as part of their program.
Our crews took over a thousand aerial photos of Hurricane Katrina damage for various government, military and relief agencies, some of which were relayed via satellite to the ground from in-flight in real time.
In the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our aircraft in New York were the first to take aerial photos of ground zero for the NY emergency mamagement authorities. Other than the military, we were the only major agency flying (transporting blood, supplies, key personnel, etc)
WE DO NOT DO SURVEILLANCE. We do a few things that could be considered passive support of Law Enforcement agencies, but we are not a Law Enforcement agency and do not actively participate in Law Enforcement.
Private pilots are welcome to fly with us, and many have gotten advanced ratings with us. We have more stringent safety requirements (annual checkrides, required safety meetings, etc) than routine general aviation.
We are always looking for new members, especially pilots. If you are interested, PM me and i'll get you in touch with someone from Oklahoma
Back when I was a wee lad, I was in the CAP Cadet program, ie the portion of CAP for teenagers. I did this to help my application to the US Air Force Academy. What I found was a bunch of pompus ass, power tripping, and I got more rank than you jerks. The Senior members, ie the adults, wanted nothing to do with the Cadets and when senior members did show their faces, they had the same worship the ground I walk on attitude. This was in a Rocky Mountain state where there were many opportunities for search and rescue operations. Many of the local counties had there own search and rescue teams and it was common knowledge that there policy's forbid using the CAP for any search and rescue operations due to lack of professionalism etc. This was 15 years ago, I dont think things have changed much there but I am sure it all depends on where you are at. I know a few years ago there was an ELT going off at a local airport and the CAP showed up looking for it. They narrowed it down to a Hawker, which belonged to a large fractional, that was sitting on the ramp for the night. Despite the objection of the line guys, the CAP members broke out the tool box and started opening random panels on the Hawker. Luckily a quick thinking line guy got the Maintenance Department for said fractional on the phone, which then proceded to chew some CAP ass and come back for seconds. The plane had to be put back together and inspected by a mechanic. These are all personal experiences, I am sure locations vary, but I say stay away.
I gave it a shot in late 01, and all i could say is it was a joke. This is in Socal mind you, most of the people in there were just dorks, and like someone said earlier power trippers. I first got in to it for the "flying opportunities" but later realized it was a waste of time with the hoops and runaround i got. To me it seemed like bunch of guys who were retired, wanted to get away from the wife, or couldn't get a date (reminded me of napoleon dynamite's brother). Don't mean to be so harsh, maybe its better in your neck of the woods. Best of luck with your decision though!
Don't let the naysayers stop you from doing your own investigation. Civil Air Patrol, like any organization, has it's problems. Those can be overcome and it is possible to pursue whatever goals you may have with the organization. They have many areas of interest, one of which is flying search and rescue or other missions.
There are roadblocks in Civil Air Patrol. As some have already said; there is stifling bureacracy, pompous individuals on a power trip, etc. That can all be side-stepped if you have a little perserverance.
Some squadrons are notoriously difficult to break into. They guard their airplane and are not welcoming to outsiders, Squadron 80 in San Jose, Ca comes to mind as one that fits that description ( circa 1987 ). The composite squadron in Bedford, MA ( circa 1989 ) was the opposite, very welcoming and easy to start flying their airplane.
If you are lucky the squadron in Norman is the latter. You need to go to a few meetings and get a feel for how welcoming and supportive they will be. There is no obligation to join right away. Just go to the meetings first and make up your own mind.
For what is is worth, the CAP search and rescue flying is some of the best single-engine flying I have ever done.