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Civil Air Patrol

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Well-known member
Nov 22, 2005
Does anyone here fly w/a CAP unit?
I"m thinking of joining one of the ones around St. Pete/Sarasota, FL area...anyone here have any experience w/them?? Or any CAP unit for that matter?
Potential for hours? When? (in so far as, is it mostly weekend flying, all days, anytime??)
I joined a squadron in VA because I was told I could fly the cadets on weekends for free. When I signed up I told the "Wing Commander" that I only wanted to fly cadets, not do S&R. They insisted that I attend classes and other stuff to become a mission pilot which I made clear before I did not want to do. It was really a waste of my time. I hope I dont offend anyone by saying this but I kind of got the vibe that the airplane was resereved for the older members and not some young CFI trying to get free time because I never got to step foot in it.
CAP Flying

Depends alot on the local unit, etc. We always want well qualified pilots, but it's a big organization with a lot of things going on -- we would very much want a pilot who was new to our organization to fly, but we would also want him/her to participate in all the other things we do to keep the organization running. I can't speak for VA, but most units would be fine with a qualified pilot who wanted to fly cadets but didn't want to be a SAR pilot -- as long as he/she was willing to pitch in somehow to keep the unit going.

There is the opportunity to build time at much less cost than renting from an FBO. There is some flying that is completely funded by someone else, such as cadet flying, SAR and some training. We do have stricter check-out, safety and currency requirements than FAA minimums. Exercises and cadet flying are usually on weekends, SAR flying can be any time, other flying can be any time as well.

Florida CAP is very active and there should be at least a couple of units near you. There is a unit locator at www.cap.gov. The "local flavor" of units can vary greatly, so you might visit a couple of them.
I was a member of the unit in St Pete back in 92-93, then I got a job that was working all night and could never attend meeting anymore.
The time that I spent there was pleasant. The people are good, mostly older. But some of the old timers have some great stories. They had a WAASP also, she had flown all kinds of WWII fighters.
As far as flying goes, there are many hoops to jump through to get flight status, but its worth it because if nothing else you meet some nice people and doing the SAR stuff helps our everyone.
I am also a member of CAP. I agree that it also depends drastically on the unit. My unit in particular barely has any pilots and was actually having trouble finding people to fly our airplane. We practically beg people to fly it whenever possible.

Of course, it is a government agency and that means long waiting times and lots of paperwork. Expect 4-6 months from when you sign up to when you can fly the airplane. Also, it is a volunteer organization, and every organization has work that is undesirable - chip in on that, try to benefit the squadron as a whole, and you'll fit in great. I've had a great deal of free or very cheap flying in it, just remember that you're a part of a team working towards a goal.

Also, if you take the initiative, you can "create" flying for yourself. Many squadrons do not have active cadet orientation or air force ROTC programs. Each cadet is given 5 free hours of orientation flying, and ROTC I believe, 4. If you go in and do the dirty work to get these programs started, you just may get a fair chunk of that flying.

Bottom line: Do what you can, get your hands "dirty" occasionally, put up with the paperwork/regulations, and you'll get a lot out of it. Just be patient.

I get more CAP flying offered to me than I can handle with my schedule. If I took full advantage of it, I could probably get 20 free hours a month easily.

Now, like I said previously, every unit is drastically different. Go around to different units and talk with them. They're not going to like someone wanting nothing but to build time, but if you show that you want to be a part of the team (even for non-flying activities), they'll be very helpful. Find a squadron with good people, a need for pilots, and you'll be set to go.

I got into CAP as a amateur radio operator, thanks to all the Senior members in my squadron that motivated over a period of three years to go to solo encampment, this is a program that CAP makes available to someone that may have zero flying experience, my program lasted a week and I ended up soloing three different types. In my opinion this is a great organization, it's not what you get out of it, it's what you contribute to the cadets, they need your help. If I lived in the states I would be an active member.
John2375 said:
Does anyone here fly w/a CAP unit?
I"m thinking of joining one of the ones around St. Pete/Sarasota, FL area...anyone here have any experience w/them?? Or any CAP unit for that matter?
Potential for hours? When? (in so far as, is it mostly weekend flying, all days, anytime??)

Unfortunately, it seems like its a bunch of "hall monitor" types that don't know how to fly, but yet pretend they are part of the US Air Force. Disgrace. Google them, you will need to buy a uniform to fly and a few years of experience going to meetings. GHey. I flew once with a CAP guy as my safety pilot. Very strange organization indeed.

Would be very fun if your average FlightInfo member represented CAP. Sadly it is as far away from FlightInfo as you can get.
I got my first airplane flight as a CAP cadet back when I was in high school. Served as a senior member in Tulsa when I was attending Spartan, then got out after school was over. I had some good times, and learned alot in the process. That was 17 years ago, and things have changed a GREAT deal. last year, I decided I might like to get back in, get on flight status, and do some orientation flights and SAR stuff. There is a squadron about 30 minutes from my house, and three more within an hours drive. I visited two of them, and decided very quickly that I didnt want the hassle. The senior members all struck me as a bunch of guys that like to wear a uniform and play Air Force on the weekends. Talking with them gave me the impression that they thought they were God's great gift to the aviation world. Several of their pilots I've seen that thought they were so hot sh!t couldnt fly there way out of a bag. OK wing had a SAREX here a couple of years ago, and during the landing competition, they didnt have a single pilot that was proficient enough to put a plane down on the numbers. It was a real joke watching them. I know that the CAP as a whole does some really good work, and there are alot of good people in the membership, but the whole organization needs a major overhaul, and there is a lot of attitude and piss poor airmanship that needs to be dealt with before I would ever join again.
Typical CAP meeting
Them: We need a mission pilot STAT!
ME: Um, I believe that I meet the quals to fly.
Them:You're only 20. John will be ready in 6 months and he's 45.
Me: See ya
CAP Flying Minimums

(sorry this is so long)

CAP Minimum flying requirements --

PP ASEL w/ basic FAA currency

Current Medical - any class

Attend monthly safety meeting, or read and initial monthly safety meeting minutes

To fly aircraft for personal proficiency, hours building, etc. - Annual checkout w/ CAP Check Pilot (More stringient than BFR, less stringent than FAA check ride) - no minimum hour requirement.

(In most states) - 1 annual safety meeting, which includes 1 hr funded flying with a CFI

(in a few states) - participant in FAA Wings program - completed 1 phase in last 24 months

To begin training as a SAR pilot - 175 hrs PIC

To be qualified as a SAR pilot and to fly cadets (teenagers) 200 hrs PIC and Wing Commander approval (we take this qualification seriously)

Since we are heavily funded by USAF, we have some USAF related admin requirements - almost all are related to flight safety or ensuring the appropriate use of taxpayer-funded assets.

The aircraft are usually late model 172's and 182's including some G1000. Current rate charged to members in my state for personally funded proficiency flying - $20/hr 172, $35/hr 182 (dry) -- varies from state to state)

CAP has > 500 aircraft nationwide (most Cessna's) - this is the largest single-owner fleet of light aircraft in the US.

You must wear a "uniform" to fly - most common uniform worn is grey dockers and a blue polo shirt

Re: airmanship, everyone has room to improve. CAP has accidents and problems, but we continually work to raise the bar. CAP's safety record is consistently safer than general aviation overall. A couple of months ago in our state, one of our pilots (a relatively high time CFI) had the alternator and a portion of the electrical system fail in flight in IMC and made a safe landing after doing two approaches in IMC with a hand-held nav/com (was IMC at MDA on first one and had to go missed). We think that's pretty good airmanship. By the way, he was on his way to the annual FAA aviation Safety Counselor's meeting (About 8 ASC's in my state are also CAP members)

Many of our pilots are relatively low time, civilian trained. Many others are retired military, airline, combat veteran, etc. One (recently retired from us) flew B-17's in WW2 and retired from USAF in KC-135's. Offhand among our members I can name three naval aviators (two USN, one USMC) and several USAF pilots.

Yesterday we called in about 25 people from last minute xmas shopping to start up a search for an aircraft that was reported by ATC to have "dropped off radar". Everyone was happy when the aircraft was quickly found at a local airport, after having made a safe landing (also after an electrical failure which killed the transponder in "secondary-radar only" airspace). Everyone was happy that the pilot was safe, and everyone was happy to have helped. That is the kind of stuff we do.

CAP flew approximately 1,000 hours in hurricane support missions this year

We very much want pilots and others who want to be a part of our organization. There is the opportuity to fly alot of fun stuff cheap or for free, but there is other work to do as well. However, we're not a flying club and if you come by wanting cheap or free time but not interested in anything else we do, you might not be as well received.

(as mentioned above, there can be alot of variation between local units - but the basic minimums I quoted above are nationwide)

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