• Civil Air Patrol Part One - USAF Auxiliary

    Civil Air Patrol

    Part One - USAF Auxiliary

    By Tony Vallillo

    Flight simmers who delved into the missions section of FSX may have noticed one mission that featured a red white and blue Maule, called CAP Search and Rescue. The task at hand was to locate, and if you had some real brass ones land and rescue, a downed flier in the mountains. Finding the target was not terribly difficult, but it took me a few tries before I was able to land the Maule on that tiny plateau, pick up the downed airman and take off again. For most of you it was probably just another imaginary mission among the many offerings within FSX, but some of you may have wondered just what CAP is.

    Civil Air Patrol

    CAP stands for Civil Air Patrol, the civilian volunteer auxiliary of the US Air Force. The organization has existed since the early days of WWII, and today has many thousands of volunteers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. We operate over 500 Cessna airplanes; we are, in fact, the largest operator of Cessna aircraft in the world. I say "we" because since 2007 I have been a CAP member myself, and after my retirement from American Airlines in 2008 just about all of my flying was and is done on behalf of my alma mater's auxiliary.

    Civil Air Patrol

    My involvement in CAP actually dates from the early 1980's, when I joined as a senior member during my son's tenure as a cadet. This is actually how most of our adult members get involved, in part because CAP is a much better kept secret than it should be. Like most members, when my son went on to other pursuits I let my membership lapse, but I came upon CAP again in early 2007 when a new squadron was established in the city near which I lived. By this time my airline retirement was on the horizon, and it seemed like CAP would be a good post retirement activity -- I could keep flying with a purpose greater than the mere pursuit of a full stomach, albeit in Cessnas instead of Boeings, and also perhaps contribute to the interest of youth in aviation through the cadet program. The timing was perfect, because one year later I had to pull the trigger on retirement early (rather than lose a not insignificant slice of my pension) and I found myself with a lot of time on my hands -- time that would ordinarily have been spent in the company of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. Now we all know that She is intolerant of my normal inclination to idleness when not actually flying, and She had gotten used to me being out of the house completely for days at a time each week. It may come as a surprise to you, but spousal homicide is the principle cause of mortality in retired airline pilots (!), who never fail to attempt to prolong their command by trying to take over the kitchen! So at least in a tongue-in-cheek sense CAP has kept me alive for nearly a decade now!

    Civil Air Patrol

    CAP has a long history, having been around longer than I have been. It came into being around the time of Pearl Harbor, in an effort spearheaded by well known pilot and journalist Gill Robb Wilson, and the Mayor of New York (also a pilot) Fiorello LaGuardia. Wilson, in particular, was interested in finding ways to use civil aviation as part of the war effort, instead of grounding it altogether, which was one of the proposals floating around at the time. Using volunteer pilots flying their own airplanes, CAP undertook many missions during the war years, including courier missions, border patrols, and the best known mission -- anti submarine patrols along the coasts.

    Civil Air Patrol

    Early in the US involvement in WWII, German submarines were a terrible threat to maritime traffic, and it was possible to watch from the shore as ships were attacked and sunk. CAP began flying anti-submarine patrols, sometimes armed with small bombs. Although the stories of CAP airplanes actually sinking submarines with those bombs are apocryphal, a number were sunk by military aircraft summoned by the CAP pilots on patrol.

    Civil Air Patrol

    After the war, when the USAF was established as a separate service, the CAP was made the official auxiliary of the Air Force, and given principal responsibility for the conduct of inland search and rescue flying, especially searches for downed airplanes. This was a lively business in the immediate postwar years, and is still one of our principal missions. Additionally, a cadet program was established which is also still going strong. Young people ages 12-21 can participate, and be involved in all manner of leadership training and aviation and technology oriented activities, including learning to fly.

    1. eldyer's Avatar
      eldyer -
      I was a CAP cadet back in 50's
      Eric Dyer
    1. dswanson's Avatar
      dswanson -

      I've missed your very interesting travelogues on this site - please keep them coming !!!
    1. N646AWAirbus's Avatar
      N646AWAirbus -
      If anyone is looking for more information, please visit our official, National website at;


      From there, you can find out a lot more as to what we do, what we have to offer, and what you can do for us. You can also find links to our various social media outlets at youTube channel as well.

      I'm in no means recruiting here, lol. But if you wish to find out more, that's a good place to start!


      Maj. A. Stout, CAP
      Deputy Commander
      March Field Composite Squadron 45
      March ARB, CA
    1. svpst's Avatar
      svpst -
      My father was killed in Detoit, when I was 2, in 1945. He was taking flying lessons in a small Cessna and got caught in a rainstorm and unfortunately hit high tension wires when landing in the rain. Interestly enough, my mother, who was also taking lessons,and my uncle bought a small landing strip about 200 miles north of Detroit. In about 1948, I'm estimating, a man came and talked to them and they set up a CAP unit at that small strip. There were two flying clubs there and something like 8 pilots soon had signed onto the CAP Rosters. They gave flying training lessons, and at the ages of 7 and 8, I was allowed to sit in on many of the training sessions they did. Unfortunately, my mother remarried and we sold the strip, and today it has fully grown over, but I do remember flying to many CAP meetings all over northern Michigan from that airport at those tender ages. Had lots of free rides from the pilots at the club. They have been around for a long time. I'm now 74.
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