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Plane Facts: The Civil Air Patrol

The history of the CAP is impressive. Its present, even more so.

Courtesy Civil Air Patrol
Courtesy Civil Air Patrol

Pilots know what the Civil Air Patrol is, but very few of us understand the scope and scale of the work it does. Since the 1940s, it has done its part to keep American citizens safe, though that role has changed a good deal over the years. These days, the mission is predominantly search and rescue, but there are numerous other mission types you probably didn’t know about—it has hot air balloons, you know! Check out these remarkable facts about this remarkable organization. We’re betting you’ll be as surprised by many of them as we were! 

Founded: 1941
Original Name: Civil Air Defense Service (CADS)
Motto: “Semper Vigilans” (Always Vigilant)
Headquarters: Maxwell AFB, Alabama
Purpose: Mobilize civilian pilots for national defense
Became Civilian Auxiliary Of The U.S. Air Force: 1948

Primary WWII Duties: Coastal patrol
Members Awarded Congressional Gold Medals: Approximately 200,000

Current Commander: Maj. Gen. Mark E. Smith (24th)
The New Guy: Brig. Gen. Edward D. Phelka, who will assume command from Smith in late August 

Modern Duties: Search & Rescue (SAR), Aerospace Education, Disaster Relief
Annual Missions: Approximately 50,000
Percent Of Inland SAR Missions Involving CAP: 90
Lives Saved Per Year: More than 100


The Civil Air Patrol Marks One Year of Heroic Efforts

Current Membership: 65,927
Percent Female: 15-20%
Senior Members: 38,000
Cadets: 27,926
Aircrew: 6,850
Member Earnings: $0
Annual Dues: $35

U.S. Squadrons: 1,442
Overseas Squadrons: 8
Fleet Size: 560
Primary Aircraft: Cessna 172s and 182s
Glider Fleet: 54
Hot Air Balloons: 2
Drones: 1,500

Hourly Flight Costs: $120-$165
Average Hours Flown/Year: 95,000
Percent USAF-Assigned: 80
Value Of Annual Operations: Approximately $200 million
Federally Funded: $40-$50 million
Provided By USAF: $2.4 million


Cadet Program Initiated: 1942
Goal: Prepare teens for military service
Focus Areas: Aerospace, character, fitness, leadership
Age To Join: 12-18
Weekly Commitment: 2 hours
Length of Summer Encampment: 1 week
Cost: Approximately $200

Recent Goal Of Civil Air Patrol: Addressing pilot shortage
Orientation Flights Given Each Year: Approximately 35,000 


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