Yesterday, my son went up for his second orientation flight as part of an aviation program that you probably didn’t even know existed right here in CNY and other communities across the nation. If you’re between the ages of 12 and 18 and curious about airplanes or flying machines in general, then Civil Air Patrol (or CAP) is for you!

Many professional pilots and astronauts were once CAP cadets and joining gives young people not only the skills they need to be competitive as eventual aviators, but also builds character in the process.

photo: Dean Anderson

In addition to education and camaraderie at weekly meetings, each year cadets in the Civil Air Patrol gets several opportunities to go up in either a single-engine airplane or a non-powered glider. They each can have a total of 10 flights at the controls (5 in each type of aircraft) by their 18th birthday and as many back-seat rides in CAP’s four-seat Cessnas as space allows!

While yearly cadet membership dues are a nominal $39 in NY State, orientation flights (normally quite expensive) are always absolutely free, as is their first uniform. Cadets also get to tour (and ride in) military aircraft occasionally and can apply for flight scholarships to help subsidize their initial flight training either in part or as a whole.

photo: Keith James

Most counties in the state have at least one active unit and currently in the CNY area there are cadet squadrons in Rome, Syracuse, Oswego and Watertown and also an all-encompassing senior squadron made up of volunteer adult pilots that administer the flights.

For more information on joining, visit the CNY Civil Air Patrol Website or tap here for more of an overview of the entire program.