10:39 AM

Calling All CAP Pilots!

Flight Academies Looking to Add More Instructor Pilots

By Jennifer Gerhardt
Contributing Writer

From Civil Air Patrol Volunteer

After soloing last summer at the Shirley Martin Powered Flight Academy in Nacogdoches, Texas, Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Moberley knows the importance of Civil Air Patrol’s instructor pilots.

One day, she’d like to be one.

“I think it would be an honor to be a CAP flight instructor,” said Moberley, a member of the Texas Wing’s Randolph Composite Squadron. “It would be cool to help another cadet learn the basics of flight and to teach them to love the mission as much as I do.

"Flying is the greatest activity, and to see another cadet fall in love with it would be a heartwarming experience,” she said.

Teaching new aviators is essential to CAP’s diverse aviation and ground services mission. Right now, however, instructor pilots are in high demand and more are needed.

One reason for the shortage is the large amount of time required to be an instructor pilot. The second biggest potential reason: Fliers aren’t aware of the opportunity to be an instructor pilot for CAP, said Wendy Hamilton, National Headquarters’ program manager for cadet activities.

CAP instructor pilots, known as IPs, come from a variety of backgrounds: Some are former military pilots, others are airline pilots and some are CAP senior members with hundreds of hours of flying experience.

Col. Rand Woodward, an Air Force C-130 aircraft commander in the 1970s, retired two years ago as a Boeing 737 captain. A member of the Utah Wing’s Salt Lake Senior Squadron, he has been a CAP instructor pilot and check pilot examiner at the Shirley Martin Powered Flight Academy for the past 16 years.

“A good IP must have strong knowledge and experience in varied flying situations,” Woodward said, “but also patience! A good IP must be a psychologist sometimes, and everything should relate to safety. There is no more rewarding and fun job in CAP than teaching cadets how to fly and solo.”

Moberley would agree. She had two instructor pilots during her time at the flight academy. After the first instructor hurt his back, she turned to Lt. Col. Bob McDonnell, a member of the Louisiana Wing’s Green Flag East Flight.

“I am more of a visual learner, and Lt. Col. McDonnell was able to sense that,” Moberley said. “He came up with ways of explanation that actually made sense to me, and it helped me learn and retain the information quicker. By the end of the week, I was able to do the precheck by memory.”

Col. Robert Todd, a participant at the national flight academies in Fremont, Nebraska, has been a pilot for 59 years, a certified flight instructor for 46 years and an instructor pilot for CAP for the past 16 years.

“A good instructor pilot has patience and understanding but also knows the aircraft and its limitations,” said Todd, who belongs to the Nebraska Wing’s Burke High School Cadet Squadron.

“The best part of being an IP is working with cadets who are extremely motivated to be the best, and then wanting to prove it to you,” he said.

Civil Air Patrol generally works with three categories of pilots:

  • Senior members who recently finished primary flight training and have a low number of flying hours.
  • Former pilots who have quite a bit of experience but haven’t flown in a long time.
  • CAP cadets pursuing their private pilot’s certificates.

“It is an incredible commitment, both for the cadet and the instructor,” said Lt. Col. Tom McGrath, who became a pilot in 1973 when one of his SEAL platoon members talked him into trying it.

“An average flight takes at least half a day, even though the actual flight time might only be an hour and a half or so. The ground training, preflight briefing, filing of flight plans, getting and evaluating weather data, preflight of the airplane, refueling and post-flight of the airplane and student pilot all take longer than you would think,” McGrath said.

After the flight academy, the bond between instructor pilot and cadet is long-lasting. “McDonnell became a wonderful mentor for me, but also became an inspiration for the person I want to be one day,” Moberley said.

The Civil Air Patrol flying mission has so many facets that training new pilots is critical to its continued success. CAP pilots fly reconnaissance missions for homeland security, search and rescue and disaster relief and sometimes transport medical personnel and supplies during emergencies.

Every instructor pilot must have civilian flying ratings, be a Federal Aviation Administration-certified flight instructor and complete and pass the CAP pilot flight evaluation for a particular aircraft, as well as have their medical and pilot certificates, a logbook and exam results.

Pilots interested in becoming IPs for Civil Air Patrol should contact one of the flight academies offered through Cadet Programs..