CAP Airplanes: Then and Now
CAP Airplanes: Then and NowBy Lt. Col. Mohammed High, CAP
The WWII Coastal Patrol fleet included planes of all descriptions, since they were furnished by the CAP volunteers themselves.
The Stinson 10A was another typical type - here is a common Stinson 10 yellow and blue paint scheme. A few were all blue with red trim - hurriedly bought by CAP volunteers right off the Detroit production line to serve with Coastal Patrol.
The Aeronca L-16 was a mainstay of '50s/'60s CAP. Operated by the USAF/US Army National Guard from 1947-48, CAP pilots began flying USAF-inventory L-16s in 1952. Some 332 were conveyed to CAP in 1956 and given civilian FAA N-numbers. (This former Louisiana Wing L-16B, AF48-484 or N4019B, restored by CAPHF founder Drew Steketee.)
WWII surplus L-4s or J-3 Piper Cubs were flown in Air Force silver or original Cub Yellow with CAP insignia. This example was donated to the Air Force Museum by the CAP unit in nearby Xenia, Ohio.
1970s - 1980
The all-metal Cessna L-19 (O-1) replaced the fabric-skinned Aeronca L-16 early in the Korean War and was conveyed for CAP service in the 1970s/1980s. Nearly all such military-surplus "taildraggers" were retired by the early 1990s to improve the fleet's safety record, since many pilots were now trained only on more recent, easier-to-land tricycle-gear aircraft.
The Beech T-34 Mentor entered the CAP fleet in the early 1970s after service as USAF's primary trainer and later used in Air Force Aero Clubs. The last CAP T-34s were withdrawn starting in 2003 due to expensive wing spar issues. One is being preserved for CAP history by CAPHF deputy director Jack Faas.
The Cessna 172 (180-hp version), the more powerful Cessna 182, and larger six-seat Cessna 206, are now standards in the CAP fleet, accommodating the standard search crew of three: pilot and left/right observers. The Cessna fleet offers commonality, high-wing visibility and familiarity for most recently trained pilots. CAP operates the largest Cessna fleet in the world - now the vast majority of its 530 corporation-owned aircraft.
Recently, CAP acquired larger aircraft for its Homeland Security and high-payload missions: the Australian-built Gippsland Airvan. CAP is beginning to supplement human observation and the "Mark 1 Eyeball" with new digital and hyper-spectral imaging systems for disaster evaluation, infrastructure security and air search missions.
In addition to powered orientation flights and summer pilot training programs, CAP cadets get to fly gliders. A fleet of Maule bush planes has also been acquired as glider tows.