About North Dakota Wing, Civil Air Patrol

The Civil Air Patrol was founded in December 1941, one week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, by over 150,000 citizens concerned about the defense of America’s coastline. Flying under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Forces, CAP pilots flew over one-half million hours, were credited with sinking two enemy submarines and rescued hundreds of crash survivors during World War II. On July 1, 1946, President Truman established CAP as a federally chartered benevolent civilian corporation, and Congress passed Public Law 557 on May 26, 1948, which made CAP the auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force. CAP was charged with three primary missions: Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services.


Civil Air Patrol has an outstanding aerospace education program focused not only on members, but on the general public as well. CAP has a congressional tasking to stimulate public interest in aerospace issues. Each year, CAP supports over 100 workshops in colleges and universities across the nation which reach more than 3,000 educators. These workshops highlight basic aerospace knowledge and focus on advances in aerospace technology. Textbooks, learning tools, and visual aids geared to stimulate interest in aerospace matters are also provided for teachers to use in their classrooms. CAP sponsors the annual National Congress on Aviation and Space Education, the premier aerospace education conference held in the nation, involving over 1,000 educators from around the nation and often overseas.


The CAP Cadet Program continues to introduce thousands of young people from 6th Grade to age 21 to aviation, and offers them outstanding summer programs including some that offer an opportunity to solo in a light airplane at low cost. The CAP Cadet Program is designed to motivate and develop well-rounded young people, who in turn will become model citizens and the future leaders of our nation. CAP cadets progress at their own pace through a 16-step program including aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness and character development. Cadets can compete for academic scholarships to further their studies in such areas as engineering, science, aircraft mechanics and aerospace medicine. They can also compete for scholarships leading to solo flight training. Many outstanding cadets have an opportunity to go overseas in exchange programs with youth in other countries, and some of these exchange cadets even experience flying opportunities with foreign air forces.

Many of today’s leaders, in and out of aviation, have benefited greatly from their experiences as Civil Air Patrol cadets. Each graduating class of the U.S. Air Force Academy is heavily populated with former CAP cadets–up to 8 percent in recent years. West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy also admit many CAP  cadets each year. CAP cadets who enlist in the Air Force are immediately promoted two pay grades (to E-3) if they have completed the second phase of CAP cadet training.

1994 marked the introduction of the CAP Drug Demand Reduction Program (DDR). Targeted toward Active, Guard, and Reserve Air Force family members and members of the local community (typically within 30 miles of an Air Force installation), units participating in DDR actively perform the following activities:

  • Promoting CAP as an alternative lifestyle.
  • Encouraging youth to remain in school.
  • Educating youth on the dangers of drugs.
  • Providing alternative activities to drugs.


CAP is still best known for its search and rescue mission. Civil Air Patrol air and ground teams perform 85 percent of inland search-and-rescue missions for the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. These
volunteers donate their time and labor, receiving reimbursement for fuel and oil only, thus saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. More than 100 lives are saved every year by CAP members performing search and rescue missions!

CAP’s disaster relief missions, such as those during hurricanes and floods, often don’t make headlines, but CAP provides both air and ground transportation and an extensive communications network. CAP provides an aerial photo platform for many disaster relief responder agencies. Many CAP aircraft are equipped with slow scan video technology that enables them to transmit damage assessment
photos, flood stage observations and traffic conditions to the agency within seconds of taking the photo. CAP members also fly disaster relief officials to remote locations and support local, state and national disaster relief organizations with manpower and leadership. CAP ground teams provide vital
assistance to disaster relief operations.

The CAP Emergency Communications Network spans the country with a data and voice net built to survive the loss of civil communications. With one of the most sophisticated communications networks in the nation, CAP supports local, state, and federal agencies during disaster relief, search and rescue and many other emergencies. The fleet of 530 CAP-owned aircraft communicates on CAP’s own dedicated frequencies, while new systems coordinate and track search flights via sophisticated datalink.

As the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, it’s not surprising that Civil Air Patrol performs vital Air Force missions upon request. This support includes air search and rescue on USAF directed missions, light transport, communications support and low-altitude route surveys.

All in all, there are numerous reasons for enthusiastic, aviation-oriented volunteers to join one of this country’s premier service organizations. Please click here to learn how to join the Civil Air Patrol and
find out some of the benefits of CAP membership.

Fast Facts About Civil Air Patrol


Nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporation

  • The Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force
  • More than 60,000 members, including 26,000 cadets ages 12- 21
  • Eight geographic regions, 52 wings, 1,700 units
  • National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., 160 support staff
  • World’s largest fleet of single-engine, piston aircraft
  • Nation’s most extensive communications network
  • 1,000 emergency services vehicles


  • 100 aerospace education workshops each year
  • Aerospace classroom materials, grades K through college
  • Nation’s premier annual aerospace education conference


  • Multi-step leadership training
  • Cadet glider and powered orientation flights, flight training scholarships
  • International Air Cadet Exchange program


  • 95% of nation’s inland search and rescue
  • Average over 100 lives saved per year
  • Aerial reconnaissance for homeland security
  • Disaster-relief and damage assessment
  • Transport for time-sensitive medical materials
  • Counterdrug missions