Hanscom Composite Squadron

Civil Air Patrol - US Air Force Auxiliary

Air Crew Training

Are you a pilot that would like to take your flying to the next level? Civil Air Patrol currently owns and operates the largest fleet of single-engine aircraft in the world. The majority of these aircraft are Cessna 172's and Cessna 182's. In the past several years, CAP has replaced a number of it's older aircraft with brand new Cessna 182s equipped with the Garmin G-1000 avionics package.

Perhaps you are not a pilot but would be willing to climb aboard a CAP aircraft and assist in our vital missions by performing a visual search of the terrain below? The Civil Air Patrol has a number of opportunities for people of all backgrounds and experience levels to volunteer for our "Missions For America".

Those members that are not pilots or that do not meet the minimum pilot requirements may consider becoming a Mission Scanner or Mission Observer. These aircrew members are responsible for completing the assigned mission while the pilot operates the aircraft. Typical duties include looking for the search target, radio communications, navigation, and collision avoidance.

Serving in this capacity allows the member to gain familiarity with Civil Air Patrol's operations, which is knowledge that will be very helpful should the member become a CAP pilot in the future. For members with advanced FAA ratings and considerable experience, there are also opportunities to become a CAP Instructor Pilot or a CAP Check Pilot. If you are interested, squadron staff members will assist with the entire process. 

Mission Scanner (MS) / Mission Observer (MO)

Civil Air Patrol missions are flown utilizing the crew concept. The Observer and Scanner are non-pilot aircrew positions required to be on board for a mission to be flown. The Observer and Scanner both have distinct duties. Missions are conducted to complete various objectives such as gathering digital images for local civil authorities, to searching for downed aircraft and many other missions as assigned.

Scanning is a systematic method of looking for objects such as downed aircraft or missing persons. The Mission Scanner’s primary responsibility is to maintain constant visual contact with the ground while over the search area. This responsibility makes each scanner a key member of the search aircrew.

The Mission Observer is a scanner with expanded duties who usually sits in the right front seat. In addition to the primary duty of scanning while in the search area, the observer assists the pilot with planning, navigation, and communication. The observer may also serve as mission commander, ensuring that all mission objectives are met.

The Observer sits up front to the right of the pilot. The Observer performs navigation, communication and electronic and visual search duties during the mission. As an Observer, you tell the pilot where to fly.

The Observer assists the pilot with VFR See and Avoid requirements throughout the flight. You report the time information the Scanner is collecting by FM and VHF radio back to the mission base. The Observer operates the electronic search equipment attempting to narrow the search area when an aircraft or personal emergency locator transmitter beacon identified. In addition, after you assist the pilot navigate to the assigned location, you assist the Scanner by looking to the ground searching for the objective of the mission.

During the mission, the Observe is frequent communication with mission base reporting your aircraft's location and relaying important flight time information. You will utilize the latest in aircraft navigation and communications equipment to accomplish your assigned mission.

The mission scanner sits in the left back seat of the aircraft if the aircraft is a three crew member aircraft. If a four crew member aircraft, there may be two Scanners onboard. The Scanner's duties start at the moment of engine start. The Scanner is busy during all phases of flight by recording engine starts, time off the ground, time to search objective, arrival time at the assigned search location and time on station. Once on station, the Scanner's primary duty begins. The Scanner looks outside the aircraft towards the ground carefully scanning for the objective of the mission. The Scanner captures digital images when the objective is found. These images can be sent back to the mission base during the flight. Then, if more images are required, the Scanner can capture more while at the search objective. When the time comes to return to the mission base, the Scanner is once again busy recording important time information, such as estimated return to base, landing times and engine shut down time. Estimated time enroute and time to base are reported to the mission base by radio during the flight so the aircrew's location is monitored by the ground based mission personnel.

Civil Air Patrol Pilot

You must have completed Level 1 Orientation, Cadet Protection and OpSec prior to becoming eligible to apply to be a CAP Pilot.

For pilots, the prerequisites to fly a CAP aircraft are as follows:

  • Be an active CAP member at least 17 years of age
  • Possess a valid FAA private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificate
  • Possess a Class III or higher medical certificate
  • Possess a current flight review in accordance with FAR 61.56
  • Successfully complete ground preparatory training
  • Successfully complete a CAPF5 flight check in a CAP aircraft (required annually)

CAP Orientation Pilot

A series of five orientation flights in a powered aircraft are offered to all youth members of the Civil Air Patrol as a part of their participation in the cadet program. These flights are typically completed in corporately owned Cessna 172 or Cessna 182 aircraft. 

Orientation flights are designed to introduce the cadet to general aviation in a hands on manner that cultivates their interest in aviation. All flights are completed during the daytime and in visual meteorological conditions. Cadets are encouraged to actively participate in the flight planning, preflight inspection, and all non-critical phases of the flight. 

Cadets sit in the right seat where they can observe all actions of the pilot in command. In addition, if conditions permit another cadet is allowed to observe from the rear seat without the flight counting towards their allotted orientation flights.

The order and information presented in the powered orientation flight process is as follows:

  • Flight One - Ground Handling, Preflight Inspection, Takeoff, and Landing
  • Flight Two - Normal Flight Maneuvers (straight and level, turns, etc.)
  • Flight Three - Advanced Flight Maneuvers (climbing/descending turns, slow flight, etc.)
  • Flight Four - Use of Instruments in Flight (attitude indicator, altimeter, airspeed indicator)
  • Flight Five - Weather in Flight (crosswind, effects of terrain, cloud types, etc.)

Pilots who perform orientation flights are volunteering their time and all expenses for the operation of the aircraft are covered by the Civil Air Patrol. This includes any ferry flight required to move the aircraft from its base to the location of the cadet orientation flights.

CAP Orientation Pilot Qualifications

Candidates must meet all applicable criteria to become a Civil Air Patrol pilot, with the following exceptions:

  • Active CAP member at least 21 years of age (or age 18-21 with FAA CFI certification)
  • Minimum 200 hours experience as pilot in command in the category and class of aircraft to be used
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the CAP Orientation Flight syllabus

Mission Pilot (MP) - CAP Transport Mission Pilot

The basic duties of a Civil Air Patrol Transport Mission Pilot include the safe movement of critical items or personnel from one place to another. Frequently these missions may include humanitarian concerns, such as transferring blood or human tissues when no other feasible transport method is available. CAP Transport Mission Pilots may also provide communications support, by operating an aircraft equipped with a radio repeater over a designated area to allow ground units to communicate with one another. Whatever the assignment, a CAP Transport Mission Pilot gets the job done safely and without undue delay.


Candidates who wish to become a CAP Transport Pilot must meet all applicable criteria to become a Civil Air Patrol pilot, with the following exceptions:

  • Active CAP member at least 18 years of age
  • General Emergency Services Qualified
  • Minimum 100 hours experience as pilot in command
  • minimum 50 hours cross-country experience

Mission Pilot (MP) - Emergency Services Mission Pilot

The Civil Air Patrol Emergency Services mission provides some of the most challenging and rewarding opportunities available to CAP Pilots. The typical aircrew consists of one Mission Pilot with the sole responsibility of operating the aircraft in a safe manner and maintaining the prescribed search patterns. One or two trained CAP Mission Scanners or Mission Observers are responsible for conducting the technical operations of the mission. There are a number of different mission types that are possible for the Mission Pilot.

Search and Rescue

Typical search and rescue targets may include an activated Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), a missing or overdue aircraft, or a missing person. Search and Rescue missions are usually assigned by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center through a local Civil Air Patrol Incident Commander. These missions are flown at a relatively low altitude and airspeed thus requiring the careful attention of the pilot in command. Pilots involved in these missions train frequently on a number of search patterns used for specific situations.

CAP Emergency Services Mission Pilot Qualifications

Meet all applicable criteria to become a Civil Air Patrol pilot, with the following exceptions:

  • Active CAP member at least 18 years of age
  • General Emergency Services Qualified
  • Transport Mission Pilot Qualified
  • Mission Scanner Qualified
  • Minimum 175 hours experience as pilot in command

Aerial Photographer (AP)