The Air Force funds this program to introduce young people to aviation and hopefully gets more youth interested in aviation as a career. They have had great success with this program through the years, but even now, cadets join having no idea that this amazing opportunity is theirs for the taking.
When a young person joins Civil Air Patrol their world is expanded to all kinds of opportunities to explore. One of the best-kept secrets about Civil Air Patrol is that each cadet gets up to 5 powered orientation flights and 5 glider orientation flights prior to their 18th birthday. Each flight is approximately .75 – 1 hour in length.
Each “sortie” of flight has a syllabus that introduces cadets to different components of flying. The first sortie covers ground handling, pre-flight, takeoff, and landing. Each cadet is offered the controls of the airplane once we have attained an altitude of more than 1000 ft above ground level (AGL). The pilot then introduces them to slight and slow maneuvers like gaining altitude, losing altitude, slow turns to the right and left. Then the pilot will walk them through the landing procedures, but under 1000 ft AGL, the pilot now has the controls of the airplane again.
The second sortie will take the cadet through a more extensive lesson of “Normal flight maneuvers”. The cadet learns about “trimming” the airplane for straight and level flying. We discuss the effects of lift, drag, and gravity on the airplane. The cadets learn that EVERY airplane will glide, given the proper inputs, even without power. This is where we discuss the relationship between lift, angle of attack, and relative winds. We also demonstrate turns about a point.
In the third sortie is where the cadets are introduced to advanced flight maneuvers. This is where they will perform climbing turns, and emphasize the importance of avoiding other aircraft. We demonstrate slow flight and how flaps are used. Medium and steep turns are next, and we discuss the proper use of the rudder for a coordinated turn. We then introduce them to search patterns and how these maneuvers are used during an actual search and rescue mission.
The fourth sortie is where we start to introduce them to the use of the instruments in flight. The cadets start to understand the difference between absolute altitude (AGL), true altitude (MSL) and pressure altitude (PA). The cadets learn to read the altimeter, air speed indicator, as well as heading indicator. We demonstrate turns using the magnetic compass and discuss turning errors – variation, deviation, magnetic dip, and oscillation errors.
On their last flight we teach them about weather and how if can effect a flight or even determine that a flight will NOT be flown that day. The cadets get to experience what “crabbing” into the wind looks and feels like. We discuss when that would be necessary and how that would look approaching a runway for landing. We talk about wake turbulence and why and how to avoid it. We then discuss how altitude affects the rate of climb as well as the temperature differences.