On July 1, 1946, Public Law 476 established CAP as a patriotic and educational organization and an “instrumentality of the United States,” a unique status similar to that accorded the American Red Cross.

After WWII, air search and ground rescue became CAP’s primary operational mission, along with the education and training of “air-minded” and patriotic youth through the CAP cadet program.

Cadet orientation flights offered many young people their first airplane ride. Led by educators Dr. Mervin Strickler and Jack Sorenson, a well-planned aviation curriculum was developed for CAP cadets and was soon adopted in high schools and colleges across America.

In 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, America was astounded and moved into high gear. Early efforts to track satellites involved a system of ground observers scanning the nighttime skies. Satellite passage was so fast – 20 seconds from horizon to overhead to horizon – that ground personnel could only radio their timing of these events as “See – Center – Saw.” How to train for this? How to simulate the passage of a satellite overhead? Air Force jets flew too fast or too high, so CAP planes towed a low-wattage light bulb protected in a low-cost aerodynamic shape: a bathroom plunger- to simulate this satellite passage! In the nighttime sky, the set-up was exactly as bright at 7,000 feet as an orbiting satellite in space.

CAP instantly became a national force multiplier in its ability and viability to provide simulation capabilities for training purposes.

America, historically the most innovative country in the world, is in dire need of a next generation workforce of STEM experts. Yet, America’s youth are lagging in STEM interest, competence, and career pursuit. Compounding the issue and continually looming is lack of adequate funding and lack of training for the educators tasked to resolve this national crisis. Immediate attention is needed in educational institutions, youth and aerospace organizations, and industries to provide rigorous and relevant opportunities for experiential STEM learning that will lead to pursuit of aerospace-related careers. Civil Air Patrol Action Plan: CAP is addressing this national issue by developing engaging and relevant K-12 aerospace products and programs that when used in collaborative initiatives with likeminded organizations will provide vocational and avocational aerospace opportunities for K-12 youth across the nation.

CAP Aerospace Education Program Goal: Using aerospace as the spark, generate enthusiasm among our nation’s youth toward STEM-related subjects and careers to ensure America’s status as a leader in STEM workforce development and national security initiatives.