By Tristan Castro
Special to the SFV Sun/el Sol
I first found out about the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) when I attended an event at Whiteman Airport in early 2022 where various organizations housed at the airport had exhibits. I attend Vaughn International Studies Academy (V.I.S.A.) and I’m very interested in aerospace engineering. One of the displays at the event was an airplane model.
I also heard from several speakers about how they had learned to fly at the airport and through their participation in the Civil Air Patrol. I found it was a fit for my interests.
I like being part of CAP because it gives you the opportunity to learn about different career fields and about aviation. It gives you an opportunity to learn about fields such as cybersecurity, aerospace and emergency services. It can also present you with other opportunities such as flying an actual airplane and going to friendly competitions with other squadrons. It’s also big on volunteer work, so if you need to complete a certain amount of volunteer hours for school, like I do, then it really comes in handy. You also have a chance to make new friends and meet new people who share a common interest in these activities as well.
The way that flying works in CAP is that throughout the year, they hold events where they take cadets up in the air. Every time you get up in the air during these orientation flights, you are given a little bit more control of the airplane until eventually you do a solo flight.
Before my first flight with CAP, I had only flown on bigger planes, so I really had no idea what to expect. During these flights, two or three cadets join the instructor (a CAP volunteer) on a single-engine plane. Each person is given a bit of time to take control of the plane during the flight. The instructor would give us control during specific times on the flight, mostly the sections where we were stable in the air.
There was a pair of yolks (steering wheels) for both the instructor and the co-pilot, so the instructor could take control at any moment for any reason. To make sure that both cadets got enough flight time, the instructor had one of us control the airplane on the way to another airport, where we would land and exchange seats with the other cadet so they could fly on the return trip.
The best way I could describe flying for me was kind of like driving a car, but in an odd way, more relaxing in the sense that it felt like it was just you and the airplane. There was no traffic to look out for, no pedestrians to worry about and no cars that make risky moves when they really shouldn’t. You also had to watch things like your altitude and experienced the weightless feeling that comes with being in the air. However, having been my first flight, I was only given control after the plane was already in the air, and I had an instructor ready to take control at a moment’s notice, so I’m sure there was a lot more to it than that.
Since joining CAP, I’ve come to learn more about what Whiteman Airport offers and the controversy over the recent accidents and stuff like pollution. I personally believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. During the brief time I’ve worked there, along with my time in CAP, I noticed that many of the people who commute or work at the airport tend to buy food from around the area, providing business to local eateries and restaurants. Also, there are many opportunities available at the airport, especially for young people like me. In fact, my CAP commander put me in touch with a business owner there and I worked in a plane repair shop for several months last year. It was a very rewarding experience where I learned a lot of things about airplanes.
The problem is that many people my age, especially in this area, either do not know about these opportunities or just aren’t interested. In my time in CAP, I’ve talked to at least 15 people at my school about it, and only one of them joined. They won’t turn you away based on where you live or what you look like. If you show an interest in aviation, or cyber security, or really anything they offer, they will welcome you with open arms. So, I’d personally prefer it if the airport stayed open.
When I graduate from high school, I want to study aerospace engineering, and I also want to keep learning how to fly airplanes, which is very exciting and once you do it, you will want to do it again.
Tristan Castro is a member of the Civil Air Patrol at Whiteman Airport.