Major Ray Miller is currently Deputy Commander of Falcon Squadron, a unit of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) based at JFK Airport, the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force. He also serves as the unit’s Public Affairs Officer and Information Technology Officer. Major Miller also serves as a Transport Mission Pilot, Mission Observer, Missions Scanner, and Airborne Photographer. He has been an active member of the Civil Air Patrol since 1992.
“I joined CAP for the airplanes, now, nearly 30 years later, I can tell you CAP means so much more to me. Now, it’s the people. There are just so many great people in CAP, that are all willing to give their time, energy, and resources in service to their communities and their country. It is an honor to be a member.”
1Can you tell us what role the Civil Air Patrol plays during emergency situations?
Civil Air Patrol’s Emergency Service missions include Homeland Security missions (patrolling dams and reservoirs), and disaster relief missions which could be anything from flying post-disaster photo missions to filling sandbags or filling food boxes. CAP also flies humanitarian service missions, transporting time-sensitive medical materials including blood and human tissue, and flies counter drug missions for State and Federal agencies. CAP performs search and rescue missions, locating both missing aircraft and missing persons. CAP conducts 90% of all inland search and rescue missions in the U.S. as directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and others.
2How old do you need to be to join the Civil Air Patrol?
You must be at least 12 years old to join Civil Air Patrol. CAP has three types of units. Falcon Squadron is a senior member unit for adult members. Cadet units are for members aged 12-18. And Composite units that have both Cadets and Senior Members. As a volunteer in CAP, you get to choose what type of unit you will join.
3 Are you required to be a pilot, or have a desire to fly, in order to become a Civil Air Patrol member?
As it happens, most Falcon Squadron members are pilots but many are not. Some members have no interest in flying at all and are simply interested in serving their community.
Cadets are all eligible to receive what we call orientation flights. Each Cadet will get instruction and up to five front seat flights where they will get an opportunity to fly the airplane. Cadets also get unlimited rear seat flights. Select Cadets can qualify for training through their first solo, and others get funded training all the way through to their Private Pilot Flight Exam.
CAP does not provide adults with basic flight instruction in airplanes. Adults may qualify to get basic flight instruction in gliders. Pilots who already have their license may qualify for advanced flight training in CAP aircraft and with CAP instructors. If you already fly Piper Cherokees, for example, you can transition into the Cessna 172s,182s, 206s, and GA 8s that CAP uses with our instructors and in our aircraft. Once you are a rated CAP pilot you would also be able to continue your training to more complex aircraft and ratings with CAP.
Local CAP pilots and trainees typically have access to 3-4 aircraft. Currently, we have a Cessna 182 stationed at Westchester Airport and a Cessna 182 and a Cessna 172 at Long Island Macarthur Airport. Nationally CAP has one of the largest fleets of general aviation aircraft totaling 560 airplanes plus 54 gliders and 2 hot air balloons.
If you’re interested in a career in aviation, CAP is a great place to meet people who already have careers in aviation and would be able to advise and possibly even mentor you. CAP often has aviation professionals come to address members on aviation-related topics.
4 Does the Civil Air Patrol have regularly scheduled patrols or is it on an as-needed basis?
Actually, both. Our search and rescue missions are not pre-planned, we receive a call from the Air Force and respond as needed. Likewise, organ transport missions tend to come without any advance notice. Homeland Security missions, however, tend to be scheduled as are airborne photography missions. We also stage training missions quite frequently and those are always scheduled.
5 Has the Civil Air Patrol been very active during the pandemic?
Civil Air Patrol has been involved in COVID pandemic relief since March of 2020. In fact, COVID relief has been CAP’s biggest mission in more than 70 years. CAP has been delivering thousands of vaccines and test samples, as well as millions of meals all across the country. CAP has also been collecting and delivering blood and delivering personal protective equipment in the millions. CAP members have also manned food distribution and COVID vaccination locations providing more than 300,000 manhours of support. Meanwhile, all of our traditional air and ground missions have continued. In 2020 CAP was credited with 130 lives saved.
The Civil Air Patrol is a national organization funded by the United States Air Force. On the local level, the Falcon Squadron members are all volunteers and largely dependent on donations for fuel costs, equipment, and supplies. Donations to CAP are greatly appreciated and always needed to keep these essential services operational.