Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Civil Air Patrol cadets get turn at controls

L to right: C/SSgt Matthew Diebler and C/SSgt Robert Gibbons.

L to right: C/SSgt Matthew Diebler and C/SSgt Robert Gibbons.

Two cadet members of the Marco Island Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol had the opportunity to take the controls of the squadron’s Cessna 182 aircraft recently during one of several orientation flights all cadets will experience, if they choose, as members of the United States Air Force Auxiliary unit.

The Cessna 182 in which they flew is equipped with a glass cockpit, the latest technology using flat glass screens to display flight information. This replaces many of the “steam gauges” traditionally used. Civil Air Patrol is gradually replacing many of their fleet with this advanced design.

Cadet SSgt Matthew Diebler, age 16, was one of the cadets who experienced the excitement of flight on March 26 during their orientation flight. Also flying that day was Cadet SSgt Robert Gibbons, age 15. Both cadets are students at Naples Gulf Coast High School in NE Naples.

As part of the Civil Air Patrol mission of Aerospace Education, cadets can receive up to 10 orientation flights in powered and glider planes, said unit Command Pilot Dick Wakefield. The goal of the orientation flight program is to introduce youths to general aviation through hands-on orientation flights in single engine aircraft and gliders, he said.

The hour-long flights in single-engine Cessna aircraft introduce the cadets to the science that makes flight possible, Wakefield said. They learn about navigation, weather, aircraft instruments, and flight maneuvers, he said.

After a pre-flight briefing and discussion of the flight plans, CAP Cadet Orientation Flight pilot Dick Wakefield assisted the young aviators in the 4- seat aircraft. Giving them a flight briefing and instructions, he started the engine and went through the pre-flight check list, taxied to Marco Island Executive Airport’s runway 17, applied full throttle and took off, climbing to 2000 feet.

Each cadet took turns in the front right seat. While aloft, it was the cadets who were instructed in handling the controls during the non-critical stages of flight. Once they reached their assigned altitude, the cadet were shown how to accomplish basic flight maneuvers and navigated to their points of interest. Each flew for about 30 minutes then returned to allow the next cadet a turn at the controls.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 58,000 members nationwide. CAP performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 72 lives in fiscal year 2009. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the more than 23,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 68 years. For more information on CAP, visit


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