Gastonia Composite Squadron
Main Content

Aerospace Education

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. Led by educators Dr. Mervin Strickler and Jack Sorenson, a well-planned aviation curriculum was developed for CAP cadets.

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.

Today CAP continues its tradition of excellent aerospace education through both powered and glider orientation airplane flights for CAP cadets, challenging individual achievement opportunities on nationwide military installations, and projects such as model and remote controlled aircraft, robotics, and rocketry. Individual studies in aerospace education are also an integral part of the cadet promotion system.

One weekly meeting per month focuses on aerospace education, and weekend events are planned throughout the year with an aerospace concentration. Many of our Cadets will pursue careers in the aerospace industry including pilots, engineers, maintenance professionals and air traffic controllers.

More information is available at

© 2024 Civil Air Patrol. All rights reserved.