The Airplanes
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WWII 1970s -1980s
Post-war Today


The WWII Coastal Patrol fleet included planes of all descriptions, since they were furnished by the CAP volunteers themselves   The Fairchild 24 was a mainstay of the fleet, being a rather large and robust single-engine type. This one has the Ranger in-line engine.
The “round-engine” Fairchild 24 (with a Warner radial engine)   Anything and everything was drafted into WWII CAP service
Every Coastal Patrol base had a rescue amphibian like this Sikorsky, since unreliable early engines often failed far from shore – initiating their crews into CAP’s “Duck Club” of ditching veterans.  

The Stinson 10A was another typical type – here in a common Stinson 10 yellow and blue paint scheme. A few were all blue with red trim – hurriedly bought by CAP volunteers right off the Detroit production line
to serve with Coastal Patrol.



The Aeronca L-16 was a mainstay of ‘50s/’60s CAP. Operated by the USAF/US Army/National Guard from 1947/48, CAP pilots began flying USAF-inventory L-16s in 1952. Some 332 were conveyed to CAP in 1956 and given civilian FAA N-numbers. (This former Louisiana Wing L-16B, AF48-484 or N4019B, restored by CAPHF founder Drew Steketee.)

  Many ex-military liaison planes were
conveyed to CAP. Some 4,000
member-owned airplanes were also
used. Here: A late-1940s/Korean-era
L-17 or its civilian “Navion” counterpart.
WWII surplus L-4s or J-3 Piper Cubs were flown in Air Force silver or original Cub Yellow with CAP insignia. This example was donated to the Air Force Museum by the CAP unit in nearby Xenia, Ohio.   The L-5 Sentinel was a WWII Stinson
purpose-built military liaison. It was larger than
“off-the-shelf” WWII artillery spotters/liaisons
like the Piper L-4, Taylorcraft L-2 or Aeronca L-3 (and its post-war successor, the L-16.)

1970s - 1980s


The all-metal Cessna L-19 (O-1) replaced the fabric-skinned Aeronca L-16 early in the Korean War and was conveyed for CAP service in the 1970s/1980s. Nearly all such military-surplus “taildraggers” were retired by the early 1990s to improve the fleet’s safety record, since many pilots were now trained only on more recent, easier-to-land tricycle-gear aircraft.

  A prominent exception (due to rugged Alaska flying conditions) were nine large DeHavilland L-20 (U-6) Beavers restored by Alaska Wing and still flying in 2005.
The Beech T-34 Mentor entered the CAP fleet in the early 1970s after service as USAF’s primary trainer and later use in Air Force Aero Clubs. The last CAP T-34s were withdrawn starting in 2003 due to expensive wing spar issues. One is being preserved for CAP history by CAPHF deputy director Jack Faas.    


The Alaska Wing L-20s remain in service as of 2005. Here, the rugged and adaptable DeHavillands are ready for duty on floats.   The Cessna 172 (180-hp version), the more powerful Cessna 182, and larger six-seat Cessna 206, are now standards in the CAP fleet, accommodating the standard search crew of three: pilot and left/right observers. The Cessna fleet offers commonality, high-wing visibility and familiarity for most recently trained pilots. CAP operates the largest Cessna fleet in the world – now the vast majority of its 530 corporation-owned aircraft.
Recently, CAP acquired larger aircraft for its Homeland Security and high-payload missions: the Australian-built Gippsland Airvan. CAP is beginning to supplement human observation and the “Mark 1 Eyeball” with new digital and hyper-spectral imaging systems for disaster evaluation, infrastructure security and air search missions.   In addition to powered orientation flights and summer pilot training programs, CAP cadets can get to fly gliders. A fleet of Maule bush planes has also been acquired as glider tows.


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