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Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol

What was the issue that made you start up this project?

The Civil Air Patrol in the USA is a large and successful civil aid organisation, fundamental to their resilience plans - but nothing similar existed in the UK, in spite of a thriving general aviation sector. 

Who was involved and what did they do?

Many private pilots in the UK have extensive operational experience from the military, police and civil aviation.  These are ideal qualifications to allow them to integrate with emergency agencies and to train less experienced fellow pilots and observers.

Although a national organisation, two units of the Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol (so named to distinguish ourselves from the US CAP) were formed to cover Scotland. Both groups now operate a wide selection of aircraft types, flown by pilots and observers who train regularly and take part in exercises and operations with other agencies.

What worked well?

Constant recruitment shows a willingness to get involved from the private pilot community and others keen to help as observers. 

Initially tentative involvement of aerial assets by user agencies is gradually turning mindsets to the full potential of air support as and when it is required. The CAP is now becoming a primary consideration among planners and operatives within the emergency services.  

What did you learn?

It takes time for a new concept to be adopted and trusted  Adoption only comes by persuasive demonstration of capability and trust, by demonstrating a robust, well organised and supervised structure.

In the absence of consistent external funding, it is not always easy to maintain motivation among a volunteer group, for whom participation means considerable personal expense. 

What made it work?

Selecting the right people to set up the new organisation and the willingness of volunteers to get involved and place their aircraft and time at the disposal of the community.

Willingness by user agencies to accept and integrate with a new capability and to tailor their operations accordingly when required.