The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) advised AOPA this morning that by vote of the CAP National Board, it will discontinue participation in the FAA Operation Drop In program.
“However good our motives and the program results were, the perception within the flying community that CAP members were ‘spying’ on fellow pilots is unacceptable.
“Our roots are within general aviation, and the damage to the CAP image and reputation has reached a point where our future participation in the program is untenable.”
“Though we will continue to assist government agencies, as directed by Congress, we wish to refrain from any activity that could be construed as adversarial to general aviation,” said Brig. General James C. Bobick, CAP national commander.
“CAP is part of the general aviation community and a large segment of our membership is made up of general aviation pilots. Therefore, after great reflection, CAP’s National Board decided to reconsider participation and voted to withdraw from the program.”
“...CAP was able to ascertain that the primary objection to our participation in the program was not the reconnaissance of airports for drug trafficking, but was due to the posturing of many very vocal individuals with one thing in common: private citizens should not be performing these functions for a regulatory agency.
“Civil Air Patrol members have achieved impressive results from the Drop-In program. A number of stolen aircraft have been recovered, according to the FAA, and several hundred aircraft previously suspected of drug trafficking have been identified.
“However, strong opposition and the reporting of erroneous information began to undermine CAP’s ability to perform this particular tasking, and most disturbing, its ability to effectively conduct some other mission elements.
“Civil Air Patrol has a long history of advocacy for general aviation. In fact, our Congressional charter specifically states our objective is ‘to foster civil aviation in local comunities.’”
AOPA had advised CAP leadership in a letter dated July 2 that by member survey during May and June, a slight majority of AOPA members actually supported airport surveys to combat drug smuggling in general aviation, but a larger majority felt the job should be done by law enforcement agencies, not by Civil Air Patrol. This information is covered in the August issue of AOPA Pilot in the “AOPA Action” section.
AOPA issued a press release on these survey results dated June 30 for release July 6 following the July 3, 4, and 5 holiday weekend.
AOPA had previously communicated to CAP on April 8 its concern about the program, confirming assurances by CAP to AOPA that only aircraft in plain view would be surveyed, no hangar would be entered, and that only CAP senior (adult) members, not cadets, would be involved in the effort.
Throughout the controversy, AOPA emphasized that its position regarding Operation Drop In addressed only that specific program, and that AOPA’s overall support for Civil Air Patrol remains strong.
July 14, 1998