Civil Air Patrol Provides Beach Traffic Reports to DelDOT


A familiar sound in the sky on summer weekends isn’t always a banner plane. Delaware has been one of the few states that uses the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) for airborne traffic observations. The CAP’s newer fuel-injection six-cylinder Cessna 182s — like the one shown below — generate that unique sound we hear that is more powerful than the typical banner plane.

Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Robert Turner

The program is funded by DelDOT which reimburses the CAP $140 an hour for fuel. “It is a real money-saver for the state,” says Lt. Col. Robert Turner from CAP Coastal Patrol Base 2, who points out that it costs the state about $3500 an hour to keep a helicopter airborne.

The two-to-three person CAP crew is volunteer but the flights help maintain the pilots’ flight logs while allowing them to assist with monitoring traffic. In New Castle County they typically fly morning and evening rush hours along the I-95 corridor. But during the summer, another crew is activated on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to fly beach traffic patrols over lower Delaware.

Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Robert Turner

The Sussex County patrol flies over the beach routes, specifically Routes 13, 113, 404, 9, 26 and 1 typically at an altitude of 1000 to 1300 feet. Here are CAP742’s flights from this past weekend. The aircrews provide the traffic updates to DelDOT’s TMC. But in addition to traffic observations, Lt. Col. Turner says they are also trained to provide homeland security observations if needed to appropriate agencies. Here is the view of Coastal Highway at the Midway Shopping Center on a busy summer weekend.

Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Robert Turner

All of the CAP airplanes are high-wing single-engine Cessnas based in each of the state’s three counties. Most are Cessna 182s although a few of the 172s are still in use. As part of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, the CAP is primarily responsible for inland search-and-rescue missions which also include locating emergency “EPIRB” radio beacons that are often found accidentally activated at local marinas.

The CAP Cessna 182s are equipped with the Garmin G1000 “Glass Flight Deck” cockpit.

Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Robert Turner

On December 1, the CAP will be celebrating its 80th birthday. Lt. Col. Turner says they are working on an event for the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand to mark the occasion. The Air Force, interestingly, will only be 74-years-old this year!

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