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Teacher Orientation Program Flights


  • TOP Flight Funding: Funding is available/loaded and we are ready to fly teachers, as noted below. 

  • For AE Members: Each state (called a Wing in CAP) is determining when it is safe to resume flying TOP flights (and other flight missions).  Check with your Wing Director of AE (list found HERE) to find out when your state has approved resuming teacher flights. 

  • For Wing DAEs (and any other AEO working to coordinate a TOP Flight): It is imperative that Wing DAEs (who are the PoCs for the TOP Flight program in each Wing) stay in close contact with their Wing DOs to know when the Wing leadership has approved TOP flight coordination and flights.  NOTE: some very large Wings may have different guidance for different Groups in the Wing.  Stay abreast of this guidance.  Thank you!! 

  • See TOP flight, COVID-style video HERE!

Teacher Orientation Program (TOP ) Flight Info for Educators:

One of the most exciting benefits of being a Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Education Member (AEM) is the opportunity to take a Teacher Orientation Program (TOP) flight in a CAP airplane, with an experienced CAP pilot, at a local airport. See Fall 2019 TOP Flight story HERE.  This exhilarating program includes a pre-flight briefing, an actual airplane flight, and educational applications to share with students!  Taking videos and/or photos to share the experience with students, OR., even live-streaming this flight, will transfer flight excitement to youth in hopes of greater interest in STEM subjects using the aviation theme.  CHECK OUT THIS PRE-COVID TOP FLIGHT VIDEO!  

BUT consider this. . .

It is more fun to fly with a friend! Thus, educators are encouraged to ask a peer to also join as a CAP AEM. Then, the two can fly together!  Another option is for a school or school system to schedule a TOP Flight Day with CAP and make it a grand event with media coverage involved!  TOP Flights can even be conducted as a part of an educator workshop at an airport or an aviation museum.

NOTE: All participants must be CAP AEMs, with a current CAP ID#. For information about the CAP AEM program, and all free program benefits, go to the Educators Page.

To receive a TOP Flight, find your state's Director of Aerospace Education HERE, and send an e-mail request for your flight.  Please include your CAP ID# and your city/state in which you live. (If you do not receive a reply within a week, contact for assistance.)

Please allow at least a month for planning for your TOP Flight.  Weather, availability of planes/pilots, etc. all impact final flight coordination.

TOP Flight Info Flier for Educators

Check out this news report on how this program inspires teachers.

***SEE TOP FLIGHT FAQs for Educators, below!

Also, check out this 10-minute video to get an idea of what to expect when YOU get to fly with CAP! See how the students are involved in math on the ground!   Read the accompanying article which tells more about how the students were involved. WOW!

TOP Flight Resources/Info for CAP Wing Directors of Aerospace Education (in coordination with Directors of Operations/TOP Flight Pilots):

  • TOP Flight Handbook/GuideGeneral guidance for Wing DAEs, who are the Wing PoC for TOP Flights. Can be used by anyone involved in TOP Flights. NOTE: Coordination with Wing DO (or designee) is paramount.   

  • Contact with any questions beyond this Guide.  Ensure AEM(s) will not expire by the time of the flight.

         * To fly 1-2 educators, an additional educational session about our aerospace/STEM products and programs is optional depending on time, and, if the AE member desires more at the airport.

         * To fly a large group of educators, it is imperative  that the DAE is involved with the Operations team (plane/pilot coordination), with assistance from other AEOs, to conduct other educational activities for the educators to do while awaiting their flight. Educators do not need to be sitting/waiting without something planned to enhance this learning experience.


***Frequently Asked Questions by Educators:

  • How do I schedule a TOP Flight?
    Send an e-mail to your state's (Wing's) Director of Aerospace Education (DAE) to request a flight.  Contact info for DAEs is found HERE.  If you do not hear from your DAE within a week, contact (the Aerospace Education Division at CAP's National HQ in Montgomery, AL).

  • How far in advance should a flight be scheduled?
    It is suggested that you send your request to your Wing DAE at least one month in advance of desired flight date.  

  • After emailing the DAE, approximately how long does it take for my pilot to contact me?
    Your DAE will copy you on the email sent to your state's CAP operations team (who provide the planes/pilots).  A pilot will then contact you to coordinate a date/time for your flight.  Please remember that all CAP members are volunteers, so give your DAE and/or pilot 5-7 days to reply to you. If you do not hear anything within that time, please send another e-mail to for assistance.

  • Where will I meet the pilot on the day of the flight?
    Your assigned pilot will communicate with you on the location of your flight and any other pertinent information you will need. Please exchange cell #s with your pilot so either of you can contact the other with any further information.  But, your pilot will try to coordinate your flight at the closest airport to you.

  • What clothes should I wear?
    You should dress informally and comfortably. We suggest you wear comfortable pants and closed-toed shoes. Depending on the weather, the weight of clothing you wear should be considered. The aircraft does have heat for cooler days, but you should still bring a light jacket or coat, depending on weather temperature. There is no air conditioning for warm/hot days, but, rather, only vents to let air in, so dress appropriately for the heat.

  • Is there anything specific I should bring for my flight?
    1- Bring your CAP ID card and driver's license. 2- Bring a camera and/or phone to take photos and/or videos. 3- Bring a small notebook (6 x 9 or 5 x 8) to take notes, or, video the pilot's briefing to you to share with your students.  4- Bring a non-breakable bottle of water.  5- Bring some chewing gum and/or some peppermint candies, both being good to have on hand for your small airplane flight.  

  • In what type of aircraft will I be flying?
    CAP aircraft are, typically, Cessna airplanes (172s, 182s, and 206s).  These are all General Aviation aircraft, with propeller engines and high wings for easy ground views.

  • What are the qualifications for CAP pilots?
    CAP pilots are FAA qualified private, commercial, or Air Transport Pilots (ATP) and generally have several hundred hours of flight experience or more. They are required to meet FAA currency requirements and to pass a CAP flight evaluation every 12 months.

  • How long does the flight last?
    For two educators riding in the same plane (which we encourage), plan to be at the airport for two hours. The pilot tries to give both passengers time in the front seat with the controls, resulting in two separate take-offs and two landings. Each of these times in the front seat should last about 30 minutes.  NOTE: additional time is needed for pre-flight briefing; safety briefing; in plane checklist prior to starting engine; communication with Air Traffic Control to begin taxi to runway; taxi to runway; and approval to finally take off.  After the flight, it takes time to get back to the starting point and closing down the plane.  So, a one-hour flight really involves about 2 hours for the entire experience when two teachers are flying.

  • What can I expect during this flight experience?
    The pilot will have you join him/her on a pre-flight check of the airplane, and will give you a pre-flight briefing to include all safety information.  You will wear a headset and will be able to communicate with the pilot and hear your pilot communicating with the Air Traffic Control Tower.  Hopefully, before your flight day you will express an interest in flying over your school or other landmark.  If so, the pilot will have already plotted the path for your flight and will tell you where all you will fly for the day. He/she will explain educational features of the airplane and of the geography below so that you can share this with your students.  After the flight, your pilot may ask you to assist with in plane tie-down and/or refueling the plane.  Do not be in a rush to depart so that you can take advantage of all learning opportunities that may be available to you.  Be assured, you will not be sorry you stayed to experience all you can experience to share with your students.

  • How can I take this experience back to my classroom?
    Take aerial photos and/or videos and share them with the students. Discuss what it feels like to fly. Explain all information shared by the pilot about the controls, the  planning of the flight, the math used to fuel the plane, the geography of the ground below, and the science that you learned behind the "magic" of flying. Consider inviting your pilot to come speak to your class.  (You may also want your students to help you prepare a good video or project of thanks to share with your pilot and others!)  It is important that you ask questions so you can get as much information about how each aspect of STEM is connected in aviation. 

  • What neat ideas have been used during the flights?
    1- The principal has joined CAP as an AEM and has flown a TOP flight with another school educator during the school day.  The airplane flies over the school while all of the students are outside standing on the field forming the initials of the school with 'human bodies.' The aerial photo of the school also includes all the students below!  Cool!    2- When flying overhead, the principal, superintendent, or teacher who is flying uses a radio to speak to the students outside below.  The radio receiver can be placed near a microphone so the students hear the "message from above." (Using a cell phone from the plane calling to someone on the ground can also be used.  The person on the ground can put the cell phone near a speaker so all the students can hear what is being shared from above.)   3- The educator flying live streams the flight to the students back in the classroom with Q and A conducted during the event.  4- The students help the educator plot the flight plan prior to the flight and the educator shares videos of the geography from above in comparison with the map. 5- If YOU do something unique, please share it with us so we can share it with others!

  • Whom do I contact if I must cancel my flight?
    Make sure you exchange cell #s with the pilot when scheduling your flight, and contact him/her immediately if you need to cancel your flight. You may also discuss with him/her a time to reschedule your orientation flight.

  • What happens if the weather is not conducive for flying?
    Your pilot will determine whether or not the flight should be cancelled due to inclement weather. He or she will work with you to reschedule your orientation flight.  CAP always places safety first in any situation, but, most assuredly, for flights.  You may be disappointed to have to cancel a flight, but feel confident that when you do get a rescheduled flight, you will be flying with a safe and cautious pilot - in good weather!

                         MOST OF ALL; HAVE FUN!

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