The Air Force Association (AFA) is partnering partnership with Civil Air Patrol (CAP) to advance both organizations’ mission to advocate and promote aerospace education at the local, state and regional levels.

“In an era so intensely focused on national security, it is crucial that our two organizations partner to make sure the Air Force’s voice is heard,” said AFA President Larry Spencer.

AFA is giving free two-year e-memberships to every current and new CAP member who opts-in, unit and educator grants to support CAP squadron initiatives in aerospace education and STEM, and will promote CAP’s Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) program with AFA chapters nationwide.

CAP is giving AFA members who opt-in two-years of free enrollment to its Friends of CAP program, which gives individuals a way to stay connected with CAP without the obligations or commitments involved with regular membership, along with an electronic subscription to Civil Air Patrol Volunteer Magazine and an invitation to visit a local CAP squadron or special event

This new partnership comes as both the defense and civil aviation worlds currently face a pilot shortage, and a maintenance shortage is potentially looming within the next 4-6 years.

“[The pilot shortage] still remains, other than operational safety, the top concern for regional airlines. In fact, it is a major concern for the entire U.S. air transportation industry,” wrote Chuck Weirauch in issue 2/2016 of Civil Aviation Training.

The commercial airline market has grown steadily over the past several decades  –  growing at an annual average of five percent per year, according to a Boeing forecast released last year, and the company projects fleets to double in size by 2036. To keep pace, Boeing projects a need for an additional 117,000 pilots in North America alone, and 637,000 worldwide. And the USAF announced a 1,555-pilot shortage during the 2016 fiscal year, with expectations for that number to grow.

In response, airlines have offered a variety of incentives, from high salaries to training expense recuperation programs, to attract talent and last year the U.S. Air Force instituted a series of incentives to encourage pilots to stay longer, and some to even return to service to fill critical-rated staff positions. In October 2017, it increased flight pay for the time in almost 20 years.

Partnerships like the one between CAP and AFA take a long-term approach to addressing the needs and shortages of the respective industries. Instead of just tackling the problem head-on, it will focus on careful investment in STEM and aerospace education, while applying pressure on legislative bodies to act.

Civil Aviation Training is taking a similar approach with a student-focused portion of the World Aviation Training Conference (WATS) called Student Education and Careers in Aviation, or SECA.

“Partnering with the Air Force Association will open doors for both CAP and AFA to impact local communities,” said CAP National Commander Mark Smith.