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​Lt. Col. Ken Curell (center) of Civil Air Patrol’s Ohio Wing is flanked by two Pilot Prep Program students—Air Force 1st Lts. Sherry Meadows (left) from Aviano AB, Italy, and Makenna Elliott from Offutt AFB, Neb. CAP photo.

The Air Force and Civil Air Patrol are trying out a new joint approach to help tackle the service’s pilot shortage.

The Pilot Prep Program aims to get 52 airmen from 38 installations across the globe ready for the Air Force’s fiscal 2020 undergraduate flight training selection board this fall, according to a recent CAP release. Pentagon Aircrew Crisis Task Force boss Brig. Gen. Christopher Short created the initiative as part of his effort to dig the service out of an approximately 2,000-pilot shortfall.

As part of the program, PPP airmen complete online training before heading to Indiana to take part in CAP’s National Emergency Services Academy. Participants log six to eight hours in the cockpit, plus simulator-based training, teaching on the ground, and mentorship from officers and CAP pilots to get ready for the selection test. That experience helps people in the program explore the career field before committing to more than 10 years as an Air Force pilot.

“The program is being conducted at Columbus Municipal Airport alongside NESA’s Mission Aircrew School, one of three schools that combines task-based training with practical application,” the CAP release said. “In addition to its Air Force students, more than 500 CAP members will participate in NESA this year from every state.”

Another nationally focused CAP program can also help fill the national pilot gap, which in turn affects the Air Force’s shortage. Through “Cadet Wings,” participants can get certified as private airplane, glider, or balloon pilots by training one-on-one with a local, certified CAP instructor, attending a 30-day course in Texas, or attending a commuter or residential flight school. Receiving a private certification is a stepping stone toward further professional flight training.