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Air Force


OFFICER | Full Time, Part Time

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As a member of the military, Pilots fly a range of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) aircraft in a variety of roles: Search and Rescue, Fighter, Transport, Tactical Helicopter, or Maritime Patrol.

The primary responsibilities of a Pilot are to plan communicate, coordinate and execute tactical missions in support of civil authority or military objectives, such as humanitarian and disaster relief, and air intercept operations. They work with sophisticated technology for precision tactical navigation systems, advanced communication systems, sensor systems, counter-measure systems and weapon delivery systems.

Aircrew Selection Centre – the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) requires that all Pilots, Aerospace Controllers and Air Combat Systems Officers attend and successfully complete the Aircrew Selection. The selection centre is located in Trenton, Ontario where candidates are tested over a 2-day period with computer-based scenarios designed to validate those skills and aptitudes required by the RCAF. Success at Aircrew Selection is a necessary step in order to continue to be processed for these three occupations. Watch this video to learn more.

Work environment

Pilots work in a variety of areas, ranging from northernmost parts of Canada to duties supporting the Royal Canadian Navy. The working environment depends on the military role assigned to the Pilot. Search and Rescue Pilots are deployed anywhere in Canada to rescue people in distress and emergency situations. Fighter Pilots protect Canadians and defend our interests abroad. Transport Pilots deliver humanitarian aid to people around the world. Tactical Helicopter Pilots support aid distribution and peacekeeping missions. Maritime Patrol Pilots protect Canadian coasts.

If you chose a career in the Regular Force, upon completion of all required training, you will be assigned to your first base. While there is some flexibility with regards to postings (relocations), accommodations can’t always be made, and therefore, you can likely expect to move at some point in your career. However, if you decide to join the Primary Reserve Force, you will do so through a specific Reserve unit. Outside of training, your chosen Reserve unit will be your workplace on a part time basis, and you will not be obligated to relocate to a different base. As part of the Primary Reserve Force, you typically work one night per week and some weekends as a minimum with possibilities of full-time employment.

Career Overview




CAPTAIN JACKIE RUIS: I'm Captain Jackie Ruis from Ottawa, Ontario – a pilot at 450 Squadron here at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in Ontario.

The missions of Canada’s military pilots are as varied as the airframes they fly.

CAPTAIN JACKIE RUIS:  My role in terms of the Chinook, we transport either troops, equipment or supplies, whether domestically or deployed on operations. It’s such a great tool for the Canadian Forces and so fun to fly.

There's various different platforms – in terms of helicopters, there's search and rescue as an option; you've also got tactical helicopter; and you've got maritime support, so, various different roles for the helicopter. The fixed-wing job is mainly for troop transport as well as supplies overseas.

We also have fast jet: the role of the F-18 is to intercept other aircraft and to drop ordnance when required.

Pilots work with sophisticated technology like precision tactical navigation, advanced communication, sensor and counter-measure systems, as well as the latest high-tech weapon delivery systems.

They plan and execute tactical air missions in support of civil authorities or military objectives. It can be tactical aviation support to the Army with Griffon and Chinook helicopters, or tactical airlift with Hercules and Globemaster aircraft; for the Royal Canadian Navy, they provide aerial support with Cyclone helicopters and Aurora long-range patrol aircraft; while CF-18 fighter aircraft defend Canadian and NORAD airspace from enemy incursions and offer close-air support to Canadian soldiers that find themselves in combat overseas. There are also humanitarian and disaster relief missions at home and abroad, as well as search and rescue support from coast to coast to coast in Canada.

CAPTAIN JACKIE RUIS: It never becomes mundane. I love what I do, I look forward to coming to work every day, and every day is a new challenge. Military aircraft are just so fun. The job, right? It's always changing. There's always something new and it's exciting.

CAPTAIN JACKIE RUIS:  Being a pilot in the military, you're going to get a lot of opportunities, so you'll have deployments which you can't do necessarily as a civilian pilot. You'll also get to have a little bit more fun. The coolest part about flying the Chinook helicopter is getting to fly low and fast, so I get to do river runs. I get to fly with awesome people and the rush of tactical flying is amazing. So you're going low and fast, potentially evading a threat and doing your job.

Once they complete their basic officer and primary flight training, new pilots get assigned to one of three paths. Based on their performance and on current needs, that could be fast jet, rotary-wing or multi-engine. On completion of that phase of their training, pilots receive their wings and are assigned to an operational training unit where they will continue training with the aircraft in the role that they’ve been assigned. After that, they’ll be posted to an operational squadron.

CAPTAIN JACKIE RUIS: So it's an incredible responsibility to be in charge of an aircraft, you're responsible for the safety of everyone on board to include passengers and the crew. So just making sure that you're doing your job appropriately and whether that's flying low or flying high, whatever it may be, you just need to make sure everyone gets there safely and that you can get home as well.

CAPTAIN JACKIE RUIS: One of the most amazing experiences for me was my deployment to Mali, so I really felt like I was helping people there. You know, whether we were out flying every day or just waiting to go, it meant that the people on the ground knew that they could do their job and if required, we would come and get them. So for me, that was very rewarding. If you want adventure and excitement and a challenge, then being a pilot in the Canadian Armed Forces is for you.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Airline pilot
  • Medical evacuation pilot
  • Flight instructor


After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 12 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Pilots attend Primary Flying Training at the Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. This course introduces you to the military flying environment and procedures. Continued training depends on successfully completing this course.

The next phase is the Prerequisite Training Course which introduces you to various effects of flying on the human body, air safety procedures, and basic survival techniques in the event of an emergency on land or over water. The course includes:

  • Aeromedical Training:
    • The effects of high “G” forces
    • The effects of high altitudes
    • Operation of oxygen supply
    • Operation of ejection seat
  • Basic Land Survival
  • Basic Sea Survival:
    • Parachute landing techniques
    • Water entry
    • Sea survival skills

Basic Flying Training takes place at the NATO Flight Training Centre in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for 8 months.  Pilots are trained to fly aircraft in a military environment through classroom, simulator and in-flight instruction. As well, you will receive leadership development training to prepare you for your responsibilities to and for your aircrew. Based on flying performance, academic standing and leadership evaluation, you will be assigned to one of three Advanced Flying Training paths:

  • Rotary Wing Training: offered at Portage-la-Prairie, Manitoba, you will complete the Basic Helicopter Course on the Jet Ranger helicopter
  • Multi-Engine Training: offered at Portage-la-Prairie, Manitoba, you will train on the Beech Raytheon King Air C-90A
  • Fast Jet: offered at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, you will train on the Harvard II as a Fighter Pilot and an Instructor Pilot

At the end of the Advanced Flying Training, you will receive your Pilot’s Wings and proceed to an Operational Training Unit for training with the aircraft and in the role you have been assigned before being posted to an Operational Squadron.

Entry plans

If you already have a university degree, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Corrective Surgery for Vision

Applicants who wear glasses, contacts, or have had certain types of laser refractive surgery to improve their vision may apply for the Pilot occupation. However, pilots have more stringent visual requirements than other CAF applicants and must pass additional ophthalmology screening. Radial keratotomy or corneal reshaping procedures are not approved for pilots.

Regular Officer Training Plan

Due to the requirement for CAF officer to obtain a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a bachelor degree program in the Royal Military College System. Recruits will receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working in the CAF for a period of time. Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In rare instances, based on the needs of the CAF, candidates may be approved attend another Canadian University. A determination will be made on a case by case basis. If you are applying for this program, you must apply to the CAF and it is recommended to apply to other Canadian universities of your choice should you not be accepted for ROTP.

Learn more about our Paid Education programs here.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Pilots employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis usually serve at a Royal Canadian Air Force Wing or Squadron located within Canada, including the North and fly CAF aircraft in Search and Rescue, Transport and Tactical Helicopter roles.

Find a Recruiting Centre

This occupation has a limited enrolment in the Reserve Force for unskilled applicants and is greatly dependent on previous flying experience. For successful candidates, following basic officer training, Primary Flying Training for the Pilot qualification begins at the Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and continued training to achieve Wings standard depends on successfully completing this course. Many Pilots who are employed part time are former members of the Regular Force with a Pilot qualification who component-transferred to the Reserve Force.

Air Reserve members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts and are employed in the same unit and perform the same job. Air Reserve members usually serve up to 12 days per month in a regular work day, with opportunities to serve full-time for short durations as needed. Reserve Force members are paid 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.