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Air Force


OFFICER | Full Time, Part Time

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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.

Career Overview





JANJUA: In adrenaline-pumping aerial combat at Mach 1.5…

BALDASARO: Delivering troops and supplies to Afghanistan and the High Arctic…

CURTIS: Or 40 feet above the North Atlantic in gale force winds in search of a hostile submarine or a stranded merchant vessel…

JANJUA: We are the wings of Canada.

I’m Captain Jameel Janjua from Calgary, Alberta. I’m a CF-18 fighter pilot at 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, Bagotville, Quebec.

I’m Captain Diane Baldasaro from North Bay, Ontario. I’m a tactical transport pilot from 8 Wing Trenton.

And I’m Captain Peter Curtis from Penticton, BC. I’m a Sea King pilot currently posted at 12 Wing Shearwater.



JANJUA: I used to go to air shows all the time with my dad. For me, it was just really difficult not to want to be a fighter pilot. When you’re 8,9,10 years old, you know and a fast jet rips by at 250 feet and 500 knots, it’s pretty easy to get excited about.

CURTIS: Within 30 seconds of my first flight in a small plane when I was 15, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I fly our Sea King helicopter in support of maritime operations along Canada’s coastline and on tactical missions overseas.

A helicopter is definitely a hands-on job. For example, the Sea King doesn’t even have an auto-pilot. We spend a lot of our time being very busy and low-to-the-ground which is the environment I really enjoy.

BALDASARO: You know, a civilian pilot has its challenges as well and its benefits, but in the military, from the raw planning of the mission to the execution and the military aspect of it, you know, you’re defending your country and I think that’s really important.

JANJUA: The missions of Canada’s military pilots are as varied as the airframes we fly.

The Air Force provides a myriad of support to the rest of the Canadian Forces. It can be tactical airlift with a Hercules aircraft. It can be support to the Army via tactical aviation with Griffon helicopters. We can provide support for the Canadian Navy. Our role as a fighter force is we conduct primarily air defence for Canada and for NORAD. We can offer close air support to make sure that Canadian soldiers that find themselves in a combat environment overseas are safe. I mean, we can overwhelm the enemy with air power.

CURTIS: As a helicopter pilot, your mission today could be anything from humanitarian aid in Haiti to a Search and Rescue operation off the Canadian coast. Helicopter pilots support major Navy and Army operations, both at home and on deployments around the world.

BALDASARO: As a pilot, every day you fly is a good day, whether it’s re-supplying our Canadian Forces station Alert near the North Pole, on maritime patrol in an Aurora or making the long haul to Kandahar with a new rotation of fighting forces.

I’ve been really lucky in my Hercules career in that I’ve flown the search and rescue role, the air-to-air refuelling role and now the tactical role. We just work for the Army. We bring what they need, where they need it and the time they need it at.

JANJUA: You don’t have to already be a licensed pilot or even a university graduate to join our flying crews. The Forces will take care of all your training on the ground and in the air.

BALDASARO: My dream of flight led me to Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, but you don’t have to be an RMC grad to fly with us. What you do need are good vision, good physical condition and the ability to, as we like to say, “Be smart fast”.

JANJUA: Most pilot candidates enter the Forces at the rank of Second Lieutenant and do their regular Basic Officer Training in Quebec. You’ll also go through aeromedical courses and land and sea survival training.

BALDASARO: Then you’ll head to Manitoba for your primary flight training where you’ll train on sophisticated aircraft like this Grobe. That’s followed by basic and advanced flight training in Saskatchewan or Manitoba for a total of about 8 months on various modern aircraft. The Forces have state-of-the-art facilities that feature ultra realistic simulators and first-class instruction.

CURTIS: Your performance at Basic and the Forces’ needs will determine what aircraft you’ll be assigned to as your first posting: fast jet, multi-engine, helicopter or even flight instructor.

JANJUA: Not everyone will start out in the cockpit of a fighter jet, but everyone who earns his or her wings shares the same pride.

It is awesome to fly a piece of equipment like this every day and you count yourself as one of the fortunate few people who get to do this.

CURTIS: Flying at night in challenging weather conditions over the water at low level is a feeling, a sensation that’s really hard to describe. It’s certainly testing in every way, not only your skills as a pilot, but your character as a person.

BALDASARO: The flying I’ve done in Afghanistan is certainly the most exciting and most fun that I’ve done so far. It’s also the most challenging. When you’re low level, you need to have a heightened awareness, the whole crew needs to be on their game and you really appreciate the training that you’ve done up to that point when you’re actually in the situation.

CURTIS: Every single flight provides a great deal of fun just in the freedom and the experience of flying and that is felt nowhere as greatly as when we’re actually deployed on operations in support of Canadian Forces.

BALDASARO: I chose pilot because it’s definitely one of the most fun jobs in the world.

JANJUA: You know, it’s very difficult not to enjoy flying 300 hours a year in a $30 million aircraft at one and a half times the speed of sound. It’s really hard to wake up in the morning and not be excited to go to work.




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.

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.