IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
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.
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
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.
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES