Just over two months after writing about my decision to not go jets and starting the FIS course in Moose Jaw, I am here to tell you that things have changed. Very shortly after beginning FIS I was offered a short notice opportunity to fill a spot at the Aurora OTU in Greenwood, NS for September. The Aurora is a 4 engine Long Range Patrol (LRP) aircraft that fulfills a number of roles including Maritime Patrol and Drug Interdiction as well as Intelligence gathering and surveillance. There are two operational squadrons - one on each coast, as well as the training squadron which is located in Greenwood, NS. The Aurora has been around in the RCAF since the early 80's, which is long ago enough that my father flew them when he was in the RCAF 30 years ago. The Aurora has been through many phases of upgrades and retrofits, but the bones of the aircraft remain the same from 30 years ago.
So how did this happen? The short story is I got lucky. For various reasons there were two spots that opened up on short notice for the Aurora Occupational Transfer Unit (OTU) in September. The decision was made at senior levels in the RCAF to fill these spots with PH III qualified pilots on the Harvard II. Further, the decision was made to bypass the Multi-Engine conversion course (normally a requisite for anyone going Multi after PH III, or after Jets or Helos). Ultimately the desire is to prove that such a transition is possible, and open the door for future candidates to go directly to the OTU upon completing PH III on the Harvard II. I was even more fortunate that the CO in Moose Jaw remembered that my family lived in BC, and one of the reasons I had cited for not wanting to go Jets was to be more available for family. He offered me the opportunity to take the spot at the OTU and get posted out west closer to family. As you can imagine, I was thrilled at the opportunity to move out west, and after a weekend of fact finding and consulting family (and my girlfriend who I had to break the news to) I agreed to fill one of the spots.
Now, remember how I said at the beginning of this post that the training squadron is in Greenwood, NS? That means I will have to live on the east coast while I complete the course (approx 6-8 months) before working with the squadron in Comox. Despite needing to be in Greenwood, NS for September, I am being posted to Comox in August. This means that in just over two weeks time my girlfriend and I are packing up and moving to Comox, where we'll live for just over 3 weeks before turning around and going to Nova Scotia. And oh ya, we're gonna drive there. So the bonus package part of this opportunity is the epic Canadian roadtrip we get to take to get there.
Overall, I am incredibly thrilled and excited for this opportunity. Never in a million years did I think I would have to opportunity to go Multi-Engine without first completing an instructional tour, let alone going that route without completing the multi-engine conversion course. On top of it all, I am doing all of this with virtually no delay whatsoever. It's hard to believe that just over 2 months ago I was flying the Hawk aircraft and well down the path towards jets, and now I am making a lightning fast transition to a huge multi-engine aircraft. Of course, this opportunity comes with some short term stresses as I rush to get my life organized and moved to Comox - only to turn it upside down again and move to Greenwood. Not to mention the steep learning curve I'll face in the transition from a single-engine jet aircraft to a huge multi-engine, crew concept aircraft. Despite this, I am very excited, and confident that I'll succeed in Greenwood. I am excited to be posted to an operational squadron and start "doing my job" rather than being in training all the time.*
*It should be noted that pilots in the RCAF are pretty much always training - even when they're posted to a operational squadron and "doing their job". What I really mean is I look forward to not being directly involved in a training institution either as a student or instructor, but rather being involved in an operational unit that participates in exercises and deployments.
I will miss Moose Jaw (seriously), in the two years I lived there I really grew to love the prairies and the experience of living in a small, somewhat remote town. The open space afforded by the prairies combined with the incredible sunsets have grown on me, and I'll miss them when I leave. Nonetheless, my disappointment in leaving the prairies is heavily outweighed by my tremendous excitement to be back out west and be able to see mountains again. I am slightly disappointed about not getting to be an instructor as during my short stint in FIS I got to see a little of what that would be like and am sure it would be a rewarding experience that I would enjoy. Despite this, I know that I can easily come back to Moose Jaw if I choose to after my tour on the Aurora, but for now I am looking forward to flying the Aurora and transitioning to a multi-engine cockpit.
In short, the old saying about the military still holds; if you don't like how things are in the military, wait an hour and it will change. Abrupt, short notice change can be upsetting, but there are very few other places where you can make such a huge transition in such a short period of time, and overall I am happy to make the change.
I'll continue to update the blog sporadically as I make the transition to the Aurora, thank you to everyone who has been reading, and I hope you continue to read as I continue down this new path in my career with the RCAF.
Now I can add another aircraft to my collection of "hero shots" - and that's really what matters