I'm still alive!
It's been about 8 months since my last post and I've been as busy as ever with my training on the CP-140 Aurora. The radio silence wasn't intentional, in fact I started with the best of intentions! I intended to write about the trip across the country, learning to fly a multi-engine aircraft for the first time, and my thoughts about switching from the Jet stream to the multi-engine stream now that some time has passed. But despite these best intentions, I got distracted with other projects such as helping my dad produce YouTube videos and start a podcast about his new life as a quadriplegic. These are projects that I'm very proud of, and bring me a lot of joy to produce - especially because I get to spend time working with my dad. Please go check them out if you are at all interested.
I could spend another three paragraphs making excuses, but instead I'll just move on and try my best to summarize the events and thoughts of the past 7 months. When last I wrote, I was in Moose Jaw and was being posted to 407 Squadron in Comox to fly the Aurora, and scheduled to go on the Aurora Occupational Training Unit (OTU) course in Greenwood, NS in September. So in August we drove from Moose Jaw to Comox, spent two weeks in Comox, and turned around and drove the 6000 some off kilometers across the country to Greenwood, NS. It was actually a really fun roadtrip, Canada is truly a beautiful country and I'm glad that I've gotten to see most of it.
In September I started training on the Aurora and immediately spent the first 7 weeks in ground school learning the technical details of the many systems on the Aurora. This was a pretty intense learning period as the Aurora community expects a great deal of technical knowledge of the aircraft systems, and on such a large and complex aircraft, there are a great many details to learn! After ground school I began training in the simulator where I not only learned procedures specific to the Aurora, but learned the fundamentals of multi-engine flying that I would've received had I done Phase III on the King Air. Perhaps the biggest gap in my knowledge was understanding asymmetric thrust and how to handle the aircraft when one of the engines failed. Although not complicated, this was a completely foreign concept to me as all previous aircraft I have flown have been center-line thrust.
My first flight in the Aurora took place in January after returning from Christmas holidays. It's difficult to put into words the experience of flying the Aurora. At least for the beginning flights when we were conducting Pilot Proficiency Flights (PPF's) we were very lightweight since we didn't have to carry full fuel tanks or a full crew of 16-20 people so the aircraft is actually quite nimble given it's size. In these early flights we also got to practice a standard event on the Aurora, but an unheard of practice nearly anywhere else - loitering an engine. Because the Aurora's main role is maritime patrol, there are many scenarios where we want to maximize our time airborne or "on station", so to prolong our flight time we will shut down an engine to save on fuel. This make perfect sense to accomplish our goal of remaining on station, but is still a strange feeling to intentionally shutdown an engine. Added to the fact that the Aurora primarily operates in the low-level environment over open water, it seems the last thing you would want is to intentionally shut down engines, but that is standard practice in the Aurora community.
After progressing through the basic clear hood training phase, and the getting my instrument rating on the Aurora, we entered the "real world" training phase where we learned the tactics of how to employ the Aurora to accomplish tasks we will be conducting while operational. This includes everything from photographing ships who may be polluting or smuggling drugs, to tracking and hunting submarines, to providing aerial reconnaissance over an area. I was especially fortunate as I was one of two students selected to participate in a NATO anti-submarine training exercise in Italy. This meant that instead of tracking and hunting simulated submarines that didn't actually exist, we got to collaborate with foreign nations and actually track and find real submarines participating in the exercise. In a couple instances we managed to spot a periscope or a snorkel of a submarine hiding just below the surface, truly a surreal experience! To me, this was the most effective type of training we could have received. We got to see real-world scenarios and understand the bigger picture of what is going on while conducting operations. This was also the first time in my career as a military pilot that I have done anything remotely "real world". Its very rewarding to have worked this hard for this long to finally see what it is i'll be doing as "my job", and not simply be a pilot in training.
I am now just finishing up course, and expect to complete my final check ride sometime next week. This means that my girlfriend and I are getting ready to drive across Canada for the second time in 8 months! Once again, we are looking forward to the road trip, but are excited to be back on the west coast and begin to settle in for the next couple years. I will once again, try to post semi-regular updates as I continue to progress through my career. I continue to get emails from individuals who are either joining the military, or considering joining, and it makes me very happy to know that people continue to read this blog and find it useful. I hope to write more in depth about my thoughts of multi-engine flying in general as well as my new career as an Aurora pilot, but for now this rambling update will have to do!
Stay tuned, more to come. (hopefully)