Nearly three months have passed since my last post and I have finished up the OTU in Greenwood, driven across the country (again), and have now been an active pilot on squadron for just about a month. After nearly 6 years in the Air Force, I can finally call myself a qualified and operational military pilot. This has been the resounding thought for the past two months - I am finally doing my job. 7 years of courses, selections, and training has finally culminated in me being an operational pilot in the RCAF.
After that bit of self-indulgent back patting it's time to get back to business, because my training in the RCAF is far from over. The past seven years of time and effort has finally got me operational and doing my day job - but only as a First Officer (FO). Already the workup has begun for upgrading to Aircraft Captain (AC), and Crew Commander (CC). In fact, on day one of being on squadron I was handed a small binder with five pages of sign-offs I would need to complete in the next 18 months before I can be tested for my AC upgrade. These sign offs encapsulate everything I will need to know as an AC, from basic aircraft handling such as takeoffs and landings, to in depth system knowledge on aircraft systems, to understanding the basics of command and control structure. For each of these items I need to sit down with a crew commander and present my knowledge on the subject and then be tested with questions and scenarios to see if I understand the subject to an acceptable level. Then that item gets signed off as complete, and I move on to the next one. Once everything is signed off I will have an AC check ride, and then a board review to see if I qualify to be an AC. After that, it's rinse and repeat with more tactics and command and control as well as all the previous subjects to upgrade to crew commander.
Despite the daunting list of sign-offs, I have been able to enjoy these past two months as a new pilot on squadron. I am learning the ropes of how things are done in Comox, and starting to see the tactics and maneuvers I learned on MOAT implemented in the real world. The flying schedule can vary wildly depending on how many pilots are in house, but so far I have flown an average of 2-3 times a week. When I am not flying I am studying for whatever system sign-off I am working towards, working on secondary duties I have been assigned, or completing personal admin to maintain the various currencies required to remain on active duty.
The other thing I have really appreciated since arriving back in Comox is how much I missed the west coast. I was raised in BC and consider the Fraser Valley to be my home town despite being born in Ontario, and flying around the mountains and valleys have reminded me of when I was learning to fly for the first time in a Cessna. This feeling of nostalgia has only been reinforced as the Air Cadet Gliding Program begins kicking into gear and I reflect that I have come full circle from where I first learned to fly a decade ago. Although that feeling is mildly tarnished by the fact that now I have to contend with the gliders for time in the circuit!
It is a great feeling to look back on the past ten years that have led me to this point, but for now I am continuing to look forward as I begin the next chapter of my career as a pilot in the RCAF.