Hello, my name is Daniel Ryan, and I am currently a pilot in training with the RCAF in Moose Jaw, SK. But, before we get to that, lets talk about how I got here.
My interest in aviation started at an extremely young age. My dad was a pilot in the RCAF, and switched to airlines when I was very young. He is still flying in the airlines today, so its safe to say I had a lot of exposure to aviation at a young age. Due to this, I became interested enough in flying that at age 12 I signed up for the Air Cadet program like so many other young kids. I stayed in the Air Cadets for 6 years, and got my gliders license, and private pilots license through the cadet program.
After graduating high school, I was determined to go to university for an engineering degree. I applied to the military for the Regular Officer Training Program (ROTP) where they pay for your education in exchange for service. I did the whole application process, including a week in Trenton, ON for aircrew selection and medical testing in order to qualify for the pilot trade. Despite having completed the process successfully, I was not selected for the program, and as such did not enroll in the air force. Instead, I went to UBC Vancouver where I completed my first year of engineering. Although I did not get my primary goal of enrolling in the military, my year at UBC was arguably one of the best things that could've happened to me. My experiences in that year really shaped the way I live now, and even affected my decision to get a degree in Computer Engineering. Maybe we'll talk about that in another post, but for now, carrying on! After my first year, I re-applied to the military once again for the ROTP program, and this time was successful. In July of 2011 I swore my allegiance to Canada and the Queen, and was promptly shipped off to Kingston, ON to attend the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC).
Glossing over the brief four years at the military college, (don't worry, I'm sure it will come up again), I completed Primary Flying training (PFT) in Portage-La-Prairie in the summer of 2015. PFT is the first flying course you take in the RCAF, and is labeled a "selection course". This means that failing this course effectively eliminates you from being a pilot in the RCAF. Although there are exceptions (there always are), this is essentially true so passing this course is a must. Therefore, the stress is significant despite the relative simplicity of the course. As the name implies, this course simply teaches the fundamentals of flying. This was essentially the same course I took for my Private Pilots License, but with less material, and significantly condensed. As an aside, the Portage-La-Prairie airbase was constructed during the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP) in the second world war as a training base to train commonwealth pilots for the war. Portage-La-Prairie has remained a training base for pilots in the RCAF, and has seen every pilot in the RCAF pass through its doors for Primary Flying Training.* This PFT course is also referred to as Phase I (PH I) flying training.
*As with everything, there are a couple exceptions to this. New pilots with sufficient previous flying experience (normally a Commercial Pilots License) can bypass PFT and proceed straight to Moose Jaw for Basic Flying Training (BFT).
Following PFT, and my graduation from RMC, I spent a short few months in Cold Lake, AB as an OJT awaiting training. (OJT stands for On the Job Training and is basically a make-work position between training courses). I worked at the Aeronautical Engineering and Test Evaluation (AETE) squadron, and gained exposure to the pilot life as a test pilot. I also got a few flights on the Tutor aircraft which was the aircraft my father trained on, and later became an instructor on.
Finally, in September of 2015 I was sent to Moose Jaw, SK for Basic Flying Training (BFT), or Phase II flying training on the Harvard II aircraft. This is where flying skills are refined and expanded, and trains pilots effectively to the military equivalent of a Commercial Pilots License level. The key difference with this course is that unlike PFT, following this course pilots will be "selected" and told what airframe they will fly. The three categories are Helo, Multi, and Jets. Depending on performance on course, needs of the air force, and pilot preference, pilots will be "streamed" into one of these three categories. Pilots selected Helo or Multi will return to Portage-La-Prairie to fly the Jet Ranger and the King Air respectively on Ph III flying training, and those going Jets will remain in Moose Jaw for further training on the Harvard II before flying the Hawk, and then the F-18.
So, you're all caught up. I'm now 6 months into my training course in Moose Jaw, and flying the Harvard II. I still have about another 3 months of training to go before being selected, and then still another couple years of training before being a qualified Air Force pilot. I hope you've found this post interesting, and hope you'll join me on my journey to become a qualified Royal Canadian Air Force pilot.