Dropping the Ball Again – Canadian Fighter Pilot Training

Dropping the Ball Again – Canadian Fighter Pilot Training

The recent retirement of the RCAF’s 419 Squadron, based in Cold Lake, Alberta ended fighter pilot training in Canada.  NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) is the very successful pilot training program that has flown the CT-155 Hawk jet for 24 years, creating baby fighter pilots, teaching them basic fighter pilot skill sets.  Sovereign Fighter-Lead-In-Training (FLIT), which is also called Phase IV in pilot training parlance, has graduated wannabe fighter pilots who were capable, safe, and effective as they moved on to learn to fly the more advanced CF-18 Hornet.

As it turns out, RCAF officials cancelled this program with perfectly capable jets to fly, trained instructors and maintenance personnel available at a time when the air force is desperately short of fighter pilots and with very little access to training programs to refill their ranks.  There are only 42 combat-ready fighter pilots in the RCAF, not enough to sufficiently man the CF-18s to protect our country or support operations abroad.  With 88 F-35s to be delivered in the coming years, and a severe shortage of trained pilots, instead of leveraging existing sovereign training capability, RCAF officials just shot themselves in the foot and cut off their own elite, highly successful fighter pilot training program. The decision they took is now to outsource all of that training out-of-country at enormous additional expense.

Flying and the Perrier Bottle

Flying and the Perrier Bottle

Flying is a Performance just like a sporting competition. And once we grasp this concept, our approach to preparing for flying missions changes because we realize the strains that we are going to put our bodies through. When we demand extraordinary performance on a fighter mission set or during a test mission, everything matters. Fighter pilots ‘dogfighting’ one against each other demands the best of each of us. Get into an F-16, pin yourself to the back of the seat, crushed at 9g during a fight, and you quickly realize just how physical the act of flying is. Nutrition and proper hydration and what you drink matters. And so does warding off Tactical Dehydration.