From air cadets to aerobat pilots

News Article / July 25, 2016

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Captain Cheryl Major

There’s no expectation for air cadets to join the Canadian Armed Forces when they finish the Cadet Program. But for some, it’s a dream come true.

Captain Ave Pyne, Snowbird 6 and training officer for 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, knew he wanted to be a pilot for as long as he can remember. Coming from a family of travellers with a father in the CAF, his first thought about being a Snowbird was in the ‘90s, when he visited 431 Squadron in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, with his dad.

"Looking at the memorabilia drew my attention," he says,  and made me start to think about just what kind of impact the Snowbirds can have on Canadians.”

At age 13, Captain Pyne joined 676 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron (RCACS) in Sidney, British Columbia, with the intention of becoming a pilot through the scholarship programs. He also learned how to teach during his time with the Cadet Program, which served him well in becoming a senior instructor with the Canadian Forces Flying Training School.

“I gained my love of instruction as an air cadet," he says. "I developed a sense of satisfaction through developing the credibility to be an instructor in the Cadet Program that I have taken forward with me. "The skills I learned as a teenager are 100 percent relevant to teaching flying.”

In 1998, Captain Pyne attended the Glider Scholarship Course at 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, and continued to earn a private pilot’s license through another scholarship in 1999. In 2001, he joined the CAF as a pilot.

As a Sea King pilot with 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron in Patricia Bay, B.C., Capt Pyne found time to give back to the Cadet Program at 676 RCACS. He volunteered with the band and even played during the squadron’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Now, as a Snowbird, Captain Pyne continues to give back to youth across Canada, inspiring other young pilots to strive for their dreams. “The Snowbirds allow us to demonstrate the teamwork, professionalism, service, and esprit de corps of the Canadian Forces," he says, "but we also inspire future generations to reach for their goals. People see us do what seems impossible and it becomes possible.”

His advice for cadets and other youth starting on the path to success includes focusing on teamwork and making the most of the friendships forged in the program. “Keep in touch with the people you meet in the Cadet Program,” he says. “The friendships you make while you are young will maintain and become your network as an adult; people who are motivated as youth tend to become driven, professional, and successful in life.”

Captain Greg Hume-Powell, Snowbird 5, first dreamed of becoming a pilot at the age of five, when he saw the Snowbirds perform at the Abbotsford Airshow. He also joined the Cadet Program, with 103 Thunderbird RCACS in North Vancouver, British Columbia, because of the flying opportunities. He credits his first ground school instructor with making the academics of aviation fun, and for teaching him the patience to use an E6B Flight Computer, a version of which he still uses today with the CT-114 Tutor. In fact, he credits the Cadet Program and Cadet Instructor Corps (CIC) officers with giving him the direction, motivation, and skills he needed to study hard, teach his mind to prioritize, and allow him to dream big.

“If I had listened to my guidance counsellor at school, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. “Don’t let anyone else tell you how you can achieve your dreams.”

Captain Hume-Powell’s path to becoming a Snowbird pilot was less direct. He joined the CAF as a CIC officer and spent his spare time in college taking cadets on familiarization flights, and teaching ground school with 243 Ogopogo RCACS. He joined the CAF as a pilot in 2003, eventually flying CH-124 Sea Kings with 443 Martime Helicopter Squadron and becoming a senior instructor with Canadian Forces Flying Training School.

“My experience as a CIC officer definitely made me a better instructor, and having the opportunity to stay involved in the program, and be in uniform, kept me on the path towards becoming a pilot with the Canadian Armed Forces.”

The Snowbirds will spend this summer flying across North America, impressing audiences with more than 50 different formations and manoeuvres during each 35-minute show. They will perform for hundreds of thousands of people, sign thousands of autographs, and even pose for the occasional selfie.

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