New aircraft means better squadron cohesiveness

News Article / November 19, 2020

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By Second Lieutenant Michael de Grasse

This summer, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) acquired two new Challenger 650 aircraft which replaced two older aircraft before they could fall short of operational requirements. So, what does this mean for the RCAF and the Canadian Armed Forces?

We connected with 412 Squadron member Captain Nicholas Fisette, a First Officer on the existing Challenger 604 and the new 650, to learn the capabilities and upgrades associated with the new aircraft. He also explains the squadron’s mission and how it fits in with the rest of the Canadian Armed Forces.

412 Squadron is located at the Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa, Ontario and the Challenger is the only type of aircraft that the squadron operates. Most of the squadron’s flying hours involve military airlift. 412 Squadron is located in Ottawa, but it is a remote unit of 8 Wing Trenton making it part of the Air Mobility Community in the RCAF. As such, they receive military taskings from 1 Canadian Air Division including General/Flag Officer Transportation, Medevac, Aeromedical Training and Utility Airlift. They are also involved in the rapid deployment of military teams like Flight Safety officials, DART members, reconnaissance teams, Mobile Repair Parties and Special Forces.

When Captain Fisette isn’t crewing a Challenger, he’s the Deputy Squadron Operations Officer, taking care of things like crew assignments to support missions coming from Government and military officials. As a pilot and operations officer at the squadron, he knows the ins and outs of the Challenger and what makes the new one an exciting addition to the RCAF lineup.

The Challenger is a jet capable of carrying 10 passengers at speed and over range which allows us to rapidly move people around the world, when required. It is crewed by 2 pilots who are joined by a flight steward and a Transport Canada Air Maintenance Engineer (AME). Together, this team uses the speed and range of the Challenger to fulfill transport, medevac, and diplomatic missions around the globe. Compared to the older 601 model, the 650 has an increased range, a higher seating capacity, and upgraded avionics.

Most importantly, it has the same type rating as the 604.

For context, when the squadron was flying the Challenger 601 and 604, differences in the aircraft required pilots to have a separate rating on each aircraft. The squadron is a small but mighty one, with a total of 14 pilots. Having only 7 pilots per aircraft type made scheduling and crew replacements difficult. The 604 and 650 are similar enough to have the same type rating, leading to substantial economic gains when it comes to crew assignments.

Captain Fisette put it well when commenting on the change. “From a morale and esprit de corps perspective, it’ll be beneficial to have all pilots flying the same aircraft. Prior to (the) arrival of the 650’s, there were half the pilots at the Squadron that I didn’t have the opportunity to fly with. I foresee much better cohesiveness once everyone is transitioned to the new aircraft.”

For the squadron, this replacement means an improvement in capability, efficiency, and morale. Considering the squadron’s mission, all of this is an improvement for the RCAF, the CAF, and the public.

To Captain Fisette, “this replacement means I get to fly one of the newest aircraft in the Canadian Armed Forces inventory”, a benefit which speaks for itself!


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