NATO Flying Training in Canada Program makes history

News Article / April 16, 2018

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By Major Petra Smith

The NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) Program celebrated the largest graduating class of student pilots in its 18-year history on March 29, 2018, at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

“I am extremely proud of 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (2 CFFTS) for its continued and whole-hearted commitment to training future pilots,” said Colonel Denis O’Reilly, Commander, 15 Wing. “This hallmark achievement was made possible by the dedication and professionalism of 2 CFFTS instructors, supported by 15 Wing and our industry partner, CAE.”

As family and friends looked on with pride, 14 student pilots, including one from Hungary, were presented the coveted pilot wings during a military parade presided over by Colonel William Radiff, Commander 3 Wing Bagotville, Québec.

“Today, you join a proud family of aviators and dedicated members of the RCAF,” Colonel Radiff said. “It is on behalf of all of these professional men and women that I offer you the warmest of welcomes as you begin wearing your pilot wings and embark on your career journeys as flying instructors and fighter pilots.”

Eleven of the Canadian student pilots were selected to continue with fighter pilot training. Two Canadian student pilots will remain at 15 Wing, where they will learn to instruct future pilots.

When asked about what is most exciting about receiving his wings, Lieutenant Jordon Gjelsvik, a newly-winged graduate who will be continuing on with fighter pilot training, responded, “Knowing that I have been entrusted with the responsibility that the wings represent.”

Family and friends were present to celebrate the newest Royal Canadian Air Force and Hungarian Air Force pilots. To mark this milestone, they were joined by Brigadier-General Albert Safar, Air Force Commander, Hungary; Brigadier-General Csaba Ugrik, Commander of 59th Air Base, Hungary; Mr. Joe Armstrong, Vice President and General Manager of CAE Canada; and other dignitaries.

While sharing anecdotal stories of his rich and rewarding career, Colonel Radiff emphasized the rarity of pilot wings, the importance of career-long learning, and the exciting career that lies ahead. “You only have one thing that is within your control: your motivation,” he said to the newly-winged graduates. “Motivation leads to all the best assets of a pilot: positive attitude, book knowledge, physical preparedness, and willingness to learn.”

Pilot wings represent the successful completion of more than a decade of work, beginning with success in high school, selection to post-secondary school, selection at the Canadian Forces Air Crew Selection Centre, successful completion of Phase I pilot on the Grob 120A, and successful completion of Phases II and III on the CT-156 Harvard III.

“The road to pilot wings is long; it is the culmination of hard work, motivation, and stalwart focus,” said Lieutenant-Colonel David Smith, Commandant, 2 CFFTS. “For most pilots, the achievement of wings is a childhood dream come true. It is humbling to see student pilots realize their dreams, and it is an honour for us to train the future of the RCAF.”

During the graduation dinner, Colonel Radiff also expressed his gratitude to 2 CFFTS instructors, saying, “You truly are the ‘Best in the West.’ The operational communities continue to be impressed by the quality of graduate that you are producing. You are helping our young pilots to develop a solid foundation in flying.

“Keep doing what you are doing.”  

To achieve their mission, 2 CFFTS flew more than 16,000 sorties in 2017, representing more than 20,000 flying hours. These numbers make it the busiest flying unit in the RCAF in terms of sheer number of sorties.

Annually, 2 CFFTS graduates about 125 students from phase II of pilot training. Students then go on to pursue more advanced training in either helicopters, multi-engine aircraft, or jets. Those who are chosen for jets remain at 2 CFFTS for Phase III courses which, with an average class size of four to six students, are run throughout the year, with about 30 graduates receiving their coveted pilot wings each year.

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