A military pilot flying for the Royal Canadian Armed Forces (RCAF) could fly all kinds of aircraft. They range from the CC-130J Hercules and CC-177 Globemaster III (cargo and transport) to the CH-146 Griffon and CH-149 Cormorant helicopters, plus the famed CF-188 Hornet fighter.
According to the RCAF’s website, the primary responsibilities of a pilot are to plan communicate, coordinate and execute tactical missions in support of civil authority or military objectives, such as humanitarian and disaster relief, and air intercept operations. They work with sophisticated technology for precision tactical navigation systems, advanced communication systems, sensor systems, counter-measure systems and weapon delivery systems. Depending on their assignment, a RCAF pilot can end up working for the Army, the Royal Canadian Navy or the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Becoming a pilot in the RCAF is much more than a job. It is a career that will likely take up many years of a pilot’s working life. Although many retired RCAF pilots move onto successful civilian careers; it is worth saying that people considering the military life as a road to a flying career should be enthusiastic about and committed to serving Canada first and foremost.
On the good side, the RCAF provides the training and equipment required to bring a raw recruit to the level of a fully-qualified pilot.
How to Learn
Although the RCAF will not say no to someone who already has earned their private pilot’s licence, it isn’t required when starting on a military career path.
Flight-trained or not, every aspiring military pilot begins by starting basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks.
The topics covered during basic officer training include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the RCAF, basic weapons handling and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is a major part of basic training.
After passing basic officer training, new RCAF pilot trainees attend the Primary Flying Training course at the Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Manitoba. The course introduces the military flying environment and procedures.
The RCAF requires its pilots to have a university bachelor’s degree – usually through the Canadian Military College system, but sometimes from other institutions – and will pay for this education, plus full-time salary with benefits. The degree must be achieved before the pilot moves into the on-the-job flight training.
The starting salary for a fully-trained RCAF pilot is $80,000 annually, plus benefits and pension.
The RCAF pays for the flight education and salaries of its full-time pilots. The RCAF also has programs to provide part-time training for civilian members of the Reserve Force.