Pilot Training Programs
© 2015 FrontLine Defence (Vol 6, No 1)

Canada’s Air Force accomplishes its military pilot flight training with the technical and maintenance support of its two Public-Private Partnership (PPP) programs: Canada Wings, and NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC). Both of these ­programs owe their genesis to the strong desire of Canada’s Air Force to maintain a world class military pilot training program in Canada at an affordable cost.

Canada Wings and NFTC are undergraduate and postgraduate military pilot training programs. While instructor pilots (IPs) are predominantly military pilots, the technical support, classroom and simulator training are largely provided by civilian staffs who are employed by either Allied Wings or Bombardier, the contract providers for Canada Wings and NFTC respectively.

The Canada Wings Aviation Training Centre is located 70 km west of Winnipeg,  at Southport, Manitoba. Phase I – Primary Flying; Phase III – Helicopter; and Phase III Multi-Engine Pilot Training are all conducted at Southport.

NFTC, operating at 15 Wing (Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan) and 4 Wing (Cold Lake, Alberta), provides Phase II – Basic Flying Training; Phase III – Advanced Flying Training (Jet); and Phase IV – Fighter Lead-In Training (FLIT). All three training venues boast state-of-the-art training facilities and advanced training aircraft and simulators.

Phase I – Primary Flying Training is accomplished on the very reliable Grob G120A single reciprocating engine aircraft. The Grob is a fully aerobatic aircraft with a large cockpit and retractable undercarriage. The Grob also boasts modern cockpit instrumentation and supporting Flight Training Devices (FTD).

Upon successful completion of Phase I, candidates proceed to 15 Wing Moose Jaw for Phase IIA – Basic Flying Training conducted on the Raytheon Harvard II turbo-prop aircraft. This aircraft features jet-like handling qualities and advanced avionics. The training is also augmented with FTDs featuring four and eight channel visual systems.

Upon successful completion of Phase IIA, pilot candidates are ‘streamed’ into one of three specifically ­tailored Phase III ­programmes designed to prepare pilots for Canada’s operational helicopter, multi-engine and fighter aircraft fleets. Aspiring pilots who have been selected for fighter training remain at Moose Jaw and complete Phase IIB – Basic Flying Training on the ­Harvard II, before proceeding to Phase III – Advanced Flying Training (Jet) on the BAE Hawk 115 aircraft. The Hawk 115 has advanced glass cockpit avionics including head up display (HUD) and hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls. Successful students receive their pilot’s wings before proceeding to Phase IV – Fighter Lead-In Training, conducted at 4 Wing in Cold Lake, Albert.

Pilot candidates who have been selected for helicopter or multi-engine pilot training return to the Canada Wings Aviation Training Centre at Southport.

Phase III – Multi-Engine is completed on the Beechcraft King Air C90B ­aircraft. This reliable and proven training aircraft, with its modern avionics suite, is ideal for teaching multi-engine, multi-crew and instrument flight rules (IFR) skills. ­Successful graduates are awarded their pilot wings and proceed to their operational training unit where they will convert to operational aircraft such as the CC177 Globemaster, CC130 Hercules, CC115 Buffalo, CC144 Challenger, CC150 Polaris, CC138 Twin Otter or CP140 Aurora.

Phase III – Helicopter training is a two-staged program beginning on the Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopter and then the Bell 412CF helicopter. The Bell 206 is a light, single turbine engine helicopter used extensively around the world for basic and advanced training and light utility tasks. Its handling qualities and auto-rotation characteristics are excellent, and its throttle-on-collective configuration allows for a large safety margin while practicing basic procedures. Students develop basic “hands and feet” helicopter skills, airmanship skills, and confidence by flying solo sorties before advancing to the second stage of training on the Bell 412.

The 412CF is a civil certified, multi-engine, infrared-capable helicopter with enhanced night vision goggle compatible avionics – including electronic flight instrument systems (EFIS), flight management system (FMS), three-axis autopilot with coupling capability, air conditioning and rotor brake. The helicopters in the program are former CF CH146 Griffons that have been significantly upgraded and recently re-certified. The resulting configuration is eminently suited for teaching multi-engine, multi-crew and IFR skills. It is an ideal lead-in for pilots destined to fly operational multi-engine helicopters.

Successful graduates of the Helicopter program will receive their pilot wings and move on to operational helicopters such as the CH124 Sea King, CH146 Griffon or CH149 Cormorant. These pilots will ­eventually proceed onto the new CH147 Chinook and CH148 Cyclone ship-borne helicopter.

With tactical ranges and a fully functioning air combat manœuvring instrumentation range, 4 Wing Cold Lake is ­ideally suited for Phase IV – Fighter Lead-In Training. Upon successful completion of this phase, Canadian pilots ­proceed to the CF18 Hornet while international ­participants progress to their respective fighter aircraft, such as the Typhoon, F16, or Gripen.

One thing Canada’s Air Force has learned in concert with its PPP partners is that maintaining a world class pilot training system means never resting on one’s ­laurels. To that end, a Phase I – Primary Flying Training – Extended course has been introduced so that selected ­candidates may proceed directly from the Grob to either Phase III – Multi-Engine or Helicopter training. This affords Canada’s pilot training system more flexibility in reacting to demands for more fighter, helicopter, or multi-engine pilot graduates.

Canada’s Air Force has a strong heritage of international pilot training dating back to World War I and World War II. The benefits include shared capital costs and better economies of scale while at the same time providing an opportunity for vital exchanges of experience and training doctrines in a multi-national setting. So it was quite natural for NFTC and Canada Wings to include foreign military participants.

Today, in addition to graduating Canadian military pilots, NFTC has proudly hosted participants from around the world, including Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim. Denmark, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Italy, Hungary, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Austria and Australia have all graduated pilots from the program. Similarly, the more recently established Canada Wings program has graduated pilots from Norway, and is experiencing widespread international interest.

It remains a tremendous added benefit of our NFTC and Canada Wings programs that future military pilots learn at the beginning of their careers to work side by side with our international partners and Allies. It is also a tangible way for Canada to contribute to international defence and security.

The future for NFTC and Canada Wings remains bright. Canada’s Air Force pilot training programs ensure student pilots receive the foundation necessary to perform in today’s complex and dynamic operational training environment and are well prepared to pilot Canada’s advanced new operational aircraft fleets.

Colonel Denys Guérin is the Director Air Contracted Force Generation at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.
© FrontLine Defence 2009