For cadets training on the land, sea or in the air, the summer is not a time to laze around.
Summers are 5 a.m. wake-up calls, stationed far away from home. They are rationed meals and gruelling physical training under the sun.
But ask most cadets who’ve been through a summer camp placement, and they’ll tell you it’s all worth it. The camps are a time for major advancement, specialized learning, new friends, and huge opportunity.
For Flight Sgt. Graham Macauley, 16, it also meant a unique opportunity to study advanced aerospace. The six-week course took him to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC, just outside of Montreal.
He spent his days assembling rockets and launching them – giving him knowledge and experience to bring back to his home squadron, 147 Airwolf. But other skills will serve him well as he eventually moves on to study mechanical engineering.
“We would go scuba diving and assemble computers underwater,” he says. And for clarification, yes at the same time.
It’s a way of experiencing weightlessness, while putting your brain to the test. If it sounds elite, it is. Only 60 cadets are accepted into the program each summer, along with 10 staff cadets. All graduates leave camp with the skills and knowledge that allow them to lead and instruct aerospace groups back at home. Activities include instructional technique, first aid, astronomy, orbital mechanics, and model rocketry.
“I think a lot of people expect this [advanced learning] from the cadet program,” Macauley says.
His brother, Flight Sgt. Ben Macauley, 18, stayed a little closer to home on Annacis Island. Every morning he and his crew would wake up and fly to Boundary Bay airport to take in a day of aviation in the Power Pilot program.
After finishing the seven-week camp, he now has his Transport Canada Power Pilot Licence. So it was the perfect camp for Macauley, who has wanted to be a pilot for as long as he can remember. His first positive experience was seeing the pilot of the Martin Mars at an airshow in Comox, at about age four.
“I waved at her, and she waved back,” he says.
It’s that sort of excitement for aviation that the Macauleys hope to spark with new cadets as they enter the program. While it is the focus of the program, many of the cadets moving through the program aren’t focused on becoming pilots.
But that’s starting to change.
Second Warrant Officer (WO2) Ashley Cameron, 17, has her sights set on becoming a commercial airline pilot. She also walked away from the Power Pilot Program with her licence, getting her closer to that dream. And she had the unique experience of bunking and training with an all-female flight crew in Alberthead.
“We’d get up at 5:30 a.m. and drive out to the Victoria Flying Club,” she says. There were eight other females in the program this summer, higher numbers than in recent years.
“We were flying every single day,” she says, and studying as well. The program is intense, but it’s also free.
All three of the cadets are hoping to get that message across to young people in the community who may think becoming a pilot is not economically feasible. And there’s a growing demand for pilots and all associated positions in Canada right now.
“We want to push more potential pilots into our squadron,” Cameron says. Surprisingly there had only been about a half dozen power pilots come out of the program locally since 1989. That started to change two years ago, and now they have three more.
The 147 Airwolf Squadron meets every Tuesday night, beginning on Sept. 5, at the Princess Armouries on Princess Ave.