Air Cadet to Aerobat

News / June 10, 2016

By: Capt Cheryl Major, Public Affairs Officer, Regional Cadet Support Unit (Pacific)

There’s no expectation for air cadets to join the military when they finish the Cadet Program but for some, it’s a dream come true.

Captain Ave Pyne, Snowbird 2 and the Training Officer for 431 Squadron, knew he wanted to be a pilot for as long as he can remember. Coming from a family of travelers with a father in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), some of his earliest memories include running through airports gazing at the planes on the ramp. He first thought about being a Snowbird in the 90s when he visited 431 Squadron in Moose Jaw with his dad.

“Looking at the memorabilia drew my attention and made start to think about just what kind of impact the Snowbirds can have on Canadians.”

Dreams set in motion, Ave joined 676 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron (RCACS) in Sidney, BC at the age of 13 with intentions of becoming a pilot through the scholarship programs. Little did he know that the Cadet Program would set the bar for achievement for the rest of his life.

“The person that was the biggest inspiration for me, going through the Cadet Program, was Captain Sandra Pinard (nee Dalley), who set very high standards. Consistently trying to achieve those standards developed a very strong work ethic, as well as a high level motivation and dedication. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to persist towards the goals I was striving for.”

Ave also learned how to teach during his time with the Cadet Program, which served him well in becoming a senior instructor with the Canadian Forces Flying Training School.

“I gained my love of instruction as an air cadet. I developed a sense of satisfaction through developing the credibility to be an instructor in the Cadet Program that I have taken forward with me. The skills I learned as a teenager are 100 per cent relevant to teaching flying.”

In 1998, Ave’s first aviation dream came true when he attended the Glider Scholarship Course at 19 Wing in Comox, BC.

“Glider was the best course I did in air cadets. Gliding is the basics of aviation at the purest level and the structure of the program teaches teamwork. Getting my glider wings is a close second to getting my Canadian Forces wings in terms of pride and accomplishment for me.”

Ave continued to earn a private pilot’s license through another scholarship in 1999 and in 2001 he joined the CAF as a pilot. His choice to pursue helicopters during training was even influenced by one of the Cadet Instructor Cadre (CIC) Officers he had met as a cadet in Comox.

“Captain Kent Neville wasn’t my flight instructor but his leadership inspired me. He gained my respect and I’ve looked to him several times for guidance; he was the person that suggested I consider helicopters.”

As a Sea King pilot at 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, Ave found time to give back to the Cadet Program at 676 RCACS. He volunteered with the band and even played during the squadron’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Now, as a Snowbird, Ave continues giving back to youth across Canada, inspiring other young pilots to strive for their dreams.

“The Snowbirds allow us to demonstrate the teamwork, professionalism, service and esprit de corps of the Canadian Forces but we also inspire future generations to reach for their goals. People see us do what seems impossible and it becomes possible.”

His advice for cadets and other youth starting on the path to success includes focusing on teamwork and making the most of the friendships forged in the program.

“Keep in touch with the people you meet in the Cadet Program,” says Ave, “The friendships you make while you are young will maintain and become your network as an adult; people who are motivated as youth tend to become driven, professional and successful in life.”

Captain Greg Hume-Powell, Snowbird 6, first dreamed of becoming a pilot at the age of five, when he saw the Snowbirds perform at the Abbotsford Airshow. He also joined the Cadet Program, with 103 Thunderbird RCACS in North Vancouver, because of the flying opportunities. He credits his first ground school instructor, Captain James Hollis, with making the academics of aviation fun, and for teaching him the patience to use an E6B Flight Computer, a version of which he still uses today with the Tudor. In fact, he credits the Cadet Program and CIC Officers with giving him direction, motivation, and the skills he needed to study hard, teach his mind to prioritize and allow himself to dream big.

“If I had listened to my guidance counsellor at school, I wouldn’t be here; don’t let anyone else tell you how you can achieve your dreams.”

Greg’s path to becoming a Snowbird was less direct, he first joined the CAF as a CIC Officer and spent his spare time in college taking cadets on familiarization flights and teaching ground school with 243 Ogopogo RCACS. He joined the CAF as a pilot in 2003, eventually flying Sea Kings with 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron and becoming a senior instructor with CFFTS and is about to begin his first summer as a Snowbird.

“My experience as a CIC Officer definitely made me a better instructor, and having the opportunity to stay involved in the program, and be in uniform, kept me on the path towards becoming a pilot with the Canadian Forces.”

Very few CAF pilots get to wear the red flight suit; getting there is a long process of patience, failure, critical self-development and constant improvement. Both pilots agree that they would not be where they are now if they had not been cadets.

The Snowbirds will spend this summer flying across North America impressing audiences with more than 50 different formations and manoeuvres during each 35 minute show. They will perform for hundreds of thousands of people, sign thousands of autographs and even pose for the occasional selfie.

Although Ave and Greg are real-life superheroes to many Canadians now, they will always stay grounded by remembering the fun, friendships and experiences you can’t get anywhere else that occurred on the path from air cadet to aerobat.

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