It’s a full circle journey back to Comox for Capt. Ryan Kean.
Kean is the 2016 CF-18 Hornet demonstration team pilot, and has returned to 19 Wing to practise until the end of the month – the same location where he first got his glider pilot licence.
“I always wanted to be an F-18 pilot from when I was young. After going to an air show and seeing the F-18 fly with my dad kind of piqued the interest and got the inspiration going at a very young age,” he said.
Kean credits his time spent with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets as his preparation for a career of flying.
“I got involved with the air cadet program which nurtured that inspiration a little bit more, and allowed me to get to where I am today. I was part of the Regional Gliding School (Pacific) based here in Comox in 1998, and that’s where I got my glider’s licence. I always enjoy coming back to the Island; I lived in Victoria for many years, so it’s always nice coming back.”
Kean recalled seeing the F-18s when he was a cadet working and flying gliders in Comox on a semi-regular basis, and noted it was that inspiration which kept him going as a pilot in the military.
With more than 1,600 hours on high performance military aircraft, including 1,300 hours on the F-18 Hornet, Kean noted he hopes to find time to meet with a couple of cadet squadrons to share some of his experience and to provide insight on his experiences.
“There’s a cadet squadron from Nanaimo that’s coming up, and I’m planning on meeting with them,” he said. “I’m hoping to make my way down to Nanaimo or even Victoria to be able to talk to my old cadet squadron and some other cadets in the program.
“My feelings on how the cadet program worked for me, is that it got me to where I am today, and never lose sight on your dreams and goals no matter what they may be – keep that inspiration alive.”
For Comox Valley Warrant Officer 2nd Class air cadet Jordan Gardner, watching the F-18 demo team practices locally fuels his ambition to one day sit in that very same cockpit.
“As air cadets, we get really excited about that (F-18). We just look up and watch the F-18 or Cormorants fly by; it’s really awesome,” he told CTV Vancouver Island.
“I would love to get into the general flying, but it would be awesome to get into the air show flying, travel around, fly Snowbirds. I really want to learn how (the pilots) got into the Snowbird programs, and their beginning. I know that some of them were air cadets as well, and how they really used that to get up to where they are now…(My) ultimate ambition is to get into the CF-18 seat.”
The colours explained
Each year, the CF-18 demonstration team chooses a theme for the North American air show season, and displays the theme with a specially-painted CF-18 Hornet. The 2016 season theme is Training for Victory, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the pan-Canadian effort to train aircrew for the Second World War, including pilots, wireless operators, air gunners and navigators through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
Kean said the colours on the plane each have a significant meaning.
“Yellow was the main training colour for all the training aircraft involved in that plan. The black on the aircraft, while it was on some of the training aircraft, it’s there to represent the darkness that descended over Europe.”
He added the red represents the thin red line – the blood, sweat and tears that went into the effort.
Gracing the tails on both the right and left side of the aircraft are different images of aircrew involved in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, along with aircraft.
Close to the cockpit are a variety of locations in Canada – British Commonwealth station air bases where training took place, added Kean.