Three local cadets have had a very enjoyable summer as they experienced an elite scholarship program where they each made efforts towards pilots’ licenses.
Flight sergeants Daniel Theoret, 16, Joel Paquet, 17, and Mitchell Pierce, 17, are all members of the 65 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, based in Ponoka. All three of these young men have had lifelong aspirations to become pilots and with the passing of this summer they are closer to their dreams.
The squadron’s Commanding Officer Captain Tracey Fiedler, was extremely proud of her cadets. She explained the process to even apply for these scholarships is rigorous, let alone the process after admission.
“Everything that they’ve done in their cadet career counts towards whether first of all they are even eligible to apply for the scholarship. There has to be a certain type of cadet who has really earned the right to go through these scholarship programs.
“All of those things build up to just being able to apply – we can only send so many cadets per squadron for training. After that, the entire process is highly competitive and it’s top cadets who are competing.”
Theoret applied for and received the Glider Flying Scholarship, allowing him to attain his Glider wings. This is often a pre-requisite necessary to be accepted into the Power Flying program, which Paquet and Pierce attended.
“I got finished my training hours on the last day that I could finish and was pretty much the last person who flew that day. I got finished right in time for grad parade,” said Theoret.
“For me, being able to get my wings, have enough hours and pass the exams – it’s like everything came full circle from being that little kid who wanted so badly to be a pilot to now. It’s a huge accomplishment for me – I’m still very, very excited about it.”
Usually, cadets will move through beginners to advanced aviation courses, followed by Glider Flying before Power Flying. Paquet was the only cadet in his program to have been accepted into the Power Flying Scholarship program without his Glider wings certification, said Fiedler.
“When I first heard that I was accepted to this scholarship, I got a phone call from Captain Fiedler and I was ecstatic – this is the main reason I joined the air cadet program,” Paquet beamed.
“It means so much to me. My ultimate life goal is to become a fighter pilot in the air force. In my mind, that is the hardest job you can aspire to in Canada – it’s next to trying to become the Prime Minister. That’s the difficulty of getting that position, but that’s a dream I’ve had since I was about eight years old.”
In order to be accepted into the prestigious scholarship programs, the cadets build requirements throughout their career. The Powers Scholarship program is particularly difficult to not only be accepted into, but to pass.
“First, we have to take ground school, and we do that once a week for four months. At the end, there’s a big exam and you have to get at least 75 to be competitive and be likely to be accepted to the scholarship. You also have to write a narrative about yourself on why you deserve and want the scholarship, and what makes us good cadets,” explained Pierce.
“We also go in front of a board that has a member from the Air Cadet League, a parent volunteer and an officer. They drill us with questions on everything from what it means to be a good cadet, to being a good citizen and showing leadership to technical questions about meteorology and aircraft.”
Fiedler said Pierce was being modest about the efforts put forth to attain his Powers wings. She said in addition to the aforementioned efforts, the cadets are also drilled in interviews multiple times a week for six weeks prior to their oral exam.
As well, there is an extreme physical demand throughout the training. Cadets must pull their small planes 500 meters or more on the runways, after doing rigorous mental tasks before, during and after the flights.
“The other thing is, a lot of squadrons didn’t receive any scholarships and we received three – that’s amazing. These guys really worked hard to get there,” Fiedler said.
“The physical and mental workload is amazing. They have that added to the pressure of how much they want to pass and what they’ve done to even get there. It’s incredible what they go through.”
She said there are major benefits to having the cadets complete these programs, in their personal lives and in the benefit of the squadron. She said their completion of the programs would encourage younger cadets to do the same, and to push themselves for eligibility for applications.
All of the cadets were quick to recommend the Air Cadet program to youths in the region, even if they aren’t set on becoming a pilot.
“It’s an absolute blast, but it’s difficult,” said Pierce.
“It’s an amazing program. About half the kids in cadets aren’t interested in aviation but they still love the program. There’s fitness, marksmanship and the camaraderie. The experience is unreal.”