RCAF celebrates Canada in the sky

The “wow factor” generally associated with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s annual Demonstration Hornet has gone into afterburner mode in the 2017 iteration which commemorates the country’s sesquicentennial. It features the “Canada 150” logo, a series of diamonds or “celebratory gems” in the shape of the maple leaf. The four diamonds at the base represent the four original provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Additional diamonds extend out from the base to nine more points, the total of 13 representing all current provinces and territories.

The seven-week project was coordinated by Jim Belliveau, director of the graphics section at 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta. Belliveau, who also designed the livery on the RCAF’s Airbus CC-150 Polaris transports, has been responsible for more than two dozen demo Hornet projects.

The port wing on his latest venture features Confederation’s 1867-2017 time span and the starboard wing the “Canada 150” logo. The demo team’s spokesperson, Lieutenant Jennifer Halliwell, told FrontLine that “all aspects of the design come together to create a truly unique and fitting tribute to this important year in Canada’s history.”

Rolled out April 4 at 4 Wing, this year’s CF-18 Hornet, Tail No. 734, is usually based at 3 Wing in Bagotville, Quebec. It was among 138 delivered to the RCAF by McDonnell Douglas between 1982 and 1988 and has since logged some 6,596 hours in 32 years of service.  

“3 Wing is honoured to provide our aircraft,” said Col Darcy Molstad, Commander 3 Wing Bagotville. “The teamwork required to get this jet painted is just one example of how Canadians can come together to produce a spectacular product. We cannot thank 4 Wing enough for their support.”

MGen Christian Drouin, the Winnipeg-based Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region, agreed that the sesquicentennial Hornet was “just one of the many ways that the men and women of the RCAF are working to honour their rich heritage.”

Also on hand for the rollout was Capt Matthew Kutryk, this year’s demo pilot, as well as the technicians and other team support staff. The Alberta-born pilot was inspired to fly when he saw his first airshow, at Cold Lake in the late 1980s, soon going on to win his glider and private pilot licences as a Royal Canadian Air Cadet before joining the Canadian Armed Forces in 2006.

After completing Hornet operational training at 4 Wing in 2013, he was posted to 2 Wing where, in addition to flying NORAD missions, he has been a section lead and fighter electronic warfare instructor with 425 Squadron.

Captain Matthew Kutryk

“Seeing this incredible jet in person has made me even more motivated to share it with Canadians,” Kutryk said. “There will be no doubt during any of our stops this airshow season that this jet represents Canada and the amazing year we are celebrating. I hope that this jet will inspire all Canadians to chase their dreams as I did.”

The 2017 demo team’s demanding schedule began in April with training at CAF Base Comox on Vancouver Island before Kutryk’s first air show, April 29-30, in Chennault, Louisiana, site of a former U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command base. The team will criss-cross Canada, including a July 1st flyby over the nation’s capital, and eventually wind-up in Grand Junction, Colorado, on October 1st.   

Ken Pole is a contributing editor at FrontLine.