CAF Story | Brigadier-General Lise Bourgon

Video / December 4, 2019


I remember when I came in the Recruiting Centre in ‘87, they were opening all the trades for an operational for women and they asked me if I wanted to be a pilot. And I thought that was a good idea, so why not? So, that's why I became a pilot. But through my first few years, something happened is I truly fell in love with the Sea King. I fell in love with the job I was doing, I fell in love with going to sea and it's been 32 years and I'm still here and I'm loving every day.

The Sea King was a crew with four people. We had two pilots, we had one air combat systems officer and one airborne electronic sensor operator. So you could be... The AESOP would be manning the sonar, the ACSO would be navigating and also being in charge of the torpedo parameters and, of course, the two pilots were flying the aircraft.

So, it took an entire team effort to be doing specific duties such as an antisubmarine warfare. So, the four of us working together was really what it took for flying and fighting, the Sea King at sea.

426 was one of the six aircraft that were modified in less than two weeks for Operation Friction in the First Gulf War. They were equipped with a self-defence suite which had chaff and flares, it had a forward-looking infrared equipment, it had a machine gun. So, this reconfiguration that happened in the 90s really, really changed how we fought with this machine and changed the last thirty years of the seeking operational mission.

I think when I look back at my time at sea, it would be sailing on a ship. We deployed with the Navy and we had no idea where we were gonna end up. We sailed and we were gonna be gone for six months and our airfield was really the ship. And we went where the sea took us. One day, we were doing antisubmarine warfare, the next day, we were doing above the surface. The day after, we could have been doing a logistic run or search and rescue. So, it was never a boring life.

But I guess the one that is the hardest is actually landing this aircraft on the back of a ship. It's really like landing on a dime and you take your dime and you move it like that. It's probably the most challenging task that any pilot can do, especially when the weather is bad or the sea state is very high.

No one gets lost when the sea state is calm. So, every time you launch on a search and rescue operation, it's in the worst weather conditions. So, it's very, very interesting because you got to get the job done. Someone might die on your watch and you've got to give everything you have.

When you land on the deck, it takes you 20, 25, 30 minutes to make a good landing and then, at the end of the flight, as you're finally down, you take your pulse and your pulse is like 180 because you've just been a ball of nerves for the entire time that you were trying to land.

I was lucky with the Sea King. The sea actually goes up and forward and the pedals, the same thing. What a luxury for an aircraft designed in 1963! So, it was a challenge.

Flight suit. Well, usually, you grab the smallest size and you hope that it will actually fit. I had to kind of place my foot down with my immersion suit and the neck seal because the seals were always too big and would allow water to seep through. So, they had to order extra small for me, but then, you know, they found the solution.

Now, though, with the new gender-based analysis tool that the Government of Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces are enforcing, all project, equipment, material needs to reflect that diversity and respect women. So now, there's no longer... that factor is no longer in play because the material that we procure will fit every woman and man the same way.

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