Demonstration pilot Captain Brian Kilroy shows the right stuff

November 19, 2019 - Defence Stories
Author: Cliff Kenyon

Captain Brian Kilroy can’t hide his enthusiasm telling you about the fun he had this summer.

And for good reason; he got to fly his favourite CF-18 Hornet every weekend in twists and turns as well as represent 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) across the country and a stop in the U.S.

Captain Kilroy was this year’s CF-18 Hornet demonstration pilot, flying at air shows from June until late September.

Now back in Cold Lake and returning to his regular job as an instructor with 4 Wing 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron, Captain Kilroy said it was a “great summer.”

Most of the flying at 4 Wing Cold Lake involves missions over the weapons range north of the city, but as the demonstration pilot for the summer, Captain Kilroy flew in several different locations.

The show season started in June in Val D’Or, Quebec. Before that, it required a couple of months of training and practice to perfect the performance.

Captain Kilroy said an air show requires different flying techniques, such as flying as low as 300 feet with large crowds of people near the airfield. And, as usual, safety is the top priority.

“It’s non-standard flying. It’s a very specialized type of training to ensure it’s a safe summer,” he said. “Your flying has to be tighter, crisper.”

The team also visited such communities as North Bay, Ontario, Boundary Bay, British Columbia, conducted a flypast in Ottawa and made a stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“It’s the same flying for every show, but it never gets old. I like flying the Hornet and could do it every day. We pretty much covered the whole country.”

Captain Kilroy wasn’t alone on the mission. It was truly a national team. Without the hard work of each team member, the CF-18 Demo Hornet would never get off the ground. The team comprised 13 members including Captain Kilroy, eight technicians, three safety pilots and a public affairs officer and narrator.

The eight technicians were split into two teams of four. The east crew from 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, took care of the jet during shows on the east coast and the west crew from 4 Wing took care of the west coast. The technicians drove to each show site bringing their trailer that contained the necessary tools and parts to maintain the CF-18 Demo jet. Throughout the 2019 air show season the Demo Team technicians travelled across Canada ensuring the demo jet was fit to fly.

At each show site, one of the three safety pilots was present to monitor the demonstration and provide support to the demonstration pilot. The public affairs officer and narrator attended shows to provide communications support and narrate the performance.

The theme this year was “To the stars…” as the demonstration team celebrated the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force and innovation that helps the RCAF on the pathway to the stars.

The 2019 season also provided an opportunity to highlight the RCAF’s operational role within NATO, a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy, as it celebrates its 70th anniversary.

“The 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team theme is an opportunity for the Royal Canadian Air Force to reflect on the innovations and people that have contributed to our success while challenging ourselves and the next generation to help us shape the future of our organization for the better,” said Major-General Christian Drouin, former commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region. “I am very proud of what the RCAF has accomplished in the last 95 years but I can’t wait to see where the next few decades take us.”

Captain Kilroy, who had time at shows to meet with visitors, said he especially enjoyed that part of each day.

“We met the whole spectrum from adults to little kids who have never been to an airshow before.”

He said many visitors know little about aircraft and the CF-18 while some seem expert: “They asked questions that even had me stumped.”

He said he enjoyed telling visitors some of the team members, including himself, were from 4 Wing Cold Lake.

“I told them we we’re from a big base beside a small city.” He said. “We get to show the public what the military is all about.”

His next task will be to help train the next demonstration pilot for shows during 2020.

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