British Columbia air cadet achieves ‘rare air’

Meet WO First Class Andrew Crawford, who recently achieved an unusual and rare distinction — qualifying as a tow plane pilot while still a Royal Canadian Air Cadet.

Tow pilot civilian instructor Andrew Crawford with one of the tow planes at Comox Cadet Flying Training Centre. RCAF Photo
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Crawford, from 767 Dearman Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in Whalley, B.C., is excited to have achieved some “rare air” in the cadet world with his recent accomplishment! In fact, it’s possible he’s British Columbia’s first, and Canada’s second-ever, cadet to achieve this qualification.

The Air Cadet program carries out thousands of glider flights each year in locations across Canada. The aim of the glider familiarization program is to provide each Air Cadet with at least one familiarization flight per year. The seven-week summer Glider Pilot Scholarship course provides an opportunity for Air Cadets to obtain a glider pilot’s license. Cadet Instructor Cadre (a sub-component of the Reserve Force) officers, civilian instructors and cadets qualified as glider instructors or glider tow pilots comprise the flying training staff. The gliders are towed by Cessna 182 aircraft modified for glider towing operations.

Crawford joined the Air Cadet program in 2012 with the ambition to make the most of his experience. Rising through the ranks with a passion for flying, he pursued his dream of becoming a pilot through the unique opportunities offered through the Cadet Program.

The thought of becoming a tow pilot while still a cadet became real once he brought the idea up to Maj Rob Allison, deputy commanding officer of the Comox Cadet Flying Training Centre (CFTC) and LCol Keith Stewart, Comox CFTC commanding officer. After some deliberation and checking, it was confirmed that he would be able to challenge the course. To get the pre-requisite 100 flight hours as pilot-in-command, Crawford took a year off from school. His work paid off, and in June 2019, he completed his ambition.

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“The Air Cadet Flying Program gave me something, the ability to fly,” said Crawford. “I want to give back as much as I can.

“From what I understand, for someone to become a tow pilot while still being an air cadet is a huge step for the program. My goal to become a tow pilot started at the end of last year. As I instructed all summer, I knew that in the time period I have left as a cadet I would be able to accomplish this achievement. This course has been steady paced with a lot of information compressed into a two-week course. There were also many instructors who helped me on the path to become a tow pilot.”

Crawford “ages out” of the cadet program this year. He is working as a civilian instructor at Comox CFTC for the summer, and plans to attend the University of Waterloo’s aviation and geography program in the fall.

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