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Coated in a bright blue, red and white paint scheme commemorating the 60th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the CF-18 Hornet that will perform at 26 airshows throughout North America and the United Kingdom made its official debut April 3 at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta.
The Royal Canadian Air Force unveiled the jet and the 2018 CF-18 Demonstration Team before a largely Air Force audience in the hangar of the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment.
The team will arrive at 19 Wing Comox, B.C., on Thursday for training for almost three weeks before launching into an airshow schedule that begins in Trenton, N.J., in early May and concludes in Chesterfield, Mo., in mid-October, with stops at shows across Canada and the United States.
The Demonstration Team will also be performing in the United Kingdom at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton,and at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Royal Air Force Fairford.
Several themes were considered for the 2018 demo jet, but the unique NORAD paint scheme “will allow us to speak with Canadians and Americans across North America about the importance of the NORAD mission and its successes,” said BGen Sean Boyle, the deputy commander of 1 Canadian Air Division.
A radar control operator who has spent much of his career immersed in the binational command, he said the demo jet could have an “immeasurable” public relations impact and should serve as reminder “that it really is the longest standing defence agreement on the planet.”
“This aircraft and its stunning paint job will no doubt serve as a fitting reminder that 24/7, 365 days a year, there are Canadian and American service members ready to respond to any situation at a moment’s notice,” said Stefan “Porcelain” Porteous, the 2018 demonstration pilot.
Born and raised in Comox, Porteous said he applied for the role when the opportunity arose. A member of 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., with over 600 hours on the Hornet since receiving his wings in 2013, he deliberately avoiding “peeking” at the jet until the reveal.
“I think the contrasts are going to look incredible airborne,” he said as he walked around it in the hangar for the first time. “I’m very excited and motivated, and looking forward to flying.”
The design was created by Reserve Captain Jeff Chester, under the mentorship of Jim Belliveau, renowned for designing many of the commemorative paint schemes of previous demonstration Hornets and other RCAF aircraft.
Chester admitted he went through 65 different drawings before achieving the final concept, which was inspired by the NORAD crest and logo, as well as the slogan “We have the watch.”
The design also captures elements of a radar sweep and the Northern Lights across the wings in the colours of both national flags.
“I hope this design can be a badge of honour for all those men and women who stand on the watch … in NORAD,” he said.
The design and colours were chosen to be both eye-catching to airshow audiences on the tarmac and from a distance in the air, he added.
“I think it is dark enough that it will pop against the sky.”
Chester had not seen the finished paint job and admitted he was uncertain just what it would look like on the aircraft.
“It’s actually way better than I thought when we finalized the design. It has surpassed what I was hoping for,” he said.
Belliveau, who served as a creative consultant, had high praise for both Chester and the paint and support team of Cpl Philip Knaus, Cpl Daniel Jacobs, Cpl Matthew Recollet, Avr Gabriel Fortier, Sgt Fred Lanouette, MCpl Darin Adams, MCpl Dale Perry, MCpl Philip Wells, Cpl Tanya Campbell, Cpl Maxime Robichaud and Cpl Fleix Gendron-Bourgoin.
“It was a joy to be the bridge between Jeff’s incredible talent and their incredible talent,” he said.
Belliveau was recently recognized by the International Council of Air Shows for his many designs with its highest honour, the Platinum Pinnacle Award.