RCAF welcomes ten newly-winged pilots

A group of 10 people wearing military uniforms, including “wedge” caps, stand in front of a small aircraft inside a hangar.
Graduates of the multi-engine course, along with school personnel, Honorary Colonel Andy Fletcher (left) and Brigadier-General Mario Leblanc (third from the left), gather for a photo after being presented with their pilot wings during the 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School Wing Graduation Ceremony held July 26, 2019, at Southport, Manitoba. PHOTO: Corporal Angela Gore, WG2019-0378-050

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By Lieutenant Camille MacKenzie Dolphin

On July 26. 2019, ten Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilots successfully completed the third phase of their pilot course at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training school in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, and received their official pilot wings.

The ten new military pilots demonstrated exceptional abilities during their time learning to fly RCAF aircraft. Candidates receive their wings when they graduate the third phase of their pilot training, regardless of the airframe they are selected to fly.

“I am very excited and proud of myself, I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it is happening. I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time and had the support of my family during my training, who have come from Montreal to see me graduate, so today is their day,” said Lieutenant Stefan Bobes.

The day they receive their wings is always a very significant milestone for pilots in the RCAF, because getting that winged recognition required hard work and dedication. Each candidate spent hundreds of hours in ground school, in the flight simulator and in their selected airframes.

This milestone is not the end for the graduating pilots, as they will continue studying and training to learn how to fly their selected airframes. Among the ten graduates, four members were from the multi-engine course and six from the rotary-wing course.

They will now all be posted to squadrons across the RCAF and, once there, will spend time at their respective communities’ operational training units. For example, Lieutenant Rachel Wilt will be posted to 440 Transport Squadron in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to fly the CC-138 Twin Otter multi-engine aircraft, Lieutenant Zakary Kolkowski will be posted to 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, to fly the CC-130 Hercules multi-engine aircraft, and Lieutenant Sarbjeet Nijher will be posted to 439 Combat Support Squadron at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, to fly the CH-146 Griffon helicopter.

The commander of 2 Canadian Air Division, Brigadier-General Mario Leblanc, was the reviewing officer for the graduation ceremony and presented the military pilots with their wings in front of their proud families and friends.

“Graduates, I would like to offer you a very warm congratulations! Today is the day you officially receive your pilot wings; it is also a day where you can take a moment to honour all of the tenacity and courage it took to bring you to this moment,” he told the graduates.

“It truly is satisfying to be done with this part of my training, but when you get to this point you realise there is still a long way to go,” said Lieutenant John Rustad, the top graduate of the multi-engine course, who will continue his studies at Seneca College in Ontario before being posted to a squadron.

The ten new RCAF pilots are:

Lieutenant Zakary Kolkowski
Captain Kurtis McConnell
Lieutenant John Rustad
Lieutenant Rachel Wilt
Lieutenant Stefan Bobes
Captain Benjamin Critch
Lieutenant Robin Geerkens
Lieutenant Jeffrey Girard
Lieutenant Sarbjeet Nijher
Captain Oliver Woodbridge

Image gallery

  • A group of 10 people wearing military uniforms, including “wedge” caps, stand in front of a small aircraft inside a hangar.
  • A group of 14 people wearing military uniforms, including “wedge” caps, stand or kneel in front of a small helicopter inside a hangar.
  • Two military persons.

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