Sault native and the first Canadian Woman in Space, Dr Roberta Bondar cut the ribbon for a unique training program at the Bushplane that benefits Air Cadets. The Dr Roberta Bondar Air Cadet Training Program (DRBACTP)is unique in Ontario and possibly Canada as this program will run from Sept to June annually. The first phase of the partnership between the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and the 155 Air Cadet Sqn will be Aircraft Maintenance and is to be instructed by qualified volunteer Air Craft Maintenance Engineers. The cadets will learn parts of aircraft and how to pre flight aircraft while using the static displays and other related equipment in the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre (CBHC). The cadets will also be able to disassemble and reassemble display aircraft engines to see how the parts move in a four cycle engine that provides thrust for an aircraft during flight.
Also assisting in cutting the ribbon was Col Yve Thomson, Commander 16 Wing, Capt. Jim Browne CO of the 155 Air Cadet Sqn. Cadet WO1 Christiane Boudreau and Craig Hawkins, Air Cadet League of Canada, Ontario Provincial Committee. Mike Delfrie, Executive Director of the CBHC explained to those attending that from concept to actually having Air Cadets starting to learn, took over two years which saw Derrick Messner-Henning and Steve Blanchard the two Aircraft Maintenance Engineers become volunteer instructors as well as a proposal of the training to be approved by the Regional Cadet Support Unit.
The idea to do this kind of unique training was first conceived three to four years ago when the 155 Sqn briefly paraded at the Bushplane as the Armoury floor was being resurfaced. Three Air Cadets that are presently in their third year with the 155 Sqn. have started the initial training approximately two months ago. Craig Hawkins gave incite to the program by stating” Let’s put this project into perspective, a 12 or 13 year old Air Cadet picks up a wrench and learns how an engine works”. “That same cadet can later apply for a six week Aircraft Maintenance Course during the summer at Canadore Collage where they can earn two high school credits and then possibly choose to go onto a career in civilian or military aviation maintenance.” Mr Hawkins took the opportunity to bestow upon Dr Bondar “Honorary Air Cadet” and pinned the 75th Anniversary Air Cadet League pin on her flight jacket. There is no monetary cost to join the 155 Air Cadets, and participate in the Air Craft Maintenance Course or summer training, the only cost is dedication and hard work which builds on future leaders. There will be opportunities for first and second year cadets as well as other levels to participate in training at the Bushplane in the coming training year.
WO1 Christine Boudreau with the help of Dr Bondar unveiled a photograph collage of the three current air cadets in the program that was presented to Dr Bondar on the occasion of the ribbon cutting. Sean Clement a past 155 Air Cadet who is currently taking Digital Photography at Sault Collage was the photographer of this print. The Aircraft Maintenance Program received support in the form of a donation of personal hand tools that belonged to Keith O’Neil who recently passed away. He was a former 2310 Army Cadet and supporter of all cadets believing in the benefits of the cadet program. His wife Eve graciously donated the tools so that the 155 air cadets could start their training. The 432 Algoma Wing of the Air Force Association also donated funds to assist in some start up of this program. As this training is optional within the Air Cadet program, monetary donations and donated equipment will be needed as the project grows and increases in numbers of cadets.
After the formal portion of the ribbon cutting was over the 155 Air Cadets retired into the Ranger Theater where they got to hear Dr Bondar talk about her fond memories of growing up in Sault Ste Marie and watching the Ministry of Natural Resources aircraft take off and land at what was then the Provincial Air Service hangar. She described her interest in aviation and neurology while explaining in very interesting descriptions of the human body in space. One of these was why an astronaut only needs three litres of blood in space as opposed to the five on earth. The cadets had the chance to ask questions of Dr Bondar. F/Sgt. Ben Fisher asked if she had done this question period with other Air Cadet before? She said that “she is very busy and pulled in many different directions but always willing to come home and give back to her community, no, this was the first.” After approximately forty minutes of discussion and one question from Zachery a five year old who is one of Dr Bondar’s youngest and biggest fans, F/Cpl. Angelica Lanthier who is one of three cadets participating in the Aircraft Maintenance Program presented Dr Bondar with a dozen yellow roses as a thank you from the 155 Air Cadet Sqn.
Saturday was another busy day for the 155 Sqn Cadets as Col Thomson was the Reviewing Officer for the 74th Annual Review which took place at the Pine Street Armoury at 10:00 am. This was a chance for the cadets to demonstrate what they had learned since June and in many cases over the years of training. Awards and Bursaries were presented to hard working cadets for this years and accumulated years of dedication. The drill team demonstrated their abilities in silent drill and the combined 155 Air and 2310 Army Pipe and Drum Band performed their award winning performance for those gathered. The Pipe and Drum Band will be competing at the end of May in the Provincial Area Band and Drill Competition to see who is the top band in Ontario. Col Thomson commended the cadets on parade for their hard work and also spoke fondly of her child hood of coming to “the big city of the Soo” from small town Manitouge where she grew up. The family would often stay at the Holiday Inn that had a heated pool which was a nice change from Northern Lakes that “where cold”. This was her first time returning to the Soo since joining the military. Col Thomson’s command oversees all of the technical trades related to aircraft maintenance, training of Search and Rescue Technicians as well as many other trades.
The 155 Air Cadet Sqn. meets at the Pine St. Armoury on Wed nights from 6:30 to 9:15 and the training is open to boys and girls aged 12 to 18 years of age. The 155 Sqn trains youth the principals of flight and other aircraft related training, there are two flight simulators available for the cadets to receive training from qualified pilots some of whom have earned their pilots licence through the Air Cadet program. Cadets can learn to play the pipes, drums or highland dancing. There is no cost to join or participate in training or the optional training. Transportation, accommodations and meals are provided when cadets participate in sanctioned training. Many cadets make lifelong friendships while having fun. To learn more about the 155 Air Cadet Sqn visit, www.aircadets.ca .