CF-18 Hornet Solo Display Pilot Interview

Captain Ryan Kean is the 2016 CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team pilot. We asked him a couple of questions for the next season.

Born in London, Ontario, he is the oldest of three brothers. Part of a military family, Capt Kean grew up across Canada, but considers Victoria, British Columbia, home. During his adolescent years in Victoria, Capt Kean was a member of 848 Royal Roads Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. As an Air Cadet, he earned his Glider Pilot’s License in 1998 from the Regional Gliding School (Pacific) in Comox, British Columbia. Hoping to turn his cadet experience into a career, Capt Kean joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2003 under the Regular Officer Training Plan. In 2005, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of Western Ontario. Capt Kean began his military flight training in the spring of 2006 in Portage-La-Prairie, Manitoba on the Grob 120A. He then completed Phase 2 Basic Flying Training on the CT-156 Harvard II at 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. After being selected to fly jet aircraft, Captain Kean continued his training in Moose Jaw on the CT-156 and then on the CT-155 Hawk jet trainer. On January 25, 2008, he earned his pilot’s wings and was posted to 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta for Phase 4 Fighter Lead-In Training. In January 2010, Captain Kean fulfilled his dream of becoming a fighter pilot when he graduated the CF-18 Fighter Pilot Course at 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) “Cougar” Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta. As a newly qualified CF-188 pilot, he was posted to 409 Tactical Fighter “Nighthawk” Squadron, also in Cold Lake. During his first flying tour, Captain Kean participated in multiple training missions and exercises all over Canada and the U.S.A. He conducted multiple sovereignty missions at home in support of NORAD and served on overseas operations where he flew 22 combat missions. In July 2013, he returned to 410 Squadron as an instructor pilot on the CF-188 and is now the Squadron Deputy Operations Officer. Captain Kean has over 1,600 hours on high performance military aircraft, including 1,300 hours on the CF-188 Hornet.

What did you felt when it was decided that you will be the next pilot representing Canada?

In one word, excitement. Having the chance to showcase the skill and professionalism of the Royal Canadian Air Force all over North America in this manner is a chance that few get to experience.During

Was there a selection? Or you volunteered and later you were picked?.

Each year the Team pilot is selected from one of our 2 fighter bases. This opportunity switches back and forth each year. Luckily for me, this year it was 4 Wing Cold lake`s turn to provide a pilot. Applicants with the proper prerequisites volunteer for the position through their chain of command. From there, the Commanding Officers decide which name they will put forward for approval from the Wing Commander and subsequently the Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg.

How many people are there in the demo team? Did you already meet them?

The CF-18 Demonstration Team is made up of 12 individuals including myself. 4 technicians will be chosen from each of Canada’s 2 fighter bases, 3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake. The technicians for the team are in the process of being selected at this time. The members from 3 Wing will act as my East Coast team while the 4 Wing members are the West Coast team. The remaining 3 members are all from 1 Canadian Air Division. They are the Team Coordinators, Narrators and Safety Pilots. While I am the one flying the aircraft, the entire team is standing beside me ensuring that we are ready to put on an amazing demonstration.loves to combine his professional job with flying. Steven obtained his Commercial Pilot licence and his Flight Instructor rating. Steven is an active flight instructor at our homebase Ursel (EBUL). He has been flying also the DA40 and DA42 and the Evektor Sportstar. He totalised 1000 hrs.

Did your training already started?

Training will begin in late March here in Cold Lake followed by a 2 week deployment to 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia to finish the syllabus. The training plan starts with missions flown in the simulator followed by actual sorties where I will put all the manoeuvres together. As I gain proficiency in the routine, I will step down my minimum altitudes until I get down to the routine minimum of 300ft AGL. The deployment to Comox, gives me the opportunity to training in a mountainous area and also over water. This deployment also gives the entire team a chance to employ our skills at a deployed location in preparation for the show season.

The CF-18 Demo Team is not well known in Europe. Who decides for an Atlantic adventure, any chance in the future?

Due to the distance to get to Europe it is very difficult to substantiate the required flying hours for the CF18 Demo to participate in an airshow there. Also the required maintenance required to take on this endeavour makes it harder as we have no RCAF base support over there. To maximize the number of airshow we can participate in, it was decided that the Team would focus its effort in North America.

The new design for the CF-18 for 2016 looks colorful and interesting. What was your first opinion, what went through your mind when you saw the proposed concept?

I found out that the theme for this year was going to be the commemoration of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) and Canada’s contribution to it well ahead of the general public. Also, I am lucky enough to be posted to the same Squadron that Jim Belliveau, the graphic artist responsible for Canada’s spectacular CF-18 Demo Jet paint jobs, is also posted. So I was able to talk to him on a daily basis and was able to take a look at his designs and even give some ideas, although he doesn’t need them. All that to say, when I saw the proposed concept art, I was astonished and excited that I would get the chance to fly that aircraft.

What airshow/event you are particularly eager to perform at?

While I’m excited to perform at every show site this summer, I’m really looking forward to the Cold Lake and London Ontario airshows. These shows will give me the chance to perform in front of my friends and family.

Any other solo demo team you know and like?

It’s hard as a kid from Canada not to be inspired at one point or another by the Snowbirds. Growing up seeing them at every airshow and now understanding the difficulty of their manoeuvres makes me like them as a team even more. It’s always impressive to see 9 aircraft in such tight formations flying those displays.

What are your favourite planes, jets besides the CF-18 of course?

I’ve always loved WW2 aircraft, and would have to say that my favourite among them is the F4U Corsair. As for jet aircraft, the F-15C Eagle.

Any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?

While we focus our attendance to North American airshows, the objective of the CF-18 Demonstration Team is to inspire people no matter where they are from. If aviation enthusiasts in Europe enjoy our demo team, I invite them to follow us on Facebook (/CF18Demo) to keep up with the Team’s news and developments.

We would like to thank Capt Alexandre Cadieux from Public Affairs of the Canadian Air Force and Captain Ryan Kean for their help! Infos and bio sources: rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca photos: Canadian Forces CF18 Demo Team facebook page and Public Affairs