Edmonton

'A dream come true': Alberta pilot named to elite flying team

Soaring at only 300 feet above the ground at the controls of a fighter jet is a childhood dream come true for Matthew Kutryk.

'It's going to be very distinct. When you see this demo, you're going to know it'

The Royal Canadian Air Force has named Capt. Matthew Kutryk as the pilot for the 2017 CF-18 demonstration team. (The Royal Canadian Air Force)

Soaring at only 300 feet above the ground at the controls of a fighter jet is a childhood dream come true for Matthew Kutryk.

The Royal Canadian Air Force has selected Capt. Kutryk as the pilot for the 2017 CF-18 demonstration team.

The prestigious role means he'll be wowing audiences around North America during the 2017 airshow season.

"We'll do high performance manoeuvres, loops, rolls and high speed passes," Kutryk said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"And combinations of those manoeuvres in a complex way to present something to the crowd that looks exciting and demonstrates the capability of the machine."

And when he hits the sky, he'll be flying in a specially painted CF-18 commemorating Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Instead of the standard slate grey, the twin-engine fighter jet will be emblazoned with a special patriotic paint job.

'It's going to be a proud jet to fly'

"It's going to be very distinct. When you see this demo, you're going to know it," said Kutryk, who is currently a section lead and fighter electronic warfare instructor with 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec.

"There are other demonstrations out there … but the CF-18 is going to have a huge Maple Leaf on the back, with a whole bunch of smaller Maple Leafs on the back. It will be clearly 'Canada 150.'  

"It's going to be a proud jet to fly and it's going to be very, very recognizable."

Kutryk was born in Fort Saskatchewan and spent most of his early childhood in Whitehorse, Yukon. He later lived on a farm near Beauvallon, Alta., where he graduated from Two Hills High School in 2002.

He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta and spent his summers fighting forest fires by air in Rocky Mountain House, Alta.

Cadet program gave him wings

Kutryk joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program as a boy and was with squadrons in Whitehorse and Mundare, Alta. He earned his glider pilot's licence in 2000 and his private pilot's licence in 2001.

He joined the Canadian Armed Forces in August 2006 and, after training missions across Canada, the United States and the High Arctic, earned his RCAF wings in May 2012.

He returned to Canada as a student at 410 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, and completed his operational training on the CF-18 in 2013.

Kutryk was inspired to become a pilot after watching his first airshow, at Cold Lake, as a young boy, He has a hard time believing how far he's come.

"No word of a lie, I joined the cadets when I was 12 and if someone had said, 'Hey, 12-year old Matthew, someday you might flying the CF 18' … I would have had a tough time believing that.

"It seemed like fantasy. It seemed like a goal that was just beyond reality, and now I'm laughing. I'm flying this airplane and I get this amazing opportunity to share that with Canadians."

In April, Kutryk will take to the skies over Comox, British Columbia, where the CF-18 demo team will be training in advance of its first flying gigs across the country.

"It's been a few years, but it feels like yesterday when I was flying a glider with the air cadet program," said Kutryk. 

"It's a dream come true for me, absolutely, and I'm humbled by that and I certainly recognize how lucky I am."

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon

Journalist

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca

With files from Tanara Mclean