London

Have you noticed fighter jets flying over London? Here's why

If you've seen fighter jets over the city recently, it's because a London company is training fighter pilots for the Malaysian Air Force and they're practicing everything from combat to tactical maneuvering.

Right now the Malaysian Air Force is training in the skies over the Forest City

Fighter planes seen flying over London are part of the International Tactical Training Centre's lessons for the Malaysian Air Force. (Supplied by ITTC)

If you've seen fighter jets over the city recently, it's because a London company is training fighter pilots for the Malaysian Air Force and they're practicing everything from combat to tactical manoeuvring. 

And while they're not taking up any more airspace than they normally do, the lack of commercial flights and recent renovations on a London International Airport runway have made the loud fighter jets more noticeable than ever. 

"They're practicing aircraft-to-aircraft combat, aircraft-to-ground combat, and aerobatics," said Giorgio Clementi, the  owner of ITPS Canada, which he established here in London in 2009. 

"Top Gun is a couple of notches above what we do, but eventually these pilots will go back to their home countries and become the top guns for their air forces." 

Fighter pilots train in airspace above London, Ont. (Supplied by ITTC)

Clementi's company has two divisions. The first is one of only four accredited test pilot schools in the world. It takes experienced pilots and engineers from around the world and teaches them how to test new aircraft designs and how to get certification for new aircraft. 

Those pilot are here for a year at a time, and learn everything about 20 different aircraft, from single-engine propeller planes to large jets. Clients have included the Italian, Turkish, Malaysian and Chinese air forces. 

Fundamentals of fighter jets

The second part of the business trains fighter pilots. The London company gets contracts from foreign governments and eventually gets them flying on five jet trainers. The model is an Aero L39 Albatros. 

"It's one of the most popular jet trainers in the world," said Clementi. "We basically take pilots who can fly a propeller airplane train them to be fighter pilots. We give them all the fundamentals that they need." 

COVID-19 has, like for every other sector of society, forced the flight school to do things differently. 

These days, everything is done online, including the pre- and post-flight briefs and all lectures. But the pilots still need to get their flight hours in, so cockpits are disinfected before each flight. 

About the Author

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.