COLD LAKE - The Royal Canadian Air Force has revealed a special new CF-18 that will be dazzling Canadians at air shows from coast-to-coast-to-coast this summer during an unveiling ceremony at 4-WING CFB Cold Lake this morning.
Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) personnel from across Canada came together on April 4 at CFB Cold Lake to witness the unveiling of the 2017 CF-18 demonstration team jet that will be touring the country as part of the Canada 150 celebrations this summer. Air force members revealed a custom-painted, red and white CF-18 that will be leading air shows in commemoration of Canada's 150 anniversary throughout the country in communities such as Greenwald, N.S., Comox, B.C., Yellowknife, N.W.T., Hay River, N.W.T. and Whitehorse, Yukon as well as Watson Lake, Yukon. The demonstration team will also be heading down to the Gulf of Mexico and Chenault, La. for air show events.
Also unveiled were the men and women who comprise the demonstration team and the pilot, Capt. Matt Kutryk. The demonstration team is made up of men and women from throughout 4-WING CFB Cold Lake and 3-WING CFB Bagotville, Que., Moose Jaw, Sask., and Winnipeg.
Kutryk, who serves with the 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bagotville, Que., was chosen to pilot the custom CF-18 in January of 2017.
"It's exciting. I'm enthusiastic for the season coming up this summer and I'm having a tough time finding the words describing how I feel about flying this plane," said Kutryk.
Kutryk said he's excited about celebrating Canada's 150 birthday for the chance to share the country's heritage, but he's also excited to get behind the seat of this new CF-18.
"Sharing this experience of Canada 150 with Canadians is something I'm enthusiastic about," he said. "The other aspect is actually flying this thing; the CF-18 is an amazing aircraft and while the new paint job doesn't affect how fast it goes, it certainly affects how you feel when you're flying it."
Kutryk, who is an operational CF-18 pilot, started training for the upcoming season of air shows last week in Cold Lake and will be continuing this week in Cold Lake with an additional two more weeks of training scheduled in Comox, B.C. The entire routine lasts for roughly 15 minutes, but Kutryk says during that time he'll experience more G-Force than what we would typically experience in six months of regular operations.
"You feel that 2,000 lbs. of weight on your chest and it's exciting and exhausting but most of all it's fun flying that routine."
Kutryk said there are some differences between flying this customized CF-18 and the ones he flies in his day-to-day operations. This new jet is more akin to a race car than typical CF-18s, having had all of its excess weight and weaponry removed.
"The main difference flying this jet is performance; the speed and power that it has. We've stripped all of the excess weight that we have on a combat aircraft and taken it off of this airplane. When you take this airplane and hit the throttle it goes faster than any other CF-18 I've ever flown," said Kutryk.
The CF-18's design was a collaborative effort between Ariana Cuvin, an art student who's Canada 150 Logo was painted on the CF-18 and Cold Lake's Jim Belliveau, a 20 plus year veteran jet painter who retired last October. The Canada 150 project was among the last Belliveau worked on during his tenure.
"We started on this a few years ago, actually. Canada 150 was coming up and it became very obvious very quickly that it was going to be dominating much of what the air force did as part of public relations this year," Belliveau said.
"We've used the Canada 150 logo which has become the basis of the entire marketing juggernaut for Canada 150 as the base for the paint job itself. We've stylized the design and mixed it up bringing the colours of the aircraft into the design itself," he said. "We've also put a great big Maple Leaf on the top so that when Capt. Kutryk does his knife's edge routine you'll see that fantastic leaf on the top of the plane."
Cold Lakers with a keen eye may be able to catch an early performance by Capt. Kutryk and his team who say, dependent on the weather, that they'll be taking to the skies over Cold Lake on Friday, April 7 before heading to Comox, B.C.