CAF Story | Flying into the past

Video / January 19, 2018


I’m Captain Brent Handy, I’m a Canadian Forces Pilot based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and I’m going to be flying a World War I Fighter replica aircraft over the commemorations at Vimy Ridge this Sunday. This is my wife Rebecca and my son Evan who are here with us. I’ve always wanted to be a fighter pilot and I’ve always wanted to be in the military and I joined right out of high school. And since that time, the adventure has just been getting better and better. I had the chance to fly F-18’s, I got to fly with the Snowbirds. And the cherry on top of my career is right here, right now, in France, getting to fly in the skies where our very first fighter pilots were formed, is an incredible experience for me.

So now I’ve had the chance to walk on Vimy Ridge myself, to fly over it, nonetheless. And it's been just an incredible experience and perspective for me to realize how great we have our peaceful life in Canada, and at what cost it all came.

The air battle was one of the first air battles that we ever faced as an Airforce, and it was a formative time for our Forces in general. But obviously it’s, as well, a very important occasion for the military as a whole, because it was the first time we worked together as joint Forces, where the air and the ground worked together. We have a small part in the commemoration, but it’s a fittingly small part as it was in the greater effort for the ground battles. I’ve flown about four hours on these airplanes, which is not a lot of experience by modern standards. A military pilot these days would get about 120 to 150 hours of experience before being awarded their wings, and I had flown this airplane for four hours before I came to France. Which is the same as what it would have been back in 1916-1917. The pilots had four hours, and then they went off to war to fight for us. So, again, it all comes back to perspective.

From my experience. here in France this visit, I’m going to remember most the amount of sacrifice that took place. I had the chance to visit a French cemetery down the road where 43,000-plus French soldiers are laid to rest. When you see it with your own eyes how many crosses are laid, row on row as they say, it’s really hard to wrap your mind around. And for me, that’s going to be one of the biggest takeaways as the scale of the cost that people paid.

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