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As the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) prepares to select its partner for the Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) program, it faces a critical decision that will determine the effectiveness of Canadian military pilots and aircrew for decades into the future. It is a decision that will impact the security of Canada and its allies and alignment with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other international bodies.
The stakes are incredibly high, and SkyAlyne — an all-Canadian partnership between incumbent RCAF training providers CAE Inc., from Montreal, Que., and KF Aerospace from Kelowna, B.C. — is uniquely up to the task. The specifics on how SkyAlyne will expertly manage air force training for the next 25-plus years are laid out in its FAcT proposal due January 2023.
“SkyAlyne’s team is composed of highly specialized Canadian companies, founded by past military members and presently employing many veterans,” said Maryse Carmichael, a retired lieutenant colonel with the RCAF and a special adviser in aircrew training for SkyAlyne. “So, it’s more than just a contract to us — it is personal.”
Keeping Canadian aircrew training in Canadian hands is the top priority of the SkyAlyne team.
“We want to see Canada succeed,” Carmichael said. “We want to see Canada secure. We want to see communities grow through this program. We are rigorously ensuring that we are putting together the very best training solution for Canada’s next generation of pilots and aircrew. We also have a vast network of Canadian suppliers and subcontractors, literally in every region of this country, which means that when SkyAlyne is selected, all the benefits of the program will stay here at home.”
SkyAlyne is a 50/50 partnership between two of Canada’s revered aerospace firms. Formed in 2018, SkyAlyne has the single goal of continuing the RCAF’s long tradition of exceptional, made-in-Canada training and in-service support (ISS) for military aircrew and pilots, air combat sensor officers (ACSOs) and airborne electronic sensor operators (AES Ops).
CAE and KF Aerospace know the importance of consistent and sustainable training, as they currently train all RCAF pilots through two contracted programs.
CAE has emerged as one of the world’s top aviation training and simulator manufacturing companies since its founding shortly after the Second World War by a former RCAF officer and now retired group captain Ken Patrick. CAE is also the manager of the NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) Program at RCAF bases in Moose Jaw, Sask., and Cold Lake, Alta. This program covers Phases II and III of pilot training and fighter lead-in training.
KF Aerospace has grown into Canada’s largest commercial aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company since its founding in 1970 by Canadian entrepreneur Barry Lapointe. KF manages the Contracted Flying Training and Support (CFTS) Program in Southport, Man. This includes ab initio (beginner) pilot training and Phase III helicopter and multi-engine fixed-wing training.
SkyAlyne combines the expertise, experienced personnel and resources, with the goal of continuing long-established partnerships with the RCAF when these programs are transitioned to FAcT over the next several years.
“We also have the direct experience and expertise of managing the current programs jointly with the RCAF and other militaries’ programs around the globe,” Carmichael said. “We are the highly experienced training integrators, capable of delivering excellent training programs for Canada’s next-generation aircrews.”
SkyAlyne leverages decades of experience supporting Canada’s military to build the program success of the next generation of Canadian aviators.
A typical day in the life of a SkyAlyne aircrew-in-training would encompass everything from classroom sessions to live flying training missions, simulator training, and all points in between.
SkyAlyne would provide student accommodations, meals and recreation, courseware design and live flying instruction, and access to cutting-edge training methods and equipment. SkyAlyne would also take full responsibility for building, maintaining and managing the facilities across three training sites in Moose Jaw, Sask., Southport (Portage la Prairie), Man., and Winnipeg, Man.
“It’s really a holistic, comprehensive, and integrated solution that we’re delivering for Canada,” Carmichael said. “We are procuring several fleets of aircraft for the various phases [of training]. They will be perfectly suited to train Canada’s pilots and aircrew and are some of the most advanced, most capable trainers available to military customers worldwide.”
Together with a team of highly capable subcontractors, SkyAlyne’s group of companies employs 19,000 people in Canada with unparalleled resources and experience that would be implemented and improved upon as the FAcT partner.
“Our people are there, on the ground in these communities where the training takes place,” Carmichael said. “We already have strong existing relationships with not only the Canadian military, and the Department of National Defence [DND], but also with local community leaders, including Indigenous communities, local governments, academic institutions and non-profits. We’re ready to spool up into this new program and expand to the scope Canada requires for the Future Aircrew Training program. But we’re doing so on that solid foundation.”
Although the RCAF and DND will weigh several factors when selecting a partner for the FAcT program, SkyAlyne is positioning itself as the best and most logical choice.
“Not only are we the lowest risk and the most capable, but we are the only Canadian solution for FAcT,” Carmichael said. “SkyAlyne will keep this capability and expertise fully in Canada’s hands, and really maximize the economic benefits at home, accelerate research and development, and help build Indigenous businesses and communities through this contract. We provide the best of all worlds for FAcT and we’re confident that our proposal clearly demonstrates that. At the end of the day, we expect the government will keep this program in Canada’s hands for the future.”