Following the delicious aromas, two parents carried a slow cooker into the Miscouche legion for the 53 Air Cadet Squadron for the annual awards banquet.
The head table was draped in white cloths, the heavy porcelain plates were embossed with official-looking ensigns.
The 40-some cadets were gathered into groups, waiting for the meal to start. Social markers like brand-name sweaters, footwear or accessories were erased by the light-blue uniforms as kids from all walks of life met as friends.
The night’s awards were hidden under a sheet, but two cadets were already flying high with their accomplishments.
Sgt. Connor Costain, 15, and Warrant Officer First Class Ben Dyment, 16, will be earning pilot qualifications this summer.
Dyment won the power pilot scholarship for P.E.I. this year. He will earn his private pilot license at the Moncton Flight College this summer.
Costain is the winner of one of two glider pilot scholarships. He will be heading to Debert, N.S., for the seven-week cadet glider program along with Flight Sergeant Disen Pamunuwe from Charlottetown.
The pilot scholarships are a big deal for the cadet corps. Glider licences are not common and the power pilot license is a coveted spot.
In cadets, the glider license is seen as a stepping stone to a power pilot licence, but flying a glider is a special field on its own. Gliders have no engine and take a team to launch. There are civilian glider pilots, but it is a perfect activity for cadets as it builds teamwork.
A glider or private pilot’s licence is usually a costly venture. The books, classroom time and especially the flight training hours in the aircraft add up to thousands of dollars. The scholarships won by the Island cadets allow them to get the same qualifications free of charge.
“Only the best are selected for the scholarship to get the pilot’s license for free,” said Captain Tyler Hamm. “They are very solid, switched-on kids. Switched-on meaning they are engaged in what they are doing, they have an interest in learning about the topic and they’re driven to excel. They want to do as good a job as they can.”
Scholarship selection considers school marks, attendance at cadets and, most importantly, their academic performance in the cadet flight school entrance exam. It covers the same topics as the civilian pilots’ ground school: meteorology, navigation, air law and general aeronautics.
Hamm volunteers to teach the ground school subjects every Wednesday night from September until January to prepare keen cadets for the exam.
He’s earned his glider, power and instructor’s licences through the cadet program. Leading the ground school is his way of giving back to the program.
53 C.E. Monty DFC Squadron Summerside
Awards Banquet May 21, 2019
- Best Attendance: Leading Air Cadet Ayessa Divina, and Cpl. Cameron Speight
- Best Fundraiser: Flight Corporal Mathew MacNeil
- Citizenship: Sgt. Connor Costain
- Top Flight: Griffon Flight
- Top Marksman: Sgt. Jacey Leclair
- Effective Speaking: Flight Sergeant Andrew Morrison
- Best 1st Year Cadet: Leading Air Cadet Cole DesRoches
- Seniors Choice: Flight Corporal Ashton Gillis
- Most Improved Cadet: Flight Sergeant Victoria Arsenault
- Best Drill: Cpl. Cameron Speight
- Excellence in Leadership: Flight Sergeant Victoria Arsenault
- Training Achievement: Sgt. Connor Costain
- Most Improved Band Member: Cpl. Aidan DeJong
- Top Band Member: Flight Corporal Daniel Arsenault
- Best All-Round Cadet: Warrant Officer Second Class Taylor Campbell
- Top Senior Cadet: Warrant Officer First Class Ben Dyment
- CO’s Choice: Capt. Tyler Hamm
Dyment and Costain were waiting for the banquet to start with their pal, Sgt. Jacey LeClair, 15. She’s an accomplished marksman and biathlete – cadets offers a variety of avenues for youth to explore. The three friends joined the squadron four years ago.
Costain’s love of numbers and mechanics drew him to the engineering possibilities in cadets.
But after he got a chance to hold the controls on someone else’s training flight, he set his sights on the cockpit.
“It felt like I had a lot of responsibility,” said Costain. “I thought, ‘If I could do this for a living it’d be really sweet.’”
Costain took the advanced aviation summer camp last year to prepare for the glider pilot training.
The motorless aircraft are towed up into the sky and released. The cadet pilots learn how to manoeuvre and bring the craft down safely.
Dyment has been on a path to piloting from the start.
It started with a flight with a local pilot at a kids’ event at the Summerside airport.
“Ever since then I just loved flying. So I thought, ‘What’s the best way that I can get in on the aviation scene?’ I found out about air cadets and thought I should join right away,” said Dyment.
His glider training has reinforced his commitment to flying.
“But just handling it in the air and flying it around is – I love it,” he said, comparing it to the feeling of pulling a wheelie on a bike.
“You’re just, like, thrilled. The fact that, like, if you push down, you start going down. You go sideways – it feels like you’re soaring around like a bird or something. It’s amazing.”
Todd Dyment, and Denise Christenson, Ben’s parents had never heard of the cadet program before Ben’s interest.
They remember taking him to the Young Eagles program for his first flight.
“It hooked him,” said Todd.
“I don’t know who mentioned air cadets to him,” said Christenson.
“I think he saw it himself,” said Todd. “He read it somewhere that a lot of pilots were involved in air cadets originally.”
“Right from Grade 7, when he started, he’s been very focussed on it,” said Chistenson.
The parents marveled at their son’s commitment as well as the confidence and leadership he developed in the cadet program.
“It’s pretty neat when you see your child focussed on something and then have the opportunity to get to experience it and kind of get on the process of fulfilling their dream,” said Todd.
Hamm is proud of all of his cadets and hopes his they know they can rely on themselves.
“I would say that they could handle anything that’s thrown at them, that’s what I would hope they take with them from the cadet program,” said Hamm.