Up, up and away!

Captain Erick O’connor (L) and Canada Company Member Don Hewson (R)

A creative writing piece by Daniel Whittle

The twin seat CF-18 Hornet jet sat peacefully on the tarmac of the Abbotsford airport one morning this August as Canada Company’s own Don Hewson (British Columbia Chapter) arrived for his required training to take flight with Captain Erick O’connor of 409 Fighter Squadron the day before the famed Abbotsford International Airshow was to begin. Captain O’connor is this year’s CF-18 airshow demonstration pilot with the theme for the jet being support for military families.

Don and Captain O’connor met in June of 2010 in Cold Lake, Alberta during a Canada Company VIP tour of 4 wing during Exercise MAPLE FLAG at which time a briefing about Canada Company took place to many of the air and ground crews on the base. From their very first hand shake, you could tell Captain O’connor and Don would become very good friends.

With Don and Erick keeping in contact throughout the following months, Captain O’connor clearly understood the mission of Canada Company and the success our group was having on behalf of military families elsewhere in the Country. After meeting again at 19 Wing Comox in the Spring of 2011, Don was able to view the new paint scheme for the dedicated demonstration jet which sported a bright red upper surface with a large yellow ribbon stretching from nose to tail. The coincidence of getting to know Canada Company while being the pilot of this special aircraft to honour military families was too much for Captain O’connor to ignore and soon, Don would get “the call”. With all the required paperwork, requests and protocols now in place, Don was set to suit up, strap in and go flying…the day had arrived.

After take-off, Erick and Don flew over to Vancouver Island for a nice view of that area of British Columbia at which time Don was able to sustain a 7.4G turn. For those of you who know Don, this won’t surprise you as he has the determination and grit to endure almost anything. The highlight of flight, however, is the arrival back at Abbotsford which attained a speed of 700mph, just shy of the sound barrier.

Upon landing and shut down of the aircraft, Captain O’connor presented Don with the official coin of the CF-18 Demonstration jet along with the thanks of the entire team for Don’s work on behalf of military families and Canada Company. It was a day both Don and Erick will never forget.

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