The Courier

Captain Jesse Haggart-Smith, the 2022 CF-18 Demonstration Team Pilot – Photo from the CF-18 Demonstration Team/ RCAF

Captain Jesse Haggart-Smith says he knew he wanted to be a pilot around the age of 12.

“I had got into the Royal Canadian Air Cadets by then and eventually got my glider license through them. Eventually, I joined the military.”

Haggart-Smith, who is currently with 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) at 4 Wing Cold Lake, was recently announced as the pilot for the 2022 CF-18 Demonstration Team.

Although CFB Cold Lake is his current home, he says his roots are in British Columbia.

“I’m originally from Maple Ridge, B.C. I joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) when I was 16. I went to the Royal Military College (RMC), first in Saint-Jean and then the college in Kingston, for four years before beginning my pilot training. In 2016, I received my wings out of CFB Moose Jaw. I’ve been at CFB Cold Lake since 2017.”

The CF-18 Demo Team showcases the abilities of the aircraft at air shows and other events, as well as representing the hard work and dedication of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) personnel. Haggart-Smith says his selection as this year’s pilot is quite the privilege.

“It’s extremely exciting. It’s always nice to be in a position where you can share what the RCAF has to offer. Hopefully, I’ll be able to encourage some people, who are like I was, that this is a viable career option.”

He says the process of getting to be the pilot began with a conversation.

“Essentially, I was approached for [the job]. I was asked if this was something I’d be interested in. In order to be considered to be the demo pilot, there’s a minimum requirement of 500 flying hours on the Hornet. Once selected, there’s a training process to get up to the particular skill set that is required.”

If his name sounds familiar, Haggart-Smith was also chosen as a NORAD escort for Santa Claus this past holiday season. He says he’s gearing up for what is looking like an action-packed schedule.

“It looks like 15 shows are on the schedule so far, Primarily we’ll be in Canada, although we do have a few shows in Michigan. Two large shows of note include Abbotsford, B.C. and Toronto for the Canadian International Air Show. Of course, flying over 4 Wing this summer at the Cold Lake Air Show will be a fun opportunity to perform in front of friends and colleagues “

Although he admits that every show is unique in its own way, Haggart-Smith says the Abbotsford stop will have special meaning to him.

“It will be a bit of a homecoming for me. It was the air show that I had attended when I was a kid. It will be extremely exciting to perform out there.”

Haggart-Smith and the CF-18 Demonstration Team will be at the 2022 Cold Lake Air Show on July 16th and 17th at CFB Cold Lake.


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