F-18 demo pilot Capt. Stefan Porteous has been flying with last year’s demo pilot Capt. Matthew Kutryk in a two-seater F-18 for training. Photo by Erin Haluschak

Familiar sights in the sky for Comox-born F-18 demonstration pilot

Touching down in Comox was a very familiar sight for Stefan Porteous last week, but the Canadian Forces fighter pilot was particularly looking forward to one part of his homecoming.

“It was really nice to go home and have dinner with your family – your mom’s cooking – there’s nothing better than that,” he says with a slight smile.

The 2018 CF-18 demonstration pilot – who hails from Comox – recently returned to the area to train, along with the Snowbirds team, for a few weeks this month in order to prepare for the upcoming air show season.

“It’s fantastic – I knew that my family was going to be waiting for me, my wife as well. My wife and daughter have come out for the first part of the training.”

When he was 12 years old, Porteous joined the 386 ‘Komox’ Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. He earned his glider pilot licence in 2004, followed by his private pilot licence in 2005.

The Highland Secondary School grad joined the military in 2008 and was posted to 4 Wing Cold Lake, for on-the-job training.

Following flight training, he was selected to fly jets in 2012 and received his pilot wings in 2013 on the CT-155 Hawk aircraft.

One year later, he graduated from 410 Tactical Fighter (operational training) Squadron in Cold Lake, which qualified him to fly the CF-18 Hornet.

He is currently posted with 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 3 Wing in Bagotville, Que.

“Growing up here in Comox, this is an active base. At the time we didn’t have any active fighters, but we have the T-Birds flying around. Being a newspaper carrier with my brother for the Record and the Echo, we’d be out on our rollerblades in the springtime and the Snowbirds and the demo would arrive, and I would remember stopping and watching and looking up at them – and thinking ‘wow that’s amazing.’ ”

Porteous adds some close family friends also provided him with the inspiration to join the forces and become a pilot.

“ … I made the decision one day that ‘hey, that’s what I wanted to do.’ This seems like a really cool job. Of course, I’ve seen Top Gun and although it’s not really similar to what they show in Top Gun, there are some very cool aspects that are similar to that.”

If those keeping an eye to the sky in the Valley have noticed a regular CF-18 and not the themed painted jet, that’s because Porteous has been flying with last year’s demo pilot Capt. Matthew Kutryk in a two-seater CF-18 for training. Following some final maintenance in Cold Lake, the NORAD-themed plane arrived in the Valley Monday afternoon.

He notes there are a few differences between flying a regular CF-18, and the demonstration jet.

“(There’s) no tanks, missiles or bombs. You have all that pure thrust – over 30,000 pounds of thrust that essentially gives you more power then the aircraft weighs, giving you a one to one climb ratio which means that I can go straight up and accelerate which is really fun. In a normal aircraft configuration, you probably couldn’t get that.”

As the demo plane takes to the sky shortly, Porteous explains he considers it “a real honour for me to shine a light on (NORAD) this year because probably a lot of Canadians don’t realize our crews are out there, ready to go for them.

“The bilateral agreement with the U.S. is important as a fighter pilot, to protect the security and sovereignty of airspace in North America. There truly are airplanes ready to go at any time – every day Canadian men and women are ready to go to protect our sovereignty.”

There are 25 air shows scheduled for the demo team in the 2018 season; the first airshow is set for May 5 in Trenton, New Jersey.