Attrition: The Royal Canadian Aliens


September 27, 2014: The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) recently took some heat in the media when stories about recruiting foreign pilots appeared. The implication was that this somehow denied Canadians an opportunity to fly for the RCAF. In response the RCAF released the data, which showed that in the last five years (2009 to 2014) 575 pilots were recruited. Of those 87 percent were Canadians recruited for pilot training, 7.5 percent were former RCAF pilots who had returned to active duty and 5.5 percent were foreign military pilots brought in because of their experience operating aircraft the RCAF also used.

During this period the RCAF had been experiencing problems recruiting military pilots and was losing a lot of the most experienced pilots to retirement. Then in 2012, noting that Britain was laying off thousands of military personnel, including 170 pilots and pilot trainees, Canada advertised for British military pilots and trainees (some of whom had almost completed their training before they were fired). The RCAF expected to obtain a dozen or so trained pilots this way, saving the RCAF a lot of money.

Canada has a long history of allowing foreigners to join its armed forces. This happened on a large scale with Americans in the years before the United States entered World War I and World War II. But Australians and British recruits continue to be welcomed, as well as those from other parts of the old British Empire.

The big advantage of recruiting foreign pilots in the last five years was the need to obtain experienced personnel with lots of flying time in aircraft (like transports) Canada was operating all over the world. Canada has lost a lot of their experienced pilots for these aircraft to retirement or more attractive offers from commercial airlines. The incentive for British military pilots was keeping some of the high rank and credit for time already served in the British military. The British recruits will also be able to become Canadian citizens quickly, which is what many British citizens have been doing regularly since Canada became independent in 1867.

The RCAF also reminded the media that it has long used foreign pilots, often as instructors, on a “loan” program. The foreign country continued to pay the salary of their pilot but the RCAF picked up all other expenses while the foreign (often American) pilot was working in Canada. The loaner pilots are most frequently used when Canada is buying a new type of aircraft and needs pilots experienced with the new aircraft in order to speed the training of Canadian pilots.





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