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Statements from Past Cadets of 718 Yukon

Burnett, Paul


My name is Paul Burnett (Centre in photo) and early as I can remember I have always wanted to become a pilot due to an unspeakable passion for aviation. Since my very early years I saw myself as a pilot long before I ever was. In early September of 2006 I made a commitment to become an air cadet as the first official step to make my dream a reality. I joined the 718 Yukon Squadron of Port Hope Ontario and would soon find out this was the best thing I could have done with my life. I would not be a professional pilot today, nor anywhere close to where I am in my aviation career, if I had not made the decision to join that day. 

                Right from the start of my air cadet career I was eager and excited to work my way up the chain, constantly driven by the unfathomable amount of excitement held inside. Nearing the end of my first year in the squadron I signed up for the Aviation Ground School program at the age of 14. I loved every second of having aviation taught to me. I took more notes, asked more questions and dedicated a lot time to the program more than anything else. As my time went on in the squadron I continued to pursue all the aviation aspects I could. During the summer of 2008 I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the Introduction to Aviation Course (ITAC) in Belleville which was an in depth and advanced review of everything aviation. This was another stepping stone to my ultimate goal. Upon returning from ITAC  I attended my third year of ground school within the squadron which brought me to my knowledge and age eligibility to apply for the Glider scholarship course.

                After much hard work, a written exam and an interview I was one of the fortunate cadets from across Ontario to be accepted into the glider scholarship course. After six weeks in Trenton I returned back to the squadron with a set of wings on my tunic, all signed off as a qualified glider pilot. That year I attended ground school even more and after going through the processes I was given the true honour of being one of a few cadets from across Ontario to be accepted into the Power Pilot Scholarship of 2010.  This was a very condensed seven week course and upon completion I returned to the squadron as a fully qualified pilot at the age of 18 before I graduated grade 12.

       Going into post-secondary aviation already holding a private license made me eligible for many streamlined courses and gave me a number of unspeakable opportunities.  I finished school and landed my first commercial flying job by the age of 20, running northern cargo up the James Bay coast on a Cessna Caravan and Piper Navajo. After acquiring some practical experience I was hired the year after for my second and current commercial aviation job. Based out of Muskoka my job is to provide on-call air ambulance and MEDIVAC support to the province of Ontario. I excelled in the professional environment of the industry utilizing many skills I had learnt in my cadet career over the years. I became the youngest known Pilatus PC-12 captain by age 22, a true honour. After a year in this position I was sent to Orlando to a simulator training session to become a captain on a Cessna citation Jet which our company uses mostly for long-haul emergency organ transfers. The experience of being captain on two high- performance aircraft at age 24 is unexplainable. I owe my career to the air cadet program and can honestly say I would not be where I am today if I had not put in my time with 718 Yukon.

                I spent five years with the air cadets and have acquired skills that I will take with me for life. My next commercial job will more than likely be with an airline company and I am more than confident that the knowledge I have learned in cadets will help me within that career, just as they have from day one of signing up.

Harmsen, Alexander


The last year has seen Alexander Harmsen go from being the first programmer at Matternet, Silicon Valley’s medical drone package delivery start-up, to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Los Angeles. He is very interested in intersections between drones, autonomous vehicles and real applications that will affect billions of people. Very excited about new opportunities incorporating new technology into global health, he has started the UBC Unmanned Aircraft Systems engineering team and was the president of the UBC Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. From being involved in UBC’s Satellite Design team to earning his pilot license, Alexander Harmsen is someone who doesn’t like to let chances pass him by. In an attempt to escape the craziness of this Western life he spent 5 months living and studying in New Delhi, India, and knows that we still have a lot to learn. 
He is now CEO and Co-Founder of Iris Automation, creating computer vision collision avoidance systems for industrial drones. Recently they have filed patents, attracted customers and secured investors. He has ambitions for creating big changes in the world and is on the right track to get there!
Alexander’s love for aviation and flying got their start in the Air Cadet program back in Ontario. Through years of aviation classes to finally being able to fly a glider, he became increasingly fascinated with all things aerospace-related. The program provided him with a scholarship to get his “pilot’s wings” and set him up on a path that would propel his already promising career. Unknowingly, the Air Cadet program also served as a fantastic source of knowledge for managing a team and has been tremendously useful in all his leadership roles over the last 10 years!

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