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858 Skookumchuk Squadron: Air cadet squadron takes flight

Oct. 27 marked 858 Skookumchuk Squadron’s fifth annual Familiarization Flying event at the Sechelt Regional Airport.
Warrant Officer 1st Class Reagan Scott, Flight Sgt. Keaton McIlwraith and pilot Steve Drinkwater relax after a flight.

Oct. 27 marked 858 Skookumchuk Squadron’s fifth annual Familiarization Flying event at the Sechelt Regional Airport. With the help of Harbour Air, cadets, new and old, had the opportunity to go up in a Cessna 172 and a Piper Cherokee, and even fly the planes themselves. When they weren’t up in the sky, the cadets took part in fun, interactive classes back at the airport, including wilderness survival, radio communication and learning the phonetic alphabet. Volunteers supplied the aircraft for the event and gave their time to provide the youth with an unforgettable experience.

One of those volunteers was local pilot and owner of Canadian Aviator magazine, Steve Drinkwater. Once an Air Cadet himself, Drinkwater grew up enthralled by the world of aviation, and, in 1989, obtained his helicopter pilot’s licence, eventually moving to fixed-wing aircraft. An engineering career in the oil and gas industry took him across the globe, before he settled down and decided to start volunteering with various organizations across Canada.

“There’s nothing like giving back. It truly is a wonderful feeling, especially when you see the impact your work is having on people’s faces,” he said.

Outside of the cadet organization, Drinkwater also volunteers as an advisory council member with the Hope Air program, overseeing fundraising campaigns and raising awareness about the program throughout B.C. Founded in 1986, Hope Air provides free flights for lower-income Canadians seeking medical care. The program raised $500,000 in 2018 alone.

When asked about advice for budding pilots or youth looking to pursue a career in aviation, Drinkwater said: “The best way to nurture your interest in the subject is get involved. Whether that be through Air Cadets or just going up in a little Cessna, the only way you’ll know if you are interested in the topic is if you try it.”

Events like Familiarization Flying and programs like Air Cadets provide local youth with opportunities to further their interest not just in aviation, but also in leadership, teaching and much more. The skills Skookumchuck’s cadets learn are invaluable in setting them up for the future, pushing them further than they thought possible and opening up their imaginations to new and unknown possibilities.

For more information about the Air Cadet program, see, or contact Learn more about Hope Air at

– Submitted by Jonah Byron

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