Brett Bobowski (HS'08)

Brett Bobowski (HS'08)

When he was a kid, Brett Bobowski’s parents took him to air shows. He marvelled at the aerobatics of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and wondered what it would be like to be in the cockpit. This wasn’t just a fleeting childhood dream, though: today, Bobowski is a fighter pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Despite his early interest in flying, Bobowski took some time to identify what the flight path of his career would be. When he graduated from Luther College, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He attended the University of Regina and took a few classes to feel things out. It was only when he took a semester off that he started flying. “I had a couple of family members who were pilots and who built their own aircrafts. My parents were always excited about aviation. Post Luther, the Regina Flying Club reached out and offered a familiarization flight, and that’s where it kind of took off,” he recalls.

He soon obtained his private pilot’s license and went to SIAST in Saskatoon (now Saskatchewan Polytechnic) to earn his commercial pilot diploma. One of his friends happened to be trying out for the military, so Bobowski tagged along and gave it a shot. He was accepted and joined in 2011. To become an officer, a rank a pilot must attain, he was required to get a degree, so Bobowski studied aeronautical engineering at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, graduating in 2015. He credits his time at Luther College for giving him the work ethic he needed to excel.

Bobowski started his pilot training in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, flying the CT-156 Harvard II, which is designed to help new RCAF pilots move seamlessly from basic flight training to high-performance jet training.

He waited with bated breath to find out if he would get to fly his top choice of aircraft; the Air Force doles out assignments to pilots, and they get either helicopter, transport aircraft, or jet. This specialty stays with them throughout their careers. Bobowski had chosen jet, and through his stellar performance in training, plus a little bit of luck (there aren’t always spots in the jet stream), he got his wish.

Following his training in Moose Jaw, he attended the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program in Wichita Falls, Texas, to train on a United States Air Force fighter jet trainer (T-38C) and then moved to Cold Lake, Alberta—a town of 15,000 about three and a half hours northeast of Edmonton—to fly the renowned McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet. “I grew up watching CF-18s in air shows. It’s a very capable aircraft, very high performance. Being able to fly it now is pretty special,” he smiles.

Because pilots can be deployed at any time, anywhere in the world, Bobowski trains daily, keeping his tactical proficiency up to date, so he’s always ready. His work includes ground school, studying and flying. After each one- to two-hour training mission, there’s an additional one and a half hours of debriefing to learn from mistakes. His work also includes upholding Canada’s NORAD commitment as an alert pilot, ready to respond to unauthorised air activity which may pose a threat to North America. “It’s a challenging job that requires a lot of study and work to keep proficient. What I like the most is you never stagnate; there’s never a time when you’re bored. There’s always something to learn, always something to get better at and endless opportunities to advance,” he says.

Bobowski has been deployed once so far, to Romania in 2019. There, he worked with the Romanian Air Force for two months, policing their air space and intercepting Russian aircraft.

He enjoys living in Cold Lake, a small community where it’s easy to make friends and get to know people, which is much like what he appreciated about attending Luther College. He and his wife, Meagan, are busy with their son, Theo, who goes with them everywhere. The baby has become quite the world traveller, flying more in less than a year than many do in their lifetimes. In his limited spare time, Bobowski enjoys playing hockey, baseball and golf. And in a beautiful setting like Cold Lake, there are also lots of opportunities for boating, fishing and water-skiing.

After four years at his current posting, Bobowski has been asking himself, “What’s next?” In the short term, he’ll continue working on an operational fighter squadron, but looking to the future, he hopes to be an instructor to teach rookie pilots the ropes. He’s also interested in becoming a test pilot. In that challenging academic program, you learn how to fly everything from a hot-air balloon to an airliner. Test pilots fly these aircraft, write reports on them and help improve them. “Anytime a new system is introduced on a platform, it needs to be tested to be implemented correctly,” he explains.

A passion for the profession keeps Bobowski advancing in his career. “It’s not easy. There are long days and long nights. Being passionate about what I do is one of the bigger keys to my success,” he says.