Liz Braun • 1 Aug 22, 2021
A hometown guy will be piloting the CF-18 fighter jet when the Canadian International Air Show thunders in over Labour Day Weekend.
Toronto native Capt. Daniel Deluce, 37, was chosen by the RCAF as the pilot for the 2021 CF-18 Demonstration Team.
Like a lot of kids growing up in Toronto, Deluce remembers looking forward to the annual air show; to many children, it’s a huge end-of-summer event that also marks the start of another school year.
“This is like a homecoming to me,” said Deluce in a recent interview.
“I remember every year watching the aircraft fly around — and down on the water is such a great location. I’ve seen the Toronto air show from many different angles: in a condo with friends, while working downtown, with friends and family on the island, or at the CNE.”
Aviation is a family affair for Deluce. His grandfather was an RCAF Hurricane pilot during the Second World War. His father was a commercial pilot for more than 40 years and got Deluce flying in childhood.
“He’d let me take control of the aircraft and let me have that early exposure to aviation,” Deluce said.
Deluce has six uncles who are pilots; his mother has a pilot’s license and 10 of his 30 cousins also fly.
Deluce had a private pilot’s license by age 16. Upon finishing a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto, he returned to the skies. In 2010 he was accepted into the RCAF to follow his dream of becoming a fighter pilot.
He became an instructor in 2018, teaching Canada’s newest fighter pilots under the NATO Flying Training in Canada program. (He remained dual-qualified on the CT-155 Hawk and continued to fly the CF-188 in training and operational roles.)
In 2021, Deluce began his current position as instructor at 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron, home of the CAF CF-188 Hornet pilot training.
After the air show season is over, Deluce will begin instructing the next generation of CF-188 pilots.
“I went from teaching on the Hawk right into the air show routine,” said Deluce, who heads up the 13-member CF-18 demonstration team.
“There are about 25 flights or so to get ready for the season. Some have an instructor in the back, but most of it is on my own,” he said.
Flying in the air show is outside what he’d normally do — Deluce lists dizzying details about drag, G-force, dynamic maneuvering and a 300-foot floor.
“In order to operate at that 300 feet, you have to be in good shape,” he adds. “You have to have good rest, a good mindset,” Deluce said.
“There’s a lot of mental rehearsal involved for me.”
It’s also different for him to be in the public eye, flying aerobatics for a crowd.
“This is my 10 minutes of fame,” he said, laughing.
“It’s like game day, if you’re playing sports. When you see the crowd there, it’s motivating. It pumps you up a bit.”
He also interacts with the crowd over the radio.
“I don’t really have a set speech. I usually just talk about where I am and what it means to me to do that particular show, and for me, there’s a little bit of meaning in every location, especially in Canada,” he said.
Doing the show and performing at your best, “Is a good feeling. I like how it puts a smile on people’s faces,” said Deluce.
“And not just other people — sometimes I’m by myself just smiling at how awesome a job this is, how awesome this aircraft is. And how awesome an opportunity it is to represent Canada.”
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SNOWBIRDS TURN 50
It’s a big year at the Canadian International Air Show.
Cancelled by COVID last year, the 2021 show marks the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the aerial display will also include the CF-18 Hornet demo, a Quicksilver — P51 Mustang and F-35 stealth warplane, among other aircraft.
The show is on Sept. 4 and 5, from noon to 3 p.m. There’s no separate airshow zone for spectators this year and no tickets.
To watch in person, you can stand anywhere along the lake between the Humber Bridge and Billy Bishop island airport; physical distancing must be maintained.
You can also watch at home. The show will be live-streamed as a special thanks to Canadians for their endurance during COVID.
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Endurance is part of this year’s CF-18 demo team theme: “Strong At Home”
Strong At Home acknowledges both the strength of Canadians who have shown tremendous resiliency throughout COVID, and the RCAF and CAF commitment to domestic operations — protecting Canadians 24/7through NORAD operations, aeronautical Search and Rescue, rapid response to natural disasters, and operations to combat the ongoing pandemic.
The theme is captured through various symbols painted on the CF-18.
Eight maple leaves represent eight of the nine iconic CF Snowbirds Tutor aircraft that perform during an air show; the ninth is missing in remembrance of members of CAF and the Snowbirds’ Capt. Jenn Casey, who died last year in an accident near Kamloops.
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The signature Snowbird “speedbird” emblem, symbolic of the missing Snowbird, is painted on the underside of the CF-18 to the exact dimensions of the CT-114 Tutor.
“We all felt the loss last year over Jenn Casey, and when the Stalker 22 Cyclone crashed with six members on board, and all the people we lost due to COVID in the last year and a half,” said Deluce.
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“It’s interesting to share what we do, especially in a fighter force, and what better way to show what we do than to max-perform the aircraft,” he said.
“One of our primary jobs is defending Canada with NORAD,” added Deluce, “and it’s a real honour to be on guard 24/7. That’s what we do, and we’re very proud of what we do.”