The first female commander of the RCAF’s flight training program says she’s hoping her accomplishments will help make future appointments like hers a lot less newsworthy. Lt.-Col. Riel Erickson took command of the Big 2, more formally 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Moose Jaw last week. The former CF-18 pilot, one of five so far, was also an instructor and rose through the ranks to the top job in Moose Jaw. All future RCAF pilots go through Moose Jaw, training on the Harvard II before heading for either fighters, multi-engine or helicopter postings. The primary jet training also takes place at Moose Jaw using BAE Hawk trainers while multi and helicopter pilots go to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba for their advanced training.
Erickson, a native of Millarville, Alta. got her wings in 2005 and was featured in the reality series Jetstream which followed the training of a class of CF-18 pilots in Cold Lake. She told the Herald the assignment is a big challenge and one she hopes will inspire other women to follow her lead. “I can’t wait until we run out of firsts,” she said. “I think it’s great that young women starting their career will see their first commanding officer is female. It’s the chance to normalize it.”