2014 CF-18 Demo Team Spring Training Deployment

Each year, the CF-18 Demonstration Team selects a theme and in turn specially paints one of its CF-18's to reflect it. This years theme, “To the stars - Fuelled by legacy” is strikingly represented by this years stunning paint scheme commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Along with the new theme comes the selection of a new pilot who is chosen to take the CF-18 on the road to airshows spanning North America wide demonstrating Canada’s front line multi-role fighter to the public. Being selected for the role of CF-18 Demonstration pilot is a coveted and highly sought after position given to pilots who exemplify the level of skill and professionalism the Canadian Armed Forces hold themselves too. This years pilot is no exception, with over 800 hours of military flying experience in high performance aircraft, Capt Adam “Manik” Runge has been selected as 2014’s Demonstration Pilot. A native of Hanover, Ontario Capt Runge’s fascination with aviation began at the age of 9 when he attended a local airshow headlined by the RCAF Snowbirds. Capt Runge still remembers sitting on a hill watching the Snowbirds perform at that show and turning to his mom saying, “I’m going to do that someday”. Shortly thereafter Capt Runge joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets where by the age of 16 had earned his glider license and by 17, his private pilots license. In 2003, Runge joined the Canadian Forces and attended the Royal Military Collage of Canada (RMC) where he continued with the gliding program during the summers as both an instructor and a tow pilot. In 2007, Capt Runge graduated from RMC with a Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering and after a year of On the Job Training at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton Runge was posted to CFB Moose Jaw for the pilot training program and spent a year on the CT-156 Harvard II. After earning his wings in the summer of 2009 Capt Runge began training on the CT-155 Hawk and by early 2010 was flying with 419 squadron at CFB Cold Lake Alberta. In November of 2010 Capt Runge started the Fighter Pilot Course with 410 Squadron, also held at CFB Cold Lake. By the summer of 2011 Capt Runge had achieved his dream of becoming a fighter pilot by graduating from the Fighter Pilots Course. Capt Runge was then posted to his current role with the 409 “Nighthawks” Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) also based at CFB Cold Lake.

During the Fall of 2013 409TFS supervisors were informed that 409TFS would be providing the demo for the 2014 season. It was at that point that the supervisors came together to note which pilots would be in the running to fill the role of Demo Pilot. Several pilots were approached about the possibility of becoming the demo pilot and from there these individuals were watched and critiqued over a period of time based on things like flying abilities, personality and attitude. After a period of time spent observing the pilots in the running for the position, squadron leaders met behind closed doors where the final decision was made to select Capt Runge as 2014 CF-18 Demonstration Pilot based on the points previously mentioned. When asked on this thoughts about being selected Capt Runge stated that he was honoured to take on the challenge and made a point of stating “there are certainly a lot of guys at 409TFS that are very combat capable and met the requirements to do this job. You’re going to be on your own a lot so it’s also a show of trust from the leadership and I’m very honoured. However, I think many of my peers would be capable of this role, I feel very fortunate.”

The Demonstration consists of 13 different maneuvers and 14 repositions. Through those maneuvers Capt Runge will demonstrate the CF-18’s extreme maneuverability taking the jet as fast as it can go during the show, approximately 1000km to all the way down to its slowest handling speed of approximately 140km. Pushing both his jet and his body to the edge of the flight envelope during each performance is no easy task and demands the highest level of concentration. Capt Runge explains that during the work ups a lot of the time is spent “in the cockpit” cross checking the numbers, making sure he’s hitting all the right speeds, angles and altitudes at each stage of the different maneuvers. As the work ups progress, Capt Runge’s body almost instinctively begins to remember each part of the routine allowing him to spend more time looking outside the cockpit monitoring the show line, weather, reference points etc. During the demo Capt Runge is constantly bombarded by heavy G loads. “Most of the show is full stick deflection demanding everything that the aircraft will provide” says Capt Runge. Physically, the hardest part of the demo for Capt Runge is the minimum radius turn which demonstrates the tight turning capabilities of the CF-18. Capt Runge will pull his jet level with the horizon in a 360 degree turn, during which, he will be subjected to over 6 G’s. “The minimum radius is lots of G and by far the longest period of sustained G during the show for me. During that maneuver I’ll be subjected to over 6 G’s for 60 seconds. As a result I have to work extremely hard in the cockpit ensuring that I maintain consciousness and situational awareness throughout the turn.” Capt Runge also mentions the most enjoyable maneuver to fly during the routine is the square loop. However, he’s also quick to point out that it’s also the maneuver that demands the most concentration on the way down when he’s pointed 90 degrees straight down before the pull up back to level flight. The demo is high charged and high energy with a little bit of something for everyone. At the end of the day Capt Runge’s goal for each show is to find that fine line of performing not only the safest show he can but also the best looking for the spectators below.

During the 2014 season the CF-18 Demonstration Team will perform at 18 airshows through out North America. Capt Runge and his team look forward to taking the CF-18 on the road representing the excellence required to keep the RCAF among the worlds best aviation organizations.

report and photos Stuart Sanders