EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally appeared in The Advocate in August 2016 …
TRENTON – Three siblings enjoyed a rare opportunity to fly together in a helicopter.
Maritime Helicopter Crew Commander Captain Brenden MacDonald, Maritime Helicopter co-pilot Captain Evan MacDonald and their sister – Underwater Warfare Officer Lt. Megan MacDonald – were aboard a CH 124 Sea King military helicopter on Tuesday during a day-long mission that included a stop at Trenton Airport.
Brenden was in the pilot’s seat and Evan was up front with him as co-pilot as they flew together for the first time during a mission that included marine rescue exercises at Melmerby Beach, a refueling stop at Trenton Airport and a patrol flight along the Northumberland Strait before returning to base at 423 (MH) Squadron in Shearwater, near Halifax.
They did hovering and rescue exercises in partnership with the RCMP.
“It’s a nice open spot and not too busy mid-week,” Brenden said, explaining the location chosen.
He said he and his brother got to co-pilot the Sea King due to their familiarity with the area.
“The crews get mixed up all the time,” Brenden said.
Refuelling allowed the MacDonald family to gather for a pizza lunch before the siblings resumed their flight.
All three started with 397 Trenton Air Cadet Squadron.
Brenden, 31, began with the cadets in 1997 and obtained his glider licence in 2001 and private pilot licence in 2002. He enrolled in the Canadian military as a pilot in 2003 and attended the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, Ont.
After completing his pilot training, he began flying Sea Kings in October 2011 with the squadron in Shearwater. He has been deployed around the world on various warships and has accumulated more than 1,000 flying hours flying Sea Kings.
Brenden is fond of Sea Kings, despite their age, and has mixed views about them being retired in the next few years as they are replaced by Sikorskis.
“They’re awesome,” he said. “We’ve been flying them for 53 years and they don’t skip a beat. The technicians do their thing and we trust the work they do.”
Evan, 27, started with 397 Squadron, obtained his glider licence in 2005 and his private pilot licence in 2006. He enrolled in the military as a pilot in 2007 and also attended RMC. Once he graduated, he finished his pilot training and started flying Sea Kings last October. He 90 hours flying time on Sea Kings and is the last co-pilot to undergo training to fly them as their replacement begins.
Both Brenden and Evan recall wanting to fly helicopters since they were very young and enjoyed the chance they had to job shadow at the Shearwater base.
“I was always drawn toward them,” Brenden said.
“We got on one when we were younger,” Evan added.
Megan, 29, started with 397 Squadron in 2000 and obtained both her glider pilot licence in 2003 and private pilot licence in 2004, being awarded top female pilot in Canada. She joined the military as a MARS officer with the Royal Canadian Navy and attended RMC. She has been deployed throughout the world on various warships. She has spent more than 500 days at sea and did an exchange with the Irish Navy. She has been based on land since May after her deployment aboard the HMCS Athabaska during exercises around Bermuda. She has also spent time on the Toronto and Iroquois vessels.
Megan values the experience she derived from being a cadet.
“It gives you exposure to the military,” she said. “You can do tours of bases in the summer.”
Top photo: Sea King taxis onto tarmac at Trenton Airport. Bottom photo from left: Brenden MacDonald is joined by his siblings Megan and Evan in front of the Sea King helicopter they flew on to Trenton on Tuesday. (Goodwin photos)