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The thrill of flying
Capt. Matthew Kutryk talks about what it's like to fly at the speed of sound

Robin Grant
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Royal Canadian Air Force capt. Matthew Kutryk's career as a fighter jet pilot began with gliding.

NNSL photograph

Royal Canadian Air Force capt. Matthew Kutryk flew to Yellowknife from Bagotville, Que. in a specially painted CF-18 Hornet demonstration jet as part the 2017 CF-18 Demonstration Team commemorating Canada's 150th anniversary. The fighter jet was part of Sunday's airshow. - Robin Grant/NNSL photo

When he was young, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program where he earned his glider pilot's licence and later went on to earn a private pilot's licence.

From there, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2006 and after training missions across Canada, the United States and the high Arctic, earned his RCAF wings in 2012.

The air force captain was in Yellowknife for Sunday's airshow as part of the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour, an 11-week, 31,000-kilometre journey across Canada. As part of the act, Kutryk performed acrobatic feats in a specially painted Canada 150 CF-18 Hornet demonstration jet.

The captain was humble about his aviation skills.

"The plane does all the work," he said at the Yellowknife Airport after landing on Friday.

"I have more fun than I probably should. It's an awesome job."

In January, Kutryk was selected as the pilot for the 2017 CF-18 Demonstration Team during the year's air show season. The position involves flying the specially painted CF-18 Hornet during this year's airshow season in commemoration of Canada's 150th anniversary.

Kutryk talked about the Hornet's capabilities while a crew of four technicians tended to it. He said its mechanics and software are continually upgraded.

"I can do stuff in my routine now that I couldn't do five years ago, because some very smart engineers have developed some different aerodynamic ideas and they are getting this plane to do stuff it couldn't do 30 years ago, just by modifying the flight-control computer software," he said. "It just keeps getting better and better."

The Hornet can go twice the speed of sound, or 2,400 km/h. When asked how long it would take to fly across Canada that quickly, Kutryk explained he could hypothetically fly from the Canadian Forces Base in Bagotville, Que. to Yellowknife - with unlimited fuel - in an hour.

However, the demonstration jet has no external fuel tanks, so he explained he would have to make two fuel stops along the way. The jet's top speed is generally reserved for combat, so Kutryk explained he flew in "slow highway cruise control mode," with the trip taking four hours from Bagotville to Yellowknife.

During the air show, Kutryk performed a series of manoeuvres that showcased the CF-18's tactical capabilities.

Some of those manoeuvres included high-speed passes where Kutryk flew the jet just under 1,200 km/h - just below the speed of sound. He also performed what are called High G-force 360s where the pilot maintains seven Gs while manoeuvreing in circles within a small space.

Kutryk is the brother of Joshua Kutryk, who was recently selected by the Canadian Space Agency to be one of Canada's next astronauts.

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