OCOP: Cadet aiming high

OCOP: Cadet aiming high

Teen Devun Watford is already a top pilot

Devun Watford always wanted to be a pilot.

Identifying what career he wanted early, and then going after it, the 18-year-old can see career success on the horizon.

As a child, Watford would fly with his father, a chopper pilot who worked as a heli-logger.

“I loved it. I love flying, boating – anything with an engine on it.”

He decided to follow in dad’s footsteps, and by the age of 14, for a time, he was the youngest pilot in the country.

At the age of 12, Watford joined the Air Cadets, 583 Coronation Squadron in Maple Ridge, and they helped him to get his wings.

Only a select number can qualify for their flight training, which includes gliding, ground school and powered flight.

“It’s a great program,” he said. “I did take private lessons, but you don’t have to, and you can become a pilot.”

He estimated it would cost up to $20,000 to get the flight training offered by cadets through a commercial flight training school.

He tested as the top pilot in his year with cadets, with a written exam of 98 per cent and a practical exam of 94 per cent.

The latter is a demonstration of the pilot’s ability, including emergency situations, with an examiner on board.

A few days after his 14th birthday, Watford went and got his pilot’s licence.

There are many firsts for pilots, such as their first landings – which can be tough, but instructors are on board.

The first solo flight is definitely memorable.

“It’s nerve wracking, but also amazing.”

He said you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t have any worries as a young pilot. But he had only one incident – an electrical malfunction that left him without instruments. He took it in stride.

“It wasn’t the end of the world. Imagine you’re driving your car and the dash board goes dead. You can still drive, but you don’t know how fast,” he explained.

He was fortunate that it happened in daylight, with good visibility.

“I have more worries in a car than a plane.”

Watford loved cadets. He even took summer camps at Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island, and with the sea cadets on Quadra Island. The latter was music training and he played the snare drum.

Music is one of his other great passions – along with aviation and cars – and he is a guitarist in a band called Dance at 6:30, which is practising and looking for gigs.

Cadets absorb what the military lifestyle is all about.

“You also learn to be part of a team, and how to work together – life skills.”

He is still considering whether he would like to join the Royal Canadian Air Force to learn to fly jets. He would have an inside track, and knows he would love it.

“You get to fly interesting aircraft, and just enjoy your job and enjoy flying,” he said.

The drawback is the time commitment is most of a decade in the military. It is a tough decision, and not one that he is taking lightly.

He left cadets as a flight sergeant to take full-time work. Having just graduated from Samuel Robertson Technical, for now he’s “flying” a fork lift, and training to be a flight instructor.

Watford has a passion for aviation that he believes he could pass on to students.