about air cadets


The Cadet Program is one of the largest federally sponsored youth programs in Canada that includes:

  • The Royal Canadian Sea Cadets;
  • The Royal Canadian Army Cadets; and
  • The Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

It is a national program for young Canadians aged 12 to 18 (up to their 19th birthday) who are interested in participating in a variety of fun, challenging and rewarding activities while learning about the Sea , Army and Air activities of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Cadets are encouraged to become active, responsible members of their communities. They make valuable contributions to Canadian society on a daily basis in terms of environmental, citizenship and community activities.

Cadets also learn valuable life and work skills such as teamwork, leadership and citizenship.

Cadets are not members of the Canadian Armed Forces, nor are they expected to join the military. While they are introduced to Sea, Army and/or Air activities of the Canadian Armed Forces and certain traditions, they are also introduced to many other respectable career choices that are available to them.


The aim of the Cadet Program is to develop in youth the attributes of good citizenship and leadership; promote physical fitness; and stimulate the interest of youth in the sea, land, and air activities of the Canadian Forces; however, each focuses on its own parent element. The Air Cadet motto is “To learn. To serve. To advance.”, and was created by Robert Myles Colwell in 1966 when he was a cadet with 625 Squadron in Perth-Andover, NB.


Persons aged 12 to 18 may join the Air Cadet Program. The organization and rank system of the pre-unification Royal Canadian Air Force is used with one additional rank – Flight Corporal – equating to an Army Cadet Master Corporal or a Sea Cadet Master Seaman. Cadets are not members of the Canadian Forces and cadets have no power of command over any CF member. Adult leadership is provided by members of the Canadian Forces Reserve Subcomponent Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service composed mostly of officers of the (CIC) Branch, supplemented, if necessary, by contracted Civilian Instructors, authorized adult volunteers, and, on occasion, officers and non-commissioned members of other CF branches. The CIC Branch is specifically trained to deliver the Royal Canadian Sea, Army, and Air Cadet training program, and like all reservists come from all walks of life and all parts of the community. Some are former cadets, many have former regular or reserve force service.


The first squadrons were established in 1941 to train young men for duties during World War II. The purpose has since changed to focus on citizenship, leadership, physical fitness, general aviation and stimulating an interest in the activities of the Canadian Forces.

The majority of cadet training takes place at the local squadron during the regular school year, with a percentage of cadets selected for summer training courses at various cadet summer training centres located across Canada. Central to the air cadet program are the gliding and flying scholarships offered to air cadets who qualify. One in five private pilots in Canada is an ex-air cadet, and 67% of commercial and airline pilots began their careers as an air cadet. There are 453 squadrons located across the country with enrollment of over 26,000 Air Cadets.

“The Air Cadet League of Canada envisions the Royal Canadian Air Cadets as Canada’s premier and a world class youth development movement. Being attuned to societal changes, it strives diligently to be a totally dedicated, proactive and innovative partner to encourage and enhance the development of well adjusted, civic minded youth to undertake leadership roles in a great Canada and a better world.”

Air Cadet League of Canada

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some common questions about the Air Cadet program.

What is the purpose of Cadets?

Cadets form a national organization whose purpose is to develop in youth the attributes of leadership, engaged and active citizenship and physical fitness, all within a safe environment that stimulates an interest in the Canadian Forces.

What do Cadets do?

Lots of different things, many of which relate to flying!

  • gliding
  • precision drill
  • team sports
  • public speaking and leadership training
  • first-aid
  • camping
  • music
  • summer camps

You will participate in these activities during the weekly meetings and on the weekends. You will also support your community by taking part in citizenship events organized by your cadet squadron.

It all happens in a fun, friendly, safe environment that will motivate you to give your best.

Who joins cadets?

With over 24,000 Air Cadets across Canada, we have an organization with a proud history. Many former cadets say that the Cadet Program gave them a head start in their successful careers. For example, did you know that astronaut Chris Hadfield and world junior biathlon champion Jean-Philippe Le Guellec were once cadets? Maybe someday we’ll be using your name on our site!

When do cadets meet?

Cadets usually meet once a week and some weekends throughout the school year. A cadet must participate regularly in the activities to remain in good standing at the squadron.

Will cadet training affect my schoolwork?

Education is very important to Cadets. Cadet training is a hands-on, activity-based program that should complement school studies. In fact, some provincial and territorial education boards accept Cadet subjects for school credits. As well, there are several scholarships available through Cadets.

The skills you develop at Cadets will benefit you with your schoolwork. You’ll be more organized, you’ll be better able to focus and you’ll learn to work in a team.

How old do I have to be to join cadets?

You can join as soon as you’ve reached your 12th birthday and you can remain until you turn 19.

What do I need to join?

The documents required are:

  • proof of provincial health insurance
  • proof of age
  • proof of Canadian citizenship or landed immigrant status
What does it cost to join?

The core Cadet Program is funded by the Department of National Defence in partnership with the Air Cadet League of Canada. The civilian sponsor (the Squadron Sponsoring Committee [SSC]) requires local community support to meet its obligations that include accommodations, training aids and equipment and program enhancements not otherwise provided. Parents and cadets are expected to participate in and contribute to fund raising as required by the League’s local sponsoring element. Currently, the 858 Skookumchuk registration fee is $125 per year per cadet, which covers insurance, canteen, gliding and other activities. The remaining training events (such as familiarization flying, etc.) are covered by additional squadron fundraising activities initiated by the Squadron Sponsoring Committee. If the registration fee is out of reach, the  Squadron has partnered with Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program, which provides funding for youth programs. Click here to apply for JumpStart funding, or the SSC executive committee has hardcopy application forms.

What about summer training?

Cadets can go to camp for two to eight weeks on a variety of courses. Each camp offers a unique mixture of outdoor activities and valuable instruction. The Canadian Forces provide all transportation, meals, lodging and special equipment.

What do I do at summer training?

Courses offered at Air Cadet summer camps include training in leadership, instructional techniques, music, marksmanship, flying, navigation, meteorology, air traffic control, ceremonial drill, physical education, computer skills, survival training, aerospace studies and citizenship. Advanced Cadets can qualify for glider scholarships and powered flight scholarships.

To obtain information on cadet summer camps and courses, please visit the National Cadet Website.

Are there travel opportunities?

Definitely! For summer training, Cadets may have the opportunity to travel to summer training centres located in different parts of Canada. In addition, selected Cadets go on exchange trips to countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, France, Sweden, Turkey, Hong Kong, Belgium, Japan and the United States under an international exchange program. Exchange Cadets are selected on their standards in performance, fitness and involvement in squadron activities.

Who instructs cadets?

Cadets learn from members of the Cadet Instructors Cadre, officers who are specially trained to instruct and supervise youth. In some cases, civilian volunteers who possess special skills are called in to assist Cadet Instructors. Both the Cadet Instructors and civilian volunteers have chosen to dedicate their valuable time to helping Cadets reach their potential

Will I be expected to join the Canadian Forces?

Absolutely not. Cadets is a great way to find out more about Canada, make friends and develop new skills that will be with you for life, no matter what career you choose.

WHY do youth join AIR CADETS?

Here’s just a few of the many reasons youth have joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets 858 Skookumchuk Squadron.


self-confidence and sense of responsibility

interest in the Canadian Armed Forces (not mandatory)

interesting and unique challenges

valuable life skills (work and personal)

build leadership skills in order to become community visionaries

diverse training

a welcoming and nurturing program where they feel included and have a sense of belonging


The Air Cadet League of Canada (ACL) and the Department of National Defense (DND) both support the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, a premier youth organization established in 1941. The Air Cadet Program is comprehensive, and run in a very organized, disciplined, and safe manner. Saying that, it is important to ensure that all volunteers are appropriately selected, well–intended, initially supervised, offer skills that add value and complement the program, and are good role models for Air Cadets. Knowing the skills and talents of each and every volunteer and their intention towards the program is important to the Squadron Officers, staff and Sponsoring Committee, as a good team effort produces the best results for the greater benefit of the Cadets.

The Air Cadet League’s responsibilities for Civilian Instructors (CI) and Volunteers complement those of the DND and are more of a supporting nature. The Commanding Officer of the squadron and his supporting staff have command and control of the Cadets and are responsible for overall supervision of the training program. To fulfill its responsibilities to the Cadets, DND is required to conform to rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada that defined the level of care required by an organization in protecting youth under its direction. The registration and screening protocols for Civilian Instructors and Volunteers meet the same standard of that of the Canadian Forces, both Regular and Reserve, as well as contracted Civilian Instructors.

The Air Cadet program operates within a partnership agreement between the Department of National Defense (DND) and The Air Cadet League of Canada (ACL), a civilian volunteer organization. The British Columbia Provincial Committee (BCPC) of the ACL is administered by a five person Executive committee under the direction of a ten member Board of Directors. The Directors are elected by the members of BCPC at the Annual General Meeting. BCPC’s office is located at Boundary Bay Airport, Delta, BC, and its day-to-day operations are administered by a part time Chief Administrative Officer and a full time Financial Office Assistant.

There are currently 58 Air Cadet Squadrons in BC, geographically grouped into three zones supported by Group Chairs. Each zone is then subdivided into Wings which are also supported by Wing Chairs. The main areas of responsibility for the British Columbia Provincial Committee include:

  • The formation of new squadrons Providing training and support for Squadron Sponsoring Committees Assisting with the recruitment of officers and cadets into the program.
  • Publicising and promoting cadet activities and programs.
  • Maintaining our fleet of 6 tow planes and twelve gliders.
  • For the past several years, our glider flying program has received generous financial assistance from the British Columbia Gaming Commission by way of its “Direct Access Grant Program”.
  • Administering the Effective Speaking Program in BC, (also funded through the Direct Access Grant program).
  • Processing applications for National Scholarship Courses
  • Sponsoring Work Experience programs with industry partners to provide opportunities for Cadets to earn Graduation Transition Credits.
  • Administering the Air Cadet Foundation of British Columbia, a charitable society established to maintain and grow the Air Cadet Program in British Columbia.

learn more

former air cadets say...

Royal Canadian Air Cadet alumni have gone on to some very prominent and exciting careers. Here are words from just a few:

I dreamed of spaceflight. Watching the first humans leave our Earth to walk on another planet was a young boy’s dream, ignited. I thus clearly knew what I wanted to do, but had no idea how to get myself there. So I did some research. When I looked at what space explorers knew, I saw that they were aviators, engineers and test pilots. Growing up as a farm boy that looked great to me, but I needed to learn how airplanes worked, and how to fly. The Milton 820 RCAC Squadron had recently formed, so I joined and grew up with them from 1973-1977. The lessons I learned there I still draw upon daily: self-discipline, teamwork, technical competence, flying, and leadership. To be able to command the International Space Station in 2012/13, I know full well that it was the Air Cadet experience that allowed me to fly so high. Per Ardua ad Astra! (820 Chris Hadfield Squadron 1973-1977)

Col Chris Hadfield – Canadian Space Agency (First Canadian to walk in space)

Being part of 630 Beauport Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets as a teenager, provided me an excellent foundation for my career in aviation and with the Canadian Forces. I had the chance to be initiated to flying, learn about leadership, discipline, and aviation. Taking part in the various activities and participating in the summer camps gave me the opportunity to develop skills and personality traits that are required and used everyday in my present career: interpersonal skills, public speaking, reliability, discipline, and assertiveness. I was positively influenced by the friends I made and the mentors I had early on with the Air Cadets. The six years I spent with the organization certainly gave me the tools to attack life head on and work hard. (630 Beauport Squadron 1984-1990)

LCol Maryse Carmichael – Commanding Officer: Canadian Forces Snowbirds

The Air Cadet program played a significant role in the achievement of my life’s goals and dreams. As a young boy I had a passion to fly and an interest in the military. Thus, it seemed a natural fit that I should join 614 RCAC Squadron in London Ontario at the age of 12. My time spent with Air Cadets was nothing short of tremendous. It was filled with many challenges and fantastic rewards, and its focus was much broader than the flying and military experience I expected. The program has something to offer for all of Canada’s youth. The highlights for me were the flying scholarships and the friendships. It would be many years later, upon further reflection, that I would truly come to realize the full extent of what the program had given to me. The leadership experiences and the challenge of flying had given me a boost of self-confidence and the courage to set an ambitious course for my life. I’ve never looked back. There are few certainties in life, but one thing I am absolutely certain of is that I would not be where I am today, were it not for the Air Cadet program. For that, I am most grateful. I take a piece of the Air Cadet program with me everywhere I go, and I look forward to taking it to space one day in the future! (614 Forest City Squadron 1988-1994)

Maj Jeremy Hansen – Canadian Space Agency

From a very early age, I had a strong interest in flying and learning everything I could about aviation. In 1984, with my family’s encouragement, I joined 132 Spitfire Squadron in Brampton and spent six excellent years as a cadet, followed by five years as an officer. I fondly remember all the camping trips, tours, summer camps, and parade nights that taught me the self discipline, leadership, and teamwork that have been vital to my success as an airline pilot and professor. I had so much fun learning the skills that I would eventually use every day in my career. I had no idea at the time how much my time with the Air Cadets would shape my future. I owe the Air Cadets a debt of gratitude because of all the opportunities I received: Summer camps where I learned to fly; an international exchange to Germany where I experienced a different culture; and the leadership skills that comes with progressing up the ranks as a cadet, to name a few. Most importantly, though, I think about the strong bonds and friendships that I formed. These memories and experiences will stay with me forever, and I encourage all young people to take advantage of all that Air Cadets has to offer. (132 Spitfire Squadron 1984-1990)

Gary Anderson, Air Canada Pilot/Flight Instructor and Professor – Seneca College Aviation Program

“The cadets played an important role in my life. When I joined 51 Air Cadet Squadron in Ottawa, and then 783 Air Cadet Squadron in Montreal, I had no idea how the adventure and experience would influence my career. I quickly realized the value of the activities and diverse programs that were offered. During the course of the six years that I spent as a cadet, their programs provided me with decision-making skills that I still use today. Moreover, the guidance and advice I received from mentors helped me develop my leadership skills and their influence guided me to structure my education with clear professional goals. In addition, the constant challenges that were placed in front of me prepared me for my future. But above all, it is as a cadet that I discovered the fascinating world of aviation for which I developed a profound passion that still drives me today.”

Marc Parent, President and CEO of CAE



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