Lieutenant Colonel Mike French speaks with a cadet at the 55th annual ceremonial review of the 746 Lightning Hawk Air Cadet Squadron in Langley. Dan Ferguson Langley Advance Times

VIDEO: Former Langley cadet rose to become Snowbirds commander

Mike French attended 55th annual ceremonial review of 746 Lightning Hawk Air Cadet Squadron

For the awestruck cadets of 746 Lightning Hawk Air Cadet Squadron, the presence of Lt.-Col. Mike French as the guest reviewing officer at their 55th annual ceremonial review was an opporutnity of a lifetime.

They had the chance to meet a fighter pilot who currently commands the Snowbirds air demonstration team.

For French, it was a chance to revisit his youth, both as a former cadet with 746 squadron and a former student at Brookswood Secondary, where the review took place.

“It takes me back and it reminds me how old I am, really,” he said, smiling.

It was 29 years ago that French graduated from Brookswood and “stepped off the parade square” on his last annual inspection with 746.

“To come back to my old high school with my old air cadet squadron is just a real treat,” French said.

A former Brookswood resident, French is the current commanding office of the Snowbird squadron based in Saskatchewan.

He got there, he said, because he joined the cadets.

“I knew cadets would give me the skills that I needed for where I wanted to go,” French told the Langley Advance Times.

“I’ve always wanted to be a fighter pilot, and I wanted to be a Snowbird, and cadets didn’t let me down.”

READ MORE: Langley air cadets rally to support those less fortunate

He flew out for the ceremony, on a three-leg trip, the last coming in low from Kelowna because he thought it would be a good opportunity to practise low-altitude flying for the flypasts performed by the Snowbirds.

French said even for those who aren’t passionately devoted to flying, becoming a cadet offers plenty of opportunities to pursue interests and refine skills.

He was referring to his tour of a static display by some of the 746 cadets that featured cadets interested in pursuits such as public speaking, athleticism biathlon, and photography.

“You don’t have to love aviation to become an air cadet,” French said. “There are all sorts of other things that you can get involved in.”

His mother, Sheila French, watched with pride as her son conducted the inspection of the squadron before an audience of more than 200 guests and dignitaries.

“He has exceeded even his wildest dreams, I think,” she said.

French is the youngest of two children, born into a military family, where his dad served – as did several relatives.

“We’re really proud of him because he believes in what he’s doing,” she said. “I hope the kids know that what he’s saying is from the heart.”

He flew out for the ceremony, on a three-leg trip, the last coming in low from Kelowna because he thought it would be a good opportunity to practise low-altitude flying for the flypasts performed by the Snowbirds.

French said even for those who aren’t passionately devoted to flying, becoming a cadet offers plenty of opportunities to pursue interests and refine skills.

He was referring to his tour of a static display by some of the 746 cadets that featured cadets interested in pursuits such as public speaking, athleticism biathlon, and photography.

“You don’t have to love aviation to become an air cadet,” French said. “There are all sorts of other things that you can get involved in.”

His mother, Sheila French, watched with pride as her son conducted the inspection of the squadron before an audience of more than 200 guests and dignitaries.

“He has exceeded even his wildest dreams, I think,” she said.

French is the youngest of two children, born into a military family, where his dad served – as did several relatives.

“We’re really proud of him because he believes in what he’s doing,” she said. “I hope the kids know that what he’s saying is from the heart.”

The annual ceremonial review gives cadets, between ages 12 and 19, a chance to display skills they’ve learned in the past year to representatives of the Canadian legion, department of national defence, RCMP, family, and friends.

More photos of the event can be viewed online.

Based in Langley, but serving the Fraser Valley, the 746 Lightning Hawk Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron has close to 140 cadets, eight Canadian Forces officers, and a parent sponsoring committee.

Each cadet has the chance to participate in flight activities, and some top senior cadets may even earn a scholarship to obtain their private pilot’s licence.

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Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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The 55th annual ceremonial review of the 746 Lightning Hawk Air Cadet Squadron in Langley was held at Brookswood Secondary. Dan Ferguson Langley Advance Times

Dan Ferguson Langley Advance Times

Dan Ferguson Langley Advance Times

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