Major Trevor Juby is Canada’s eyes in the sky, literally.
The 36-year-old former Whitehorse air cadet just returned from a five-year deployment patrolling the skies over Europe and the Middle East, flying the AWACS (airborne warning and control system) radar plane affectionately known as the “Flying Frisbee.”
Juby was in Whitehorse last weekend working as the Canadian Forces air show co-ordinator during Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous. While he’s happy working a “ground job” right now, he said he definitely misses flying the big planes.
“I think if any pilot in a ground job tells you that he doesn’t miss flying, he’s probably lying to you,” Juby said.
Juby got his start after graduating from the Royal Military College as a pilot with a degree in political science and economics.
His first posting was with the 407 squadron, flying the big, lumbering Aurora surveillance plans out of Comox, B.C.
But long before he sat at the helm of such expensive aircraft, Juby was a cadet with the 551 squadron in Whitehorse.
“My dad had been transferred up here with the RCMP. We came from Ottawa. I was always interested in being a pilot, and this was the perfect stepping stone,” he said.
His father’s connections with the RCMP gave Juby the chance to fly with the police pilots while he was young, but he still remembers the first time he took the controls with his own hands.
“My first flight was with the cadets when I did my glider licence down in Abbotsford. They have a really great program for that. They allow students and younger people an opportunity to get something they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, and exposure to the air side of things,” he said.
Since then, he’s been hooked.
A little over six months ago, Juby was still stationed in Germany, finishing up a rotation that had him flying over Norway, Turkey and Italy. During the 2011 Libyan war, Juby played a key role in keeping Canadian pilots and their planes out of Libyan crosshairs.
Strapped into the cockpit of the big AWACS bird, Juby was responsible for helping control the aerial armada that NATO deployed to pound Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s forces into oblivion.
Operation Mobile was one of the biggest deployments of Canadian Forces in decades, and Juby and his crew were at the controls.
“We had guys in Afghanistan, but it’s been a while since we had such a Canadian concerted effort deployed like that. We had the Airbus midair-refuelers there, we had the CF-18s there, so it was kind of rewarding to be flying an airborne warning and control system that was in control of Canadian CF-18s, Canadian assets,” he said.
The AWACS plane provides situational awareness and combat direction for strike fighters like Canada’s CF-18s. Juby and the rest of his crew were the lifeline for Canadian fighter pilots, watching their backs against anti-aircraft fire.
Most of the Libyan weapons were destroyed in the first round of air strikes, Juby said, but there were still a number of SAM (surface-to-air-missile) sites scattered around the combat theatre that were unaccounted for, threatening Canadian pilots hunting tanks and artillery over Libya.
“It really kept you on your toes, watching for SAM launches that could come from nowhere,” Juby said.
Now that his Germany posting is over, Juby is stationed in Winnipeg wrangling planes for the air force’s special events program, which is how he ended up back in Whitehorse after almost six years.
“Working this air show as the air display director, I get a chance to talk with the guys and interact with the crews. It’s great,” he said.
He also gets to visit cadet squadrons like the one he grew up with.
“It’s definitely a neat experience to come back to Whitehorse and talk with the cadets. I had a little talk with them. I think a couple of them can see that this is definitely a stepping stone. The cadets offer a really great opportunity to get the experience and training that can further your advancement. And it’s just nice to come back to Whitehorse too,” Juby said.
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