BY JOETEY ATTARIWALA

Globally Recognized FIGHTER PILOT TRAINING in our Own Backyard

 Situated in London, Ontario, ITPS Canada Ltd. is a unique Canadian company featuring two training divisions, the International Test Pilots School (ITPS) and the International Tactical Training Centre (ITTC). ITPS is the largest independent school of flight testing in the world and is the only accredited organization of its kind in Canada. ITTC is the only independent fighter pilot training school in the world offering Fighter Lead-In Training (FLIT), Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT), and training to allied/friendly countries’ air forces.

Established in the United Kingdom in 1986, ITPS relocated to CFB Cold Lake, Alberta in 2001 under a contract with the Crown and subsequently moved to London, Ontario in 2009, and has been focused on honing pilots and aeronautical engineers with highly specialized flight-testing skills. Tactical training operations date back to 2002 with the first full Fighter Weapons Instructor Course successfully presented to the Royal Malaysian Air Force, with the ground school element taught in Cold Lake. The airspace around Southwest Ontario was historically home to the Empire Air Training Scheme, one of the most ambitious flight training programs to ever exist. ITPS operates over the same hallowed grounds where thousands of allied pilots of World War II trained, making it a historical sphere of influence in Canadian aviation, and a natural hub for pilot training.

Course offerings include advanced flight training for Allied Forces through ITTC, which is co-located in London. With two diverse yet complementary courses, ITPS and ITTC provide training for aircraft manufacturers and military students from allied air forces, including the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

ITPS is an internationally recognized Approved Training Organization (ATO) for Flight Testing. The school’s highly qualified team of instructors ensures that ITPS provides up-to-date, effective and affordable training to customers, and is able to provide customized training programs structured for unique training needs. Recognizing that technology is of critical importance in modern aerospace endeavors, ITPS places emphasis on new and emerging technologies, including simulation and virtual and mixed reality. ITPS’ instructor cadre from around the globe remain active in the latest technology programs, and ensure students are exposed to a diverse range of aircraft during their training.

CDR spoke with David Clementi, Chief Operating Officer at ITPS. “In the past three years, we’ve gone from an organization of about 25 individuals to now north of 80, and we’ve done that through COVID no less. We’re an organization that attracts international talent to a country that is welcoming immigration right now. We encourage educated talent to come to Canada to boost the economy and put Canada first and foremost on the international stage as an education centre in the aerospace area.”

 

DIVERSE AIRCRAFT FOR OPTIMAL TRAINING

To carry out its remit, ITPS operates a diverse fleet of aircraft that includes trainers and transonic jet fighters such as the Hawker Hunter T.7 and Aero Vodochody L-39C and L-29. Students also have access to modern business jets such as the Bombardier Challenger 601 and Embraer Phenom 100 and 300 models, as well as single- and multi-engine propeller aircraft like the Grumman HU-16 Albatross seaplane. In addition, ITPS offers rotary-wing customers the chance to experience several helicopter models, from the MBB Bo 105M to the Leonardo AW119Ke, the Bell 206B JetRanger, and more.

The certifications it confers are recognized by aviation authorities like Transport Canada, and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) which approves ITPS for Civil Pilot Category 1 and Category 2 Flight Test Ratings and Lead Flight Testing Engineer courses for fixed and rotary-wing aircraft.

ITPS’ one-year Graduate Course is recognized by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) and the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE). SETP and SFTE recognizes ITPS for civil or military flight test training. SETP is for test pilots and SFTE is for flight test engineers. These Pilots and Engineers are immersed in an active flight test organization undertaking the development of aircraft modifications and upgrades, avionics systems development, and fly-by-wire flight controls systems testing.

ITPS is also a post-graduate school of flying offering Master of Science programs in Flight Test Engineering and Flight Testing in its flight test courses or as standalone programs.

ITPS also offers high-quality instruction and flight test contracts in other countries. For example, in 2023 ITPS will be offering individual short course modules which will be presented in Ankara, Turkey. Each short course module will be taught by ITPS faculty and will consist of a range of flight test subjects of vital importance to the aerospace industry, military and government agencies.

“Attending a Test Pilot School like ITPS is like running a marathon in aviation skills, attitudes and knowledge,” said ITPS student Marcus Hindersson. “My Swedish home organization Saab had me well prepared for the task but nonetheless it is an extremely difficult and challenging education. At ITPS you are attending a class with several nationalities and the pressure from the school is creating strong friendships amongst the students. It was a good experience to meet people from all over the world and working together towards a shared goal.”

ADVANCED MILITARY FLIGHT TRAINING

Military pilots from allies around the world come to tactically train at ITTC. Most recently ITTC hosted The Royal Malaysian Air Force for a Fighter Weapons Instructor Course (FWIC) in 2022 who sent its best pilots to be trained as weapons and tactics experts.

To enable such training, the ITTC conducted ground school, simulation and flight phases in Canada — these phases employed networked combat simulators using virtual content blended with real-world scenarios for immersive mixed reality learning. The result was highly customizable tactical air training missions with lower training cost and environmental impact.

The third phase of the FWIC was administered by ITTC on-site in Malaysia, and consisted of a Combined Air Operations Exercise which was hosted at Kuantan Air Base.

“Pilot shortages, training delays, budgetary constraints, and inability to surge in training are all common problems of Air Forces worldwide,” says Brendan Pierce, ITTC Head of Training. “Emerging technologies, innovative training approaches and the agility to customize training packages allows ITTC to offer high quality training catered to specific military customer needs.”

ITPS Canada’s maintenance team

FULL THROTTLE TRAINING FOR THE RCAF AND BEYOND 

2022 was a record breaking year for ITPS which saw 28 graduates and 15 Master of Science in Flight Test Engineering students complete their degrees.

2023 will see the South African Air Force return to the school, as well as the Royal Netherlands Air Force join as a new customer. In addition, operators from Airbus – Spain, Leonardo PZL-Świdnik – Poland, and the Turkish Air Force and Turkish Aircraft Industries will also attend ITPS.

“We see efficient, quick and low-cost ways of doing things to get people out to the standard that is necessary, and to clear roadblocks that are currently existing in the forces that we see today, whether that be throughput issues or limited spots on the more established training providers,” said Clementi. “That’s where we see ITPS and ITTC really coming into the fore is we have this capacity and capability that we can build up and expand to take the backlog of pilots that we have here in Canada, in the UK, or anywhere else where there’s shortages of training capabilities – whether it be because of old aircraft, lack of manpower to perform the training function, or they’ve just simply shut down the squadrons that historically have done that.”

There is no doubt that the training that ITPS and ITTC delivers is among the best in the world. The capabilities they offer to both international clients and the RCAF, along with established connections with aircraft OEMs is a perfect recipe which enables ITPS to train qualified military pilots for advanced professional development; this includes the capacity to deliver a robust domestic Canadian solution for the RCAF’s Future Fighter Lead-In Training (FFLIT) program, and all other programs for decades to come.

Joetey Attariwala is CDR’s Aviation Editor