Ace pilot encourages air cadets

Robert “Scratch” Mitchell, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel who served for 20 years in Canada’s Air Force, looks on during a first aid demonstration by the 848 Royal Roads Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron during their 39th annual Ceremonial Review at Belmont Secondary School in Langford. Bottom left: Mitchell inspects members of the Squadron.

Robert “Scratch” Mitchell, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel who served for 20 years in Canada’s Air Force, looks on during a first aid demonstration by the 848 Royal Roads Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron during their 39th annual Ceremonial Review at Belmont Secondary School in Langford.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Former Snowbird and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilot Robert “Scratch” Mitchell inspected a squadron of Westshore air cadets last Tuesday, and encouraged them to seize the moment in their journey through life.

Mitchell, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel with 20 years in Canada’s air force, was the Reviewing Officer for the 848 Royal Roads Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron during their 39th annual Ceremonial Review Ceremony at Belmont Secondary School in Langford on May 31.

After inspecting the youth the Victoria native took to the microphone and recalled some exhilarating moments of his career, including piloting CF-18s and commanding Canada’s famed aerobatics team.

“When you are going through this kinetic experience called life try to find those moments, whether you are flying air planes, becoming doctors or the next internet sensation, find those magical moments because I think that is one of the gifts in life that we are given.”

He recalled one such moment when he led his Snowbirds in a tight diamond formation down the northern glacial slope of Mount Baker as they flew towards Abottsford, B.C. 

As Mitchell and the Snowbirds “tobogganed” down the slope, a beautiful sunset turned the sky a hue of purple and pink and Mitchell described the memory as both unforgettable and surreal.

“This was one of those ‘moments’, not only because of the incredible setting, but because there was such a perfect connection amongst all of the pilots; it felt like we were all in the same plane,” he said.

Mitchell acquired the nickname Scratch during a midair refueling exercise when the canopy of his plane was scratched and badly damaged.

The name stuck.

He retired from the RCAF in 2010 and currently flies with the Patriots, a United-States based aeronautics team, and is an actor, producer and director in the film and television industry.  

Following his words of encouragement, Mitchell was given a rousing ovation that closed out the ceremony.

“I am an aspiring pilot so it was great having an accomplished pilot like him come and speak with us,” said 848 Squadron’s Cpl Ian Tyree.

“His speech was very inspirational for me especially when he spoke of finding your moment.”

Cadets performed their precision parade drill, a rifle drill presentation and first aid demonstration in front of a gathering of approximately 100 family, friends, military officials and volunteers in the school’s gymnasium.

The 848 Colwood Squadron offers youth aged 12 to 18 an opportunity to develop leadership skills in citizenship, physical fitness and learn about the activities of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Perhaps Mitchell’s instant connection with the cadets was because the RCAF runs deep in his blood.

His grandfather flew Spitfires for the RCAF during the Second World War and his father was also an air force member, flying the F-101 Voodoo during the 1960s.

Although Mitchell says he was “regrettably” not a member of the air cadets while growing up, he worked closely with them as a member of the Snowbirds.

But his family continues to plant more roots in the RCAF.

His 13-year-old daughter Charlotte Mitchell, who accompanied him to the event, is a member of the air cadets 103 Squadron in Vancouver.

Filed Under: Top Stories

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  1. John Fefchak says:

    Shame on those members wearing the field service cap (Wedge cap) They wear it as a “Tea Cosy”
    As a retired career member of the RCAF, it makes me proud to read this. Also, as a former Chief Warrant Officer and disciplinarian, the wedge cap worn is to be canted to the right on the wearers head. The US style of wearing the headdress in the middle , as I note, should not be tolerated, as it is an abuse of regulations.

  2. Dave Shirlaw says:

    To be considered an “ace” you have to have five confirmed kills. Doubtful if any Canadian aces are still alive.

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