Air cadet soars after winning prize

Yi Chen Ma receives the first ever award for high marks in an airport operations course

Air cadet Yi Chen Ma has learned not to underestimate himself.

For having soared through his Airport Operations Course with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets this past summer, the North York teen was recently awarded the first-ever Canadian Airports Council Bursary for Highest Academic Proficiency, a $500 prize.

“I was really happy when I heard my name being called because I didn’t actually know about the award until the announcement,” says Ma, a grade 12 student at Sir John A. Macdonald Collegiate Institute. “I was quite surprised because many other cadets actually did pretty good on the midterm and final exam. I would say it was pretty close.”

A member of midtown Toronto’s 180 “Mosquito” Squadron since he was in grade 10, Ma joined 58 cadets from across the country in the six-week airport operations course held at Canadore College in North Bay this past summer. Designed to teach both leadership and practical knowledge, the course taught the 17-year-old skills like air traffic control and radio communications.

“The candidates in both these courses are selected specifically to gain leadership and instructor skills in those areas so that they can go back to their home squadrons and become instructors for the junior cadets in similar fields of endeavor,” says Captain John Harris, a former cadet trainer and a spokesperson for the program.

But even more important than the valuable practical skills, are the general life skills cadets walk away with, says Harris.

“Many cadets start off introverted and unsure of themselves at 12 or 13. Four or five years later they’re confident, well-spoken, they’re polite, they know about managing their time. They know about respect and responsibility. I think it’s immensely valuable.”

Although no commitment to the military is required after graduating from the cadets, Ma says his first career choice at the moment is to join the Canadian Forces.

“I would first of all think of flying for the military for operations.”

However, as a second choice, he’s also interested in commercial aviation.

“I would like to fly to Europe, Asia — continental flights.”

That would be after university, though. Ma says he wants to attend University of Toronto or McMaster University to study engineering after high school. For now though, he’s not resting on his laurels. He’s attending pilot gliding school from September to December and will then apply to do power flying training the following summer.

As he takes off, he’s got some advice for other cadets aiming to fly as high in their training.

“I paid close attention to the instructors when they were teaching. One of the instructors told us that if the teacher emphasizes something twice, it’s obviously on the test.”

But some of the best advice Ma can pass on, he says he learned from one of his officers in the cadets.

“What he told every cadet in my squadron is that if you want to do something, you either do it with your best of effort, or not at all. If you want to do it, work hard and go for it.”

Ma cites himself as an example.

“I’ve only been a cadet for two years and this course is a senior course. Before I applied for it, I didn’t really think I’d get it because I was too junior. However I tried and I just want everyone to know that you should always just try because why underestimate yourself?”

About this article:

By: Joshua Freeman
Posted: Oct 1 2010 4:35 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto