Major Micky Colton, Royal Canadian Air Force, retired
Colton joined the Canadian Forces as a pilot March 1980 and graduated with wings in 1982. She was posted on the C130 Hercules at the following Squadrons; 436 Sqn Trenton, 429 Sqn Winnipeg, 435 Sqn Edmonton, 424 Sqn Trenton (twice), 426 Sqn Trenton (twice).
She also served as an Air Transport Operations Duty Officer (dispatch job), Wing Flight Safety Officer, Trenton, and C130 Standards and Evaluation officer at Transport and Rescue Evaluation Team (TRSET) Trenton. Colton retired from the regular force in October 2011 and joined the Air Force Reserves the next day. She just retired on May 30, 2018, as a Reservist Duty Operations Officer for 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron, Trenton.
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A favourite story on my journey, by Micky Colton: I was in Moose Jaw on the jet phase of my military wings training. The progression is to train on clear hood missions (read as Visual Flight conditions) and move on to instrument, navigation and formation flights before graduation. I had only completed part of the clear hood flying phase and had started IFR training, I could climb/descend and make turns on instruments. One afternoon, my instructor gave me my marching orders and sent me out solo to practice simple aerobatics and then rejoin the circuit for a few touch and goes before terminating. It is important to note that the Tutor aircraft was also called the 2,000-pound whistle as it did not carry a whole lot of fuel. Also of note, there were, and probably still are, two parallel runways in the Jaw. The outer was for touch and goes and the inner was for full-stop landings.
I was out in the practice area, merrily practicing loops and rolls and a call came in from the tower recalling all of the solos back to land. I came back for a rejoin on long final for the outer runway and got cut off by another aircraft coming in on a shorter diagonal to base leg. I asked to fly through between the runways and join the pattern for the inner. I was given authority to do so and, as I flew between the runways, I could see that the departure end was pretty fuzzy-looking weather-wise. But, like the newbie I was, I carried on. I was cleared to turn right to join the inner pattern just as I flew into the soup. By the time I realized there was nothing to be seen out of my window and transitioned to instruments, I was in a 60 degree and increasing right turn and heading downwards at a good clip from 1,000 feet above ground.
I hit the stick, righted the aircraft and slammed on the power and started to climb. My parachute harness was vibrating from the speed. My heart was racing. As I climbed through 1,000 feet I called the tower and told them I was lost – because I was. None of this mincing around with being temporarily unsure of my position, I was downright lost. Tower told me to climb until I hit VFR conditions. I broke out at 19,000 feet. Moose Jaw had gone zero visibility, zero cloud height from a huge grass fire just west of the base. Tower asked if I knew how to fly a lost pattern. Two-minute triangles! I could do that. They vectored another instructor and a classmate up to me. Prettiest thing I have ever seen was that Tutor punching up through the clouds beside me.
The other instructor had me become formation lead (my first formation flight!) and he vectored me to Regina as we weren’t getting into Moose Jaw anytime soon. He told me later that I didn’t vary more than a degree of the headings he gave me. Nothing like a little terror to make your hands steady. He set me up on final for landing runway at Regina (40 nm or so from Moose Jaw) and flew beside me until I landed. He also told me to wait for him just off the runway. I waited quite a while as he flew into the smoke front, which had raced us all the way to Regina and had to recover IFR. I didn’t tell him until we were finally parked that my low fuel light had been on for quite a while on final approach. I called my instructor, he gave me hell for leaving the circuit! But then he came to get me and flew me back to the Jaw after the smoke went through. I learned then and there to trust my instruments and my instincts – a scary but valuable lesson.
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Elsie Pioneer Award, Major Micky Colton
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