Harper LaPlante at his training camp in Cape Breton where he earned his power pilot wings.
To most people the sky is the limit, but for 17-year old Harper LaPlante the sky is where he belongs.
LaPlante earned his wings as a private power pilot this summer through an intensive seven-week scholarship program in Gander, Newfoundland, supported by the Department of National Defense and the Air Cadet League of Canada.
“I want to fly more than I want to breathe. And I want to serve my country with every fibre of my being.”
Seventeen-year-old Harper LaPlante
He was the youngest to be chosen for the competitive program.
“I’ve been wanting these wings since I was 11,” says LaPlante.
When LaPlante first started with the Air Cadet Squadron 738 in Shelburne in 2013, he was excited to join. Following in his older brother’s footsteps he joined the air cadets in Shelburne, only to find out the program was likely to be cut because of low numbers.
Major Bob Eagle, commander for the Nova Scotia Cadet Detachment, led an information session for the cadets and their families to discuss the possible fate of the cadet program.
AN IMPASSIONED PLEA
LaPlante stood up and made an impassioned plea that would change the course of his life.
“I thought when I first started here I would fail,” LaPlante had said that day. “Now that I am here I am proud to wear this uniform. I am proud to be an Air Cadet. With the training I receive I plan on becoming a pilot in the military, serving my country. If you cut this squadron I won’t have that chance.”
A video of LaPlante making his speech with tears running down his face made its way through the cadet community and up the ranks.
They decided to allow the cadets already in the program to continue until they graduated, but no new cadets would be accepted.
The Shelburne Air Cadet program officially closed this past spring. LaPlante was the last cadet in the program.
“To this day, there are plenty of people who make fun of the video,” says LaPlante.
But his courage to stand up and speak his dreams out loud has helped him to achieve them, he said. He was passionate to hold on to the program.
“If anything my passion has intensified since then,” he says. “I resolved before we marched in that I was going to fight (the squadron closing) tooth and nail.”
He said it was the right decision.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the cadets,” says LaPlante, who has reached the rank of Warrant Officer 2nd Class within the cadets.
EARNING HIS WINGS
When LaPlante was 16 years old he earned his wings as a glider pilot. He said the pilot programs were the hardest things he’s ever had to do.
The intense program condensed a year’s worth of training in seven weeks or less.
“It was like trying to drink from a fire hose,” he says.
Each morning he and his classmates would wake up at 5:30 a.m. and head to the classroom or go to the field.
“We learned both sides of being a pilot together,” he says, adding there were many lessons learned about becoming a good pilot.
“The first time I went into a tail spin or stalled was rattling,” he recalls. “There have been scary moments but it’s what makes me a better pilot.”
The teenager says achieving his wings is only the first step toward making his dreams come true.
“I want to fly more than I want to breathe,” says LaPlante. “And I want to serve my country with every fibre of my being.”
LaPlante will be graduating Shelburne Regional High School this school year and has already applied to the military to fly through the Royal Canadian Armed Forces Pilot Training Program held at Seneca College in Toronto (CEOPT).
The flight program is a competitive program to get into.