Martin Hivon, a former Canadian Forces military pilot, is one of only three Quebec aerobatic performers. He started as a pilot on the Tutor (same aircraft as the Snowbirds), and was a test pilot on the F-18 for 12 years. He served for 3 years as an exchange pilot with the U.S. Navy, taught on the F/A-18, and also completed his flight qualification on U.S. aircraft carriers. Now retired from the Canadian Forces, he owns MH Aviation, an aerobatics school that also offers shows and runs Rivière du Loup airport. I met up with him, very much looking forward to coming to Gatineau, because he is always well received there:
Tell us about your new plane.
Also known as the Beast, the Yak 55 was designed by the Russians (the USSR at that time) to regain the world aerobatic championship. After a few months, I’m starting to master it! With the Christien Eagle II biplane, it was a nice little cute show. With the Beast, we’re in the major high-flying leagues!
What show will you offer in September?
In flight, it’s a high-energy show, well-honed. It’s fun, it’s a challenge as a pilot. Flying an F-18 requires a lot of precision, so it’s a logical extension of what I was doing with the Forces.
I bring two planes to the show, the Yak 55 and the American Champion aircraft used to teach aerobatics. I will have an aerial banner to promote the festival a few days beforehand from the sky. I work as a team with my wife. She’s the one who brings the Champion. A security pilot, she observes all the manoeuvres during the show. At the same time as being the announcer, she can tell me if something is wrong with the plane.
Is it dangerous?
I do not think it is dangerous. I don’t like that word! It takes a lot of control, experience and talent – it’s not for everyone. It’s no easier to drive a car than to drive an airplane at 350 km per hour, if you have the practice. It’s like any top sport.
What do you like most about your job?
What I find most fascinating is how young people can be inspired. They all have the same incredulous reaction to my job. But I’m just a little guy from Rivière du Loup, I’ve worked for the Canadian Forces, the U.S. Navy, and I’ve been in Japan. So to see a pilot who tells them, in their language, that if they work at school, they can also be pilots, it motivates them.
Several young people I met became F-18 pilots. I cannot go anywhere in Canada without seeing young people who have become professional pilots. It’s a great opportunity to make these young people realize that a career in aviation is possible and it’s fun. There are people who have to go to work, we will have fun all day!
Seats are limited, so buy your tickets now!