In April 2006, the end of an era was reached with the graduation of the final serial of Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) pilots being trained in Canada. While the ceremony was a time of elation for the young graduates, it was also a time of passing memories for many senior JDF pilots as the thirty-five year (35) training relationship in Canada came to a close.
The decision to cease training in Canada was not made arbitrarily. In fact, the cessation of pilot training was implemented as part of an overall plan to repatriate pilot training to Jamaica. The plan, originally conceived between the JDF Air Wing and the Canadian Military Training Assistance Programme (MTAP), began with the training and attachment of JDF Instructors to 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. The experience gained through this attachment was crucial in the implementation of the repatriation.
Throughout 2006, work conducted behind the scenes both in Jamaica and in Canada moved the program further ahead. In April 2006, a joint Canadian/Jamaican construction project rebuilt the JDF Air Wing’s Manley Base from damage sustained during hurricane Ivan. Then, from August until November, Canadian Instructors from Canada’s Central Flying School, conducted both helicopter and fixed wing Instructor Courses for JDF and Belize Defence Force (BelDF) personnel here in Jamaica and Belize. Lastly, in September of 2006 Information Technology (IT) equipment and furniture shipped from Canada was installed at the newly renovated Manley Base facility.
In September of 2006 the JDF began the process of acquiring a fleet of new training aircraft consisting of both fixed-wing and helicopter assets for training in Jamaica. The Training curriculum, which Canada also provided, was modified for use on the new aircraft and the Jamaican environment.
The culmination of all of this activity produced the Jamaica Military Aviation School (JMAS). This newly created facility trains Jamaican and International military students from Primary through to the Wings level maintaining Canadian Training Standards throughout.
The first cohort of students commenced Flight Training in July 2007 and over a five (05) year period, JMAS training increased the JDF’s regular Force pilot contingent by ten (10) Line Pilots and five (05) Instructors and the
Belize Defence Force (BelDF) by three (03) Line Pilots and one (01) Instructor.
All JMAS trained pilots are operationally employed in both forces with a total of four (04) now employed as Flight Instructors at the school and one (01) recently concluded an attachment to the 3 Canadian Forces Flight Training School, Canada.
Given that the entity has the capability to maintain regional capacity in military pilot training, on the 25 August 2012 the school was duly renamed the Caribbean Military Aviation School (CMAS) while also commencing Aircraft Maintenance Training. Since then partnerships have been formed with the Chilean, Dominica Republic, Guatemalan and Trinidad and Tobago Forces. This school now proudly holds over nine (09) Flight Instructors and eleven (11) Maintenance Training Instructors, boasting an annual output capacity of eight (08) Pilots and twenty four (24) Technicians.