Brighton’s ENSS set this pilot on path to the stars
ENSS grad shoots for stars
By Ross Lees: Brighton Independent
CFB Trenton – For a kid who had his “eyes opened” building robots in high school in Brighton, this air force officer now has a chance to shoot for the stars.
Capt. David Leblanc has been inspired to learn as much as possible from a very young age and he feels that might have helped him become one of the 70 people selected as a Canada Space Agency (CSA) astronaut candidate.
East Northumberland Secondary School, in Brighton, helped whet that appetite with its Canada First Robotics Team competition. That competition basically started him down the road to applying to become an astronaut as one of his “eye-opening experiences,” he said.
“We were basically able to build a robot and compete against other high school teams. I really enjoyed the design, the building and the competing. That kind of opened my eyes to the potential educational path going forward,” Leblanc said in an interview.
On graduation from ENSS, Leblanc enrolled at the Royal Military College in Kingston as a military pilot and did a physics/computer science bachelor’s degree prior to completing a master’s degree in software engineering while progressing through his pilot’s training process in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Currently, Leblanc works at 426 Squadron in Trenton with the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment as a test pilot where they do specification compliance, contract acceptance and on-going technical support.
“Basically, we interface with the project team in Ottawa and we help them acquire and maintain capability,” he said. “Our role is to make sure Canada got what we paid for.”
Feedback from this process allows Canada to integrate fixes and improve the product moving forward, he said.
This type of work is an offshoot of his educational mantra – learn as much as possible at all times and put that knowledge to work.
Three young children keep Leblanc busy when he is not working and, since being accepted as a CSA candidate, he has started a physical fitness program to have him in the best possible physical condition for the next step in the process.
“I didn’t already have a comprehensive physical fitness program going, so in the end, however this turns out, this program has provided me a reason to go and take my hour every day to work out at the pool or the gym and really make it part of my daily life and activities,” he said.
Leblanc said he is proud and honoured to be a part of this group.
“It’s still a large number and we’re going down to a much smaller number, but I’m happy to have had the opportunity to meet some of these people as well and to learn about their own diverse backgrounds and life experiences. The process has kind of let me look back on what I’ve achieved so far, as well, and be kind of proud of what I’ve accomplished,” he said.
All of the candidates have diverse backgrounds and experience along with high levels of skill, he noted, adding it is not easy to separate yourself in this talented group.
“The way that perhaps I’m unique is basically some experience in robotics, some experience in physics, and some experience in conducting experiments with people, which I did during my masters’ degree,” he said.