Canada's Flight Training History

A rich flight training history makes sense in a country where it takes 6 hours to fly from one coast to the other, and much of its north is inaccessible by road.

Pilots fly business and pleasure travellers, fly food and supplies to remote Arctic communities,and transport medical patients to an urban health centre.

But someone somewhere always had to train those pilots to make those flights.

Canada's flight training history - the first 50 years

In 1909 John McCurdy successfully flew the first powered flight in Canada in the Silver Dart. It was less than 20 years later that the Canadian government was making a serious investment in flight training, and the infrastructure to support it.

In the 1920’s, the Canadian Air Force was formed, the Directorate of Civil Government Air Operations was formed, and the Canadian government signed an Order-in-Council to develop flying clubs as part of a national training program.

The program was also designed to create a network of airports across the country.

The program gained immediate success, with 23 clubs forming in the first 2 years. Aircraft purchased from deHavilland Canada, Fleet and Curtiss-Reid boosted the small Canadian aircraft manufacturing industry.

These same clubs trained civilian instructors for the BCATP under government contract.

By 1930 a national airport system was in place, with airports being built across the country. In the 30s Jessica Jarvis become the first woman in Canada to earn a commercial pilot licence.

During the 1940’s Canada was the chosen country for the British Commonwealth Air Training Program,

Canada - "The Aerodrome of Democracy" in WW II

Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous phrase refers to the huge aviation contribution Canada made during World War II. The chosen training site for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, it trained over 50,000 pilots from the Commonwealth Countries.

Training, building airfields, developing an aircraft industry, all took place during this period.

The Alberta Bomber Command Museum picks up the story

"...1747 Canadian Tiger Moths were built by de Havilland and these aircraft equipped many Elementary Flying Schools throughout the country. RCAF Tiger Moths flew an impressive 1,778,348 flying hours during the war and equipped more than 20 flying schools.

The construction of the training schools was a massive undertaking in itself. On the prairies, farmer's fields were transformed in a matter of a few months into operational schools. This involved the levelling and paving of runways, taxiways, and tarmacs: the building of several huge hangars, and dozens of other buildings for accommodating, teaching, and providing other services to the young airmen: and the installation of electrical, water, sewage, and other services.

As well, an aircraft construction industry was developed to provide the thousands of aircraft necessary. As just one example of this , 1832 twin-engined Avro Anson Mk II's were built at factories in Nova Scotia and Ontario during the war.

At the plan's peak, 94 schools operating at 231 sites across Canada, 10,840 aircraft were involved, and the ground organization numbered 104,113 men and women, and three thousand trainees graduated each month. At a cost of more than $ 1.6 billion, 131,553 pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators, air gunners, and flight engineers were graduated."

The Royal Canadian Air Force grew from about 4000 in 1939 to 250,000 persons by 1943.

By the end of the war Canada had close to 600 airports, airfields and air harbours. And during that time, the Juno Beach Centre tells us, "an aircraft industry that was in its infancy at the start of the war produced a grand total of 8,076 Anson, Harvard, Tiger Moth, Finch and Cornell trainer planes."

Canada's flight training history post World War II

Remants of the glory years of training pilots remain with the Air Cadet Training Program. Our Canadian government continues to fund training for selected Air Cadets today.

And as of today we can boast close to 170 Flight Training Units that hold an Operating Certificate from Transport Canada.

Your ATAC flight school members carry on the proud tradition.

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