Paying tribute to Canada’s wartime air training program
Reprinted from the Calgary Herald by RICHARD CUTHBERTSON, July 11, 2011
Vintage wings flyers Liam O’Connell, left, special guest RCAF Veteran Flight Instructor Gordon Jones, Bruce Evans and Ulrich Bollinger check out the memorial wall at the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton on Sunday.Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald.
Painted crisp yellow, they are reminders in the sky of a massive Canadian effort during the Second World War to train the allied forces for air combat in Europe.
On Sunday, a handful of vintage aircraft swept over Nanton and then landed at an airport in Claresholm, part of a cross-country tour by a nonprofit group eager to showcase one way Canada contributed to the war effort.
The yellow planes are examples of some of those used in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which attracted aircrews from this country and other allied nations to train out of airfields across Canada.
More than 130,000 aircrew were readied for battle under the plan, an achievement so enormous that United States president Franklin Roosevelt called Canada the “aerodrome of democracy.”
“Within a very short time span, the commonwealth air training plan managed to construct hundreds of airports all across the country, numerous flying training schools popped up,” said David Maric, a pilot with Vintage Wings Canada, which flies the planes.
The group is now in the Calgary area and on Sunday were hosted by the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton.
They flew three planes for the demonstration. The fleet included a Stearman and Cornell, both considered beginner aircraft, along with the more advanced Harvard.
The yellow colour is no accident and was chosen during wartime training to make sure the planes were visible, according to Maric.
It is a type of display that fits well with the mandate of the Nanton Bomber Command Museum.
“We’re trying to save the heritage of our country, especially in the air force and all they did,” said Karl Kjarsgaard, a director with the museum.
“Anytime we meet a bunch of dynamite guys that want to fly all over hell’s half acre to commemorate the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, we’ll support them 110 per cent.”
Today, and Tuesday, Vintage Wings will be in Airdrie and on Wednesday in Calgary.