75 years of conquering the skies

News Article / November 22, 2017 / Project number: RCAF-20171122-01

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By Corporal Peter Aboud

As Lieutenant-General Michael Hood, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, took to the podium to address the Bisons—members of 429 Transport Squadron—on parade, aircraft engines roared outside the hangar. “Great timing on the aircraft start up!” he observed with a laugh.

That’s the nature of the business at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. On November 7, 2017, 429 Squadron, one of the wing’s busiest squadrons celebrated its 75th birthday – 75 years of being a global leader in aviation and embodying the most important Canadian values. The squadron celebrated with a variety of events to mark the anniversary, to which current and former Bisons were invited.

The squadron’s history began in 1942 at Royal Air Force Station East Moor in Yorkshire, England, where the squadron was stood up as a part of No. 4 Group Bomber Command. Through the Second World War, the squadron flew more than 3,200 bombing sorties and earned 11 Battle Honours.

Since 1945, the squadron has seen many changes, being deactivated and reactivated, and moved from St-Hubert, Québec, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Trenton. But in 2007, with the arrival of the CC-177 Globemaster III in its current home at 8 Wing, 429 squadron took on the role for which it’s known today – the heart of air mobility and strategic airlift in Canada.The hallmark of the squadron, and the Globemaster itself, is adaptability. The strategic airlifter has played an integral role in operations in Afghanistan, the fight against Daesh, and Operation Reassurance in Eastern Europe. 429 Squadron’s involvement in these important coalition missions demonstrates Canada’s commitment to international collaboration and cooperation. However, this represents only a fraction of what 429 Squadron offers the world.

The Canadian flag atop the gigantic tail of the Globemaster has become a symbol of hope in disaster-stricken areas around the globe. From Haiti to the Philippines, Nepal and British Columbia, in response forest fires, the Globemaster carries supplies to those who need it most. Over its 10-year lifespan at 429 Squadron, the Globemaster has lifted more than 100 million pounds (45 million kilograms) of cargo and more than 30,000 passengers.Most recently, the squadron deployed to Puerto Rico to provide disaster relief following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“The amount of destruction was unlike anything I’d ever seen,” says Captain Steve Alexander, the aircraft commander for the first half of the three-week mission. “There were stripped trees, destroyed buildings, and wind turbines shattered on the ground.”

With only 12 hours’ notice, the crew of six flew to South Carolina where they moved under the control of the 601st Air Operations Center (AOC) in Florida. This was one of the first times in history that a Canadian Globemaster has been tasked to work directly for a foreign government. What followed was three weeks of intense operations: moving vehicles, personnel and equipment, including a U.S. Army preventative medicine team. The work sometimes went on for 16 to 18 hours a day. “It was an incredible experience,” Captain Alexander says. “I will never forget the sight of families who had lost everything, lined up along the airport fence line waving at us.”

Following the 75th anniversary parade, the massive hangar doors opened to 8 Wing’s flight line. Parade participants and spectators gathered on the ramp to watch a special flypast that wove together three of the squadron’s historical and current aircraft. First, the Avro Lancaster from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario, rumbled overhead, to be followed by a CC-130H Hercules. Finally, three Globemasters roared over.

Corporal Peter Aboud is with 429 Transport Squadron.

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