Yellow birds return to Moose Jaw

News Article / July 19, 2016

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National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

On June 17, 2016, residents of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and 15 Wing in particular, were treated to a sight not seen in the skies over Moose Jaw since the mid-1960s – a yellow-painted Harvard!

Flown on its maiden voyage by 2 Canadian Flying Training School (2 CFFTS) commandant Lieutenant-Colonel David Smith, the commemorative CT-156 Harvard II 156120 touched down in Moose Jaw after a short acceptance test flight and ferry flight from a paint facility in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. 

“It was a privilege to receive the commemorative British Commonwealth Air Training Plan [BCATP] Harvard II and return it home to the skies above Moose Jaw. I am extremely proud of the efforts of all members of our team, within both 2 CFFTS and our industry partner, CAE,” Lieutenant-Colonel Smith said. “The monumental focus of effort symbolized by Canada’s contribution of the BCATP to the Second World War continues today, albeit on a much smaller scale, with the NATO Flying Training in Canada [NFTC] program, and reminds us of what we can accomplish when we all work toward a common goal.”

Through the diligent efforts of many and in cooperation with NFTC program partner CAE, the aircraft has been painted in a yellow Second World War BCATP paint scheme to commemorate the BCATP. The aircraft is painted to resemble an aircraft flown by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., the famed author of “High Flight”. Pilot Officer Magee completed his wings training on BCATP Harvards in June 1941 as a student at No. 2 Service Flying Training School, RCAF Station Uplands (Ottawa). “High Flight” is now considered to be the poem of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and is commonly read during Battle of Britain commemorations and graduation ceremonies.

Vice President and General Manager of CAE Canada Mike Greenley has expressed his strong support of the project. "CAE is delighted to have had the opportunity to collaborate with the RCAF and 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School on the BCATP commemorative CT-156 Harvard II paint scheme,” he said. “The proud history of military flying training in Canada, and specifically Saskatchewan, is certainly worth celebrating. CAE looks forward to telling the BCATP story alongside our DND partners during this important commemorative year. A big thanks to Plane Perfection in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, who painted the aircraft; we are ecstatic with how everything turned out."

The commemorative CT-156 Harvard II is more than an impressive looking aircraft; it has also returned to its flying rotation within the training program. This means that current student pilots will once again have the honour of flying a yellow Harvard during their training, just like the pilots that came before them 75 years ago.

Second Lieutenant Greg Warr was the lucky student pilot who flew the first flight in the yellow Harvard after its return to the flying training rotation, along with his instructor pilot, Major Marc-André Asselin. Although he initially had to get used to the new colour, Second Lieutenant Warr said it was business as usual.

“Flying the yellow Harvard was no different than flying one with a normal paint scheme but it does make you think about the history that has brought the school to where it is today,” he said. “The fact that 75 years ago there was a student pilot doing the exact same thing I’m doing today with the same coloured Harvard is pretty incredible, and I’m proud to be a part of that legacy.”

This year, the RCAF is commemorating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, one of the largest air training programs the world has ever seen, and marking the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the 400-series squadrons, which continue to serve Canada and Canadians today.

2 CFFTS, as the principal host unit of the NFTC Program, currently operates the CT-156 Harvard II in both the primary and advanced fast-jet training role as part of 15 Wing Moose Jaw. Graduates of the Harvard II basic training program are assigned to fast-jet, helicopter, or multi-engine advanced training with advanced fast-jet candidates remaining in Moose Jaw before progressing on the CT-155 Hawk and, eventually, the CF-188 Hornet. 

With files from Lieutenant-Colonel David Smith.

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