RCAF Celebrates 100 Years


The Royal Canadian Air Force marked its 100th anniversary on April 1, making it one of the oldest stand-alone forces in the world. Like most militaries, the Canadian Army and Navy both flirted with using aircraft in the early 1900s, but the rapid development of technologies and tactics in the First World War prompted the Canadian government to create a dedicated air arm in 1924.

For most of its first century the RCAF has generally punched above its weight in terms of capability and influence, playing a major role in the Second World War and in Cold War defense of North America. Although it has struggled with procurement and personnel issues in the last 20 years, the RCAF is currently on a massive rebuilding program. It has ordered 88 F-35s, 16 P-8 Poseidons and nine A330 transport/tankers and is overhauling its flight training division. It is also creating a drone squadron with 11 MQ-9B Reapers to be deployed at three bases.

“As we continue to face threats to global stability, the RCAF is more important than ever. That is why the Government of Canada has invested $44 billion over the past 16 months to provide the RCAF with 138 new or refurbished aircraft – from a new fleet of fighter jets to new multi-mission aircraft,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement. “This strategic investment is the largest recapitalization of the RCAF in a generation, and it will ensure that the RCAF is well positioned to contribute to operations at home and abroad for decades to come.”

The RCAF’s air demonstration teams, the Snowbirds, and the F-18 demo team are now training for the coming airshow season. The Snowbirds will perform at EAA AirVenture in July and the F-18 is now being painted in commemorative livery for its shows across Canada and the U.S.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. During the war the BCATP turned out a large number of aircrew including USAF pilots which contributed greatly to the war effort. This too should not be forgotten.

    • And, no, my wife’s Canadian born mother influence did not make me say this. The RCAF significantly impacted WWII, with Canada hosting the BCATP that trained over 130,000 Allied forces from 1939-1945. This training was key for Allied air victories, including the Battle of Britain and European campaigns. RCAF personnel also engaged directly in combat, notably in the Battle of the Atlantic and European Theatre, contributing to key operations like the D-Day landings. Their bravery and skill were instrumental in securing Allied success, underscoring Canada’s vital contribution to the war effort. O Canada!

  2. Overhauling its training. Sadly no, it’s being shut down and contracted out.

    88 F35s .. proposed. First tranche has been ordered but there is no assurance that 88 will be the final/full order (we operated about half of the F18s we bought). personnel levels are so tragically low that transition to the F35 will require a shut down of current ops when it happens.

    We did this in in 1980 – rust out gets to the point it forces the government’s hand. We are no where near the NATO goal of 2% of GDP, nor have we been for decades.

    23+ year veteran.

  3. Another proud achievement of historic Canada. Under Justin Trudeau best years are long behind them.

    They need William Lyon Mackenzie King from the 30-‘s & 40’s or Brian Mulroney from the 80’s to come back. Canada’s slip into authoritarian government is hard to watch.

    Canadian’s are wonderful people with a rich heritage as Russ’s article shows in this anniversary proof point. Awesome if they can reconnect with their roots.

  4. Trudeau pulled the RCAF out of Afghanistan, stating Canada’s military should not be in the business of harming people, like the Taliban. He then proceeded to retreat from NATO.
    Pilot training has collapsed. Recruits are waiting two to three years before pilot training commences.
    Canada will send F-35 pilots to third world countries like Finland for training.
    A recruit is not permitted to begin pilot training unless they can speak French. Trudeau ordered tampon dispensers to be placed in all federal and military bathrooms.
    Now no Canadians want to join their military. Recruitment has collapsed for all branches.


    I’ve always enjoyed watching the Snowbirds–I believe it to be the BEST JET DEMONSTRATION TEAM IN THE WORLD!

    Instead of the “light up the burners and make noise” of the U.S. teams, the Snowbirds fly a very precise and cohesive airshow–putting more aircraft into a tighter formation than the U.S. teams.

    Rather than “raw power” demonstrations like our teams, they let their precision and cohesiveness speak for them. How “CANADIAN”–“no brag–just the facts!” While the U.S. teams fly high-powered first-line fighters, the Snowbirds fly decades-old trainers. While our teams come complete with C-130s full of spare parts and maintainers, the Snowbirds carry the spares along with them when “on the road.” (when I’ve asked about spares, the reply is “I carry some spare radios, Roy carries a spare starter/generator, and Frank carries spare hydraulic parts…..” (smile)

    I’ve done airshows with the Snowbirds–they are a social bunch. On the flight line, yes, there is the respect of rank, but they sometimes call their ground crew members by their first names. After the show, at social settings, they mingle as one. Like so many pro’s, they like to knock back afterward (and they are allowed to drink responsibly. I’ve even had them ask “Hey, Mate–buy you a Molson?” (one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had!)

    When asked about (or should I say, “About”?) their schedule, they say “We don’t just hit the big airshows or big cities–we do shows at airports that are too short for us to land–THOSE PEOPLE ARE TAXPAYERS, TOO!

    They represent Canada (and Canadians) so well with their competency yet laid-back style. I’m proud to have them as neighbors!