On Oct. 3, the Royal Canadian Air Force marked the 50th anniversary of the Canadair CT-114 Tutor’s first operational flight in Canada. Visitors to Canadian Forces Base Moose Jaw, Sask., were welcomed with a base tour that included a walk along the flight line, a chance to watch departing aircraft from the air traffic control tower, a visit to Flight Ops and a demonstration on emergency ejection procedures in a Harvard II ejection trainer. The tour concluded back out on the flight line with an opportunity to get up close and personal with the three types of aircraft that call CFB Moose Jaw home: the CT-156 Harvard II, the CT-155 Hawk, and of course, the CT-114 Tutor. For a lot of guests, this was a chance to get reacquainted with the Tutor, as many had trained on or maintained them at some point in their careers. Some instructed on the iconic aircraft while some also flew it in its more familiar role with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
As one might expect on an October day in Moose Jaw, it was rather windy and cold, but the sky was clear. This permitted fly-pasts featuring Hawks, Harvard IIs and Tutors for a large crowd that was gathered with the Snowbirds lined up ahead of them on the apron. The program concluded with the Snowbirds’ final show of the 2014 season. Guests, along with base personnel, several student pilots, and those who will join the team next year, gazed skyward as the team put an exclamation mark on a terrific day honouring the Tutor and saying goodbye to team members who will be leaving them after this season. The team taxied by the waiting crowd on their way to the hangar to celebrate a successful season in which the group was able to fulfil its schedule with no less than all nine aircraft performing at every show. This feat is not only due to the good health of the pilots, but as current deputy crew chief MCpl Martin Myre commented, “Our technicians are trained at an extremely high level and our aircraft are tested to tolerance levels beyond what they’d experience during a performance.” Myre, on his third year with the team, added that this isn’t without its challenges as parts become harder to source as the life expectancy of the Tutor could see another five years.
A dinner was hosted by 431 Squadron in the Snowbirds hangar on Saturday evening. Guests gathered around to look at Tutor memorabilia which included incredible photo albums that conjured up stories spanning the last 50 years. Commanding Officer of 431 Squadron, LCol Christopher England, has nearly 2,000 hours of flight time on the Tutor and says he knows exactly why we’re able to celebrate reaching 50 years of operational flight on the aircraft. “When the designers put pen to paper, I don’t think they expected it to remain in service for 50 years. It’s a true testament to the technicians who’ve meticulously maintained these aircraft through the years. As pilots, we fly them and we break them. It’s our technicians who keep them flying.”
The honorary speaker for the evening, D.F. (Yogi) Huyghebaert, flew two tours with the Snowbirds both as the number nine solo in 1974-1975, and as team leader in 1985-1986. He shared stories and special memories of the aircraft he’d spent so much time with. Yogi came to the RCAF during a short period of time when pilots were being put straight onto the Tutor. There was no elementary trainer to cut your teeth on; just the sporty little Canadian-made jet.
The team’s new boss for the 2014-2015 seasons, Maj Patrick Gobeil, is one of the few remaining pilots who did his basic training on the Tutor back in 1999. “It’s a fantastic aircraft, like a sports car, very solid and of course, Canadian made. The slower speed keeps our show pretty tight and the lower cost makes it easier for us to keep flying a nine-plane team.”
Guests were honoured to help celebrate this milestone in Moose Jaw. Fifty years is a major accomplishment for the reliable little Tutor—a true Canadian aviation icon.