Canadian Forces Snowbirds

431 Squadron Badge

431 Squadron Badge


The Canadian Forces Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron) is a Canadian icon comprised of serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Their pilots and technicians work as a team to bring thrilling performances to the North American public. Serving as Canadian ambassadors, the Snowbirds demonstrate the Skill, Professionalism and Teamwork inherent in the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Canadian Armed Forces.


2016 Theme - Commemorating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

This air show season the Canadian Forces Snowbirds will commemorate the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), the joint air crew training program launched by Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand during the Second World War.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and its contribution to the Second World War air effort and the Allied victory was an important chapter in Canada's history, leaving a legacy in our communities for generations to come.

Training for victory

  • The agreement for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) was signed in late 1939 and the training ran from 1940-45. Prime Minister Mackenzie King thought it would be one of Canada’s most significant contributions to the Allied effort during the Second World War, a contribution that would leverage "the power of the airplane in determining ultimate victory".
  • The exhaustive curriculum and intensive schedule of classroom and flight training in Canada turned out air crew members at a dizzying pace, ready to serve overseas.
  • By the end of the Second World War, the training plan had produced 131,553 aircrew, including pilots, wireless operators, air gunners, and navigators for the Air Forces of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The plan also trained citizens of other nations – including Poland, the United States, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia and France – who joined the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force.
  • Tens of thousands more maintainers and support staff were recruited and trained by the RCAF to support the effort; without the contribution of these men and women, the plan would have failed.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds home base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan played an important role in training Commonwealth aircrew during the Second World War. The Moose Jaw Flying Club initially provided pilot training to the RCAF but the Government of Canada acquired the airfield in 1940 and completely rebuilt it opened No. 32 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Station Moose Jaw.

Once aircrew graduated from the Plan they went overseas to serve with Commonwealth Air Force squadrons. Some of these members even went on to join 431 Squadron once it was created in 1942.


Training Aircraft

Fleet Finch – The Fleet Finch, along with the better known de Havilland Tiger Moth, was used during the first phase of flight training for pilot candidates who were going through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The Finch was a two-seat, tandem training biplane produced by Fleet Aircraft in Fort Erie, Ontario. They were used as initial trainers at 12 Elementary Flying Training Schools across Canada. The Elementary Flying Schools gave recruits 50 hours of basic flying instruction on simple training aircraft before moving onto more advanced aircraft.

Avro Anson – The Avro Anson entered service in the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1935 as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. It was retired from this role in 1939 and was rededicated to training pilot candidates under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Upon graduation from the Elementary Flying Training Schools, candidates were divided into different streams. Candidates in the bomber, coastal, or transport pilot stream went on to train on the Avro Anson at Service Flying Training Schools. 

Harvard – The Harvard is one of the most recognizable training aircraft from the Second World War. It was used at Service Flying Training Schools to train candidates who selected for the fighter stream. Nearly 50,000 Allied pilots received their wings on this aircraft. It was one of the most advanced trainers of the war and was an effective bridge to the high-performance fighter aircraft, like the Spitfire and Hurricane, thanks to its size and handling.

Community Involvement

Communities giving us wings

  • Approximately 150 Canadian communities can trace connections to the BCATP.
  • Besides finding employment at training aerodromes, citizens of host communities also contributed to the training plan by instructing at and operating schools. Twenty-eight of the 30 Elementary Flying Training Schools and all 10 Air Observer Schools were run by community flying clubs, local companies or airlines.
  • The tremendous support of local agencies allowed the training plan to get off the ground quickly. Incorporating civilians into the basic stages of aircrew training allowed the RCAF to take advantage of already-qualified civilian instructors and existing aerodromes as early as the spring of 1940.
  • Canadians took great pride in making the trainees feel a part of their communities, and community events did wonders to lift the spirits of Commonwealth air force personnel.

The Lasting Legacy

  • Article XV of the BCATP agreement indicated that Commonwealth air force personnel would be identified with their respective countries, either by organizing their own national units or formations or by other methods. This eventually led to the creation of specifically Australian, Canadian and New Zealand squadrons, although many Canadians also served in RAF squadrons. The Canadian squadrons that grew out of this  agreement – the so-called 400 series of squadrons – continue to form the fabric of the Royal Canadian Air Force to this day.
  • The first of these squadrons came into existence in 1941, which is why Canada is commemorating the BCATP in 2016.
  • Many reminders of this community effort can be seen across Canada today. The airports of many cities and towns were once part of the plan’s aerodrome infrastructure. Many military bases in use today were once flight training schools, and even Canada's participation in NATO air training stems from this legacy.
  • Many Canadian communities were also left with other somber reminders of the training plan’s history. Commonwealth recruits who died during training were buried in cemeteries of nearby communities, along with airmen from other nations undergoing training, most of them under the auspices of the Royal Air Force. Of the 856 participants who died during training in Canada were:

                    o   469 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force

                    o   291 members of the Royal Air Force

                    o   65 members of the Royal Australian Air Force

                    o   31 members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force


The Snowbirds are the proud ambassadors of the following foundations:

Current Aircraft

431 has flown these aircraft

  • Vickers Wellington
  • Handley-Page Halifax
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Canadair (North American) F-86 Sabre



THE HATITEN RONTERIIOS (Warriors of the air)

Battle Honours

  • English Channel and North Sea 1943-1944
  • Baltic 1943-1944
  • Fortress Europe 1943-1944
  • France and Germany 1944-1945
  • Biscay Ports 1943-1944
  • Ruhr 1943-1945
  • Berlin 1943-1944
  • German Ports 1943-1945
  • Normandy 1944
  • Rhine Biscay 1943-1944


A brief squadron history can be found on the Deparment of National Defence's Directorate of History and Heritage webpage.

Our Contact Details

431 (AD) Sqn
15 Wing
PO Box 5000
Moose Jaw, SK
S6H 7Z8

Fax: (306) 694-2809

Please allow up to ten business days for a reply.


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