by Michael DESMAZES
September 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Royal Canadian Air Force Abbotsford’s Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) No 24.
No. 24 EFTS was the fourth and final school sponsored by the Vancouver Air Training Co. Ltd. The VATC was set up by the Aero Club of British Columbia under the guidance of the RCAF to train fledgling pilots for the Second World War.
Abbotsford was one of over 100 aerodromes in Canada that were built to take part in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
The Abbotsford Airport was barely completed at that time, in fact, most of the buildings were completed between August and September of that year including the three remaining hangars, the Abbotsford Flying Club building and two others.
Several hundred pilots were trained at 24 EFTS. However only a few of them would see active service in this war. This was due to the fact that by mid-1944 the BCATP had a huge surplus of trained pilots and the Air Force could afford to be selective.
Records show at least one Abbotsford graduate was decorated for service in Burma flying his Dakota transport over the hump to supply the British Army.
A second Abbotsford graduate would hold the distinction of taking part in flying Canada’s first jet fighters (Vampires) from Canada to Germany as part of Canada’s NATO commitments in 1951. This same pilot took part in the 300 plane Coronation flypast in 1953.
At the height of operations at No. 24, EFTS had 100 PT-23 Cornell trainers flying in and out of Abbotsford’s Aerodrome. The civilian staff of over 200 maintained the aircraft and the Aerodrome and as a result of the VATC’s management, 24 EFTS had become one of the most efficiently run schools in Canada.
Research to date shows at least eight of Abbotsford’s former Cornell aircraft are still registered in the United States. No small miracle when one considers that the Cornell is a wood and fabric covered aircraft that was manufactured some 70 years ago.