Abbotsford Airshow gears up for the weekend

50th anniversary of the Abbotsford International Airshow. August 10-12, 2012. Starts tomorrow.

Andrew Franklin

Andrew Franklin

Every Canadian fighter pilot heading to war in Europe spent hours training in them before graduating to fighter aircraft. The Harvard aircraft is Canada’s most distinctive aircraft of the WWII era, used as an advanced trainer by more than130,000 aircrew that came from all over the world. Pilots learned to fly as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan that bridged the gap between the elementary trainers of the day such as the Tiger Moth and the thoroughbred fighters such as the Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs.

Andrew Franklin, publisher of The Abbotsford News, was invited to take part in a pre-show flight as organizers get ready for the thousands of spectators that will descend on Abbotsford this weekend. “This was an absolute treat. This is a piece of aviation history built back in 1941. Knowing that airmen actually trained in this very aircraft is quite something,” said Franklin.

Every major power used a Harvard, even as combat aircraft from the 30’s to the 60’s. Several variations, called the AT-6, Yale, and Texan, were produced in North America and Australia, but the Canadian Harvard was produced in Montreal by Noordyan. Canada built 2,557 Harvards, but today there are only 25 left flying.

The Harvard is probably the best known training aircraft of all time. Several generations have thrilled to it’s unforgettable roar. (Due to the tips of its 9 foot propeller going supersonic.)

It was, of course fully aerobatic and pleasant to fly, but it had enough vices to ensure that students learned to do things properly if they wished to survive.

During World War 2, the Harvard was used extensively by military branches around the world, as a primary ‘fighter trainer’ training thousands of pilots in the nuances of fighter tactics and general flight. Armament could consist of two forward-fixed 7.62mm machine guns. It was used in combat in both Korea and Vietnam. You can see the Harvards in action at this year’s Abbotsford International Airshow. August 10-12th, 2012. More photos of the Harvard in action available at