The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) was a major Canadian contribution to the Allied war effort during the Second World War. Between May 1940 and March 1945, more than 167,000 students1 from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, as well as from Belgium, Free France and Poland, were trained in the 107 schools established across Canada. The BCATP schools produced some 50,000 pilots during the course of the war, which is three times the number of aircraft built in Canadian factories in the same period. Consequently, the BCATP had a significant impact on air operations in Europe, Asia and Africa.
When contemplating this accomplishment and the enormous impact the war had on the Canadian landscape, readers might recall that when the war broke out, the Royal Canadian Air Force had scarcely fifty aircraft, most of which were civilian-model planes equipped mainly for surveillance missions. There were few civilian airports at that time, and the rare aircraft seen in Canadian skies were usually equipped with floats in order to land on the country's many lakes and rivers. As well, in practically all regions, farmers made up a significant portion of the population, and horses were still used for most field work. Once the war commenced, aerodromes transformed much of Canada's quiet landscape.
A DANGEROUS AERODROME.
While operational units of the RCAF were mainly concentrated in the eastern and western parts of the country for the protection of Canada's coasts, inauguration of the BCATP brought about the opening of a host of aerodromes further inland. Overnight, the roar of Wasp and Merlin engines of Harvard and Hurricane airplanes became a familiar sound throughout the countryside of Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. Air Force activities were thus more widespread throughout the country, and also much more visible to the population than those of the Canadian Army or Navy. Given the intensity of air training in Canada during the war years, Canada was very appropriately called "the Aerodrome of Democracy-.