RAF Type A roundel
Canadian Military Aircraft
Serial Numbers
The Air Board Years
1919 to 1927 (and beyond)
RAF Type A roundel

back to main page
go to lists
go to bottom of page

The Canadian federal government created an Air Board in June 1919, to oversee all aspects of aviation in Canada. Its responsibilities included aircraft and aircrew licensing, aircraft inspection and certification, construction and operation of "air harbours", and operation of government owned aircraft.  The Canadian Air Force in Canada also fell under the control of the Air Board.

Initially the Air Force was only to undertake refresher training of World War One veterans, who would then form an Auxiliary Air Force. This was in keeping with the then current Canadian philosophy of maintaining minimal standing forces and a large part time militia. A central training facility for air crew and ground crew was established at the former RAF facility at Camp Borden, Ontario.  These facilities had passed to the Canadian Department of Militia and Defense at the end of the war, and were transferred agian to the Air Board on 5 July 1920.  All the aircraft operated here received Air Board civil registrations, as explained below.  Civil operations would use most of the CAF/RCAF resources for several years, and the Auxiliary squadrons would not start operating aircraft until 1934.

Other government air operations were performed by the Civil Operations Branch of the Air Board. In theory, this was an entirely civilian operation. In practice, almost all the initial staff and aircraft were military veterans, and increasing numbers of uniformed CAF members were assigned. In the spring of 1922, the Civil Operations Branch was transferred to the Canadian Air Force, who then undertook most government civil air operations. The aircraft retained their Air Board registrations.  By 1923, both the Air Board and the CAF were part of the new Department of National Defense.

The civil operations performed included aerial survey, forest fire patrols, fisheries and customs patrols, assistance to police departments, VIP transportation, support for scientific research, medical evacuations, and a wide range of support to various government agencies. Operating from primitive bases, sub-bases, and mobile camps throughout Canada, the Air Board and the CAF invented bush flying through the early 1920s. The prefix "Royal" was permitted by King George V on 1 April 1924, the official birthday of the RCAF.

As part of the British Empire, Canada was then using the G-Cxxx series for civil registered aircraft (where xxx were 3 sequential letters, starting at AAA). The Air Board aircraft were registered in the G-CYxx range, starting with Avro 504K G-CYAA. A small number of aircraft were initially operated with their original USN or RAF serial numbers, for evaluation purposes, or to meet urgent requests for the Air Board's services. A very few of the Gift aircraft never received a Canadian civil registration. This may have been due to accidents, or to the aircraft being found to be unsuitable, or to the aircraft only being used for spare parts. These aircraft are covered on a seperate page for Canadian owned aircraft with RNAS and RAF serial numbers.

The Air Board's first aircraft came from the Imperial gift of 114 ex-RAF aircraft received from the UK in 1919, and from RAF and USN stocks left behind in Canada after the war.  Most of these were stored on arrival in Canada, and only received their Canadian registration when they were placed into service over the following years.  Additional second hand aircraft were purchased from the US and British military in the early 1920s. Purchases of new aircraft were extremely limited until about 1928, by which time G-CYHD had been reached. At this time, the government began to purchase larger numbers of new aircraft for the rapidly growing civil operations,and small numbers of military aircraft.  A new registry of numerical serial numbers for military aircraft was started in early 1928.   Procurement also continued for civil tasks, with civil registerations starting with G-CYZZ and descending until about G-CYUR. Canadian manufacturers were favoured, and other manufacturers were encouraged to set up licensed facilities in Canada, as seen in the lists below. This led to the birth of the modern Canadian aircraft industry, and laid the foundations for the massive Canadian aircraft production that would occur in the near future.

In 1927 it was decided that it would be more politically correct to return the non-military flying tasks to a nominally civilian organization, and the Directorate of Civil Government Air Operations was formed. Nearly all of the RCAF's non training aircraft, along with their air crews and ground crews, were transferred to this organization. Although this was supposed to be a civil organization, with the aircraft retaining their civil registrations, the staff remained mostly uniformed RCAF members. For this reason, my database tracks the Directorate's aircraft after this date.  Procurement of civil registered aircraft for the Directorate continued until at least 1931.  As the threat of war increased through the mid and late 1930s, some of these aircraft were transferred to the RCAF for military use.

The Directorate continued to use a mix of civilian and RCAF staff to operate its aircraft. More and more, specific tasks were assigned to the customer government agencies or commercial contractors, and the aircraft and civil staff where usually transferred from the Air Board to the new operations. At this point, the aircraft were generally re-registered in the new CF-xxx series. I have not attempted to track this series in my database. What was left of the Air Board, minus the last RCAF operating units, became the federal Department of Transport in 1936, by which time almost all Directorate flying operations had been transferred. By this time the remaining civil registered aircraft had all been transferred to the RCAF numerical registry, or disposed of.  The loan of uniformed RCAF personnel to the Department of Transport continued until at least 1945. Today, Transport Canada is still a favorite retirement destination for ex Armed Forces members.

Some other Federal and Provincial government agencies owned aircraft registered outside of the G-CYxx series during this time, and these were occasionally operated by Air Force personnel.  In addition, the DND owned several civil registered light aircraft operated by the Controller of Civil Aviation,and others that were passed to the flying clubs.  These aircraft now have their own web page.

Initially, all Air Board aircraft carried the full registration on the fuselage (in black letters in a white rectangle), the letter "G" on the rudder, and the full registration on the top and bottom of the wing, in the largest letters that would fit. Later, all RCAF aircraft, and some other government aircraft, displayed only the last 2 letters of their registration on the fuselage side in large characters, and the complete registration on the top and bottom wings. This can lead to possible confusion from photos showing only the fuselage markings. Usually, RCAF aircraft also displayed RAF style roundels on the fuselage, and the 3 vertical stripes on the rudder. This permits you to positively identify the aircraft as belonging to the Air Board, registered in the G-CYxx range. When the roundels and fin marks are absent, determining the complete registration may be an educated guess.

The table below will connect you to two types of listings of these aircraft. The "Brief lists" present a minimum amount of information about as many aircraft as I can fit on a reasonably sized page. Use these lists to identify individual aircraft, or to quickly scan a large range of serials. The "Detailed lists" contain all the information currently in my database, and are broken into many more pages to keep the data manageable.

Brief lists
Detailed lists
known G-Cxxx registrations
(326 records)
updated 11 June 2004

G-CYAA to G-CYCZ  (78 records) updated 7 May 2005
G-CYDA to G-CYFZ   (73 records) updated 20 May 2005
G-CYGA to G-CYTZ (30 records) updated 3 July 2005
G-CYUA to G-CYWZ (60 records) updated 3 July 2005
G-CYXA to G-CYZZ (79 records) updated 18 December 2005

This data has come from a variety of sources, and may contain all sorts of errors. In the future, I will add a complete list of references. For now, some recent Internet references can be found at the links below.  I would welcome any corrections or additions you may have. Contact me using the link below.

To main page to top of this page
contact me Canadian Military Aircraft links  Serial Number Links About the Author  The Project

© 2004, 2005, 2006 by R. W. R. Walker      All rights reserved under the copyright laws.
This is an amateur site - please don't rely on any of this data for anything important!
Created 21 April 2004. Updated 17 December 2006.