Canadian Military Aircraft
with civil registration
owned by the
Canadian Military

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The aircraft described here were owned, leased or rented by a branch of the Canadian military, but carried civil registrations.  They were operated by the Canadian military, or at least operated on behalf of the Canadian military by organizations like the Canadian Flying Club Association, forerunner of today's  RCFCA, and the office of the Director of Civil Aviation ( a branch of the Department of National Defense until 1936).  They can be broadly grouped into the categories listed below.  Note that the civil registered aircraft belonging to the Canadian Air Board, and operated by the Canadian military, have their own web page.

Much of the individual aircraft information on these pages has come from three main sources:
  • the Canadian Civil Aircraft Registers, compiled by John R. Ellis, and published by the Canadian Aviation Historical Society;
  • "Aircraft of the Canadian Armed Forces" by Jeff Rankin-Lowe and Andrew Cline; and
  • the on-line Transport Canada registration database.
The information on the creation of the Canadian flying clubs comes from historian and fellow CAHS member, Terry Judge.  The interested reader should refer to his articles in the Aviation Review of December 1992, and the Air Britain magazine in 1994, for further information.

Pre Second World War - the flying clubs
Starting in 1926 and 1927, the Canadian government found itself facing a shortage of pilots for the rapidly growing government air operations, both federal and provincial, and for the booming commercial aircraft operations.  This was the Roaring Twenties, and the Canadian economy was roaring along with most of the rest of the world.  Based on recent successful flying club movements in Australia and the UK, it was decided that the government would foster a number of flying clubs across Canada.  The intent was to create a supply of trained pilots, and build up a civilian air training infrastructure, at relatively low cost to the government.  In addition, the flying fields created would form the basis of a new trans-Canada network of government supported airports.  The government aid took a number of forms, and included government supplied aircraft for clubs meeting certain criteria.  The aircraft were selected and purchased by the Department of National Defence.

The early success of the flying clubs caught the government by surprise, with sixteen clubs forming in 1928, and a further seven in 1929.  The initial batch of de Havilland Moths ordered by DND were quickly snapped up, and further orders were placed with de Havilland Canada, Fleet, and Curtiss-Reid.  In addition, the most successful clubs were able to raise their own funds to directly purchase additional aircraft.  All this gave a powerful boost to the small Canadian aircraft manufacturing industry, and rebuilding flying club wrecks would help these struggling companies through the hard times of the early 1930s.  Further help came from the RCAF in the early thirties.  Faced with major budget reductions and a surplus of training aircraft because of staff cut backs, the DND decided to stretch its limited funds by transferring some of their elementary trainers to augment the existing fleet with the Clubs.

The original theory behind the creation of the clubs proved to be brilliantly correct, first when the RCAF expanded by creating the Auxiliary squadrons in the late 1930s, and again when Canada was called upon to further expand its operational capabilities, and to create the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, in 1939.  The Auxiliary squadrons were generally collocated with flying clubs, and their early flying staff and ground staff came almost entirely from the clubs.    The flying clubs helped to set up many of the early BCATP Elementary Flying Training Schools, at the airfields created for the clubs.  In the early war years the clubs trained civilian instructors for the BCATP, under government contract.  Throughout the war, flying club graduates served in large numbers as operational aircrew, instructors with the BCATP, and ground crew.  Many rose to senior positions within the RCAF and the RAF.

Pre Second World War - other civil registered aircraft
Given the dual civil and military roles the CAF and RCAF performed in the 1920s and 1930s, it is not surprising that RCAF members would be found operating other government owned aircraft from time to time.  The best known of these other operations, outside of the regular CAB and RCAF organization, was probably the Hudson's Strait Survey of 1927.  The expedition was funded by several government departments, and was intended to determine the patterns and timing of ice movements in the approaches to Hudson's Bay.  This was in support of the government funded construction of a new northern railway and grain port at Churchill, Manitoba.  Although a multi-agency civil operation, the air crew and ground crew were mostly RCAF.  The aircraft of the expedition are included in the lists below.

In addition to the Flying Club aircraft, a few light aircraft were purchased by the DND for use as staff transports and trainers by the office of the Controller of Civil Aviation, which was a branch of the DND up until the formation of the Department of Transport in 1936.  These aircraft are included in the pre-war list below, up to 1936.

Some may argue that all these pre-war aircraft do not strictly fall within the scope of Canadian Military Aircraft Serials, even though the flying club and CCA aircraft were initially registered to the DND.  However, when reading the history of these aircraft, one quickly recognizes the names of the young airmen operating them as the creators and leaders of the war-time RCAF.  The same names often appear again in the early Cold War period, as very senior RCAF leaders.  The history of these aircraft is thus, in my opinion, a vital part of the history of Canadian military aviation.

During the Second World War
In the early years of the Second World War, before Pearl Harbor, it was a crime for American citizens to be involved in the delivery of warplanes to another country.  This resulted from the US Neutrality Act of 1935, and its several amendments.  Several methods were used to allow American built aircraft to be delivered to Canada without placing the ferry crew in legal danger.  The best known dodge was probably the cross-border airport at Sweetgrass, Montana and Coutts, Alberta, where aircraft parked on the US side of the ramp might suddenly and mysteriously show up on the Canadian side.  A lesser known technique was to issue Canadian civil registrations to the aircraft while they were still in the US.  This permitted US or Canadian flight crews to deliver the "civilian aircraft" across the border without fear of arrest.  Blocks of registration were assigned to the RCAF for this purpose, including CF-BPL to -BPO, CF-BPY to -BQD, CF-BQS to -BSP, CF-BSS to -BTQ, CF-BTS, and possibly others.

A number of RCAF utility and transport aircraft were loaned to various Canadian commercial operators during the war, probably to permit the civil operators to carry out vital government contracts.  These aircraft were issued temporary civil registrations to permit the civil crews to operate the aircraft, although they remained the property of the RCAF.

For all these aircraft, it is not clear in every case if the registrations were actually marked.  It is also possible that some of these registrations were used on more than one aircraft.  The detailed allocation of these markings was sometimes left to the RCAF and not always recorded by the Department of Transport, and some records may not have survived.  Those that I have identified are listed below.

Flying Club aircraft after World War 2
Based on the success of the pre-war Flying Club program, the RCAF continued to provide aircraft for selected Flying Clubs after the end of the war.  In addition, some Army and Navy pilots received their initial flight training at the Flying Clubs, under DND contracts.  All of the new aircraft owned by the DND, and used at the Clubs, were de Havilland Canada Chipmunks.  In addition, war surplus trainers, such as Tiger Moths, were sold at very low cost by the War Assets Corporation directly to the Clubs.   The aircraft owned by the Clubs and used for military training are recorded on a separate page of civil registered aircraft not owned by the government.

When the new technology programs of the late 1940s and early 1950s began to put pressure on the RCAF budget, it was decided that it would be more cost effective to let the Flying Clubs select and buy their own aircraft, and then pay them by the hour to train selected members of the military and the Air Cadets.  The decision may have been helped by the fact that the Chipmunks were not generally popular with the Flying Clubs.  This resulted from a combination of high hourly costs, and the changing expectations of the post-war recreational flyer (very few people wanted a tail wheel and tandem seating).  The Chipmunks were sold to the Clubs, and then quickly replaced by a mundane collection of Wichita spam cans.  The aircraft used today are owned or leased by the Flying Clubs, and are used for a variety of roles besides pseudo-military training.  For these reasons, I have not tracked these aircraft in my database.  Besides, they are boring.

Government funding of pilot training for the best of the Air Cadets continues today, and many of these young people have gone on to very successful careers within the Canadian Forces.  The best known example is probably Chris Hadfield.  Canada's third astronaut, he started flying gliders with the Air Cadets at age 15, in 1974, and earned his powered plane license in 1976, on an Air Cadet scholarship.  He would go on to a career as a fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut, and the first Canadian space walker.  He retired from the Canadian Forces in 2003, as a full Colonel, and now works for the Canadian Space Agency, on loan to NASA.  Many other alumni of the Air Cadets flying program currently serve in senior positions within the Canadian Forces.

Training aircraft, post integration
The general run down of the Canadian military since the 1970s has again forced military planners to come up with innovative ways of stretching their dollars.  Starting in the early 1990s, several aircrew training schools were privatized, using civil registered aircraft leased to the Canadian government, and sometimes operated and maintained by civilian contractors.  The Jetranger helicopter fleet was transferred to the civil register, and other aircraft were purchased by private contractors, principally Bombardier, for lease to the Canadian military.

Rumour has it that this move was not entirely popular within that old DND spin off, the aircraft certification branch of Transport Canada.  Some within TC felt that these types of aircraft, and their operation, were outside of their expertise, and they saw considerable expense to the Federal Government resulting from the certification and continuing airworthiness activities for these aircraft, without the taxation revenue stream that usually accompanied the introduction of new civil aircraft of this complexity.  TC apparently drew the line when it came to aircraft with no civil counterparts or potential civil use.  The CT-155 Hawks and CT-156 Harvard IIs are commercially owned aircraft, leased to the government, but they carry military serial numbers in the current Canadian Forces numbering scheme.

In November 2005 the DND primary training contract was shifted to Kelowna Flightcraft, replacing Bombardier.  K.F., operating as Allied Wings Holdings,  uses the Grob 120A aircraft in place of the Fireflies.  This is a single engine, low wing composite aircraft, made in Germany.  More information is available at  The original King Airs were replaced with new built aircraft, and the Jetrangers were all transferred in ownership.  From 2007, a number of CH-146 Griffins were transferred to the civil register, for use by Allied Wings.  I think my detailed list below now captures all the details of the change in operator.

The Air Cadet League
The Air Cadet League of Canada was formed early in the Second World War, to provide a place for young Canadians to gain exposure to the aeronautical world, in a military environment before moving on to the RCAF.  (See the The Air Cadet League web page, and click General for a more detailed history.)  From the earliest days, surplus RCAF aircraft, usually time expired training aids, were made available to the local Cadet Squadrons for instructional purposes.  I have identified these in the detailed aircraft history pages under the original RCAF serial number when I am aware of them, and they will soon have a page of their own. 

The Air Cadet League always took every opportunity to give Cadets some flight time in RCAF aircraft, when they were available.  This usually meant a ride or two in a local Base Flight, Com Flight or Transport Squadron aircraft.  Many ex-Cadets in their 60s and 70s today have fond memories of rides in Expediters, Dakotas, Otters, and even the occasional North Star, Box Car, or helicopter.  Most RCAF transport pilots from the early post war era will also have a few stories to tell of these familiarization flights, from bases and civil airports across the country.  By the mid 1960s reductions in the RCAF and in the number of bases was making it hard for the Air Cadet League to get every Cadet into an aircraft.  In 1967, the decision was made to "put the Air back in Air Cadets", and the Air  Cadet League launched a program of procuring and operating a fleet of light aircraft and gliders.  Many were obtained second hand from the military or from gliding schools across the country.

Today the various local committees of the Air Cadet League own a number of glider tug aircraft (L-19s, Bellancas, and one Wilga) and Schweizer gliders, that are used for familiarization flights and initial training with Air Cadets across Canada.  Operated by volunteer civilian pilots for a few weeks at a time from airports and small grass strips across the country, this roaming fleet makes sure that nearly every Cadet today gets a ride, and gets an opportunity to work around aircraft in a structured learning setting.  The best Cadets can go on to earn a glider pilot's license, and the best of the best still get scholarships to earn a power license, as described above.  Ownership of these aircraft lies, in the end, with the Federal Government, and the Department of National Defense is responsible for maintenance and airworthiness of the fleet, instructor and staff pilot standards, and daily tasking of the aircraft.  For these reasons, the aircraft are classed as "military conveyances" under Article 18(1) of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, despite their civil registration.

Leased Aircraft in Afghanistan
In 2007 the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan, headed by the Honourable John Manley, recommended that heavy lift helicopters be procured for use in Afghanistan, as a requirement for extending the Canadian military presence there.  Two types of helicopters were obtained in response to this recommendation.  US Army CH-47Ds were purchased second hand (see the post integration serial page), and civil registered, Russian built, Mil Mi-8Ts were leased.  The Russian helicopters were leased through Sky Link of Toronto, who has been placing East European and Asian helicopters with UN operations for several years.  Sky Link in turn sub-contracted with the Russian firm Aviakompaniya Aerostan, which supplied crews and Kyrgyzstan registered helicopters.  Civil registrations identified so far are EX-503 and EX-504.  Both helicopter types are operated by the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing at Kandahar.  Operations with the Mi-8Ts at Kandahar began on 17 November 2008.

A further quantity of fully militarized Mi-17s were quietly leased sometime in 2010.  Because they received CF military serials, they are covered on the post integration serial page under their CF designation of CH-178.

My information on these aircraft is probably far from complete, especially from the earlier days of the program.  I'm always glad to receive additions and corrections from my readers who have any information on individual aircraft.

The table below will connect you to detailed listings of these aircraft, in the various categories discussed above.

Typical aircraft
Pre Second World War, G-CAxx
41 records
updated 17 December 2006

Universal, Moth
Pre Second World War, up to CF-CCK
63 records
updated 7 November 2009

Moth, Rambler, various Fairchilds, Avian, Desoutter, Tiger Moth, Hawk Moth, Junior Speedmail, Puss Moth
Pre Second World War, CF-CCL and on
63 records
updated 8 April 2013
Puss Moth, Fairchilds, Wacos, Stinsons, Moth, Avian, Rambler, Fleet Model 7, Tiger Moth
During World War 2
47 records
updated 25 November 2005

Voyager, Boeing 247D, Lockheed 10A, 10B, and 12A, Hudson, Norseman
Flying Club aircraft after World War 2
35 records
updated 14 January 2006

Training aircraft, post integration
61 records
updated 19 October 2007

Jetranger, Firefly, King Air, Grob 120A, Griffin
The Air Cadet League
training aids
xx records
updated xxx
Anson,  Moth, Avro 626, Siskin, Tiger Moth, Harvard, Hurricane, Norseman, Finch, Sea Hornet
The Air Cadet League
powered aircraft

63 records
updated 16 July 2015

Birddog, Bellanca Scout, assorted small Cessnas, Super Cub, Wilga, Bonanza, Grob, Cherokee
The Air Cadet League
gliders, CF- and C-F registrations

47 records
updated 4 February 2008

Schweizer 2-33, 2-22, Schleicher RHL II
The Air Cadet League
gliders, C-G registrations

58  records
updated 7 February 2007

Schweizer 2-33, Schempp-Hirth Cirrus
Civil registered helicopters in Afghanistan
xx records
updated xxx

Mi-8T, serials identified so far are EX-503 and EX-504

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.

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2005 - 2015 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 25 November 2005. Updated 16 July 2015.