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Canadian Military Aircraft
Serial Numbers
About my database project
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contact me Canadian Military Aircraft links  Serial Number Links About the Author 
My early databases 
The database today  About the web pages terms and definitions What's new

My early databases
I've been fascinated by aircraft as long as I can remember. This probably started because I was raised on military air bases. Another life time passion has been history in general, and Canadian history in particular. I've always been a voracious reader of all kinds of non-fiction.  While my buddies were reading Superman comics, I was in the base library reading Canadian military history. Well, OK, I read Superman sometimes too, but you get my drift. A foundation was being laid for the craziness that would follow.

It was the base library that introduced me to Air Britain magazines, and the excellent little Ian Allen books of serial number and registration lists. It was pretty natural to connect what was in these publications to the military traffic all around me, and I probably started my first list of serial numbers at about the age of 12. It was frustrating at first, because I didn't fully understand the differences between serial numbers, codes, squadron markings, etc. When I was 14 we moved to The Big City, and the library there had a copy of "Aircraft Camouflage and Markings" by Bruce Robertson. Reading this was an epiphany. I immediately started a list of Canadian military aircraft serial numbers, in a three ring binder. The list is digital today, but the half dozen binders I had filled before I bought the first Amiga are still in the basement somewhere.

Going digital was, in a way, very distracting. I had already identified many types of non Canadian serial numbers worn by aircraft in Canadian service, and it was easy to set up the database to record them. Similarly, my research on Canadian built aircraft turned up even more serial number series, and one by one they were added to the database. Once that was done, I started recording non Canadian aircraft in these ranges. After all, I thought, how many aircraft can there be out there? Fifteen years later, I still can't answer that question. For several years I didn't spend much time on the database, and I'm currently collecting data much faster than I'm entering it. I hope that setting up these pages will force me to focus on updating at least parts of the database.


The database today
My first digital database used Microfiche Filer, run on an Amiga. That original Amiga is land-fill today, but the database lives on in Microsoft Access running on a couple of PC clones. This table gives a list of the arbitrary categories I have created within it, and the size of the database on the date shown.  Canadian serial number records are shown in red.  For sequences that are not uniquely Canadian (such as the RAF_AA sequence), a Canadian record indicates an aircraft numbered in this sequence that was operated by a Canadian military unit, but was not owned by, or on charge with, the Canadian government at the time.  I have just started to identify these, and there are many more to come.

Sequence description Total Records Canadian Records
RAF AA Royal Air Force, AA100 and up             60,923    4,256
USAAC/USAAF/USAF US Army Air Corp, Army Air Force, and Army post split:; FY-xxxxx             58,126                 4
RAF Royal Air Force, and FAA not in RFC/RNAS, A1 to Z9999             51,680             917
US SC or AS US Army Signal Corp and Air Corp, prior to 1921(?)             31,414  
 RCAF/RCN   includes Cdn Army and some RCN, all pre integration, 1 to 26190              18,072         18,072
BuAer 3rd series 00001 and up, 5 or 6 digits, to about 165000 by year 2000             17,436                 2
USN 1st series A75 to 9999, A dropped June 1930, reached 9999 in 1934               9,949  
BuAer 2nd series 0001 to 7304, ended 1940               7,295  
 RCAF_RAF_AA   RCAF owned or controlled aircraft with RAF serials AA100 and up               4,884           4,884
RFC/RNAS Royal Flying Corps and earlier Royal Naval Air Service, no letter prefix               4,358  
 RFC (Canada)   RFC/RAF training aircraft in Canada, C101 and up               1,900           1,900
 CAF   Canadian Armed Forces, post integration               1,836           1,836
 CDN_RAF   Canadian owned or controlled aircraft with RFC/RAF serials up to Z9999                  784             784
RNZAF Royal New Zealand AF, 1920s to present, form of NZxxx                  452  
RAAF, 2nd usage includes Army, form of A1-yyy to A100-xxx, started 1935 to 1960                  368  
 RCN   Post war RCN serials, where distinct from RCAF numbers, includes BuAer No.                  331             331
 C.A.B.   Canadian Civil Air Board, G-Cyxx                  320             320
 Civil_Cdn_1   Government or DND owned or controlled aircraft with civil registrations                  315             315
Italian AF typically MMxxxxx, used pre WW2 to present    242

 RCAF postwar   RCAF after 1945, 5 or 6 digit, repeated WW2 serials                  207             207
RAAF, 1st usage includes Army, form of A1-yyy to A12-xxx, started 1921                  202  
 RCN_RAF_AA   RCN owned or controlled aircraft, with RAF serials AA100 and up                  175             175
 RCAC   Royal Canadian Air Cadet League aircraft                  160             160
 RCAF_USA   Canadian owned or controlled aircraft with USAAF/USAF/USN serial numbers                  159             159
RAAF, 3rd usage includes Army, form of A1-yyy to A100-xxx, started 1961 to present                   46  
 RCN pennant   RCN 2 or 3 digit pennant numbers not based on serial number                    40             
Aus. CFS Australian Army Central Flying School, 1912 to about 1918                   28  
 Civil_Cdn_2   Civil registered aircraft used by Cdn military, but not owned or leased                    18               18
FAA first N and S series, prior to 1930                   13  
RAN Royal Australian Navy, form of Nx-yyy, post WW2                     2  
  TOTALS as of 18 April 2010
      271,732         34,337


Here is one my data entries forms, to show you the fields available for each record. Most of the bulk data is actually first entered in an Excel spreadsheet, and then imported to Access. This is an easy way to create a large number of records, with serial numbers and company numbers quickly incremented.   Note that the example shown below is NOT of Canadian aircraft.

sequence

s/n (1)

s/n (2)

s/n (3)

Designer

Manu-
facturer

basic
designation

variant or
model

name

first
date

first date
text

last
date

last date
text

comments

company
designation

company
number

USN 1st series

A

8314


Vought


O2U

O2U-4

Corsair








USN 1st series

A

8315


Vought


O2U

O2U-4

Corsair








USN 1st series

A

8316


Vought


O2U

O2U-4

Corsair








USN 1st series

A

8317


Vought


O2U

O2U-4

Corsair








USN 1st series

A

8318


Vought


O2U

O2U-4

Corsair








USN 1st series

A

8319


Vought


O2U

O2U-4

Corsair









I also use some Access forms to enter data one aircraft at a time or to add data to existing records, like this one.

data entry form

I decide which "sequence" a record belongs in based on the ownership of the aircraft.  This means that the same serial number may be duplicated in more than one sequence, if the aircraft changed ownership without receiving a new serial number.  As well, the same aircraft may have multiple records, if its serial number has been changed over its life.  When I can, I record the manufacturer's serial number or other identifier in the field  "company number", since this never changes with changes in ownership or markings (well, almost never).  This is why I identify the number of records throughout these web pages, and not the number of aircraft.  The number of individual aircraft, obviously, is something less than the number of records.

As an extreme, but not uncommon, example of the difference between number of records and number of aircraft, consider the example of many of the Dakotas operated by the RCAF.  These aircraft may each have up to four different records in my database:
  • originally ordered by the US government, with a USAAF serial (USAAC/USAAF/USAF sequence)
  • passed to the RAF, and given an RAF serial number (RAF_AA sequence)
  • ownership passed to Canada after the war, retaining the RAF serial number (RCAF_RAF_AA sequence)
  • renumbered by the Canadian Armed Forces in 1970 (CAF sequence)
Some comments on the information in the "comments" section are needed.  These are meant to be brief comments, and in many cases an entire book could be written (and has been written) on an individual aircraft or small group of aircraft.  In order to conserve electrons, and to finish the web site before the end of the current century, I have had to take some shortcuts that should be understood by the reader. 

First, the entries in the "comments" field are, at best, just a snap shot of some moments in the aircraft's history.  For example, if the comment reads "With No. 412 Squadron in 1960", it should not be interpreted as meaning the aircraft never served with this unit at other times, or never served with other units.

Second, many of the dates quoted for assignment to a new unit or Command are taken from official records, and are usually only the date on which the paperwork was up-dated.  They may, or may not, be the actual date on which the aircraft was physically transferred.  When I can find it, I will also mention the date on which the aircraft was delivered to a new user.  These can be a few days, or even weeks, before or after the paperwork transfer.  In some cases, the change in Command ownership did not produce a change in the unit operating the aircraft, and no physical re-location would have occurred.  I feel it is still of some use to record these dates, as we at least get some indication that the aircraft was still in use (or still in storage, or still under repair, or whatever) on the date quoted.

In particular, there are several periods in RCAF history when many units changed Command, resulting in a change of high level ownership of the aircraft, without an actual change in daily operations at the unit level.   When the BCATP began to wind down in late 1944 and early 1945, the 4 Training Commands were merged into 2 Air Commands, No. 1 Air Command forming in the east on 15 January 1945, and No. 2 Air Command in western Canada on 12 December 1944.  In both cases, the aircraft serving with the effected Schools would have a change in ownership recorded (and reported on my web pages), but would continue in use with the same School at the same base.  The same sort of thing happened after the Second World War, as the RCAF command structure evolved through the geographic commands, such as Northwest Air Command, into the functional based command structure (Air Transport Command, Maritime Air Command, etc.).  A more complete story on this evolution can be found in "RCAF Squadrons and Aircraft" by Griffin and Kostenuk.

Finally, much of my information has come from the Aircraft Record Cards, which are held in the National Archives of Canada.  These often only record high level transfers of aircraft between Commands, without always recording the actual assignment to units under that Command.  In order to find these lower level assignments and dates, I am sifting through microfilmed records of the individual units, and aircrew log books.  This is a very slow process.  In the mean time, I will report these changes in Command ownership, as they at least provide a rough indication of the location and usage of the aircraft.  As always, if anyone out there can fill in some gaps for me with their research or personal knowledge, please do so.

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About the web pages
Another epiphany occurred when I started researching this topic on the Internet in the early 1990s. To my complete amazement, I found other people out there who shared my crazed obsession with serial numbers. Some of them were even crazier than me. Most of them also spent a lot more time at this than me. Suddenly, my life time obsession had a purpose. I would create these pages, to share my labours with my fellow aeronumerologists. At first, I thought I would finish filling in the database first, before creating any web pages. However, after reading Hawking's "Brief History of Time", and spending a few years "finishing" the database, I realized the universe would probably come to an end before I was truly finished. So, here is the database as it stands today, warts, gaps, and all.

The text introductions to each section are my own opinions, based on years of reading about the subject. The various lists are Access static data reports, that have been published direct to HTML, or sometimes published first to Word or Excel for polishing, and then exported as HTML. I'm still learning all this stuff, so bear with me. If anybody knows how to send a multi-page Access report to a single HTML file, complete with all formatting, in one easy step,  please tell me!

Setting up the front pages and writing their introductory text was the easy part.  The task of creating all the lists is not complete (as you probably noticed), and will take some time.  Also, I'm always adding stuff to the database, and will be updating the existing lists from time to time to show this new data.  Every time I publish a new or updated page, I start to receive corrections and additions via e-mail within a few days.  These are very welcome, but it means that most of the pages you can see are out of date in a very short time.  Contact me at the link below if you have questions on a specific aircraft - there could be more information in my database than what you see here.

The pages are created in Netscape Composer, for 2 reasons: I'm too cheap to buy a real HTML editor, and my son convinced me it could do everything I need. He also taught me how to program the clock on our VCR, so I respect his technical opinions.  I've tried to keep things fairly simple in terms of colours, animations, fancy fonts, frames, etc. This is partly a personal preference, and partly because I can't figure out how to do all that stuff. I'm going to get a book on HTML from the library next week. Or maybe the week after.

The pages were first laid out on a 1024 by 748 screen. I've validated them using the Netscape validate tool, and personally tested them in Netscape 7 and Explorer 6. Beyond that, you are on your own. Let me know if you have any problems viewing anything.

In descending order, here are future improvements I'm working on (or at least dreaming about):
  • complete lists for all the links in the pages so far
  • START ENDLESS LOOP
    • sort through huge piles of books, magazines, e-mails and microfilms for data to input to the database
    • update the lists
  • END ENDLESS LOOP
  • add lists of the non Canadian parts of the database
  • add lists by aircraft type (this seems to be popular on other web sites)
  • add links between the brief lists and the detailed lists
  • add links from any list to the same airframe in any other list

Terms and Abbreviations
I have tried to keep abbreviations to a minimum, but some have slipped in.  Based on some recent e-mails, this has created some confusion, so I have added this section for terms and abbreviations used by me.  For a much more complete list of RAF and RCAF abbreviations, see Jason Gaudet's on-line list.

Also, it appears that not all my readers are aware that the RCAF definitions of Damage Categories are quite different from those used by the RAF.  The definitions below are official text, as of 1975.  There are minor differences in earlier and later usage, but the general idea remains.

AF
Air Force
AFB
Air Force Base, usually used to identify an operating facility of the United States Air Force
BCATP
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.  This is the term generally used today to describe the Canadian portion of the massive Allied aircrew training scheme of the Second World War.  Contemporary documents within Canada would also refer to this as the Joint Air Training Plan, JATP.  A few uppity Englishmen still insist on using the term EATP, Empire Air Training Plan, although this term was only used by the UK, and not by any of  the proudly independent countries that used to be part of the Empire so many years ago.
Category A damage
"The aircraft is destroyed, declared missing or damaged beyond economical repair." ( It appears that early in the Second World War Category A was also used to describe any accident or incident resulting in a fatality, regardless of actual damage to the aircraft involved.)
Category B damage "The aircraft must be shipped, not flown under its own power, to a contractor or depot level facility for repair."  (It appears that during the Second World War, Category B aircraft were sometimes flown to a repair facility, with flight restrictions.  Today, any damage requiring a specific repair design, rather than a standard tech manual repair, is usually Category B, even if repaired on site.)
Category C damage "The aircraft sustains damage to a major component requiring repair beyond field level resources including those occurrences where:
(1) the aircraft must be flown to a contractor or depot level facility for repair.
(2) the damaged major component is shipped to a contractor or depot level facility for repair;
(3) the repair is carried out by a mobile repair party from a depot level or contractor; or
(4) the major component is damaged beyond economical repair."
Category D damage "Damage to any component that can be repaired within field level resources.  Note that because powerplants are not classed as major components, any powerplant damage shall be classified in this category regardless of the repair level."

(During the Second World War Categories C and D would often have a number added, for example "C14" or "D2".  The number reflected the number of days taken to repair the damage, and thus gives us some indication of the severity.  I'm still not sure if the number indicated an actual repair time, or an estimate.)
CFB
Canadian Forces Base.  This term was introduced in early 1968.
CJATC
Canadian Joint Air Training Centre, Rivers Camp / RCAF Station Rivers, Manitoba.  A tactical training facility used by the RCAF, the Army and the RCN.  Based on a former BCATP training base, operational by 1948, closed in the early 1970s.  Home to the Light Aircraft School and its helicopter primary training flight, plus the airborne school, the Army Aviation Tactical Training School, a photo reconnaissance school, and other training units.  The complete facility included an air to ground range and a grass strip at nearby Camp Shilo, plus several drop zones and low flying areas on the surrounding prairies.  The few buildings surviving in 2010 are used to manufacture fertilizer.
HMCS
Her/His Majesty's Canadian Ship
JATP
See BCATP
NAS
Naval Air Station.  When used without the prefix Royal, can refer to a facility operated by the United States Navy or the Royal Canadian Navy.
RCAC
Royal Canadian Air Cadets
RCAF
Royal Canadian Air Force
RCASC
Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
RCN
Royal Canadian Navy
UK
United Kingdom
USAAF
United States Army Air Forces
USAF
United States Air Force

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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contact me Canadian Military Aircraft links  Serial Number Links About the Author 
© 2004 - 2010 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 April 2004. Updated 31 August 2013.