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ISSUE 130 - August 2010
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The Harvard - "The Plan" - and CHAA

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association Harvards pass overhead in formation.

During World War II the Royal Air Force needed a training program for allied pilots. Born from that need, the BCATP or British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was formed. The BCATP trained Canadian and allied pilots and aircrews across Canada at airports, airstrips and RCAF bases.

One of several Harvard aircraft from the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association passes at Midland Airport, left. A T-6 Texan/SNJ Navy in an overhead pass at Geneseo, New York, right.

The mainstay of BCATP training aircraft was the Harvard, also known in the U.S. as the T-6 Texan or SNJ Navy. The Harvard was an intermediate training aircraft that allowed pilots to move from their initial flight training aircraft, such as the DH Tiger Moth, into fighters such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, and Mustang.

Aircrews would have worn parachutes during their training in wartime, much like the pilots in the Harvards do today, left. Two Harvards take to the air at their home base in Tillsonburg, Ontario, right.

There were nearly 140,000 allied aircrew from around the world who came to Canada to train with the BCATP including Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia, and Canada, among others. Originally named the "Empire Air Training Scheme" (EATS), it was officially renamed the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in 1942, though was often referred to as "The Scheme" or "The Plan."

As they may have looked during wartime training, 4 CHAA Harvards back-taxi along a grass runway at Geneseo, New York, left. There were many RCAF bases and stations used during wartime to train pilots, such as Dunville, Ontario as stenciled on the side of a visiting Yale, right

The BCATP was credited for training nearly half the aircrews, including pilots, air gunners, wireless operators, bomb aimers, navigators and flight engineers, with all the Commonwealth air forces during World War II. "The Plan" remains today as the single largest aviation training program in history.

After years of restoration, CHAA's Yale made its first public debut on June 26, 2010, left (photo by Janice Boyd). Five of CHAA's Harvards sitting on the 'hot ramp' at Tillsonburg, Ontario during their Veterans Day show in June, right.

Tillsonburg, Ontario is home to the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association, a group dedicated to preserving the history of the Harvard as well as other former RCAF training aircraft such as the Yale and the Tiger Moth. CHAA, as they're widely known, currently operates, through its membership, volunteers and pilots, 9 flying Harvard's (6 belonging to CHAA, and 3 other privately owned airplanes), 2 other Harvards under restoration, as well as a newly restored Yale, and a DHC Tiger Moth.

The unmistakable sound of the Harvard comes from the tips on that 9' foot long propeller blade which break the sound barrier, causing that famous growl the airplane has, left. Fully aerobatic, the Harvard is an excellent platform from which to learn and perform aerobatics, right.

The Harvard has an unmistakable sound created by the 9 foot propeller blade tips which are moving at supersonic speeds. During wartime training, as it growled through the air, the Harvard's fully aerobatic airframe allowed pilots to put the airplane through all kinds of scenarios in which they might have found themselves during a dogfight over war-torn skies in Europe or the Pacific. For many pilots, the Harvard meant the difference between living or dying in air battle.

In the foreground to the right is one of the 9 Harvards that fly with CHAA and in the background one of two being restored, left. If you've ever been interested in flying a warbird then joining CHAA is that opportunity you've been looking for and you can start with doing instructional rides, right.

CHAA is a charitable organization that includes many volunteers who work effortlessly to ensure the airplanes, the hangars and the operations continue so that the history of the Harvard can be preserved and maintained for years to come. For those interested in flying, for a fee, CHAA offers Harvard flight training, formation flight training and, if you qualify, aerobatic flight training.

Pilots gather for the annual spring pilot briefing in the hangar classroom in Tillsonburg, left. A nice 7 plane formation pass, right.

Membership currently stands at some 750+ members and you don't have to be a pilot to get involved with CHAA. In fact, anyone is welcomed to join, whether you have experience with aircraft or just have an interest in airplanes. Members and pilots all help with operations and no job is too messy and no job is too menial for any member. Some of CHAAs pilots are commercial aviators who fly as airline pilots during their "day" jobs, others are students, some run companies and some are police officers. Their backgrounds may differ, but they all start from the bottom and have to work their way up, prove themselves, and show that they're able to handle the airplane and capable of dealing with any situation they may find themselves in while flying the Harvard.

On a very hazy and slightly wet day, Don Patrick participated in his first airshow doing several passes during the 'trainers' flypasts, left. Don taxiing in after a flight in the Harvard, right.

One of several pilots who have been working their way up the Harvard ladder is Don Patrick. He is one of several Air Cadet or former Air Cadet glider/power pilots, along with Percy Contractor and Ed Soye, who have recently become involved in CHAA. After months of flying and training with an assortment of CHAA instructors and pilots, Don completed his basic Harvard flight training in 2009. He is now working on his formation training and hopes to complete that before the end of the summer of 2010 with the eventual outcome being his aerobatic training in the not-too-distant future. With hundreds of flying hours in the Air Cadet Bellanca Scout tow aircraft (and gliders), Don, Percy, and Ed have all found flying the Harvard an enjoyable and educational experience.

Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team (CHAT) pilots performing their aerial ballet during one of many airshows they attend during the year.

Affiliated with CHAA is CHAT (Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team) which performs as part of CHAA at airshows and events with a three ship formation. The members of CHAT are Kent Beckham, Dave Hewitt, and Pete Spence, all very experienced aviators who put on a great aerobatic ballet with the Harvard. As members of CHAA, their expertise and experience is a valuable asset to the flying operations and training of other up-and-coming Harvard pilots.

Veterans march on to the airfield at Tillsonburg during CHAA's Veterans Day Airshow 2010, left. RCAF veteran and former CHAA president, Bob Hewitt, left, with CHAA Board of Directors member Ray Healey, pose in front of another warbird, the Vintage Wings of Canada P-40, which performed during the Veterans Day Airshow, right.

This history of the Harvard in the "Commonwealth" lives on. The Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association and their members honour, not only the airplane and the BCATP, but the veterans who flew them and all veterans of allied forces, including those who fight for our freedom today. Whether it's their Wings & Wheels show in July, or their upcoming Wings Over Ontario Airshow on August 14th, 2010, you'll find their members friendly, helpful and inspiring.

Dave Hewitt takes the Yale to the air, publicly, for the first time after years of restoration, left. Dave also owns and flies his own Harvard, right, participating with and in CHAA events, and also as a member of CHAT.

If you're interested in joining CHAA, they can always use your experience, your interest, and your work ethic inside their hangar, and around their airplanes for weekend flying operations, aircraft restoration and maintenance, airshows and airshow operations & preparations. As a member, you also have the opportunity to fly in the airplanes from time-to-time. If you aren't in a position to join, you also have the option of a tax deductable donation and donations are always welcomed and needed. While at CHAA, you may bump into and/or work or fly with some pretty good company such as Canadian Astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason (STS-85) or former South African Air Force pilot and surgeon Dave Martin.

Aerobatic, powerful, fun, and noisy, what could be better than an afternoon flying over green landscapes and in blue skies of Southern Ontario in a Harvard!, left. If you're in the U.S., then an American T-6 Texan/SNJ Navy might give you the same opportunity, right.

"The Plan," once referred to by U.S President Roosevelt, as "The Aerodrome of Democracy," was a huge undertaking by a "small" country that helped the allied forces win the war against a tyrannical leader. The Harvard, and the T-6 Texan in the U.S., both were an integral part of "The Plan." To see and hear part of that flying history in the skies and restoring and maintaining that history, requires dedication and an appreciation for that history. CHAA and its members fit that profile to a T-6! For more information about CHAA visit -

Former RCAF pilot and Team Lead of the Golden Hawks Aerobatic Team, 82 year old Col. Fern Villeneuve looks out over the wing of the Harvard, an airplane he once flew as a young pilot in training.

August 14, 2010 - CHAA's Wings Over Ontario, First Annual Airshow:

Having earned their wings in the Air Cadet flying programs, Percy Contractor (in the front cockpit, left) and Ed Soye, right, enjoy the opportunity they've earned to fly the Harvard.

Looking along the length of the Harvard wing, left. Pilots helmet sits at the ready, right.
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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