THE GOLDEN YEARS (1950-1964)

Siskins flying in formation.

The Siskins aerobatic team was formed in 1929, and flew three Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin IIIA biplanes until 1932. Since then, many Air Force aerobatic display teams have exemplified the skill, professionalism and teamwork characteristic of the RCAF.

The Golden Hawks were formed in 1959 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of powered flight in Canada as well as the 35th anniversary of the RCAF. However, their popularity and the support of the Chief of the Air Staff extended their existence. The team performed 317 shows until the team wrapped up in 1963 with a final show in Montreal, Quebec. Flying gilded F-86 Sabres, they captivated audiences by flying low, sliding back their canopies and waving at the crowd. That’s showmanship!

The Golden Centennaires.

The Golden Centennaires existed only one year to celebrate the centennial of Canada in 1967. The eight-plane team flew the CT-114 Tutor, painted in blue, red and gold; they were joined during their shows by a CF-101 Voodoo, a CF-104 Starfighter and two Avro 504K biplanes (the “Old Golds”).

Other aerobatic teams took to the skies over the years, including the Blue Devils (1949 –1951, flying DH-100 Vampires and F-86 Sabres), the Tigers (European-based, 1953–1954, flying Sabres) and the Fireballs (European-based, created in 1954 and also flying Sabres).

The Sky Lancers team flew in 1955 in France and 1956 in Germany. On March 2, 1956, four of the team’s five pilots were killed during a training flight, and the RCAF suspended the formation of aerobatic teams for a few years.

The Goldilocks team, flying yellow Harvard trainers, was formed in 1962 at CFB Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, as a parody of the Golden Hawks. They quickly became popular in their own right and flew shows in the Prairie Provinces and Ontario until disbanded in 1964.

In 1978, the Snowbirds, originally formed in 1971, received squadron status. Today, 431 Air Demonstration Squadron (the Snowbirds) carries on the tradition of the Golden Hawks and Centennaires. They also fly Tutors, painted in the now-iconic red and white paint scheme.

The CF-18 Demonstration Hornet, from either 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, or 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, is each year painted in a spectacular thematic design and wows crowds throughout North America.

 

FOCUS ON… THE CT-114 TUTOR

CT-114 TUTOR

The first Tutor, designed and built by Canadair, was accepted by the RCAF on December 16, 1963. It was used to train pilots, and was replaced in 2000 by the CT-156 Harvard II and CT-155 Hawk.

Today, the Tutor is flown primarily by the Snowbirds; it is also used in aircraft testing at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment in Cold Lake, Alberta.

DID YOU KNOW…

Sabre from Vintage Wings of Canada restored and painted in Golden Hawks colours

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of heavier than air, powered flight in Canada in 2009, a privately owned Sabre from Vintage Wings of Canada was restored and painted in Golden Hawks colours. The Air Force painted a Snowbirds Tutor in the colours of the Centennaires, and the CF-18 Demonstration Hornet was painted in a special Centennial of Flight design and adorned with the names of 100 great men and women in military and civilian aviation. Together, the three aircraft made up the Centennial Heritage Flight and performed across Canada.