Air Force Life


During the 1950s, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, were located on Elgin Street right across from the Lord Elgin Hotel.  The Lord Elgin was known as HQE (Headquarters Elgin) by many RCAF personnel who ran across the street for dinner or a drink. In those days, there were so many RCAF personnel wearing uniforms in Ottawa’s downtown core that personnel were told to wear their uniform only one day per week – perhaps so the public might not think that the RCAF had taken over the country.


A post-war Harvard trainer, sporting a British-style fin flash.

In addition to the roundel, RCAF aircraft, like the air forces of many other nations, are marked with “fin flashes”.

RCAF aircraft originally carried the British flash of red and blue vertical bands separated by a white band. European-based RCAF aircraft started using the Red Ensign in 1955, followed by Canadian-based aircraft in 1958. Starting in 1965, the Maple Leaf flag was used. Today, operational aircraft such as the Globemaster and Hercules, which are painted in low-visibility grey tones, use a grey flag and a grey roundel, while the familiar red and white flag and the red, white and blue roundel are seen on aircraft such as search and rescue or training aircraft.


Pilots in Air Force Flight Suits

Call it operational comfort wear. An Air Force flight suit compliments almost any figure and has enough pockets to carry the contents of an aircrew member’s desk. When fighter jocks jumped into their Hurricanes or Spitfires during the Battle of Britain, they did so in their heavy wool dress uniform, complete with knotted tie. Something more was needed for bomber crews, who would freeze in the sub-zero temperatures at 15,000 feet. So the flight suit was issued, usually with a leather jacket lined with lamb’s wool for warmth.

The colours of flight suits have changed over the years: RCAF blue-grey, unification green, tan and distinctive environmental blue. The colour then changed to an olive drab version that provided better camouflage for aircrew in case of being shot down during combat operations and forced to take evasive action. Search and rescue technicians wear bright orange and the Snowbirds wear red.