Air Force Life


RCAF Fitness Pamphlet

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) started one of the first fitness crazes!

Long before the leg warmers and fitness videos of the 1980s or the abdominal crunching DVDs of today, the RCAF was promoting the 5BX and 10BX (BX for “basic exercises) plans for men and women. The beauty of the system was that you didn’t need expensive equipment or a health club member ship; it was created to keep aircrew in the far north in shape by using standalone aerobic exercises.

Athlete and National Defence scientist Bill Orban developed the program in 1956. It proved so popular that 23 million copies of the RCAF pamphlets were sold to the Canadian public and it was translated into 13 languages. References to 5BX or 10BX or the RCAF exercise program can even be heard in film and TV productions of the period.

The Air Force still receives requests for copies today; you may be able to find it in used bookstores and “buckshee” copies are online. 


The Canadian tradition of appointing honorary officers to units originated with the British military and has been practiced in Canada for a little more than a century.

The RCAF began its tradition in 1931 with the appointment of four retired officers, including Billy Bishop, as a sign of respect for their services. Other honorary appointments soon followed. The first honorary colonels were appointed to auxiliary squadrons, beginning in 1934. In 1992, under the direction of Lieutenant-General Dave Huddleston, then-Commander of Air Command, Regular Force squadrons adopted the practice.

More than 250 distinguished Canadians have served the Air Force in this capacity. While many have been retired military officers, the ranks of past and present honorary colonels include media personalities, musicians, artists, corporate executives and more.

The Air Force honorary colonels’ program provides a powerful and effective means to foster esprit de corps, promote and sustain strong community support and connect Canadians with their Air Force in all parts of the country.


Insignia and Motto of the original RCAF.

The RCAF adopted the Royal Air Force's (RAF) motto Per ardua ad astra, which is Latin for “through adversity to the stars”, on April 23, 1923. It replaced the original Sic itur ad astra, “such is the pathway to the stars”, of the Canadian Air Force.

Since the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the RCAF crest has displayed the St. Edward’s Crown (or Queen’s Crown), rather than the Tudor Crown (or King’s Crown) that was used during the reigns of her father and grandfather.