Air Force Life


RCAF "swoosh"

The Air Force “swoosh” was developed in 1999 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Air Force. With the restoration of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) name in 2011, the swoosh was no longer used on Air Force publications and the roundel was restored as the key Air Force identifier.


Cpl Tom Brown, an RCAF piper, wearing the RCAF tartan, plays during the 2010 national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa. MCpl Justin Harper (background) was the 2010 national Air Force sentry.

The story of the RCAF tartan goes back to January 1942.

Group Captain Elmer G. Fullerton, station commander of No. 9 Service Flying Training School, RCAF Station Summerside, Prince Edward Island, wanted to celebrate his Scottish heritage by organizing a “Robbie Burns Night” mess dinner. He borrowed bagpipes for his station band and searched for a suitable tartan to outfit the band in full Scottish regalia.

Fullerton ordered a sample of the material to be sent to RCAF Headquarters in Ottawa for approval. The design was endorsed by the Air Council and Air Vice-Marshal J. A. Sully sent it off to Scotland’s Lord Lyon, King of Arms, for approval in July 1942. The approval was granted on August 15 and the design was officially registered as the RCAF tartan. Thus the RCAF became the first air force in the world to have its own distinctive tartan. The speed of the process from original concept to final approval in a period of eight months is truly awe-inspiring.

Tartan pattern

Fullerton decided to design an original pattern that represented the Air Force. With coloured pencils in hand, he produced the prototype using light blue, dark blue and maroon colours. The original sample of the proposed RCAF tartan was created by Patricia Jenkins and Loom crofters of Gagetown, New Brunswick, with the Gagetown waevers also adding a white line in the design.

Since then, the distinctive RCAF tartan has been worn by members of RCAF pipe and drum bands. It is also used in other ways, including ties, mess kit cummerbunds, or ladies’ sashes.


The Never let it be said that Canada’s Air Force doesn’t know when the weekend begins. Long before restaurants borrowed the expression, Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF) was an Air Force expression that captured the joy of reaching the end of another difficult work week and the anticipation of joining friends in the mess for a late afternoon libation.