Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette - 008 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Stations
No. 19 Elementary Flying Training School - Virden Manitoba
Like all but one of the EFTS schools, No. 19 operated as a private company under the name of Virden Flying Training School Limited (VFTS). It operated with an interesting twist - all profits made during the four years it was open were returned to the government. That total was over $530,000.
The company showed a patriotic streak in another way. All of its employees, aged 16 to 84 years, were hired only if they were unfit for military duty. This left eligible recruits to enlist in the military unfettered. Many of the employees at No. 19 EFTS, including all of the
Located north of Virden Manitoba in the Rural Municipality of Wallace, No. 19 Elementary Flying Training School opened on May 16 1941. It was built at a cost of $1.25 million. It was one of the first double-sized schools. It remained in operation for 1,309 days and closed on December 15 1944.
department heads, were veterans of World War I. Other employees were veterans of wars prior to that. At its peak, 200 civilians were employed at this school.
The influx of civilians and training staff caused a housing shortage and subsequent escalation or rents in the Town of Virden. The company eased this situation by erecting 28 prefabricated houses in the village of Lenore, 24 km. north of No. 19 EFTS. Lenore was also the location of a relief landing field for this school.
Of 3,432 students enrolled for training at Virden, approximately 2,700 graduated. An additional 252 students graduated after being ``pilot graded’’ without training based on previous flying experience. The average ground school grade was 80.19%. Students at No. 19 EFTS flew a total of 235,490 hours in de Havilland Tiger Moth and Fairchild Cornell aircraft. There were three fatalities.
Training was not restricted to RCAF airmen. Sixty A and C civilian engineers trained and were granted certification by the Department of Transport.
While this school was open, a succession of three station magazines was published. They were ``The Wind,’’ ``The Tiger Rag’’ and ``The Slipstream.’’
The last remnant of No. 19 EFTS Virden Manitoba, a hangar, was demolished recently. The site is now the home of the Virden airport.
Much of the information in this vignette and the attached photographs were found in ``Virden Days – Memories of No. 19 E.F.T.S. R.C.A.F. 1941-1944‘’ which was the souvenir booklet commemorating the closing of No. 19 SFTS. There is an interesting passage in this book:
``One of the tensest days was in the fall of 1942 when 17 solo pilots returning home were caught in a sudden low overcast eliminating the airport. None had more than 30 hours’ flying time. All forced-landed safely on widely scattered farms.’’
All had angels on their shoulders that day.