Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 041 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Schools
RCAF Station Trenton
Trenton Ontario was the location of the largest facility in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in World War II. It opened as the Royal Canadian Air Force Station Trenton in 1929. Its official opening was in August 1931. The station motto is ``Per Ardua ad Rem’’ - ``Through Adversity to the Good,’’ In 1937, Trenton replaced Camp Borden Ontario as the primary flying training station in Canada.
Located 170 km. east of Toronto, Trenton was the location of five BCATP schools and one of five repair depots in the BCATP. After the war, CFB Trenton became the administrative manager of the BCATP school at Mountain View Ontario which offered bombing and gunnery training as No. 6 BGS. It was open in this role for 1335 days between June 23 1943 and February 27 1945. It is 27 km. southeast of Trenton. Post war, No. 6 BGS was converted to a ground instruction school and was merged with the air armament school at CFB Trenton.
In addition to an administrative school, Trenton was home to No. 1 Flying Instructors School (August 3 1942 to January 31 1945 – 912 days), No. 1 Air Navigation School (February 1 1940 to November 23 1940 – 296 days – moved to Rivers Manitoba), No. 1 Composite Training School and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan’s Central Flying School (February 1 1940 to March 31 1946 – 2250 days). It operated with 3000 air force personnel and 500 civilian employees.
The primary objective of the Central Flying School was to establish and maintain standards for flying instructors in the BCATP. Training for Flying Instructors moved to Trenton from Camp Borden in January 1940. It was renamed the Central Flying School in April. With the other flying schools ramping-up to full capacity, there was a great shortage of flying instructors and the CFS was challenged to meet the demand. One thousand and thirty-eight Flying Instructors graduated by the end of 1941 and by August 1942, that number had increased to 2622.
Still unable to meet the need for flying instructors at No. 1 CFS, the RCAF opened another three BCATP schools exclusively tasked for this training. They were No. 1 Flying Instructor School in Trenton, which specialized in training instructors for twin-engine aircraft, No. 2 FIS at Vulcan (moved to Pearce) Alberta which provided training for Harvard instructors and No. 3 FIS in Arnprior Ontario which specialized in training instructors to facilitate training for new pilots at the Elementary Flying Training Schools. No.1 Central Flying School was responsible for providing supervision of the training at these schools.
No longer responsible for providing primary pilot instructor training, No. 1 CFS became the `graduate school’ for BCATP instructors. Having qualified as flying instructors, airmen were offered seminars on flying training and post graduate courses to improve qualifications for flying instructors who had graduated from one of the three FIS schools with second tier skills and knowledge.
A rigorous quality control system for the Flying Instructors Schools was set up at No. 1 CFS. Officers from that school were sent on site to inspect the FIS schools and ensure training provided was up to standards. Generally these inspection trips lasted for one week and were carried out with the inspectors flying with instructors and pupils to check the instructor’s competency. At the end of the visit, the inspectors would grade the flying instructions and offer favourable and unfavourable comments about each instructor.
No. 1 Central Flying School also played a significant role in flying instructor recruitment. As mentioned, the demand for instructors was high and No. 1 CFS ensured that this need was met. Favourite tactics for the recruiters included taking all of the top students, or even all of the graduating students, from Service Flying Training Schools and redeploying them as Flying Instructors in training. In 1942, those chosen to be instructors were required to graduate training and act as Flying Instructors for a period of twelve months. As the war and demand for training continued, the requirement was increased to 18 months.
Another service offered by No. 1 Central Flying school was as a re-selection centre where those who initially washed out as pilots in favor of other air crew positions, were given a second change to become pilots by means of close coaching to bring qualifications up to an acceptable level for pilots.
Today, RCAF Station Trenton is known as Canadian Forces Base Trenton and in addition to taking responsibilities for various air force functions, it is home to the National Air Force Museum of Canada. The Mountain View (Station) Detachment is now used for storage and overhaul for well-used aircraft.
Trenton’s major contribution to the British Commonwealth Air Training Program and its smooth working partnerships with other Commonwealth countries during World War II has been commemorated with the building of the Trenton Memorial Gates. A number of buildings at Trenton are listed as National Historic Sites by Parks Canada. More will be offered on these subjects in the next Canada 150 Vignette.