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MANITOBA

Canadian Forces Base Portage La Prairie:

Established as No. 14 Elementary Flying Training School on 28 October 1940 – 3 July 1942, a part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. On 28 April 1941 No. 7 Air Observers School also opened at the aerodrome.

In July 1942, No. 14 EFTS disbanded and No. 7 AOS expanded to take over the entire station.

No. 7 AOS closed on 31 March 1945, corresponding with the termination of the BCATP. Immediately afterwards, No 3 Air Navigation School was established at Portage La Prairie, but this was short lived as it was disbanded 31 August 1945.

The station remained open after the war, and in March 1946, No. 1 Manning Depot re-located the Toronto Exhibition Grounds to recruit new pilots. However, this too would be short-lived as the Manning Depot closed one year later. The station continued to be occupied by No. 2 Construction Maintenance Unit as a storage depot and No. 2 Radio wave Propagation Unit, originally from RCAF Station Torbay. In 1949 the station closed and only a small caretaker staff remained. The Federal Department of Transportation assumed control of the airfield.

The post-war expansion of the RCAF resulted in many former aerodromes being re-opened and RCAF Station Portage La Prairie did so on 15 September 1952. No. 2 Advanced Flying School (No. 2 AFS) was established to train RCAF and NATO pilots, first setting up operations at RCAF Station MacDonald on a temporary basis, then re-locating to Portage La Prairie in October 1952. Jet flying training began in 1953 with the arrival of the Lockheed designed T-33 Silver Stars but by 1964, propeller driven aircraft training replaced the jet trainers.

No. 2 AFS relocated to RCAF Station Moose Jaw in August 1964 but the station gained two schools that same month. No. 1 Advanced Flying School re-located from RCAF Station Rivers as did No. 1 Flying Instructors School (basic) from RCAF Station Moose Jaw, making Portage La Prairie a centre for pilot selection, basic helicopter training and flight instructor training for both RCAF and Royal Canadian Navy pilots. No. 1 AFS was later re-named No. 3 Flying Training School.

RCAF Station Portage La Prairie was also the home of two of the RCAF’s precision flying teams, The Red Knights from 1959-1969 and the Golden Centenaries from 1966-1968.

In 1959 RCAF Station Portage La Prairie assumed responsibility for the storage depot detachment established at the former RCAF Station MacDonald.

No. 3 Advance Flying School, originally from RCAF Station Gimli, re-opened at Portage La Prairie in 1965.

As a result of the Unification, the station was re-named CFB Portage La Prairie in 1966. The base gained a school when the newly designated No. 3 Canadian Forces Primary Flying Training School moved to the base from CFB Borden in July 1970, but lost another one year later when No. 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School moved to CFB Moose Jaw.

In the late 1980s, DND budget reductions lead to the contracting out of flight training to civilian agencies. As a result, CFB Portage La Prairie closed on 1 September 1992.

The site is now the Southport Aerospace Centre, a commercial-industrial centre. Most of the former base’s buildings remain. A new air control tower was constructed on the opposite side of the airfield and a new barracks, the Lt. Alan McLeod Building, houses the Air Force student pilots.

Although no longer an Air Force base, No. 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, a Detachment of 17 Wing Winnipeg, remains at the former base to oversee Primary Flight Training and Helicopter Training, with training conducted by Allied Wings, a division of  KF Aerospace. A permanent contingent of 41 military personnel remains at the former base.

Southport was used as a staging area during Operation LENTUS 14-5, a domestic operation to assist the Province of Manitoba with the flooding around Portage La Praire during early July 2014. The majority of the military contingent came from CFB Shilo, but a detachment of 4 Griffin helicopters from 408 Squadron, based at Edmonton Garrison, was also dispatched to assist.

It could be said that RCAF Station Portage La Prairie has finally come full circle, as many of the instructors who trained the student pilots under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan were in-fact civilians working under contract to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Source material: DND press release from July 1989, “Sentinel” Magazine from May 1970, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan site -http://www.ualberta.ca/EDMONTON/CONTRIB/airmuseum/aambcatp.html, the RCAF Station Moose Jaw site – http://www.rcaf.com/stations/moosejaw.shtml, & “Portage La Prairie” Fifty Years of Flying Training: 1940-1990″ by Major Gordon Greavette, CD, information provided by No. 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (2003), the personal recollections of the author (2003) & the Southport Aerospace Centre web site – http://www.southport.mb.ca, Canadian Forces Air Navigation School history – www.cfans.com & http://www.southport.mb.ca/commercl/canforces.htm.


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