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Abandoned WWII training aerodrome reborn

Published in The Vulcan Advocate

July 2009  (Updated July 2018)

Longtime residents of the Vulcan area will probably remember a time when the air buzzed with the sound of RCAF aircraft from an aerodrome south-west of Vulcan. Early in the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force entered into an ambitious project: the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, an astounding program that saw 130,000 personnel from Great Britain and the Commonwealth graduate from 107 training schools across Canada.

The aerodrome was originally the site for two different schools during World War II.   The first was No. 2 Flight Instructor School (2 FIS), which opened on 3 August 1942. All flying training schools had one or two relief landing fields located nearby.

The relief field, usually consisting of either grass or asphalt runways, one hangar, maintenance facilities and barracks for overnight stays, allowed pilot trainees to conduct circuit training on landing and taking-off in their airplanes. Some also served as sub-unit training schools.  Vulcan’s Relief Landing Fields constructed near Ensign (asphalt runways) & Champion (turf runways).

A total of 750 students graduated from 2 FIS before it re-located to Pearce, Alberta on 3 May 1943.

The same day, No. 19 Service Flying Training School opened at the aerodrome. By the time
the school closed on 29 March 1945, a total of 860 pilots had earned their wings. RCAF Detachments Ensign and Champion also ceased operations.

The station’s last Commanding Officer, B.C. Andrews AFC, said to the final graduating class, “The RCAF has been the backbone of a great air training plan which in the space of a few short years has changed the course of world history. The enemy is well aware that the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan has accomplished a tremendous achievement. The aims and objects to provide personnel to maintain air supremacy in every theatre of war has been accomplished. Every member of this great service can be rightfully proud of their participation.”

Although many RCAF stations closed after the war, the Vulcan aerodrome remained active as a storage depot and scrap yard for surplus airplanes. Many WWII bombers met their final fate at the Vulcan Depot, which finally closed in the late 1950s.

For a period the site operated as the Vulcan Industrial Airport, but sat abandoned for many years. Six of the original seven hangars remain, but only two remained use for storage of heavy equipment and farm machinery. The empty fire station, the gunnery backstop, the cistern, part of the transport building and the abandoned & crumbling airfield also remain. Cattle grazed where most of the buildings once stood.

On 15 July 2000, a reunion of former staff and students was held at the Vulcan Airfield. A commemorative monument, built using a portion of the foundation from the guardhouse, was dedicated on the site as a tribute to the service men and women of No. 19 SFTS and No. 2 FIS.

Some windows and doors from the Vulcan hangars are now being used at the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, Manitoba.

In September 2010, several vintage airplanes landed on the abandoned runways at the former RCAF Station Vulcan for the first time in more than 60 years as part of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada’s weekend-long Salute to the Flight Instructors.

The British Commonwealth’s Air Training Plan’s steering committee sought to turn one out of three Southern Alberta airports into a national historic sites, with Vulcan being one of them.

In 2011, the aerodeome re-opened as the Vulcan/Kirkcaldy Aerodrome, operated by Wheatland Industries.  The remaining 6 hangars were restored and the years of debris was cleared from the runways and taxiways.

Vertical Extreme Skydiving currently operates out of the aerodrome. One of the former runways was resurfaced for their use.

In 2015, Vulcan became the main Headquarters for the Southern Alberta Gliding Centre of the Air Cadet Gliding Program.

Some of the original windows and doors from the Vulcan hangars are now being used at the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, Manitoba.

All that remains of RCAF Detachment Ensign today is the entrance road and the hangar pad, now used as part of a farm operation.

Nothing remains of RCAF Detachment Champion.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/vulcan-airport-site-of-world-war-ii-training-schools/

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