Soaring tributes to Canada’s aviation history can be seen at Canadian Forces Base Borden.
Mounted on pedestals to honour the men and women who flew them and serviced them, the aircraft from another century are a reminder of air battles and technologies of decades gone by.
Military aviation in CFB Borden, located about 20 minutes west of Barrie, goes back to early 1917 when it was called Camp Borden.
That’s when a series of temporary — they turned out to be not-so-temporary and some are still standing — hangars and aviation facilities were built to support the training of aviators for the Royal Flying Corps, according to Canadian Military History by author Bruce Forsyth.
“After the Great War, Camp Borden became the central point around which military aviation would develop in Canada,” he states in the book. “In 1919, an Imperial Gift of over 100 surplus war aircraft found their way to Canada, most of them going to Borden to provide the nucleus of a national air force.”
Following the creation of the Canadian Air Force in 1920, Camp Borden was once again selected as the main training centre for aviation.
“During the ’20s, the camp saw the birth of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the graduation of the first RCAF pilots in 1924," Forsyth states in his book.
Now, military aircraft from the second half of the 20th century can be seen up close and personal.
An aviation milestone for this country, the CF-100 was the first all-Canadian jet fighter and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) bought 639 of them from Avio Ltd., located in Malton, Ont. It was introduced in 1953, had a range of 1,850 kilometres, carried machine-guns and rockets, and excelled in its primary role for air defence.
The Canadair T-33 Red Knight, a Canadian-built version of the Lockheed T-33, was Training Command’s solo display aircraft from 1958 to 1967. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce Nene 10 turbojet and had a top speed of about 500 knots. This particular T-33 was once in front of the 441 (Huronia) Wing, RCAF Association building on Highway 90 west of Tiffin Street.
It’s a familiar bird in a different colour. The Canadair CT-114 Tutor, of Snowbirds fame, entered service in 1964. The version on display at CFB Borden is in the 1963 paint scheme honouring 50 years of service between 1963 and 2013.
The Bell CH-136 Kiowa was tactically deployed as a light observation helicopter between 1971 and 1982, performing duties such as artillery and fighter fire spotting.
Designed by Grumman and built under licence by deHavilland in Canada, the multi-role Tracker flew with the Royal Canadian Navy aboard the carrier HMCS Bonaventure. The Tracker had the capability to search out and destroy submarines with torpedoes or depth charges.
A Canadair CF-104 Starfighter can be seen near Hangar Road at CFB Borden. Referred to as the ‘Missile with a man in it’, the CF-104 (single-seat version) was built in Canada under license by Canadair in Cartierville, Que., and was envisioned as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor. It had a maximum speed of Mach 2, or 2,330 kilometres per hour.
The McDonnell Douglas CF-101 Voodoo, which entered service in the RCAF in 1961, was a supersonic, all-weather fighter-interceptor powered by two Pratt and Whitney gas turbine engines with afterburners. It had a maximum speed of 1,930 kilometres per hour. The Voodoos were replaced by the CF-18 Hornet in the 1980s.
Arcing across a field not far from the base’s airstrip is the Canadair F-86 Sabre, the premier swept-wing fighter interceptor of the 1950s (think Korean War). It first flew for the RCAF in 1950. Over the next 20 years, Sabres accumulated more than 925,000 flying hours. The famous Golden Hawks aerobatic squad flew Mark 5 Sabres.
The Canadair CF-5 — officially designated as the CF-116 Freedom Fighter — was the company’s licence-built version of the American Northrup F-5 Freedom Fighter aircraft. The CF-5, which began service in 1968, was upgraded periodically throughout its career and Canadian Forces retired it in 1995.
Sitting just outside the Base Borden Military Museum is the Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King maritime helicopter. Its compact design boasts a fold-up rotor and tail to allow it to lift off from destroyers and frigates to locate and destroy submarines. And its amphibious hull enabled it to conduct an emergency water landing.
Anyone interested in Canadian Forces history can also visit the Base Borden Military Museum, which is located at 27 Ram St.