In 2011 Canada welcomed us for a number of base visits (in the eastern and western part of the country). We were able to include a short visit to Vermont (USA) during our stay as well.
4Aviation travelled to Canada with a group of 10 persons from 8 to 18 June, to visit a number of Canadian air bases.
On Wednesday 8 June, the 10 participants met at Schiphol at a reasonable time for the first flight. It was KLM that took the group to Calgary for a change to a WestJet flight to Edmonton. The time between the two flights at Calgary was nearly 3 hours, but that appeared to be just enough. Due to the customs process there was no spare time a Calgary to pay a short visit to the AeroSpace Museum of Calgary. The WestJet flight to Edmonton was smooth and around 17.30 we picked up our two rental vans in Edmonton. The ride that followed, on our way to Bonnyville, took a little over three hours. After a long day with the first impressions of Canada and the Canadian landscape, everybody was off to bed rather early.
On Thursday 9 June we continued our journey to CFB Cold Lake in the morning. We were aware that the Maple Flag exercise had been cancelled. The was too bad, but in the end we chose Canada as a destination to see Canadian air force aircraft of course. The morning was spent on the outside, from the Public Viewing Area. There, people were just completing a new fence that had been put into position around the whole air base. The new fence is over 3 meters high, which does not help photography from the public viewing area. There are still nice opportunities in take-off though and the taxi track is still doable. In the afternoon we were welcome to visit the base. Our host had arranged a visit to 410 squadron as a start. After the warm welcome at 410 squadron we continued our tour to the platform and near the runway. In consultation, nearly everything was possible. It was too bad that there were not a lot of flying activities, but we were able to shoot a little of pictures from various locations. At the end of the afternoon we thanked our host very much and drove the very short distance to our hotel, via a couple of preserved aircraft (on and off base). We picked a restaurant near ‘Cold Lake’ and enjoyed the environment.
Friday, 10 June, was also scheduled for a visit to Cold Lake. We were therefore, present at the public viewing area at a convenient time. After take-off by a number of aircraft, including a Hawk that would crash that day, we concluded we had seen enough and decided to hear for Edmonton again. In the afternoon we came close to Edmonton and decided to have a look if a visit to 408 squadron at Edmonton Garisson was possible. Fortunately we met very cooperative people and shortly after that we were inside their hangar and were able to take pictures of one of the Griffons (Bell 412) that returned from a mission under full sunshine. After this little extra we drove to the Alberta Aviation Museum for a visit. From there it was only a short drive to the hotel.
The Saturday (11 June) was marked as a ‘travel day’. From Edmonton (Alberta) we would travel to the state of Québec. This meant that we handed in our cars rather early for the first flight to Ottawa with Air Canada. After a very quick change we were on board an Air Canada Jazz DHC-8 for the short hop from Ottawa to Montréal. In Montréal we collected two similar rental vans as we handed in that morning and travelled the first kilometres in the French speaking part of Canada. The night was spent in Québec City, where we arrived at the beginning of the evening.
The air show at CFB Bagotville was dominating the itinerary for Sunday 12 June. To get here we still had to cover around 200 kilometres in the morning. On our way to Bagotville the weather was not very good, and only became worse as we got closer to the air base. It was raining heavily by the time we parked our cars at the air show. Eventually, the rain stayed for the rest of the day and this heavily influenced photography at this, rather small, air show. Only 4 cars remained at the parking lot when we decided to leave the base again. A hot shower and a good meal at the end of the day prepared the group for the next morning.
On Monday morning (13 June) we also headed for CFB Bagotville. This morning we were welcome to visit the base. The visit was scheduled so that we would be able to picture the aircraft departing after the air show. The weather had improved a little in the meantime and we were heartily welcomed. As was the case at Cold Lake, after consultation, almost everything was possible and we are convinced that we did not miss many aircraft at either base. Furthermore we indeed were able to picture some of the air show participants during departure. After a visit to the museum we said goodbye to our hosts again and returned towards Québec City. During the afternoon we tried our luck at Valcartier Garisson. Unfortunately the one that might be able to grant us permission to visit the CH-146 squadron was not present anymore. We therefore had to settle for the two CH-146s on the platform. After this we continued our journey towards Drummondville, where we spent the night.
On Tuesday 14 June we wanted to make a short visit to the United States. The state of Vermont is next to Québec and is home to the F-16s of the Vermont Air National Guard. We therefore drove to Burlington International Airport this day. The F-16s did not appear to be active and just as we were asked to leave a roof terrace of a building (where we invited to view the activities from before) the first aircraft came back from their sortie. The five F-16s that returned could be photographed in a nice environment. After driving around the air field, including the option to picture two Army UH-72s that were parked on a platform, we returned to Canada again. After collecting some preserved aircraft in St.Jean-sur-Richelieu we arrived at Montréal/St.Hubert later that afternoon. There, we were able to photograph yet another Bell 412/CH-146. On our way to our hotel in Gananoque we visited two very nice (preserved) T-33s in Cornwall.
For Wednesday (15 June) a visit to CFB Trenton was scheduled. Because of the operational circumstances of this base, the aircraft circle the world regularly to support all Canadian troops, the visit was not fully confirmed until the very last moment. Our host at the base made it very easy for us; “I will follow you”. In other words; while walking in clear skies we visited the entire flight line. We were lucky to see that a large number of C-130s was present. Apart from the C-130s, there were 2 C-17s, 3 Bell 412s a Challenger and 2 Beech 200s. Being very happy with the result part of the group went back to the approach after the visit, while the rest visited the National Air Force museum of Canada, which is located next to the air base. In the afternoon we started driving towards Barrie (Ontario) to find our hotel for the night.
On 16 June, Thursday, we were welcome at CFB Borden, both at 16Wing as well as 1Wing. The visit started at 16Wing. After a short visit to the museum we visited the hangar of the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering. This unit possesses almost 30 CT-114 Tutors for instructional purposes. During our stay we visited both hangars of het unit and one of the Tutors was parked outside under clear skies. After this we went to the hangar of 400 squadron. This unit also operates the CH-146/Bell 412 and three helicopters of this type were parked on the platform. Here, we also extensively thanked our hosts for the opportunities, after which we headed for Toronto. After a visit to the museum at Downsview the plan was to visit the CN Tower in Toronto. We were warned about the very heavy traffic in Toronto during our stay and after a quick peek at the actual traffic jams we decided to head directly for Presscot (and our hotel). Via Trenton (yielding a couple of new aircraft) we arrived at our hotel in Prescott early in the evening.
Friday (17 June) was the final day of the tour already. After driving an hour from our hotel we arrived at the airport of Ottawa where 412 squadron operates the VIP-aircraft. We were able to find a couple of Challengers and one took off while we were there. Unfortunately, it had started raining. During the rain, a Belgian Hercules also landed at Ottawa. After our stay at Ottawa we visited the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Rockliffe. This was the final part of the tour and we drove towards Montréal after that. After handing in the rental vans and checking in for our return flight with KLM the reflecting on a very nice tour, with a lot of cooperation from the authorities, already started.