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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
RCAFï¿½s 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
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
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,
conducted by the Canadian Aviation Training Centre. A permanent
contingent of 41 military personnel remains at the former base,
commanded by school Commandant LCol S.H.R. Bannister.
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
Source material: DND press release from July 1989, "Sentinel"
Magazine from May 1970, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan site
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 &
Canadian Forces Base Gimli:
Established on 6 September 1943 under the British Commonwealth
Air Training Plan as No. 18 Service Flying Training School, with a
relief landing field at Netley. The School closed on 30 May 1945 and
the station was put on a care and maintenance basis.
RCAF Detachment Netley was abandoned at the end of the war.
Post-war expansion of the RCAF resulted in several WWII
aerodromes being re-activated. RCAF Station Gimli re-opened in 1950 as a
jet fighter training station. Several schools were formed, including
No. 1 Flying Training School.
In June 1953, No. 2 Flying Training School transferred to the
newly re-opened RCAF Station Moose Jaw and No. 3 Advanced Flying School
was established at Gimli.
In 1964, No. 3 AFS was re-designated No. 1 Flying Training
No. 1 Advanced Flying Training Unit, with their T-33 jet
trainers moved to RCAF Station Gimli from Moose Jaw in December 1969.
As a result of the Unification, the Station was re-named CFB
CFB Gimli closed in September 1971 and the Advanced Flying Training Unit
moved to CFB Cold Lake. In 1972, the Gimli Industrial Business Park
was established at the former Air Base. Most of the station's buildings
have been torn down, but some do remain, including all the hangers.
Only runway 14-32, the taxiway and a small part of another runway remain
of the original triagle pattern airfield. A new 7000 ft runway was
built parallel to 14-32, but it is closed to aircraft now; instead it
used as a racetrack today. CN Railway had a training centre at Gimli
Industrial Park from 1977 until 1995.
Current tenants of the Gimli Industrial Business Park include,
the Government of Manitoba's water bomber squadron, Manitoba Hydro, the
Winnipeg Skydiving Club and two pilot training schools, The Interlake
International Pilot Training Centre and Interlake Aviation, who utilize
the airfield. As well, the Gimli Motorsport Park conducts motorcycle
and sport car racing on runway 32L, which is now closed to aircraft.
The Private Married Quarters, now called the Aspen Park Condominiums,
also remain but are all privately owned. Many have been refurbished
with new siding.
Although no longer military establishment, the military have
not completely abandoned Gimli. 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron based
out of 17 Wing Winnipeg use the Gimli Airport when they conduct
training exercises over Lake Winnipeg. As well, the Gimli Gliding
Centre carries on the tradition of training airmen and women of the
Royal Canadian Air Cadets at Gimli. Originally established in 1984, the
Gliding Centre remained at Gimli until moving to CFB Penhold in 1987.
The school returned to Gimli in 1998 and remains here today. A small
permanent staff remains at the site year round, but during the summer
months, the military population rises to approximately 200 staff and
students. The current student barracks is the former CN Rail building.
As well, Gimli Industrial Business Park hosted The National
Search and Rescue Competition, SAREX 97 in September 1997. Competing at
the annual skills competition were the Canadian Forces' five SAR units:
Winnipeg's 435 Squadron, Trenton's 424 Squadron, Greenwood's 413
Squadron, Comox's 442 Squadron and Gander's 103 Squadron.
The former RCAF Station Gimli has also become somewhat of a movie
studio, with two TV movies having been filmed at the site - "My Life As a
Dog" and "The Avro Arrow Story". Gimli was even made front-page news
in 1983 when an Air Canada Boeing 767 ran out of fuel near Red Lake, in
northern Ontario. The pilot, an experienced glider pilot, glided the
plane over 150 miles and landed safely at Gimli. All 60 passengers
aboard the "Gimli Glider" survived unharmed.
Source Material: Gimli Industrial Business Park web site -
http://www.rmgimli.com/ipark/index2.htm, "Sentinel" Magazine from
October 1968 & November 1969, the British Commonwealth Air Training
Plan site -
www.airmuseum.ca the 15 Wing Moose Jaw web site -
www.15wing.msjw.dnd.ca/15his.htm, the RCAF Station Moose Jaw site -
http://www.rcaf.com/stations/moosejaw.shtml, Town of Gimli Community
History of 2CFFTS web site -
http://www.moosejaw.dnd.ca/2his_e.asp#to_top, pamphlet printed by Studio
High Techniques of Toronto (1998), "Portage La Prairie ï¿½ Fifty
Years of Flying Training: 1940-1990" by Major G.E.I. Greavette, CD,
DND press release from September 30, 1997, Sea, Army & Air Cadets
web page - http://www.cadets.dnd.ca/intro_e.asp, information provided by
the Gimli Gliding Centre (2003), the Winnipeg Sport Car Club web site -
http://www.wscc.mb.ca/roadracing.php & the personal recollections
of the author (2003).