Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) was an agreement signed in Ottawa on December 17, 1939, soon after World War II began, by the governments of Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The instruction scheme was centered in Canada, which provided infrastructure and a pool of potential trainees, as well as paying the lion's share of the costs. The plan's schools in Canada graduated 131,553 personnel (72,835 of them homegrown), almost half the total pilots and aircrew employed on British and Commonwealth flying operations during the war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Canada the "aerodrome of democracy."

Relative to population, the Prairie Provinces made an enormous overall contribution to the BCATP. Two of the four training command headquarters were situated there: No. 2 in Winnipeg and No. 4 in Regina. The region was well suited to flight training because of climate and terrain. "Pilot factories" were heavily concentrated in the southern parts of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, where there were thirteen Elementary Flying Training Schools and twenty Service Flying Training Schools. Saskatchewan had some fifty schools, bases, and training facilities of various kinds; that province alone trained onefifth of all BCATP pilots and as much as 30 percent of some categories of aircrew. The influx of people and resources had a positive effect on local economies emerging from the Depression–by encouraging housing starts and small business, for example. Social interactions between localities and the BCATP bases in their midst were characterized by complex levels of integration and friction.

Norman Hillmer Carleton University

Douglas, W. A. B. The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Vol. 2: The Creation of a National Air Force. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986.

Hillmer, Norman, and Brereton Greenhous. "The Impact of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan on Western Canada: Some Saskatchewan Case Studies." Journal of Canadian Studies 26 (1981): 133-44.

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