From 1939 to 1945, Canada operated the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), a program designed to train British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian air crew for service overseas in World War II. Winston Churchill called the plan "Canada's greatest contribution to the Allied victory in WWII," and Franklin Roosevelt praised Canada as "the aerodrome of democracy."
It was a massive project that resulted in building 231 training sites across Canada. About 100 new airfields were built, and many more improved. By the end of the plan, more than 130,000 air crew and 80,000 ground crew had been trained, including 17,000 in the RCAF Women's Division. The plan was instrumental in building the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) which went from only about 4000 personnel and just a few hundred aircraft at the beginning of the war to more than 200,000 personnel by 1945. Many of the small airports across Canada familiar to us today started out with the BCATP.
Photo: BCATP Flying Training School in Virden, Manitoba 1944
National Film Board of Canada / Library and Archives Canada / e003641755