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Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team Coming to OSH16
June 29, 2016 - The Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team (CHAT) will make its debut Oshkosh performance at EAA AirVenture 2016. The team, based in Woodstock, Ontario, flies a mix of North American and Noorduyn Aviation-built Harvards, known to us south of the border as the T-6/SNJ Texan. The team’s Harvards date from the early 1940s and are painted in the bright yellow paint schemes worn by the trainers when they served in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during and after World War II.
CHAT hearkens back to a couple of early RCAF demonstration teams, the Easy Aces of the early 1950s and a group formed in the early 1960s known as the Goldilocks. In a broader sense, however, the team is a flying tribute to an extraordinary wartime undertaking known as the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), or, more simply, the Plan. The BCATP was a joint training program created by the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand and was focused strictly on training aircrew. Canada, thanks to its wide open spaces in the plains provinces and its geographic isolation from the war in Europe, provided the training ground for a majority of students, eventually producing more than 130,000 aircrews from multiple nations around the world.
The unprecedented success of this massive initiative prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, to dub Canada the “aerodrome of democracy,” a play on his pre-war slogan for the U.S., the “arsenal of democracy.” Canada remains justifiably proud of this unique contribution to the Allied war effort; so much so that the RCAF Snowbirds’ 2016 air show season is dedicated to commemorating the BCATP and its legacy. Look closely at the tails of the Snowbirds’ Canadair Tutors and you’ll see a bright yellow Harvard, just like CHAT’s, along with the letters BCATP and its French equivalent, PEACB (Programme d’Entraînement Aérien du Commonwealth Britannique.) In addition to the Snowbirds’ tribute and the bright yellow Harvards of CHAT, other BCATP aircraft you might spot at AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 include the de Havilland DH.82C Tiger Moth, Boeing Stearman, Fairchild PT-26 Cornell, and possibly a Fleet Finch.
For a deeper dive into the history and legacy of the BCATP, check out this EAA Webinar from 2011.