Canadian Forces VIP aircraft

Canadian Forces VIP aircraft

The Canadian Forces have a number of specialised aircraft to transport the Royal Family, Governor General, senior members of the Government of Canada and other dignitaries. [Canadian Forces, Air Command [ CC-150 Polaris information] ] [Canadian Forces, Air Command [ CC-144 Challenger information] ]

Air Command (AIRCOM) provides a small fleet of dedicated executive government transport aircraft in two squadrons, however other AIRCOM helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, along with chartered civilian aircraft, and occasionally, scheduled commercial flights may be used.


Members of the Royal Family have been flying in the United Kingdom since two Westland Wapitis were delivered to the Royal Air Force's No. 24 Squadron at RAF Northolt in April, 1928. Between 1929 and 1935 the Prince of Wales himself purchased 13 aircraft. When the Prince ascended to the throne in 1936 as Edward VIII, the King's Flight was formed as the world's first head of state aircraft unit. [Air International René Francillon Nov. 1999 "Fit for a King: Wings for Sovereigns, Presidents and Prime Ministers" pp. 289-290]

Canada can trace executive air transport to the formation of the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1920s; the only VIP death in the RCAF's history was Minister of National Defence, Norman McLeod Rogers on June 10, 1940, near Newtonville, Ontario.

Aircraft used by the RCAF included:

* Lockheed Lodestar
* Canadair North Star
* Canadair CL-66
* Canadair CL-44-6

Following unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, long range VIP transport was carried out using a modified Boeing 707 designated the CC-137 Husky. Short range VIP transport often used various combat fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

Dedicated VIP transport aircraft did not enter the Canadian Forces until 1982-1985 when 12 CL-600S Challenger business jets were purchased from Canadair, carrying the designations CC-144, CE-144, and CX-144. Those used as VIP transports were painted in the red and white livery of the Canadian Forces (ca. 1970s and 1980s).

The Challenger fleet was used primarily for electronic warfare and were outfitted with various EW equipment, flying with 414 "Black Knight" Squadron at CFB North Bay until July 1992 and then with 434 "Blue Nose" Squadron at CFB Greenwood until May 2000. The aircraft were repainted from the red and white livery to a low visibility grey during the early 1990s.

434 Squadron was disbanded in May 2000 and eight aircraft were sold or retired with two being transferred to 412 Transport Squadron for dedicated executive transport where the livery was changed to a dark "Air Force blue."

Present arrangements

All Canadian Forces aircraft are operated by Air Command (AIRCOM). Two AIRCOM squadrons currently provide executive transport, 437 Transport Squadron and 412 Transport Squadron.

Flight attendants on flights operated by 437 and 412 squadrons are volunteers from various sectors of the Canadian Forces and serve in their posting for two to three years, after having undergone an intensive training period and additional security background checks.

437 Transport Squadron (the Royal Flight)

The 437 Transport Squadron operates five Airbus A310-300s (designated the CC-150 Polaris) with a top speed of 460 knots. Four CC-150 are configured as normal airliners with cargo transport and aerial refuelling capability while one CC-150 is operated in a VIP configuration, also known as the Canadian Royal Flight.

The VIP configuration aircraft, No. 001, is configured for use by the Queen and other high dignitaries. It has a spartan bedroom, sitting room, office space, and a shower approximately the size of a small phone booth. The executive suite includes a satellite telephone, two computer work stations and a small refrigerator. The rear portion of the aircraft is a normal passenger cabin, used to carry regular military passengers, members of the VIP party, or reporters. As Captain Yvan Veillette, the squadron's information officer, stated of the interior: "It's no more luxurious than a good motor home." [ [ Keene, Tony; "Monarchy Canada": Canada's Royal Flight: A Visit to 437 Transport Squadron] ]

The 437 Transport Squadron is based at CFB Trenton. [ [ Murphey, Lt. Col. DC; "Contact": 437 Squadron’s support to Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee visit; Volume 37, Issue 46; November 29, 2002] ]

412 Transport Squadron

The 412 Transport Squadron is the only AIRCOM unit dedicated exclusively to executive transport and currently operates four Bombardier Challenger 604 business jets in a VIP configuration which carry the designation CC-144. 412 Transport Squadron is based at Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (formerly CFB Ottawa and previously CFB Uplands).

Recent controversies

In 2002, the government, under the direction of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, purchased two more Challenger aircraft exclusively for executive transport. Use of these planes by ministers of the Crown came under heavy criticism, partly due to their high cost of operation (approx $11,000 per hour [ [ Cheadle, Bruce; "CNews": PMO officials not required to publicly post cost of Challenger flights: Tories; October 25, 2006] ] ), as well as questions over prioritization of other military aircraft procurement such as the politically controversial Maritime Helicopter Project which was to replace the aging CH-124 Sea King fleet. Government ministers have typically explained that the use of the Challenger jets is necessary due to time constraints and/or security issues.

The Governor General has also caused issue when using Canadian Forces aircraft for transport on domestic and international official government business, as well as for personal use. Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson had used a chartered aircraft to fly from Ottawa to her cottage in Muskoka, Ontario. It was also revealed that Governor General Michaëlle Jean was flown to The Bahamas on a Canadian Forces Challenger. Both times the press reports of these actions brought criticism from some corners, however, the Governor General is directed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on how to travel between destinations, and officials there requested domestic and international travel by the Challenger planes. [ [ Harris, Kathleen; "CNews": Fed jets idle under Tories; July 12, 2006] ]


ee also

* Air transports of heads of state and government
* Royal tours of Canada
* HMY Britannia

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