Canadair CT-114 Tutor at Bomber Command Museum of Canada

Canadair CT-114 Tutor/ A former Snowbird #4. Photo: John Stemple

Canadair CT-114 Tutor/ A former Snowbird #4.
Photo: John Stemple

20th August 2016 | Nanton, Alberta, Canada.  Perhaps the most memorable aerial displays audiences in Canada and the United States thrill to annually are those performed by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force). The grace and beauty of the Canadair Tutors are unmatched. A few former Snowbird Tutors may be seen in museums, but Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC) possesses a beautifully painted example. She was on display during the facility’s 30th anniversary celebrations on 19th and 20th of August, and visitors were welcome to sit inside her cockpit.

RCAF flag flying over BCMC 4x6Designed as a basic jet trainer using the technology of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the controls and systems of the Tutor are relatively simple. The undercarriage is operated via hydraulic power, as are flaps and the nosewheel steering. However, the flight controls are manually operated. A pressurized cabin was provided for the student and instructor pilots, and zero-level ejection seats made standard equipment for their safety. For comprehensiveness of instruction, CT-114s were fully equipped for navigation, instrument and night flying training.

CT-114 circa 1970s. Photo: John Stemple

CT-114 circa 1970s.
Photo: John Stemple

CT-114s were employed by Canada’s aerial force from 1963 until 2000 and the relatively small jets remain the aircraft of choice for No. 431 Air Demonstration Squadron. The Tutors flown by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds have been modified from the training version by the installation of a turbojet engine that enhances performance during low-level aerobatic flying. Furthermore, Tutors are also still used for aircraft testing at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment at Cold Lake, Alberta.

BCMC’s Tutor (Serial #114177) was built in 1966 and served with No. 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School at 15 Wing at Moose Jaw. This particular airplane was posted to 431 Air Demonstration Squadron for ten seasons. The airplane flew as Snowbird #3 (Seasons 1977 and 1978), Snowbird #9 (Season 1979), Snowbird #10 (Season 1980), Snowbird #4 (Seasons 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986) and Snowbird #6 (Season 1985).

Tutor #114117. Photo by John Stemple

Tutor #114117.
Photo: John Stemple

Towards the end of her career, #114177 was again on strength with No. 2 Flying Training School. The aircraft’s last operational flight was to Canadian Forces Base Trenton on 27th July 1999. The veteran “showbird” arrived by truck in Nanton on 12th September 2005 from Canadian Forces Base Mountainview. After a brief stop in Nanton, Tutor #177 was shipped off to Rocky Mountain House where, over the winter of 2005-2006, she was restored and painted by Maurice Galli in preparation for a debut appearance at the 2006 Rocky Mountain House Air Show and the official transfer of the aircraft from No. 431 Squadron to BCMC. Mr. Galli painted the fuselage as Snowbird #4, which is the “First Line Astern” position, in which pilots flew her in for five seasons and the position that Major Dan Robinson was assigned when he was with No. 431 Air Demonstration Squadron in 1996 and 1997. Notably, Major Robinson was raised in Nanton.

BCMC Tutor signToday #114117 resides within the large hangar at BCMC. Occasionally, she is rolled outside and visitors are permitted to sit inside the cockpit where so many RCAF/Canadian Forces students and 431 Air Demonstration Squadron pilots had also sat over more than three decades. It is within such an aircraft that young dreams take wing and older dreamers reminisce of yesteryear. On the second day 20th Century Aviation Magazine was in attendance, a visitor who was longingly staring at BCMC’s stated the following: “I thrilled to the sight of Tutor 114117 and her Snowbird mates several times in the 1970s and early 1980s. I still love them.” Others, young and old, echoed his sentiment.

As mentioned above, Tutor #114117 was constructed in 1966, the same year the now classic science fiction television series Star Trek premiered. Ironically, BCMC is located near the town of Vulcan, and as a closing salute we borrow and adapt a phrase from perhaps the most famous Star Trek (fictional) Vulcan and state: “May the Tutor and 431 Air Demonstration Squadron and live long and prosper.”


The author (John Stemple) thanks Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Nanton Aviation Station, Vulcan TV, and Kendra Davis. Furthermore, the 20th Century Aviation Magazine staff wishes to thank General Manager Andrea Townshend (and staff members Andrea Ramsay, Cara Gray and Mercedes Brentnall) of the High River Ramada Hotel and Kathryn of the Auditorium Hotel in Nanton for their exceptional hospitality and customer service.

Note: This (2016) show season the Canadian Forces Snowbirds are commemorating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), the joint air crew training program launched by Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand during the Second World War. BCATP and its contribution to the Second World War air effort and the Allied victory was an important chapter in Canada’s military aviation history. Through BCATP, by the end of the Second World War the initiative produced more than 130,000 highly trained aircrew, including pilots, wireless operators, air gunners, and navigators for the air forces of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The plan also trained foreign citizens, who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal Air Force, from nations that included the United States, Poland, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia and France. Furthermore, tens of thousands of essential maintenance (engine fitters and airframe riggers) and support staff were recruited and trained by the RCAF to support the BCATP effort.

Sources and Suggested Readings

431 Air Demonstration Squadron

Canadair CT-114 Tutor

Canadair CT-114 Tutor

Canadair CT-114 Tutor

Canadair CT-114 Tutor

Canadair CT-114 Tutor

Canadian Forces Snowbirds

CT-114 Tutor

Snowbird Presentation Panel

Star Trek