Flight Lieutenant (F/L)
D.A.R. Day's story is an interesting look at the danger
inherent in the British Commonwealth
Air Training Plan (BCATP) pilot training. A recollection
from his time spent training in Alberta, the following
excerpt demonstrates that a great deal of learning was done
in extreme weather and by trial and error.
Because of the extremely low temperatures we were strictly
limited to a maximum of 60 minutes in the air. I went off solo
one day to do an hour's aerobatics. The practice area was southeast of the field and shortly after getting
there, I noticed that the front canopy was sliding back.
We always flew solo from the rear cockpit, and the first
thing you had to do after getting in the plane was to stretch over
the front cockpit to clip in the canopy fasteners.
have done a poor job of this as both fasteners were now
loose, allowing the canopy to work its way back. I tried,
with limited success, to push the canopy forward by placing
my hands against the sides. The front canopy was slightly
larger than the rear one, so that it could slide over the
top of it. This meant that I could not get hold of the rear
edge to push it forward. Despite the fact that I was wearing
an inner and outer flying suit and three pairs of gloves, wool, silk and leather gauntlets,
I was getting
colder by the minute, especially when a freezing cold wind
blew in when the canopy inched back. I persevered for a
while then decided I could not bear it any longer and turned
for home. I then became aware of my second mistake, I had
been unaware of the fact that there was a very strong wind
from the northwest—although I had been flying for only about
25 minutes, it was going to take me considerably longer
to get back, exceeding the one hour time limit.
I was frozen solid by the time I eventually landed and it
took me about an hour in the warm flight shed to thaw out.
Another phenomenon of the weather was the "Chinook"
wind. Moist winds coming off the Pacific are forced up by
the Rockies, the air mass dropping in temperature at the
wet adiabatic lapse rate of 2.7 degrees per thousand feet.
Having lost its moisture, it then descends on the leeward
side, and the temperature increases at the dry adiabatic
lapse rate of 5.4 degrees per thousand feet, effectively
raising the temperature by 25 to 30 degrees. Normally, this
brought blessed relief from the bitter winter weather but,
by the end of February, coming together with the general
end of winter rise, it caused chaos. Instead of firm compacted
snow, we had to cope with sudden thawing and the slush that
came with it, only to revert to freezing conditions again
by the following day. It all came to a head at the beginning
of March, and to give the staff a chance to cope with these
conditions, flying was called off and we were given three
days leave. When we got back, the snow and slush had been
completely cleared and for the first time we saw the grass
surface, albeit suffering from months of snow cover.