John Alexander Griffin - 1922-2008 - Liberator Pilot, Aviation Historian, Author, Former Canadian Aviation History Society President
The history of Canadian military aviation inevitably revolves around, indeed begins in, the aircraft of that
history. Manufacturers made them, airmen flew them - and sometimes broke them - then their owners
laid them aside when their usefulness ended. Considerable information on some varieties of aircraft has
been available from several sources, but there has never previously been an attempt to consolidate basic
information such as type, serial, source, and dispo sition of all the more than 22,000 military aircraft
that have been used in Canada by Canadian military forces. In this book "CANADIAN MILITARY
A1RCRAFT: SERIALS AND PHOTOGRAPHS" John Griffin has brought that mass of basic data together.
This register, with its reference photographs, represents eight years of devoted research by the
author. The occasion and the man came together at the right time. Canada's military forces have recently
been re-organized and, in that process, many obscure and seemingly valueless records have already been lost
as record systems are rationalized. Others would never have been unearthed if someone of John
Griffin's knowledge, diligence, and perception had not been ready to follow this silent, often vague, trail
into Canadian history. For decades to come, every person wishing more basic data on the history of
Canadian military aviation will find this now well-mapped trail a reason for gratitude.
It is surely fitting to note that John Griffin, now a Toronto business manager, has pursued his devotion
to Canadian aviation as an historian and arcluvist after participating in our military aviation history as a
Liberator pilot in the Second World War.
WILLIAM E. TAYLOR, JR.
National Museum of Man,
National Museums of Canada,
The preparation of a "list" of Canadian military aircraft should have been a straightforward if tedious task since the
subject covers a time interval of less than fifty years and the bulk of the activity was a mere thirty years ago. Had the
simple process of listing the aircraft been followed consistently, the undertaking would have been comparatively easy
but with every change in organization the identification system was changed not only for the future but frequently
retroactively, with the result that the same aircraft was occasionally identified under several systems and conversely
the same numbers were used again. The confusion which has subsequently resulted from this practice has been the prime
reason for the research which has led to the preparation of this book.
We are now on the threshold of another major re-organization and the first changes are underway with the
renumbering of some of the Beechcraft Expeditors of the RCAF whose serial numbers conflicted with the Grununan
Trackers of the RCN.
The organizations controlling state-owned aircraft in Canada have had a significant effect on the system of identification or
registration of the aircraft.
It was on 4 June 1919 that the British Government formally offered Canada a large number of new and used aircraft. On 6
June the Canadian Parliament passed the Air Board Act creating a body to control all phases of aeronautics in the
Dominion, though it was not until 18 February 1920 that an Order in Council authorized the creation of the Canadian Air
Force as a non-permanent, non-professional force under the administration of the Air Board.
On 15 February 1923 the King authorized the use of the Royal title and so the Royal Canadian Air Force was formally
constituted. The RCAF role included both service and non military flying duties.
With increasing air activities, particularly on the civil side, a major re-organization was introduced on 1 July 1927. Under
the Deputy Minister of National Defence there were three branches established; the ,Royal Canadian Air Force, Civil
Government Air Operations and the Controller of Civil Aviation.
In 1931 the depression was responsible for a drastic reduction in the activities of the CGA0 branch and most of
the flying was handed over to the Provinces with the exceptionof photo mapping.
By I November 1932 the CGA0 was suffering from a lack of funds and it was absorbed by the RCAF, never to be reformed.
The growth of the RCAF was influenced by the increasing threat of war in the last half of the 1930's. On 30 June 1939
an order was issued which absorbed all of the aircraft strength into the service flying inventory.
The war itself brought tremendous expansion to the RCAF but the Royal Canadian Navy still had no air service. The army
was also confined to using the services of the RCAF.
During the Second World War the RCAF sent, and later formed, complete squadrons overseas and, though early units
brought sorne of their aircraft with them, they were not used on operations because the Air Ministry considered them to be
obsolete compared to equipment being issued to front line squadrons. The overseas Squadrons of the RCAF used only
aircraft on the Royal Air Force's inventory and thus this book does not include these aircraft since they were not technically
on charge or on the inventory of the RCAF.
Home defence squadrons operating out of Canada were supplied with aircraft on RCAF inventory as were the units of
the Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
The matter of payment for aircraft was far too complex a subject to be dealt with here, but this aspect had its effect on
whether the RCAF or RAF or the USAF system of serialnumbers was applied to an aircraft as its permanent identification.
Postwar, with its healthy economy, permitted the rapid retirement of obsolete wartime equipment and the acquisition
of modern postwar aircraft for both the RCAF and the budding Air Service of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Until 12 July 1947 the RCAF inventory included the aircraft used to train RCN and RN pilots during the war and
the aircraft used to form the immediate postwar RCN Air Service Squadrons. Following 1947 the Navy maintained their
own inventory of aircraft. The Canadian Army's aircraft and helicopters were included in the inventory of RCAF aircraft.
On 1 February 1968 the Canadian Arrned Forces officially came into being and consequently the Royal Canadian Navy,
Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force ceased to exist. All aircraft of the three services were then absorbed into a single inventory.
The author owes a debt of gratitude to a great many persons who gave freely of their time and knowledge during the
preparation of this book.
All of the photographs which have come from sources other than the Armed Forces files were made available freely from
the private collections of the individual whose name appears with each illustration. The author would like to note that
though the contributor may not in all cases have taken the photograph, it has appeared in this book with the donor's
The whole project is a direct result of the continning encouragement and support provided by Wing Commander R.
V. Manning DFC CD, until recently the Air Historian of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He and his staff, including Flight
Lieutenant Hugh Halliday, were an essential part of each step in the ever widening search for early documentation to
supplement existing source information.
Though there were many who lent assistance over the long period of preparation, the following individuals listed
alphabetically have contributed significantly to the finalization of this publication, and their assistance is gratefully acknowledged.
Douglas F. Anderson
Mary Lou Finlay
M. L. (Mac) McIntyre
The following companies have provided valued assistance in providing photographs and information to suppiement the
Avro Aircraft Ltd.
The deHavilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd.
Recognition of a more personal nature is extended to Mr. John Ellis who has been a frequent and indispensable
companion through the long hours of the Archives file searches. All of the information relating to the Canadian Civil
Register has been provided exclusively as a result of his personal research. His unstinting assistance and support have
been a source of immeasurable help throughout the preparation of this book.
How to Use this Book
This book contains an individual entry for every aircraft on charge or on formal loan to the Military Air Forces of Canada
from inception through to 31 January 1968, the eve of the creation of the unified Canadian Armed Forces. All aircraft
are cross referenced by type listing and registration. In addition the civil registration provided in Chapter 10 give an insight
into the disposition or the acquisition of civil types used by the military, or military types used for civil applications.
Where no entry appears for a serial number or registration in this book, it indicates that the number was never used and
should not be misconstrued to mean an absence of information about an aircraft. Serial numbers are arranged in blocks of
fifty and where large gaps exist in the register the blank numbers are continued to the end of the block before discontinuing the run.
Italics have been used to list those aircraft which have been issued serials previously used to identify earlier aircraft. Where
italics have been used in Chapter 3 they too are displayed in blocks of fifty even when only one serial number has been
The nomenclature used is the accepted Canadian military identification and the model or mark number is generally that
in effect at the time of introduction into service. Appendix J provides a selection of popular names for each type which will
permit those who are unfamiliar with the various registration systems to enter Chapter 1, the Type Summary, where all
registrations allocated to the type may be found.
The order of listing within the Type Summary has been standardized so that within each model or mark number,
serials are listed in the following order:
Royal Canadian Air Force numerical
Royal Canadian Air Force instructional
Royal Canadian Navy
United States Air Force
United States Navy
Because aircraft on charge to the Canadian military forces may have carried registrations from any of the above regis-
tration systems, the cross referencing of this book is more complex than would otherwise be necessary.
The reader who wishes to identity a Canadian military aircraft in a photograph might find a registration consisting of
a group of letters, letters and numerals or numerals only. To select from the detailed listings in Chapters 2 to 10, the origin
of the registration system must first be determined, and to that end the following brief notes are provided.
The G-CY registrations may appear either in full or latterly as only the last two significant letters. This practice was never
permitted for the G-CA civil registrations.
The Canadian Civil registrations with their CF- prefix followed by three significant letters are quite distinctive and
not easily confused with the other systems.
The British military numbering system is the most distinctive of the remaining military forms. It is recognizable
by its constant five character block consisting of either one letter and four numerals or two letters and three numerals.
The change-over was reached during World War II when the series reached Z9978 and the new block commencing with
AA100 was introduced.
A serial which has one to three digits with a prefix letter A or suffix letters B or C will be from the RCAF's instructional
register. There are no other systems used in Canada which should cause confusion with t.his register.
The Serial numbering systems of the RCAF, RCN, USAF and USN contain numerals only, and are therefore easily
confused when they appear as aircraft registrations. To determine the origin of such a serial the reader must first determine
whether the aircraft was on charge to the RCN or RCAF.
All aircraft used by the RCN in the post-war period carried the distinctive marking "Royal Canadian Navy" adjacent to
the serial number. An RCN aircraft with a serial of four digits or less will be from either the RCAF or the RCN register and
there is no simple guide, save experience, to direct you to either section. RCN serials above 30,000 will have their origin
in the USN serial series except with the one exception, the Vertol HUP-3 helicopters have USAF serials. Serials between
9100 and 30,000 will be found in the RCAF register.
Canadian Army and RCAF aircraft will generally be found in the RCAF register but a few aircraft were flown with USAF
serials. In photographs, these latter serials tend to be distinctive in that they appear on the fin of the aircraft in large
numerals which cover the whole chord of the fin. RCAF serials, when applied to the fin of the aircraft, are generally
smaller and more compact, and appear immediately over the fin flash or itnmediately under the Canadian ensign or flag as
Though it is an unfortunate turn of events, it is true that many aircraft were only photographed when misfortune
overtook them. Crash photographs are invariably dated and to one interested in markings, an accident is a conclusive check as
to the appearance of a particular aircraft at a specific point in time. This reasoning accounts for what might otherwise be
misconstrued as a morbid interest in crashes throughout the various individual aircraft listings.
Appendix I lists the symbols used to amplify date information, as wel1 as listing all abbreviations used.
The Type Summary, Chapter 1, observes the following rules to summarize serial block information.
For the sake of brevity, blocks are shown thus, 9001-04, indicating by use of a dash, four aircraft numbered con-
secutively from 9001 to 9004. When a run of numbers is broken, it is shown thus, 9001-04, 06-09, 24-73, indicating
by use of a comma, four aircraft as above, plus four more numbered 9006 to 9009 and fifty more numbered 9024 to
9073. Whenever it is necessary to show a major spread in a block, the whole number is repeated for clarity thus,
KH171-76, KH285-88, rather than continue the shortenedform.
The instructional aircraft 1isted in the Type Sumrnary are aircraft which have served the military in this capacity only,
and the identification given following the "ex" indicates its previous registration though not while in military service. If it
was in military service, it will appear in the appropriate section.
All dates provided in this book are in the sequence, day-rnonth-year.
Occasionally an aircraft may carry two identification numbers and for brevity it is shown thus, 10/301, indicating
by the use of the oblique stroke that both numbers apply equally to the same aircraft.
The rigid compliance with column headings has occasionally been abandoned in favour of supplying additional information.
Where available, particularly for aircraft obtained under lend-lease, the British and American serials are provided under
the previous and subsequent registration columns even though these additional identifications were not applied to the aircraft
in RCAF service.
For aircraft lacking a manufacturer's number, the appropriate column is used on occasion to indicate the unit where
the aircraft was taken on strength.
Special notes are included, at the expense of order, across all columns where the information is considered significant.
JA Griffin et al 1968
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