It was perhaps inevitable that the war would come to Moncton Airport. The conflict saw many existing aerodromes take on another role, that of RCAF flying schools under the new British Commonwealth Air Trainging Plan. Dozens of new establishments popped up across the nation to train pilots, flight engineers, navigators and air gunners needed for the war effort. It was decided Moncton would be made an advanced school for pilots as the No. 8 Service Flying Training School, and after negotiations with Trans-Canada Air Lines, Canadian Airways, and the Department of Transport were concluded, the new establishment opened its doors in December 1940 in brand new buildings built on the opposite side of previously existing facilities.
As an SFTS, No. 8 was used at first to train bomber and cargo pilots. The first students found themselves training in an air school still under construction with personnel, accommodations and equipment lacking. Until running water was available, soft drinks would have to do. By the following year, 1941, the school population - staff and students - reached over 1,500 with the students training on 69 Ansons. No. 8 SFTS had by then grown into a large base with several barracks, a series of brand-new hangars, scores of support huts along streets names after Canadian First World War flying aces, and included a practice bombing range at Cape Boudreau fives miles east of Shedia and emergency landing fields at Gunningsville beside the naval radio station and at Salisbury. The school often graduated over 80% of its intake, some of whom could come from as diverse a place as Ireland, Argentina, Hawaii, Columbia, the United States or Barbados, this of course in addition to the all of the Commonwealth countries. One of the first Americans to graduate there was Leading Aircraftsman Basil Rathbone, son of the famous British actor. The school's role as a heavy aircraft flying school was short-lived as the Ansons were traded for Harvards in late 1941, which meant students could now look forward to fighter training. When the change was made, a new air-to-ground gunnery range was opened 1/4 mile north of Dupuis Corner.
No. 8 SFTS was eventually moved to Saskatchewan in early 1944. For decades, all that remained of No. 8 SFTS were three hangars used by the RCAF's 5 Supply Depot and a single hut. The Canadian Forces finally left the airport in the 1990s and some time after that, two of the hangars were destroyed or moved. Today, the sole remaining hangar is Midland Transport's maintenance centre.
Our thanks to Paul Ozorak for making this detail available and providing valuable information about #5 SFTS.
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Updated: June 7, 2005