19 Wing History

The airfield at Comox was opened as a Royal Air Force (RAF) Base in 1942 and was officially constituted as a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Aerodrome on 1 May 1943. Its initial task was that of flying control unit for 32 Operational Training Unit (OTU), RAF, at Patricia Bay, near Victoria, B.C. In June 1944, 32 OTU (RAF) moved to Comox and became No.6 OTU (RCAF). No.6 was a Transport Establishment flying the C-47 Dakota under the command of Group Captain D.C.S. MacDonald.

In January of 1946, No. 6 OTU was moved to RCAF Station Greenwood, N.S., and RCAF Station Comox was closed and placed under a care and maintenance program under the direction of the Department of Transport.

In June of 1952, Station Comox was reactivated as an Air Defence Command (ADC) establishment under the operational control of 12 Air Defence Group (later changed to 5 Air Division) Vancouver. Starting in 1954 an extensive modernization program took place and several new buildings including a new large hangar (7 Hangar) were built. There was also an extension of the main runway to its present length of 10,000 feet.

The Station’s first operational squadron, 407 “Demon” Maritime Patrol Squadron, was reactivated on 1 July 1952 and equipped with Lancaster bombers that were modified for the Anti-Submarine Warfare role.

In February of 1953, the first 150 units of Permanent Married Quarters (PMQs) were completed and occupied. An elementary school for children of RCAF personnel was also established with classrooms for grades one to six and kindergarten.

409 “Nighthawk” All Weather Fighter Interceptor Squadron was re-activated at Comox on 1 November 1954. Over the years, it was equipped with the T-33 Silver Star, CF-100 Canuck and the CF-101 Voodoo. Also in l954, 51 Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron (radar) was formed at Comox as part of the CADIN-Pinetree radar line.

Comox had been designated an Air Defence Command base upon its reactivation in 1952. However, on 15 September 1961, it was officially placed under the control of Maritime Air Command. With the closing of RCAF Station Sea Island in Vancouver, 121 Composite Unit moved to its new home at Comox in July of 1964 with their Albatross aircraft.

In July 1968, the 121 Composite Unit became 442 Communications and Rescue Squadron and, a few months later, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron.

In August of 1974, a second Maritime Flying unit, VU 33, moved to Comox from Patricia Bay Airport in Victoria with three CP 121 Tracker and three T-33 Silver Star aircraft. The move of VU 33 to Comox consolidated all military flying activity in British Columbia at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Comox.

On 1 September 1975, CFB Comox and all squadrons came under the command of the Commander Air Command, with headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

On 29 June 1984, 409 Squadron ceased Voodoo operations at Comox and moved to CFB Cold Lake. Moreover, on June 1992, VU 33 ceased its operations and the squadron was disbanded. On 5 July 1992, 414 Squadron moved from North Bay to Comox. 414 Squadron was officially stood down 16 April 2002, following the retirement of the CT-133 Silver Star the previous month. In May 1993, 19 Air Maintenance Squadron was established in order to provide operational support to the Wing.

In 2002, 442 Squadron traded in their CH-113 Labrador helicopters for CH-149 Cormorants, marking a new era in Search and Rescue capabilities at the Squadron.

In 2002-03, 407 Squadron took part in Operation APOLLO in support of anti-terrorist surveillance operations over the Persian and Arabian Gulfs. From 2003-2011, 19 Wing personnel deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation ATHENA, as well as numerous other operations around the world, like Operation MOBILE in 2010-11 above the skies of Libya.

Today, the two flying squadrons, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron and 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron, supported by 19 Air Maintenance Squadron, maintain a heavy operational commitment, with an increased focus on Joint operations across the Canadian Forces.The approximately 1000 military and 300 full and part-time civilians fulfil the task of putting the right aircraft in the right place at the right time.

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