International Operation Name: Operation BEECHFLIGHT
International Mission Name: Operation BEECHFLIGHT
Mandating Organization: Government of Canada
Region Name: Europe
Location: France and Portugal
Mission Date: 20 May 1959 – 4 June 1959
Mission Mandate: To ferry RCAF aircraft to France and Portugal.
Mission/Operation Notes: With the stand–up of NATO and the emergence of the Cold War, Europe was seen as the next potential battleground, so much so that even the Korean War was seen as a diversion. Canada committed herself to providing 12 squadrons of aircraft as well as ground forces in an effort to deter attacks and defend Western Europe.
The aircraft would be flown to Europe using the North Atlantic ferry route that had been developed during the Second World War by the RAF’s Ferry Command. Leaving from Goose Bay or Gander in Newfoundland, aircraft would fly to Greenland, Iceland and on to Scotland and England.
The first aircraft to make the flight were F–86 Sabres, on their way to create No. 1 Canadian Air Division. Under the name Operation LEAP FROG, three squadrons of Sabres would fly the route, trailed by a 426 Squadron North Star carrying servicing personnel. A total of four distinct operations were flown:
- Leap Frog I, 1 Wing – 439, 441, May–June 1952
- Leap Frog II, 2 Wing – 416, 421, 430 Sqns, September–October 1952
- Leap Frog III, 3 Wing – 413, 427, 434 Sqns, March–April 1953
- Leap Frog IV, 4 Wing – 414, 422, 444 Sqns, August–September 1953
As the CF–100 proved itself as an all weather night fighter, the decision was made to replace four squadrons of Sabres with four squadrons of Canucks. This would provide NATO with a more capable interception capability, as there was no all–weather or night fighter capability in Europe. The Canucks were flown to Europe under Operation NIMBLE BAT, and again 426 Squadron provided a North Star aircraft to carry support personnel for each stop–over. The timings for each of the four Nimble Bat operations are:
- Nimble Bat I, 445 Sqn, Oct–Nov 1956
- Nimble Bat II, 423 Sqn, Feb 1957
- Nimble Bat III, 440 Sqn, May 1957
- Nimble Bat IV, 419 Sqn, Aug 1957
The Canadair Sabre was constantly modified to maintain its edge as one of the best fighters of the era. As new Marks emerged off Canadair’s production lines, these aircraft were ferried to Europe to replace the now dated aircraft. At the same time, T–33s for use by the Air Division and as Mutual Aid gifts to NATO members were also ferried across the Atlantic, under the name Operation RANDOM. The first operation began on 11 February 1954, ferrying new Sabre Vs, while the last mission, Random 30 commenced on 24 June 1957, with 24 Sabre Vis and six T–33s. In just over three years of ferrying, No. 1 Overseas Ferry Unit, supported by 426 Squadron, safely delivered more than 800 aircraft overseas.
No. 1 OFU also brought aircraft back to Canada. With the introduction of the Mk VI Sabre, the now surplus Mk Vs were either donated to other NATO members, or brought back to Canada. HMCS Magnificent left the UK with 50 Sabres on 7 Nov 56; while No. 1 OFU completed two ferrying operations from east to west across the North Atlantic – Operations RANDOM WEST I and II, on 17–19 Oct 56 (20 Sabre Vs) and 17–20 Nov 56 (16 Sabre Vs). (These operations were also referred to as REVERSE RANDOM.)
When Belgium purchased 53 Avro CF–100 Canucks, the RCAF delivered them in Operation JUMP MOAT. There were five missions under this op name, with the numbers 3 and 4 also bringing CF–100s to the Air Division and number 5 being solely Air Division aircraft.
- JUMP MOAT I, December 1957
- JUMP MOAT II, March 1958
- JUMP MOAT III, May 1958
- JUMP MOAT IV, June 1958
- JUMP MOAT V, October 1958
The need to transfer aircraft to Europe did not end with Operation Random. In 1958, the need to ferry T–33s to NATO members under the Mutual Aid agreement produced operation STAR FLIGHT, with eight T–33s going to Greece and 17 T–33s going to Turkey. The aircraft, accompanied by two North Stars from No. 426 Sqn, departed on 9 May and returned to Canada on 22 May.
1959 was to prove a very busy year for ferrying aircraft to Europe. On 9 June, 12 T–33s piloted by members of No. 129 Acceptance and Ferry Flight and escorted by a 426 Squadron North Star departed Goose Bay for No. 4 Wing as part of Operation SILVER DOZEN. They arrived safely at Baden–Sollingen on 15 June. A repeat of this operation was required in August, hence Operation SECOND SILVER DOZEN. This time, No. 129 AFF and No. 426 Sqn delivered 11 T–33s to No. 4 Wing.
In September, Operation WESTERN WEAR ferried 22 T–33s to the Air Division, France, Greece, Portugal and Turkey. Pilots from No. 129 AFF were again accompanied by the familiar North Star from No. 426 Sqn, the operation starting 22 September and being completed with the return to Canada on 9 October. (This op was also referred to in RCAF files as Op Western Way.)
Throughout the 1950s, the RCAF, under the authorization of the Government of Canada, provided aircraft to NATO allies under the Mutual Aid Agreement. In 1959, 19 Beech C–18 Expeditors were provided to France and another 6 to Portugal, flying to these countries under Operation BEECHFLIGHT. This operation started on 20 May and ended 4 June when the six Portuguese aircraft landed in that country. Each aircraft had a pilot and navigator, while a North Star from 426 Squadron carried the 12–man support section.
Operation Western Weft and Western Weal were conducted in 1962, delivering aircraft to France and Greece respectively. On this occasion 40 T–33s and 10 Expeditors were given to France, and 10 T–33s to Greece. This operation was conducted in five separate missions between 17 April and 3 August.
The RCAF also ferried aircraft inside aircraft. As CF–104 Starfighters were coming off the Canadair production line in Montreal, most were transported to Europe to equip No. 1 Air Division. These operations involved putting the CF–104 inside one of the newly acquired C–130 Hercules and flying it over in that manner. These operations, known as RHO DELTA, lasted from 1962 to 1965, ending when the last of the 185 CF–104s had been delivered. (Rho Delta is ancient Greek for 100 –Rho– and 4 – Delta).
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