RCAF

Royal Canadian Air Force Centennial

Tributes

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Royal Canadian Air Force Logo: Stylized eagle in the center, symbolizing strength and agility, with maple leaves and blue and white colors to represent Canadian identity.

With immense honor and respect, we celebrate the centenary of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), an institution that embodies courage, excellence, and dedication to service over a remarkable century. Since its founding in 1924, the RCAF has played a crucial role in defending and promoting peace, shaping history, and inspiring generations.

Over a hundred years, the men and women of the RCAF have fearlessly taken to the skies, defending the ideals of freedom and justice that are fundamental to the Canadian identity. Their bravery in times of conflict, such as during World War II, where RCAF pilots significantly contributed to the Allied victory, is a testament to the courage and commitment of this exceptional air force.

Beyond combat moments, the RCAF has been a vital force in responding to natural disasters, humanitarian missions, and protecting Canadian airspace. Its legacy extends beyond geographical boundaries, touching lives and communities worldwide.

On the centenary of the RCAF, we pay tribute not only to the aviators and support personnel but also to the families who, with patience and resilience, supported their loved ones in service. We recognize the sacrifice and devotion that have permeated each decade of this extraordinary journey.

To the Royal Canadian Air Force, we express sincere gratitude for its exemplary service, continuous innovation, and vital role in defending the sovereignty and security of Canada. May this centenary be a moment of celebration, reflection, and inspiration for future generations who will continue to carry forward the impressive legacy of the RCAF. May the wings of the RCAF continue to soar high, defending freedom and peace for many more years. Congratulations on 100 years of exemplary service!

John Bernasconi

The national flag of Canada featuring a stylized red maple leaf at the center, flanked by two vertical red bars on the sides and white background.

RCAF/Canadian Forces Career of Sergeant Johann (John) Bernasconi CD - in his own words

I was fascinated with aircraft from an early age. Many hours were spent at the fence surrounding the Regina airport watching everything that flew in and out. In 1948 I saw the first jet, a Vampire, buzz the city. That was it, I had to be part of the RCAF.

I joined the RCAF in 1953 at the age of 17. With my electrical and mechanical training in technical school my desire was to be trained on radio, radar and communications equipment. The recruiting officer had a need for aircraft repair and maintenance technicians. He won. He signed me up as an Airframe Technician and sent me off to boot camp. On completion of the spit and polish segment I was sent to Camp Borden to be trained on the new Canadair built F86 Sabre jet. From there I was transferred to RCAF station Portage la Prairie Manitoba to repair and maintain the Canadair built T33 jets being used for pilot flight training. The transfer of knowledge of the F86 systems to the T33 was not a difficult one.

In the summer of 1954 the need for trained F86 technicians in NATO saw me transferred to RCAF Station Grostenquin, also known as 2 (Fighter) Wing in France. I maintained the F86 aircraft in 430 Squadron for the next 3 years. One of the more interesting side trips was to Rabat Morocco. The squadron flew there to conduct air to air firing practice by the pilots over the ocean on the west coast of Africa.

The Canadian four Fighter Wings Under NATO as well as the Canadian Army and other NATO countries were there in 1956 when Soviet tanks and troops attacked Hungary. This situation was proof that NATO was in the right place at the right time. Further movement into Europe by the Russians was discouraged.

My exciting 3 years in Europe ended in 1957. I was transferred to the VIP 412 Transport Squadron at Uplands in Ottawa. An eclectic mix of aircraft such as the RCAF North Star C-5 transport, a Beechcraft Expeditor (C45), a Douglas Dakota (C47), a Mitchell Bomber (B25), a Cosmopolitan CC 109 Transport and, best of all, 2 De Havilland Comets 5301 and 5302. These four engine passenger carrying jets were the first of their kind in the world. I spent most of my 4 years there maintaining them. Our maintenance crew even got to conduct a mid life overhaul on one of them. It took many weeks to complete but we succeeded.

In 1960, I saw an opportunity to switch to the radar and navigation aids field as a technician. I applied, was interviewed, tested and was accepted to be trained at the RCAF radar school in Clinton Ontario in 1961. This school was part of The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). I graduated in 1962 as a Radar Technician (ground) on the AN/CPN4-MP11 Ground Approach Radar and the AN/FPN-36 Quad Radar. The next posting was to RCAF station Gimli Manitoba to repair and maintain the GCA Radar and Tacan systems.

It was interesting and gratifying for me to watch the Air traffic controllers daily use these systems to "talk down" pilots all the way to the runway.

The radar school in Clinton was in need of more instructors, so, in 1965 they transferred me back there to teach the future technicians who would run the radar and navigation sites at military airports. This continued from 1965 to 1971 at which time the radar school closed.

Integration of the three services was now in place so they transferred me as a Sergeant to a Royal Canadian Naval Radar Repair Unit in Montreal. From 1971 to 1975 we overhauled radar systems on the DDH 280 class Helicopter Destroyers while they were in dry dock.

I retired in 1975 after 22 years from the RCAF/Canadian Armed Forces. I joined Transport Canada where I used my RCAF experience for the next 20 years to teach Navigation Aids systems to civilian airport technicians at the Transport Canada Training Institute in Ottawa and Cornwall. These included ILS, VOR, DME and TACAN equipment courses.

It was a full and very satisfying career!