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On July 20, 80 years to the day the first Harvard entered service in Canada, the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association (CHAA) celebrated with an open house and fly day at Tillsonburg Regional Airport. Four Harvards were kept busy all day performing a total of 18 flight experience rides.
Displays designed to educate the public were set up in the hangars to show internal workings of the trainer, restoration and maintenance, and the history of the Harvard in Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) service. Of special interest was how Canadian-built Harvards were used to train pilots from around the world in Canada and which countries imported Canadian-built Harvards. During the day, chief technical officer Shane Clayton lead a group of volunteers in removing the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine from Harvard Mk.4 RCAF 20422. With fittings removed, the engine was placed in an original RCAF engine container and will eventually be sent to an overhaul facility.
The North American Harvard traces its roots back to 1935 with the NA-16 prototype, and first saw service in Canada in 1939 as an advanced trainer for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. During the Second World War, Noorduyn Aviation Limited built 2,798 Harvards Mk.IIBs at Montreal. In the 1950s the Canadian Car and Foundry factory in Fort William, Ont., built 555 Harvard Mk.4s for North Atlantic Treaty Organiation (NATO) training. The Harvard holds the record for being the largest quantity of any aircraft type to be built in Canada at 3,353 airframes. The RCAF officially retired its last Harvard trainers in 1965. Many were sold surplus and fly today around the world as a cherished warbird.
CHAA was founded in 1985 with four privately-owned Harvards. Since that time, the fleet has grown to include eight Harvards and a Yale. The association also operated a Tiger Moth which was recently sold.
CHAA’s mandate is to acquire, preserve, restore, maintain, display and demonstrate the Harvard and other training aircraft of the RCAF and British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. A group of dedicated volunteers is currently working hard to return two more Harvards (20422 and 20304) to the air.
CHAA relies solely on donations and support from its volunteers to maintain and operate the fleet and the two hangars it currently occupies at Tillsonburg Regional Airport.