1 Canadian Forces Flying Training School
May 15, 2011

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Since 1936, Canada’s military has trained thousands of non-pilot aircrew from nations on four continents, a remarkable – and little known – achievement. Since June 2009, the training has been accomplished by 1 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (1CFFTS), which is part of 17 Wing Winnipeg. From 1968 to 2009, 1CFFTS’ predecessor was the Canadian Forces Air Navigation School (CFANS). Prior to CFANS, there were various Air Navigator (ANAV) and Air Observer (AOb) schools in Manitoba as well as other provinces dating back to the Second World War and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
Student Air Combat System ­Officers (ACSOs) train in the cabin of the CT-142 Dash 8 ‘Gonzo’ aircraft under the watchful eye of an instructor. (Photo: Cpl B Dunbar, 17 Wing Imaging)

The Commandant of 1 CFFTS, Lieutenant-Colonel Theo Heuthorst, graduated from Royal Roads Military College in 1984, received a Bachelor degree in military and strategic studies in 1988, and earned his ANAV Wings the following year. From 1989 to 1996, he flew on CH-124 Sea King helicopters with 423 Squadron at CFB Shearwater. Heuthorst began flying the CT-142 Dash 8 ‘Gonzo’ navigation trainer at CFANS in 1996 and subsequently held flying and staff positions. He assumed command of 1CFFTS in June 2009.
For nearly three-quarters of a century, 1CFFTS, CFANS and other Canadian ANAV and AOb schools have trained personnel from Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Turkey, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and South Korea.
According to the Air Force, 1CFFTS is a “multi-dimensional aircrew training facility whose mission is: ‘To select, develop, and graduate professional, Wings-qualified aircrew fully capable of operating in the demanding and sophisticated environment of modern air warfare.’”
With its 54 personnel – 4 admin staff, 4 civilians, 26 Air Combat System Officer (ACSO) instructors, 13 Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator (AES Op) instructors, 2 Aerospace Engineering officers and 5 pilots – 1CFFTS trains aircrew to use various sensors, do routine navigation, and manage tactical missions.
CT-142: The elongated nose section of the ‘Gonzo’ houses a navigation radar array.

Training for decades
For the past 70 years, instructors at the Winnipeg base have created and modified training to keep pace with technological developments and new missions. Winni peg’s AOb School No. 5 opened in January 1941, and the Central Navigation School, 250 km to the west, in Rivers, MB, followed in May 1942. CFANS was in operation from 1968 to 2009. New equipment, geopolitical changes such as the end of the Cold War and other factors have resulted in a need for new training and regular updates. 1CFFTS personnel have met the challenge, as did their predecessors.
Navigator training schools during World War II were located across Canada – in Charlottetown (PE); Pennfield Ridge (NB); Trenton, Port Albert and Hamilton (Ontario); and Rivers (MB). AOb schools were established in Chatham (NB); Ancienne Lorette and St. Jean (QC); Malton and London (ON); Winnipeg and Portage, (MB); Regina and Prince Albert (SK); and Pierce and Edmonton (AB).
Under the BCATP, 29,963 ANAVs and AObs were trained, including 11,406 in Canada. Classroom topics include deduced reckoning navigation, compass and instrument theory, electronics, meteorology and celestial navigation.
New technologies and geopolitical realities
The arrival of the Avro CF-100 Canuck jet interceptor/fighter (affectionately known as the ‘Clunk’) in the 1950s – the first Cold War decade – forced a radical shift in navigator training. It was lengthened by 17 weeks and split into basic and advanced courses using the Beech CT-128 Expeditor, North American B-25 Mitchell, and Douglas CC-129 Dakota as trainers. In 1975, the Dakota was replaced by the Lockheed CC-130 Hercules. Between 1987 and 1990, modified Dash 8 turboprop aircraft were acquired for navigator training. Due to the CT-142’s elongated nose section, which houses a navigation radar array, the aircraft was nicknamed ‘Gonzo’ after the Muppets character with a prominent proboscis. Four ‘Gonzos’ are operated by 17 Wing’s 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron.
Not only have aircraft and navigation equipment changed dramatically in the past three generations, geopolitics have profoundly affected the fleets and personnel in terms of numbers. Half a century ago, the Royal Canadian Air Force had more than 630 ‘Clunks’ requiring an Air Intercept Officer with navigation skills. Today, Air Command operates some 370 aircraft, and most do not require an ACSO or AES Op.
New roles evolved
Air Navigator ceased to be a CF profession in 2009. Inertial Navigation Systems (INS), GPS (accurate to within 3 metres), and Flight Management Systems (FMS), have taken the guesswork out of aircraft navigation. The ANAV role has evolved into the current ACSO and AES Op roles. Although the training for both differs at higher levels, Heuthorst says “our approach and training methodologies for both are the same – courses involve academic, practical and applied components using classrooms, ground trainers and flights. Topics covered include air regulations, aircraft systems, emergencies and basic navigation and communication.”
Air Combat Systems’ training builds on these fundamentals and develops airborne tactical officers capable of planning, coordinating and directing a wide range of missions. Using the basics as a foundation, AES Op training focuses on developing the skill sets required to operate the advanced airborne sensor systems on CF aircraft.
Two ACSOs are required on the CP-140 Aurora and one on each of the following: CH-124 Sea King, CC-115 Buffalo, CC-130 Hercules, CC-150 Polaris, and the Alpha Jet (contracted by the CF to provide air combat and electronic warfare support). CF aircraft requiring an AES Op are the Sea King and Aurora.
The primary ACSO function is to plan, coordinate and direct tactical missions of CF aircraft and crew in a highly dynamic environment, thereby achieving mission objectives. ACSO missions include search and rescue (SAR); anti-submarine operations; maritime surface surveillance and targeting; sovereignty and fisheries patrols; counter-narcotics operations; tactical airlift; air-to-air refuelling; humanitarian relief; and combined ops with foreign militaries.
“The role of an AES Op is to operate and employ a wide variety of airborne surveillance sensors [and] communications equipment, and perform ordnance duties in a complex tactical environment in order to complete assigned missions,…” explains 17 Wing’s Public Affairs Officer. The technology – for anti-submarine warfare, surface surveillance, drug interdictions, anti-migrant smuggling patrols and the like – include Radar, Electro-Optics and Infrared Red camera (EOIR), electronic warfare systems, underwater acoustics systems, photographic, and communication equipment.
Special attributes
The training provided by 1CFFTS helps students develop the following attributes:

  • Spatial Awareness: determining in space and time the aircraft’s position relative to external references;
  • Tactical Awareness: evaluating mission-related situations and requirements and their importance to accomplishing the mission. Good tactical awareness requires proper prioritization of tasks;
  • Decisiveness: identifying and reviewing possible solutions to problems and all other pertinent factors in order to select the solution that best meets the objective in a timely manner;
  • Problem Solving: the process used to determine a solution to an individual situation or problem;
  • Risk Management: identifying, monitoring and mitigating, if possible, risks that are – or could – impact the mission;
  • Information Management: the ability to internalize, organize and communicate information in a timely manner; and
  • Air Leadership: the art of influencing other aircrew members while airborne so as to accomplish the mission. 

ACSO training
This year, 1CFFTS is running five ACSO courses, with staggered start dates. The course is 215 training days long. Phase 1 introduces Visual Flight Rules, low-level visual and radar navigation (training is done at 1,000 feet above the ground), basic emergency scenarios (such as putting on an oxygen mask and emergency gear) and Very High Frequency (VHF) radio communication. Heuthorst explains that radar navigation involves using a monochrome green display that shows geographical features, built-up areas, hydro towers and other prominent ground features. The introductory phase serves to familiarize students with the equipment used in later phases.
In Phase 2, the students learn about Instrument Flight Rules, multi-computer and degraded operations to conduct en-route navigation, more complex emergency scenarios, and communications with multiple and varied agencies. Trainees get hands-on experience with GPS, INS and FMS. In the CT-142 ‘Gonzo’, the FMS receives acceleration data from two ultra-sensitive INS gyros and GPS satellites. In this phase, students also learn to communicate with CF and Canada Coast Guard vessels, NAV Canada Flight Service Stations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police forces and other agencies and resources. Phase 2 develops spatial awareness, problem solving skills, replotting and replanning (due to the aircraft being diverted from its original destination).
Phase 3 reinforces the previous training through an introduction to tactical navigation in a crew environment. It introduces advanced emergency scenarios and re-taskings in missions such as time-on-target, SAR, and surveillance, all of which have been designed to emphasize decision-making and tactical management in order to accomplish missions in a safe, legal and effective manner. Heuthorst explains that re-tasking is common for ACSOs because an aircraft could be launched to perform one type of mission (such as surveillance) and end up doing something different (possibly SAR). The Phase 3 advanced emergency training involves learning to give direction to other aircrew members in the CT-142 in order to save the crew and aircraft (if a real emergency occurred).
Students utilize the Tactical Mission Trainer to improve proficiency.

AES Op training
AES Op training – three sessions annually – consists of the 56-day basic qualification course and the 55-day intermediate course. The training aims to provide the fundamentals of basic flight rules, navigation, electromagnetic electronic warfare spectrum, and the skills necessary to interpret the airborne radar picture while providing steering information for the aircraft.
The basic qualification course stresses academic performance through classroom lessons including aerodynamics and aircraft systems, meteorology, air regulations, communications, radar theory and mathematics. Subjects such as ship recognition and aircraft plotting provide a smooth transition into operational roles such as fishery and sovereignty patrols.
The intermediate course emphasizes situational awareness through pro ficiency on simulated missions in a ground-based Tactical Mission Trainer (TMT) and on six airborne missions.
TMT and ‘Gonzo’
Heuthorst explains that students apply the knowledge learned in the classroom to the computerized TMT, which develops mission management and tactical direction skills. The TMT allows realistic training in navigation, communication, sensor operation and tactics/mission management. A 17 Wing spokesman notes that it has a post-mission analysis capability and “is flexible enough to cater to any equipment changes that may be made to the actual aircraft. The TMT database includes ground-based navigation aids and digital terrain mapping capabilities for all of North America, which allows for the flexibility to conduct navigator and AES Op training anywhere on the continent.”

The cabin (training area) of the CT-142 ‘Gonzo’ has six consoles, which accommodate four students and two instructors. Heuthorst says that training in the modified Dash 8 “enhances the learning environment as students manage navigation and communication systems, perform tasks associated with routine and degraded navigation, and direct tactical missions.” The consoles duplicate the TMT, resulting, he explains, in a seamless transition between ground-based and airborne training.
Future plans and unknowns
The TMT, however, has reached its limits in terms of expandability and upgradeability, says 17 Wing’s Commandant. They will be replaced with newer equipment in the next few years. Consoles in the CT-142s will also be changed to preserve the seamless transition. Training for the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter fleet is also underway.

CF personnel, including ACSOs and AES Ops, will continue to be affected by developments at home and abroad. The war in Libya – a civil war, essentially – is the most recent example. Since March 15, HMCS Charlottetown has been patrolling waters off the coast of the conflict-ravaged nation. The frigate, which has a Sea King helicopter crewed with an ACSO and AES Op, could be in-theatre for months.
As 2011 dawned, no one imagined that Canada would soon be dispatching one of its frigates to the Mediterranean to enforce a United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution by imposing an arms embargo. The spread of unrest from North Africa to other Muslim countries has been unparalleled and caught governments by surprise.

The Libyan war is indicative of the type of insecurity that experts at the UN and other organizations have predicted is increasingly likely in the years ahead due to finite resources, a global population expected to grow by some 2.5 billion people by mid-century, and other factors. Whatever the future brings, 1CFFTS will continue to develop and deliver world-class training for aircrews.
Blair Watson is a contributing editor for FrontLine Magazines.
© FrontLine Defence 2011