Brief History of No. 6 S.F.T.S. in Dunnville, Ontario

Eugène Gagnon had some of his pilot training in Dunnville, Ontario.

He got his wings there on April 24, 1942. Then he moved to Paulson, Manitoba to become a Staff Pilot.

Brief History of No. 6 SFTS

The Dunnville flying school, No. 6 SFTS, opened on November 25th 1940; one of the 28 Service Flying Training Schools constructed in Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

The base had five hangers, three double runways, 50 H-huts, a drill hall, canteen, fire hall and other buildings.

Students attending the school had previously completed an eight week elementary course at a Flying Training School. After an additional 12 – 16 weeks at Dunnville, they would earn their wings.

The first group of 50 graduates received their wings on February 10th 1941. While the base was in operation it graduated a total of 2436 pilots. Students came from New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Canada and the United States.

By January of 1942 personnel at the station included 87 officers, 1027 airmen and 52 civilians. Training aircraft included 46 Yales and 49 Harvards. You can imagine what a busy place the base was. During four years of operation there were 47 casualties, with six Yales and 26 Harvards destroyed in accidents.

The station was officially closed on December 1st 1944. It was maintained for several years and eventually sold to be  operated as a turkey farm. In 1998 the station was bought by three local businessmen.

Source :

I found on the Internet that the cadets were flying Yale and Harvard.



Next time, we go to Paulson, Manitoba.


5 thoughts on “Brief History of No. 6 S.F.T.S. in Dunnville, Ontario

  1. I trained at Dunnville on Harvards in 1942 and continued training on other aircraft in England, finally ending up on Lancasters in 1944 on 218 Squadron, Chedburgh in England where I completed a tour with Bomber Command. I am now 88 years old and am still flying but in Cessna 172’s rather than Harvards.

    Flt.Lt.Richard Perry
    see Perry Engineering Ltd.

    1. I got my answer…

      Excerpts from the Diary of LAC Richard P. Perry.

      Left Lachine Manning Depot in Montreal and proceeded to:

      No. 6 SFTS, Dunnville on March 6, 1943

      Course #76, ‘C’ Flight

      The first lessons were introductory and designed to familiarize us with the North American Harvard. Spent considerable hours, during each day, studying the flying manuals and sitting in the cockpit. My first flight was on March 9, 1943 and my instructor was Sergeant Potts.

      Harvard #2960 1.45 hrs

      Air Experience flight with Potts.

      Flew over to Welland for some low flying, then back to base for lectures, then back in the air again for circuits and bumps. (takeoff, circuit and land). Sat in the cockpit for several hours in the evening familiarizing myself with the controls and the instruments.

      March 10, 1943

      Harvard #3118 1.05 hrs

      Lectures in morning, then up for takeoffs, spins & recovery, circuits and landings.

      Was impressed with how nicely these aircraft handle after the Tiger Moths. No more worries about starting the engine but remember not to release the brakes until the ground crew member signaled that he had unplugged the starter AC and remember to put the undercarriage down before landing. (there was a warning device installed)

      March 11, 1943

      Harvard #3118 1.15 hrs Up for a test with F/O Gordon. He had me going over everything that I knew about flying and some of the things I didn’t know. It’s funny how they expect that you can get into a completely unfamiliar aircraft with only two days of instruction and know everything about it. Spent the evening in the cockpit going over all of the drills, instruments and controls.

      March 12, 1943

      Harvard #2960

      Lectures in morning and finishing off with tests on airmanship and aicraft recognition. Spent the afternoon in the Link Trainer. All the talk now is about going solo. Had a long discussion with Potts about this item and he reiterated that he would have us off by the end of the week.

      March 13, 1943

      Harvard #2960 1 hour

      Potts took me for a thorough test, all the items I did know or should know. Very exhausting. A day off to recuperate while he dealt with his other two pupils. It was payday and we each received $30.00 !!!!!

      March 15, 1943

      Harvard #2954 2.15 hrs

      A short flight with Potts and then SOLO. Marvelous feeling to be up there in a powerful machine on my own. Now I had to remember all of the instructions myself. Takeoff, wheels up, flaps up, propeller pitch to normal, throttle back, around the circuit, flaps down wheels down, propeller to fine pitch, throttle back, tailwheel locked, brakes unlocked, nose up and touchdown. I flew around for a couple of hours, making sure that I knew how to handle everything, then taxied in and shut down. Taxiing quite difficult. Cannot see over the nose so have to fishtail back and forth across the runway.

      We had lectures every afternoon.

      March 16, 1943

      Harvard #2558

      Up for test flight with F/O Gairdner. Again went through all of the familiar drills. Spent the rest of the morning practicing.

      Between now and March 27, 1943, spent every day flying, either cross country, low flying, circuits and bumps, rolls, spins, etc. in endless number.

      Some of the interesting features of the aircraft:

      It had 550HP up front and this meant lots of torque on take-off, difficult to keep the plane on the runway. Then again, landing was very tricky with a ground loop a very natural result. We all had some problems. Jimmy Spanhake, as an example, skidded down the runway on his nose but got out safely.

      Getting in to a spin was easy, the aircraft just naturally flipped over after a stall, the big problem was the recovery. Two or three turns was fine but more than that and you were in trouble. Someone had told me that, after five turns there was no way to recover and it was difficult, if not impossible, to get out of the cockpit.

      A roll, after the difficulty of rolling a Tiger Moth, was a joy. With all that horsepower up front one could fly completely around the roll without using the rudder at all.

      By this time I was completely familiar with the aircraft and looking forward to Wings Parade. For some time now, we had heard rumors that there were too many pilots and not sufficient aircraft overseas. I was interviewed by the CO and advised that I had two options. Either go back to New Zealand, complete training and carry on as an instructor or re-muster. I decided on the latter option for the reason that this was the only way in which I would have the opportunity of participating in the war. Total time in the air was 30 hours day, 5 hours night and 8 hours in the Link Trainer.

      I was advised that there was an opening on an Air Observer course at Malton, outside Toronto, so entered my name and was accepted.

      To Toronto Friday, April 2, 1943

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