434 (OT&E) Squadron bolsters affiliation with famed Bluenose II
By Major (retired) Rob Aman
The Tall Ships Festival held August 31 to September 1, 2019, in Brockville, Ontario, provided a memorable opportunity for 434 Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) “Bluenose” Squadron from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, to reconnect with its famous lineage.
During the festival on the waterfront of the southeastern Ontario city, the stately tall ship Bluenose II, which shares its iconic name with the above mentioned Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) unit, was moored at the local pier, providing a regal backdrop for a weekend of renewing the bond between schooner and squadron as well as raising public awareness of the unique, historic affiliation between the two.
434 (OT&E) Squadron personnel were on hand to maintain an information booth at Centeen Park on the Brockville waterfront throughout the Festival weekend to spread the word and share their story with attendees. There was tremendous public interest expressed in the link between the two Bluenoses appearing at the Tall Ships Festival, a curiosity that was augmented by the image of the famous, multiple-race-winning original Bluenose that appears on its namesake squadron’s heraldic crest.
Formed as No. 434 (Bomber) Squadron on 15 June 1943, the RCAF unit assumed the motto In Excelsis Vincimus (We Conquer in the Heights) and would later be adopted by the Rotary Club of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It thus took the nickname “Bluenose” as a nod to the colloquial moniker given to citizens hailing from that Maritime province, of which there were many serving in the unit’s initial ranks.
Bluenose II skipper Captain Phil Watson as well as Lieutenant-Colonel John Whalen, the commanding officer of 434 (OT&E) Squadron, and his predecessor, Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Edwards, further highlighted the connection and history between the two “crews” during a reception for Bluenose II personnel, members of the squadron as well as family members in attendance at the summer festival. Mementoes were exchanged and many stories shared during what was a remarkable opportunity to re-establish the connection between ship and RCAF squadron.
With this unique relationship reaffirmed, 434 (OT&E) Squadron is looking forward to being a part of the 100th anniversary celebrations to mark the launch of the original Bluenose. Plans are already in the works to salute this very special occasion in the summer of 2021.
434 “Bluenose” Squadron was most recently designated as the RCAF’s sole OT&E squadron under the auspices of the RCAF Aerospace Warfare Centre at 8 Wing in May 2018. The squadron has centrally executed command and control of all RCAF OT&E functions since that time.
434 (OT&E) Squadron has governed and integrated the prioritization of all air test and evaluation functions to ensure the most effective use of scarce resources. The squadron’s scope of OT&E was expanded to include aerospace support systems as well as search and rescue, with the same level of coordination and execution provided to the other test and evaluation flights. As such, two new flights, Aerospace Test and Evaluation Flight (AEROTEF) and Search and Rescue Test and Evaluation Flight (SARTEF), were established in 2018 as part of the 434 (OT&E) Squadron structure.
As of its 2018 stand-up, 434 (OT&E) Squadron also took responsibility for the following test and evaluation flights: Maritime Helicopter, Long-Range Patrol, Land Aviation, Transport Operational, and Fighter Operational, which are located at various RCAF wings and establishments across the country.
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