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Bradford set for flying start to 'once-in-a-lifetime' RCAF celebration

'It’s a great opportunity to celebrate and remember the bravery, courage and sacrifices that my fellow services personnel have made,' says local councillor and veteran

Bradford-area residents should soon have plenty of opportunities to let their spirits soar with pride for the air force.

From June 10 to 14, the town will be hosting various events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), culminating on the Friday with a parade along Holland Street in the morning leading up to a special celebration at the library in the afternoon, featuring drop-in appearances from the SkyHawks parachute team.

“Bradford West Gwillimbury will be celebrating ... (RCAF) members who served with honour distinction and sacrifice. We look forward to celebrating their continued success and achievements with all Canadians,” said Bradford resident and retired RCAF Lt.-Col. Ferguson Mobbs.

Mobbs and Coun. Nickolas Harper, who is also a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, co-chaired the town’s RCAF centennial planning committee in charge of organizing the multi-day celebration.

“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate and remember the bravery, courage and sacrifices that my fellow services personnel have made,” Harper said. “For us to have that in Bradford, I think it’s remarkable for us to go that distance.”

It all begins on Monday, June 10 at 4 p.m. with a flag-raising ceremony at Sunshine Square outside the BWG Leisure Centre (471 West Park Ave.), set to include a colour party, piper and guest speaker.

On the same day, the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library (425 Holland St. W.) plans to host a display of military memorabilia from Base Borden, including artifacts, a flight suit, scale models, a propeller and banners, plus a uFly flight simulator in the cafe/lobby, giving guests the chance to experience flying a 737-800 airplane.

Both the display and simulator are planned to remain available at the library Tuesday through Friday.

The simulator is expected to be setup as if users were taking off from Pearson International Airport in Toronto, giving them a view of the city before landing at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, according to Mobbs, who joked that everyone had “better wear your life preserver,” because the island airport isn’t intended for that type of aircraft.

“The key thing there is that when you take off from Pearson, you’re going to see the landmarks as you’re flying, so you’re going to see the CN Tower and all that good stuff,” he said.

That’s followed on Wednesday with a screening of To Learn, To Serve, To Advance a feature film about the Royal Canadian Air Cadets produced and directed by Mobbs, which will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in the library’s Zima Room.

“It’s the only one-hour feature film ever produced about the Royal Canadian Air Cadets,” Mobbs said.

Then on Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Mobbs will be moderating RCAF: Then and Now, a panel discussion exploring what it’s like to be in the air force.

However, Friday’s celebration is likely to be the biggest draw set to include all-day events beginning with a parade at 10:30 a.m., which will make its way west up Holland Street from Collings Avenue to the leisure centre.

That parade is expected to include about 20 different groups including a flag party, pipers, a restored 1945 Willys Jeep with uniformed driver, a colour party of veterans in peacekeeping uniforms, the Highway 11 Cruisers car club, and more.

The parade won’t just be bound to ground though, as four First World War biplanes are also planned to fly overhead, weather permitting.

“They’re going to fly over in formation first and then they’re going to bank and break up before they fly over the parade one at a time,” Mobbs said.

After the parade concludes at the leisure centre, guests should have a few more reasons to cast their eyes to the skies as multiple members of the SkyHawks are set to parachute down at 1 p.m. to Bradford District High School (BDHS), carrying first a Canadian flag while the national anthem plays followed by the RCAF centennial flag while the air force march plays.

That’s planned to kick-off a ceremony featuring CBC’s Jacquie Perrin as MC, during which time two banner images of models wearing historic flight suits will be displayed and a “key of the city” will be presented to a representative of the RCAF, according to Mobbs, who is also working with the air boss in Barrie to try to arrange a flyover of various military planes that afternoon.

An airshow is expected Saturday in Barrie, with practice runs planned for Friday, and if all goes well, they might be able to fly over the Bradford library.

The timing of it all could be a bit tricky, as having the SkyHawks parachute in requires some air space to be blocked off due to the danger involved. The landing location was originally planned to be the library west lawn but had to eventually be moved to BDHS's back field.

“People may think ‘They’re just going to come and jump out of a plane. How hard is that?’ but the amount of planning and preparation and the danger inherent in that, it’s a testament to the courage and bravery all in one setting,” Harper said.

Having participated in tactical landings while serving in Afghanistan, he understands the “fear, excitement and the risk involved,” and hopes watching the SkyHawks will give attendees “a glimpse of the danger and what reality looks like for the RCAF.”

While organizing all of the events for the multi-day celebration might sound like a daunting task, Mobbs called it “a total pleasure,” thanks to the enthusiasm of everyone he approached for help, and their respect for the goal of celebrating service members.

“Everyone understands that and have been so willing and so happy to participate in this historic event that it’s been really easy to get people aboard,” he said. “All these wonderful, wonderful people have jumped on board to do this.”

Harper also credited town staff for all their efforts to help make the celebration a reality.

“I have to commend the staff 100 per cent on this for all their outstanding work to go above and beyond,” he said, emphasizing all of the abbreviations and military jargon they had to learn in the process. “It’s going to be a remarkable event that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Harper called it “an honour” as both a councillor and a veteran to work on the committee where he and Mobbs brought together their contacts and experiences “from two diverse worlds,” and Harper hopes they’re helping to “create something that’s unique and probably never seen before here in Bradford.”

Road closures are planned on June 14 for Holland Street West, from Collings Avenue to West Park Avenue (9:30 to 11:30 a.m.) and from Melbourne Drive to West Park Avenue (1 to 1:30 p.m.).

Traffic is planned to be detoured using either Miller Park Avenue/Magani Avenue, or Blue Dasher Boulevard/Northgate Drive/Fletcher Street.

Funding for the celebration is expected to come from this year’s Mayor and Council Golf Classic.

King George V granted the Canadian Air Force royal sanction to form the RCAF on April 1, 1924.

For more information on the anniversary celebration, visit

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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