operations in Europe began in 1953 after the formation of the Overseas Ferry Unit (OFU). In 1953 the RCAF organized a transatlantic ferry operation to back up its NATO fighter wings. As many as 30 OFU pilots had to complete the instrument course, pass the exams, and obtain a green ticket instrument rating before proceeding on any of the "Random" operations. After receiving their ticket, pilots were then expected to fly a minimum of two hours "under the bag" in the T-33 and eight hours on the Sabre between
Although very little has been recorded about
the early history of the T-33 in Europe, the following assumptions could be made based on conversations with Sabre pilots who were in Europe in the early 50's.
It is almost certain that the first T-33's arrived in Europe in 1953. This is based on a picture dated 8 October 53 of correspondent Bill Boss visiting 3(F) Wing climbing out of a Canadian T-33. Also, from a clipping from the Toronto Daily Star, dated 13 January 53, the following news made the headlines:
"To meet the needs of a rapidly expanding training program in the air forces of the Western World, Canadair is gearing for production of two advanced trainers. The T-33 two-place jet trainer for the RCAF is about ready for test flights and should begin production at the rate of 40 a month by mid summer..."
As the T-33's arrived in Europe, they were spread relatively evenly among the Wings. Each
wing received about six aircraft, except, Grostenquin and later Zweibrucken which had more a/c as they were responsible for instrument flying training and maintenance of flying standards of all the Sabre pilots in the RCAF in Europe.
It was evident that because the Sabre was a single seat aircraft and the requirement that every pilot hold a valid instrument rating to be eligible to fly armed forces aircraft, the T-33 was ideal as an IF (Instrument Flight) trainer. As a result, every Sabre pilot was expected to fly the T-33 to maintain his currency as well as remain combat ready on the Sabre.
The transition from the Sabre and CF-100 to the CF-104 was a monumental step. The new a/c was fast, had enormous acceleration and subjected the pilot to stresses never before encountered. But like the Sabre, the 104 was notably a single seat fighter with few dual a/c to carry out essential IF training. As a result, the T-33 was retained as a primary instrument trainer and adaptable utility aircraft.
Initially, in order to maintain a pool of experienced combat ready 104 pilots, the T-33 domain was monopolized by ex-104 drivers whose responsibilities included not only the utility roles but also the running of the Operational Flight Tactics Trainer (OFTT). Taken from a Tasking CFOO 12.5, the T-33's roles and objectives included continuation CT-133 training, European instrument flight rules and low level flying training, radar flight checks, transport and liaison flights, and wartime assigned tasks. This carried on until approximately the early 1980's and the inception of the new CF- 18 with the introduction of non- 104 pilots into the Wing Flight family.
Not many changes in the role of the T-33 took place during the transition from the CF104 to the CF-18. With the introduction of a sophisticated simulator and the requirement for dedicated CF- 18 personnel to run it and the inclusion in the CF-18 fleet of several dual seat a/c, the need for the T-33 as a primary instrument trainer and the requirement to run the flight by combat ready pilots disappeared. As a result, the primary function of the T-33 switched to Mobile Repair Party (MRP) support, liaison and transport, and target/bomber missions. It was surprising that the T-33's usefulness seemed to reach its zenith during this period. During the 1990-91 Gulf War the T-33 proved to be invaluable as a target/ bomber thus maximizing CF-18 availability and pilot training for wartime Ops. It was only after the announcement of the closing of 4(F) Wing Baden-Soellingen, and the reduction of Canadian participation in Europe, that the T-33 finally succumbed.
On the 31st of March, 1992, flying operations for the T-33's at 4(F) Wing Baden-Soellingen ceased. A week was given to prepare the aircraft for the last "Leapfrog" back to Canada. The route was to be the long tested and tried path via Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Goose Bay, eventually to end at AMDU Trenton. At 12:50 pm on 6 April 1992, the last five aircraft departed Baden, completed a low approach at Lahr and another at Baden before proceeding on course. The formation was led by Captain Laurie Racicot, flying a/c 113 094 (the same a/c he ferried to Europe in 1984). The last T-33 to leave
the ground in Europe was 113 542 piloted by Major Roger Arsenault and Captain Al Lamoureux. Aided by 415 Squadron's CP140 Aurora callsign "Swordfish 07", the entire flight was completed on the 8th of April 1992.
The entire history of the T-33's in Europe, and specifically in 4(F) Wing Baden-Soellingen, is spotted with incidents and accidents, some of which were humorous, others tragic; but throughout the 38 years that the old "T-Bird" was stationed at 4(F) Wing Baden, there were only two fatal crashes. This has been an enviable record, in part due to luck, but mainly due to the professionalism of the men, women, and officers who flew and maintained these aircraft throughout their life in Europe.