Aircraft of the BCATP
300 U.S. built Boeing Stearmans were obtained by the RAF to be used by three RAF Elementary Flying Training Schools that were being operated in Canada. They were delivered in the spring of 1942 and served in Alberta at No. 31 EFTS (De Winton), No. 32 EFTS (Bowden), and No. 36 EFTS (Pearce). These three stations were the only ones in Canada to operate the Stearman during WW II.
Initially, the Stearman caused few problems at Bowden. They had good flying characteristics and were easy to maintain. In the first month they suffered an unusual number of ground loops and nose over accidents. This was thought to be due to the fact that RAF instructors were unfamiliar with an aircraft that had a tail wheel and brakes.
The first serious problem became the non-delivery of night-flying equipment for the Stearmans. George Frost, Chief Air Engineer at No. 32 EFTS, recalls that they had to retain Tiger Moth Aircraft for night training, which took up 20% of the aircraft establishment at Bowden. Unlike the Stearman, the Tiger Moth had to be flown every second. Having a student pilot take his night-flying in a different aircraft, and one more difficult to fly, proved to be very bad training practice. As the accident rate climbed so did the ground crew maintenance of two completely different aircraft.
Even before the aircraft arrived in Alberta, the RCAF had feelings of apprehension and as fall weather approached in 1942 this rapidly grew into alarm. The aircraft were open cockpit and because of this unsuitable for winter flying in Alberta. Letters, meetings, and demands began as early as 19 February, 1942 but the winter prototype did not leave the U.S. until October, 1942. That same month training at Bowden came to a halt, due to the cold weather. Some flying was attempted by using heavy clothing and face masks but even this had little effect on the cold.
On 28 November, 1942, the decision was made by the RCAF to return the Stearmans to the USAAF in exchange for the same number of Fairchild Cornells. All parties agreed and starting on 5 December, 1942, the Stearmans were flown to Calgary and then on to Great Falls, Montana. A few remained at Bowden to be repaired but by April, 1943 they had all been returned.