BCATP Station Pearce

Chief flying instructor and others at Pearce.Front row (centre) W/C Sharpe (Chief Flying Instructor); on his right S/L D.L.G. Jones; on his left S/L E. L. Gosling.

#36 Elementary Flying Training School

Located six kilometers north of the town of Pearce, Alberta (northeast of Fort Macleod), RCAF Aerodrome Pearce began operations on March 17, 1942 when twelve CPR coaches filled with 32 officers, 304 airmen staff plus students, all Royal Air Force personnel, arrived at the railway siding at Pearce. #36 EFTS used Boeing Stearman aircraft although a few Tiger Moths were on the base. With wartime training at an advanced pace, accidents occurred at all BCATP Schools including Pearce. The Macleod Gazette of July 31, 1942 reported the funeral of an airman at the RAF school at Pearce, and a spectacular midair collision that killed two pilot trainees and an instructor at Pearce. The paper reported that, “two Stearman training machines collided, one report stated at about 200 feet above ground, one machine. . . falling into the river, the other crashing on the bank.” In one aircraft, the “student pilot, who was alone . . . tried to bale out, as the body was found some distance from his machine.”

Train station and airmen at Pearce station.
Pearce Aerodrome 26 November, 1942.

The school was disbanded on August 14, 1942 after only five months in operation. Although the official reason given was that more space was required for the expansion of air observer schools, it has been suggested that the strong winds of southwestern Alberta were responsible.

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Boeing Stearman at No. 36 EFTS (Pearce, Alberta)[ Glenbow Archives pd-324-48 ]

#3 Air Observers School

The next school to operate at Pearce was #3 Air Observer School, a civilian operated school that began operations at Regina, Saskatchewan on September 16, 1940. A detachment arrived in Pearce on September 12, 1942. This school was to be completely transferred from Regina but the move was never fully completed and eventually the school was moved back to Regina. The school’s operations at Pearce ended on June 6, 1943.

#2 Flying Instructors School

#2 Flying Instructor School was established on April 22, 1942 at Claresholm. On September 13, 1942 the school was transferred to Vulcan and then on April 26, 1943 to Pearce. On May 13, 1943, the commanding officer inspected the nine-hole golf course that had been developed near the base. The school remained in operation at Pearce until January 31, 1945. The primary aircraft used were Cessna Cranes and Fairchild Cornells.

From the end of the war until the early 1960’s the airfield was used as a temporary storage area for wartime aircraft, including Lancaster bombers. Lancaster FM159 was one of them. It would eventually serve with the RCAF during the 1950’s prior to becoming the centrepiece of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. Eventually the buildings were moved to new locations or dismantled for re-use as construction materials.