408 Squadron flies the C-130B
by Captain Joel Possberg
Within 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron often stands out: blue berets in a sea of green. We’re the only Royal Canadian Air Force presence at CFB Edmonton, the former RCAF Station Namao, which hosted some of the fixed-wing aircraft our squadron formerly flew. We have been operating helicopters for so long now – nearly 50 years – that day to day memories of our former time as a “true blue air force” squadron have more or less been lost to time. Because of this collective amnesia, I found 408’s fixed-wing past a particularly interesting topic to research.
408 Squadron operated the C-130B Hercules from April, 1965 to March, 1966; at the time the unit was designated No. 408 ‘Goose’ Transport Support and Area Reconnaissance Squadron, based out of Canadian Joint Air Training Center in Rivers, Manitoba. We operated four Hercules airframes, which under the old RCAF designation were numbered 10301, 10302, 10303, 10304. The first arrived on the 21 May, 1965, with Squadron Leader Blissky ferrying it from Namao to
At the same time that we began flying the Hercules, 408 Squadron also operated four CC-119 Flying Boxcars, three Dakotas, and nine T-33 Silverstars. With the Hercules replacing the CC119s, the latter were phased out in the summer of 1965, eventually being retired to Saskatoon. 408’s primary mandate at the time was to provide aircraft for CJATC Rivers to conduct training, while also supporting other secondary mission sets: we provided photographic reconnaissance and tactical support for army operations and training, as well as area reconnaissance of the Arctic, and other aerial photography as directed by Canadian Forces Headquarters.
With the expanded range of the new Hercules airframes, a weekly flight to European bases began in November, 1965. In our first year operating the Hercules, 408 flew a total of 36 transport flights, in addition to local flights for army training requirements.
In February and March 1966, 408 took part in NATO’s Winter Express exercise, where the Hercules flew personnel and equipment to Bardufoss and Sola, Norway, and back. This was the last exercise that 408 took part in with the Hercules.
On 15 March, 1966, Mobile Command assumed control of CJATC Rivers. By this time 408 had flown a further 16 missions with the Hercules, in addition to the Winter Express flights. With this restructuring, the four Hercules aircraft and their crews remained with Air Transport Command, and became a detachment of 435 Squadron in Rivers (435 Squadron was operating out of RCAF Station Namao at this time).
One final note: on 15 April, 1966, the famous decompression incident on airframe 10304 occurred with 435 Squadron. Flight Lieutenant John Moore (who just four weeks prior was a 408 Squadron member) and his crew were at FL250 over the prairies when the bolts securing the forward cargo door failed. The door was thrown into the number one and two engines, and then
further back into the fuselage, severely crippling the hydraulic system and aircraft superstructure. Moore was able to safely perform a forced landing in a farmer’s field near Borden, Saskatchewan. Two 408 T-33s departed from Rivers on that day to photograph the crash site.
Although 408 only operated the Hercules for a brief period of time, it is interesting to look back and see this thin slice of our history, both for the Squadron, and the Air Force as a whole. In the modern Air Force, the Hercules continues to “Carry The Load”, “Watch the Waves”, and is “Determined on Delivery”. It gives me great pleasure to shine some light on this foggy period of history for the Hercules, and the cause for which it stood during its tenure with 408 “Goose”