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Tactical helicopter fly past in Edmonton marks 100th anniversary of Royal Canadian Air Force

Monday marks 100 years of service for the Royal Canadian Air Force and the occasion was celebrated in Edmonton with a special fly past.

The 408 “Goose” Tactical Helicopter Squadron flew over the Alberta legislature grounds on Monday morning. It was part of a ceremony celebrating the RCAF’s centennial.

Maj. Geoff Martin is the deputy commanding officer of the squadron and a Griffon helicopter pilot. He’s been with the RCAF for 12 years and has about 10 years’ experience flying the Griffon, which is what was flown in Monday’s fly past.

“I love flying and I wanted to fly, and I wanted to contribute, doing something that I love,” Martin said about why he joined the Air Force.

“It’s huge. It’s Canada’s Air Force. It acts on behalf of all Canadians and it’s there for all Canadians.”

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The 408 “Goose” Tactical Helicopter Squadron performed the fly past over the Alberta legislature grounds on Monday, April 1, 2024. Global News

Martin grew up in Alberta and remembers going to the base in Edmonton with his grandfather when he was a young boy, to watch aircrafts take off and land.

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“I was just awed by the capabilities of what they were able to do at a young age, and I still feel that way now. To be a part of that legacy is really important to me.”

From 2017-2018, Martin was deployed to Iraq on Operation Impact to support Canadian operations in the northern part of the country. His time in the Air Force has also taken him all across Canada, assisting with disaster relief from wildfires to flood relief.

“Domestically, we are the people you can always call, who can accept levels of risk on behalf of Canadians that perhaps other services may not be equipped or able to do,” he explained.

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“We’re always there and we’re always on standby.”

The RCAF was born 100 years ago to protect and preserve the freedoms of Canadians, to contribute to global peace and security, and to help those in need in Canada and abroad.

Today, the RCAF provides air defence, maritime patrol, search and rescue, air mobility, aerospace control and space capabilities to support operations within the country and around the world.

Click to play video: 'Celebrating 100 years of the Royal Canadian Air Force with Chris Hadfield'

Celebrating 100 years of the Royal Canadian Air Force with Chris Hadfield

Monday’s ceremony in Edmonton included an address from Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani. The Royal Canadian Air Force Ensign was also raised at the legislature grounds.

Ret. Lt.-Col. Thomas Sand spent 35 years in the Air Force. Most of his time was spent with the Maritime control community. In his more than three decades of service, Sand flew all over the world.

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“I’ve circumnavigated the globe,” Sand said.

“Spent a lot of time around the north Atlantic, chasing Russian submarines. I spent time in KeflavÍk, Iceland, which is not so bad in July. It’s not so friendly in February. On the upside of that, we did spent a lot of time in Bermuda, and all over Europe.”

While Sand’s service has taken him all around the world, it’s perhaps the time spent in Canada that’s the most cherished.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to visit every province and territory in Canada. I’ve flown over them all and I’ve lived in seven provinces. I’ve seen all this country has, in all its glory.”

What made his time in the Air Force most memorable was the people.

“I worked with some of the finest people Canada had to offer; highly motivated, highly dedicated, well trained and no matter where we went, we were well respected,” Sand said.

“We’re all kind of cut from the same cloth. And we’re a very, very tight-knit group.

“It’s in the colour of our uniform, it’s in the way we wear our uniforms, it’s in our ranks, it’s in our caps… it’s in our buttons.”

Monday marked the beginning of six months of centennial celebrations across Canada.

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The High Level Bridge and the Jubilee Auditoriums in both Edmonton and Calgary will be lit up blue on Monday evening to mark the occasion.

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