Friday, March 11, 2011


Post Supplied by: Carl Mills
During the 400/411 Squadron jet era (1948 to 1958) when the units flew the Vampire, T-33, and later the F-86 Sabre, a carefully designed letdown chart and procedure was used by all jet pilots.    The procedure allowed pilots to return to the Downsview airbase in marginal weather (IFR) with limits permitted as low as a 500 foot ceiling and a one mile forward visibility. 

The procedure used the CKEY radio station tower as a beacon which was 8.7 miles east of the air base.  All procedures started over Lake Ontario near Whitby and up to four aircraft, in formation, could letdown together.  The leader used the aircraft’s ADF (automatic direction finder) to accomplish the entire letdown.

The tower at Downsview also had direction finding equipment that could respond to the aircraft transmissions.  This method could be used, as a backup, to guide the pilot to the airfield.  In addition, the RCAF radar station at EdgarON could also provide the pilots with headings to Downsview.

On 29 Nov.1953, a new pilot, F/O R.W. Russell attempted a letdown as the wingman with another Vampire.  However, the aircraft crashed into  Lake Ontario and resulted in 400 Squadron’s last casualty.

During the 1952 era the north-south runway was being extended to a length of 7,000 feet.
The CKEY tower stood on Eglinton Avenue east, east of Midland Avenue but has long since been removed.

COMMENT From: BGen. Paul Hayes

Yes, Carl, we did have that letdown, but it was not officially approved, although it did get used from time to time when the weather came down - in fact I actualy used it once or twice myself. Also, the Vampire was not approved for IFR flight due to a couple of technical shortcomings. As well, the pilots did not have instrument ratings because we did not have an aircraft to allow us to do the qualifying instrument check ride. By the time the T-33 and then the F-86 came along, we had aircraft that were approved for IFR and the T-33 allowed us to complete the necessary check rides. At the same time, as well, an official jet range instrument approach had been developed that used the Toronto radio range just to the southwest of Malton airport and allowed us to conduct successful IFR flights at Downsview (but not with the Vampire).  Some years later, the Kleinburg NDB and VORTAC were installed to the northwest of Downsview, along with a GCA that provided very good IFR capabilities.
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