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Change of Air Command

Flanked by the past and present in Canadian aviation, the nose of the Avro Arrow towering over a CF-18, the Change of Command ceremony was held at noon at the Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa


November 30, 2009
By Peter Pigott

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Flanked by the past and present in Canadian aviation, the nose of the Avro Arrow towering over a CF-18, the Change of Command ceremony was held at noon at the Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, on Thursday, Oct. 1. After 37 years of service, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Lt.-Gen. Angus Watt was retiring from service and handing over command of Canada’s air force to Lt.-Gen. André Deschamps. The scene was all Air Force blue – shiny boots, white sashes and gloves, fixed bayonets and gold braid.

hz_wingsnov09_aircommand1  
The signing of the Change of Command Certificates – outgoing CAS, Lt.-Gen. Angus Watt (left); CDS, Gen. Walt Natynczyk (centre); and incoming CAS,
Lt.-Gen. André Deschamps.


 

In the audience were rows of military attachés with many-coloured uniforms, Minister of National Defence, the Hon. Peter MacKay, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Walter Natynczyk, three former Chiefs of Air Staff and Honorary Colonel Senator Pamela Wallin.

Accompanied by the skirl of bagpipes, the reviewing party inspected the ranks and then assembled for the Passing of the Air Command flag. To the amusement of all, Lt.-Gen. Watt pretended to hold on to the flag, not wanting to give it up – “Like being in the House of Commons,” said a laughing CBC cameraman.

Watt compared passing on the flag to passing on a baton in a relay race in his farewell speech. This was his chance, he said, to say what he liked. “After all, what can they do to me? Well, my favourite colour is blue – as my mother, who is in the audience can testify, I like to fly and I like to be surrounded by a hardworking team – all of which I have done.” As to what he would do when he “flew off into the sunset,” Watt said that he was going to be a writer. “I want to write letters to the editor,” he told the audience – “all in support of the Canadian Forces.”

His speech was followed by the official signing of the Certificates of Change of Command and the historic bagpipe banner ceremony. The origin of this could be traced back in history to when Scottish regiments fought under their clan chieftains. The piper stepped forward, offering his pipes, so that Lt.-Gen. Watt’s colours were taken off them and replaced by those of Lt.-Gen. Deschamps. Minister MacKay thanked Lt.-Gen. Watt on behalf of all Canadians, adding that his favourite colour was also blue. In his speech Gen. Natynczyk reminded all that Angus had served his country in Kosovo and Afghanistan and said that he had thought of putting together a PowerPoint presentation (so beloved by the military) on his career, but knew it would be in excess of 60 slides.

“You know how to speak Army, you know how to speak Navy – you are unflappable,” he told Watt. The general ended by saying that, as there are personnel serving around the world, the sun never sets on the Canadian air force.

In the media scrum that followed the ceremony, the new CAS was asked when the fixed-wing SAR aircraft were going to be purchased. Lt.-Gen. Deschamps replied that “progress was being made” on the file and that the present Hercules and Buffalo aircraft were still doing a good job. Besides, the Cyclone helicopters would be coming next November. Asked if Canada planned to extend operations in Afghanistan now that the Chinooks were arriving, the CAS said that there was no extension and that all operations were going to end in 2011.