Tails of Glory > Vintage Wings of Canada


When Captain Gunnar Neiguffson of the Royal Canadian Air Force completed his training as a Public Affairs Officer in 2008, his first posting was as an exchange officer with the Luftforstvaret – the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The 28-year old Neiguffson, who was born in Bergen, Hordaland, Norway but emigrated with his family to British Columbia when he was four, spoke fluent Norwegian and was looking forward to the job and catching up with family. He would spend the next two years in Norway, honing his craft. Taught by his adventurous parents to always push the envelope and to be creative with his education and his future employment, Neiguffson was constantly on the lookout for creative ways to do his job. In an interview just last week in his Ottawa NDHQ office cubicle, Neiguffson told Vintage News, “My father always said to me, ‘Don’t just do your job, do your job better and more creatively than anyone else.’ ”

While travelling on Royal Norwegian Air Force public affairs business throughout Scandinavia and the Baltic region, Neiguffson took many civilian flights on the new Norwegian air carrier known as Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS). One of the unique marketing programs of Norwegian Air Shuttle is their “Our Heroes” tail art program which has garnered much praise and support throughout Scandinavia and the aviation world. NAS communications officer Gjertrud Hansensonsen spoke to Vintage News last week: “When Norwegian Air Shuttle entered the Norwegian domestic market in 2002, we challenged a well-established and long-lasting airline monopoly. Therefore, it was natural for us to adorn the tails of our aircraft with Norwegian personalities who have pushed the boundaries, challenged the established and inspired others. Both Norwegian and our tail heroes have challenged society in a positive direction. Norwegian has done this primarily by ensuring that everyone can afford to fly. Norwegian’s growth in recent years has been fantastic and we have expanded and established bases far beyond Norway’s borders. First, we established ourselves in Sweden, then in Denmark, and recently in Finland and Spain. In 2002, we were a Norwegian company, but today we are a Nordic company. It is therefore a natural progression that heroes from all of the Nordic countries now pride our tails.”

Upon returning to Canada in 2010, Captain Neiguffson brought the inspirational messages of the Our Heroes program with him. “I didn’t want to return to Canada and become a simple reactionary-style Public Affairs Officer. So many of my classmates were simply reacting to problems, putting out fires, writing Emergency Response manuals and dealing with emerging problems and issues affecting DND. I wanted to be proactive, to create a ground breaking communications program that mixed culture and Canadian values with war fighting and national defence. I wanted our men and women in blue to be seen in the same light as other great Canadians.”

Unless you are Taliban or living in a cave in Arkansas, you know that Georg Brandes, at the age of just 30, formulated the principles of a new realism and naturalism, condemning hyper-aesthetic writing and fantasy in literature. I mean who doesn’t know that? And who among us can’t sing from memory the hilarious and naughty lyrics of Povel Ramel’s Måste vägen till Curaçao gynga så (Why must the Boat to Curaçao sway like this?) The NAS had so many world famous names to choose from, it had a hard time choosing recipients. The list is a who’s who of household names that everyone is familiar with, iconic giants of the international arts and culture scene such as Amalie Skram, John Bauer, Evert Taube, Georg Brandes, Jorn Utzon,Asta Nielson, Povel Ramel, Axsel Sandemose, Minna Canth, Erik Bye, Gunnar Sonsteby, and of course Oda Krohg

Today, more than two years since returning from The Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at RNoAF Base Sorreisa, the newly promoted Major Neiguffson heads one of the most creative and in many ways most controversial Public Affairs programs in RCAF history – the Icons of Canadian Culture Tail Art Program, known by supporters and detractors alike as the “Celebritail” program. The Celebritail concept, an idea which Neiguffson readily admits he lifted from his Norwegian Air Shuttle experience, has now had almost one year in service and over 50 different air force aircraft are involved from the massive CC-177 Globemaster IIIs to the diminutive CT-114 Tutor aircraft of the Snowbirds air demonstration team. Almost 50 great Canadians have been honoured so far. The program has been deemed a success by the RCAF, enough so that the program is about to be expanded, but it has not been without controversy or detractors.

Perhaps the most challenging aspects of the Celebritail concept were the lengthy negotiations with the honourees or the honouree’s agents to allow the Air Force to apply their faces to the tails of aircraft. This was a task to which the dynamic and charismatic Neiguffson is well suited. Though he is a young man (just 30 years at the time the program started), Neiguffson had graduated from the Royal Military College in Kingston with a master’s degree in Canadian History, Media Relations, and Social Structures of Canadian Popular Culture. Through simple force of personality, Neiguffson negotiated the rights for four years for all the Celebritail Canadian icons for no cost to the Canadian public, an issue that kept RCAF brass from giving him the green light at first.

With the spectre of high “rights” costs out of the way, and nearly 100 names of famous Canadian personalities approved and signed off, there was still one major hurdle in the program to get over – who would fund the costly hand painting of the Canadian portraits on the tails? Neiguffson had seen the vinyl appliqués on the NAS Boeing 737s begin to deteriorate and in some cases delaminate from the tail surfaces. He knew that the supersonic speeds of the CF-18 Hornets and the extreme weather conditions in which transport aircraft of the RCAF would find themselves would cause even more rapid deterioration or stripping of modern technologies like 3M’s Controltac vinyl. The portraits of the great Canadians would have to be painted on by Canada’s greatest mural artists. The costs could become astronomical. In order to work within the low-visibility grey paint schemes of the bulk of RCAF aircraft it was decided early on that the Celebritail portraits would all be done in black and grey tones.


Québec’s legendary strongman Louis Cyr is perhaps the most fitting of all the Celebritail honourees. The massive CC-177 (177702) that bears his likeness and Cyr himself share much in common – strength, lifting power, capacity, fame and broad shoulders. Louis Cyr (born Cyprien-Noé Cyr, 1863-1912) was a famous French Canadian strongman with a career spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His recorded feats, including lifting 500 pounds (227 kg) with three fingers and carrying 4,337 pounds (1967 kg) on his back, show Cyr to be, according to former International Federation of Body Building & Fitness chairman, the late Ben Weider, the strongest man ever to have lived. To crews who fly the Louis Cyr Globemaster, it is known as Big Lou. Photo Robert Taylor

In order to keep cost down or at least share them, Neiguffson enlisted the assistance of another Canadian ministry – Canadian Heritage. Canadian Heritage was just launching its own controversial program commemorating the War of 1812 and was somewhat surprised at some of the negative reaction to spending millions commemorating a war that most Canadians felt was either irrelevant or of little interest to the average man or woman on the street. They wanted to respond by celebrating Canadians of a “more immediate cultural significance to ordinary citizens.” They were excited to assist the RCAF in selecting recipients, designing a program to accept suggestions and sharing some of the costs.

One of the greatest surprises was that the artwork itself became relatively inexpensive to execute. Some of Canada’s top artists like Robert Bateman and Christopher Pratt did original sketches for free and had their assistants do the actual painting, while the bulk of the screened artists were actually tattoo artists, who were highly experienced in working in black and gray tones. In addition, wherever there was an air base, there were always quality tattoo artists around.

The first aircraft to be painted in the Celebritail program were the fleet of C-17s (CC-177) based out of 8 Wing Trenton. The first to be completed was CC-177 (177702), which carried the proud image of Louis Cyr, at the turn of the 19th Century, the strongest man in the world – a fitting icon to emblazon the tail of one of the world’s most capable heavy lifters. Within months, at bases from Greenwood, Nove Scotia to Yellowknife, Northwest Territory to Comox, British Columbia, nearly 50 aircraft of all types, both fixed wing and rotary, were painted with portraits of some of Canada’s most iconic individuals. The program was received with much curiosity, wide acceptance by aircrews and the average man on the street, but was also ridiculed by special interest groups. Environmentalists were outraged at David Suzuki on a CF-18 Hornet. Feminists were angered when Pamela Anderson was chosen for the honour but not Roberta Bondar. Music critics decried the choice of Justin Bieber over soprano Measha Brueggergosman. With only 50 aircraft painted to date, Neiguffson says, “During the Second World War, you could find Betty Grable on the side of a thousand aiplanes… but I bet Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t on even one; that’s all I have to say about that. I found we could not please everyone… not yet anyway. It was not a contest to use the smartest or most critically acclaimed, it was a simple exercise in contemporary cultural relevance. And frankly, humour was part of it. You didn’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner or opera singer to qualify, though we would consider it.”

“More often than not, we allowed the individual squadrons or even the commanders to make suggestions” said Neiguffson. “This way, we had total buy in for the program at the squadron level. Was it a success? Was it worth the more than four million dollars sent so far? Just ask the pilot of the Pamela Anderson CF-18 Hornet! It sure garners plenty of attention wherever our aircraft go and frankly there are a lot of people who thought most of our honourees were American, so we are changing perceptions out there. But mostly we are getting people talking, and talking is communicating and that is what I am trained to do. I love my job.”

By the end of 2013, all aircraft in the RCAF inventory will carry the image and story of a great Canadian cultural icon on its tail. It’s an ambitious program, but then again, Major Neiguffson is an ambitious air force officer. Is it culturally significant? Is it art? We’ll let you be the judge. What follows are some of the 48 RCAF aircraft presently painted.

By D. H. Yellamo

The Air Force was careful to recognize Canadians of both founding cultures. Two of the four C-17s of the RCAF fleet are dedicated to Québécois legends Louis Cyr and folksinger La Bolduc, while the other two are dedicated to Canadians born outside the country – Czech-born Lotta Hitschmanova and NHL Hockey legend Stan Makita. Here CC-177 (177701) towers over the flight line at the Inuvik, Northwest Territories airport while delivering supplies and equipment to a Forward Operating Location. Mary Rose-Anna Travers (4 June 1894 – 20 February 1941) was a French Canadian singer and musician. She was known as Madame Bolduc or La Bolduc. During the peak of her popularity in the 1930s, she was known as the Queen of Canadian Folksingers. Bolduc is often considered to be Québec’s first singer/songwriter. Her style combined the traditional folk music of Ireland and Québec, usually in upbeat, comedic songs. CF Photo by Corporal Jean-François Lauzé

While some of the Celebritail icon subjects were wellsprings for controversy, one design in particular received widespread praise from every side. The tail of CC-177 Globemaster III 177703 was painted in the likeness, not of some heavyweight strongman like Louis Cyr, or over-sized folk singer like La Bolduc, but rather a four foot-nothing wisp of a woman born in Czechoslovakia and destined to be a Canadian television icon. Lotta Hitschmanova, dubbed the “Atomic Mosquito” by the press, whom she browbeat into offering radio and TV time for her public service announcements, helped to found USC Canada as the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada. USC Canada is an international development organization that started as a small group of aid workers sending supplies to war-torn Europe for relief and reconstruction. Attired in an army nurse’s uniform and military-style hat, she travelled yearly to strife-torn and poverty-stricken parts of the world, searching out towns and villages in need of Canadian assistance to recover from drought, war, disease and poverty. Throughout the years, Dr. Hitschmanova received many awards, including the Gold Medal from the Red Cross of France (1950) and the Medal of St. Paul from Greece (1952). In 1968 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1979. Dr. Lotta, as she was known, became a symbol of personal dedication, and made the Unitarian Service Committee at its well-publicized address of 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, a household name through her numerous radio and television ads. In 1982 she retired from her position as Executive Director due to ill health. Although she spent the final years of her life suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, she succumbed to cancer. She died 1 August 1990. Given the nature of the work that Hitschmanova did in war-torn and disaster-ravaged countries, the choice of the C-17 for her image is fitting, as the big lifter will continue to bring relief supplied to the same hotspots around the world. Photo by: Master Corporal Shilo Adamson, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

The CC-177 is such a large aircraft, that each individual airframe seems to warrant a nickname, like American aircraft carriers. While the Globemaster III (177702) dedicated to Louis Cyr goes be the name of Big Lou, the CC-177 (177703), dedicated to the memory of Lotta Hitschmanova, is lovingly called Little Lotta, after the chubby 1950s cartoon character of the same name. The image and title of Little Lotta is carried beside the starboard crew door. CF Photo by master-corporal Marc Gauvin

Not even 431 Squadron, the Snowbirds, were immune from the Celebritail concept, but most people agree about who should be honoured on their tails. All aircraft of the squadron, except the Snowbird 1, carry the girl-next-door image of Canadian chanteuse Anne Murray, whose 1970 song “Snowbird” was an international hit which had been released just the year before the formation of the team. Though the team name was the result of a contest it was likely inspired by Murray’s song. When President Ronald Reagan was asked who his favourite singer was, he answered without hesitation “Anne Murray”. Snowbird 1 carries the image of famed Canadian music producer and songwriter David Foster. Though Foster wrote the modern musical theme music of the Snowbirds, many folksingers across the country were angry that Gene MacLellan, who penned the legendary song that Anne Murray made famous, should have been given the honour. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt

Count Floyd Blood Services. Here, CC-138 Count Floyd departs from the Forward Operating Location in Iqaluit, Nunavut Territory carrying pallets of blood from the Canadian Blood Services to remote northern communities. One of the smallest units of the Royal Canadian Air Force is the northern detachment of 440 Transport Squadron at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The nickname of 440, since the Second World War, has been the Vampires, so when it came to selecting an appropriate subject for the tail of one of their CC-138 Twin Otters, they selected the Dracula-attired Count Floyd from the legendary Canadian Second City TV (SCTV) comedy show. In keeping with that SCTV Monster Horror Theatre theme, the squadron mess is called “Dr. Tongue’s 3D House of Pancakes” and the aircraft operate under the call sign “Scary”. Besides having big balls for operating in some of the most difficult weather and terrain on the planet, the 440 Vampires have shown us that they have a sense of humour. The long Arctic winters and the tough job have always made for eclectic and somewhat unorthodox pilots and aircrew. 440 Squadron operates the famous CC-138 Twin Otter to carry out its wide range of tasks. The Squadron operates these rugged aircraft, nicknamed the Twotter, in some of the harshest weather conditions on the planet and is the only Canadian Forces unit that is based full-time in the North. CF photo by Sgt Eileen Redding

Perhaps the most controversial of all the Celebritail designs, the one that had tree huggers crying foul, was the image of legendary Canadian environmentalist and pacifist David Suzuki on the tail of a 409 Squadron CF-18 Hornet. Canadian environmental groups accused the RCAF “warlords” of deliberately provoking the green movement by mockingly emblazoning the fuel guzzling fighter with his visage. “We are insulted beyond words,” said Friends of the People’s Planet (FPP) spokesperson and activist Neda Kolonik. The Celebritail Program Public Affairs Officer, Captain Ima Tarrgette, explained to an eager crowd of reporters that Suzuki was chosen, not as a provocation, but rather for the very fact that he is a recognized fighter, a fighter for justice and for our planet. “The RCAF,” she said, “is sorry if anyone took it that way, but Suzuki is being honoured for the simple reason that he is respected as a Canadian legend… end of story. The RCAF,” she said, “is using the Suzuki Hornet as a test platform for biofuels such as recycled cooking oil from the Cold Lake messes.” While Kolonic was said to be delighted with the positive move forward in green war fighting, the airmen at Cold Lake say they no longer fit into their flight suits trying to keep up with the green fuel demand and have dubbed the flying test bed the French Fry Fighter. DND Photo

Two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 Hornets from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bagotville, Québec, get refuelled by an RCAF CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling aircraft from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, over the Pacific Ocean near Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam, in Honolulu, Hawaii, on 24 July 2012. The pilots and mechanics of Francophone 425 Squadron Les Alouettes wear their hockey allegiance on the tails of their aircraft with images and jersey numbers of the two greatest French Canadian hockey players of all time – Maurice “The Rocket” Richard (No. 9) and Guy “The Flower” Lafleur (No. 10) [arguably the most elegant player of all time and my hero. Ed], both forwards for the Montréal Canadiens of the National Hockey League. The squadron also has Hornets with tails dedicated to famous CFL Montréal Alouette football players Sam Etcheverry, George Dixon and Peter Dalla Riva. Canadian Forces photo by : MCpl Marc-André Gaudreault

The 425 Squadron Hornets were the first RCAF fighter aircraft to sport the Celebritail concept, making their first appearance in January of 2012. Just a few months after the first images were made public, Russian MiG-31 fighter aircraft of the 6979th Aviation Base at Kansk Air Base in Krasnoyarsk Krai have painted their aircraft with images of Valeri Kharmalov and Vladislav Tretiak of the 1972 Canada Russia Hockey Series fame. This led Canadians to institute a new Tiger Meet style gunnery invitational event called NATO Hockey Shootout Fighter Meet, combining flying, gunnery, bombing and hockey.

In the NATO Tiger Meet, all units with felines (Lions, Tigers, Cougars, etc.) are invited to participate and encouraged to paint their aircraft in outrageous Tiger stripes. The requirement for the Shoot Out is that participating aircraft must be painted in a hockey theme. The first shootout happens at CFB Bagotville in June of 2013. So far units promising to attend include USAF A-10s from the 111th Fighter Wing of the Pennsylvania ANG, and Michigan ANG, Swedish Gripens painted with the images of Borje Salming and Daniel Alfredsson and the Russian MiGs. Like NHL shootouts during the All Star Game, the gunnery is judged on style as well as accuracy. Doing a Lomcevak while delivering a bomb is considered a high degree of difficulty.Teams are also required to bring enough men to make a hockey team and the results of a hockey tournament are also factored into the results of the meet. Canadian Forces photo by: MCpl Marc-André Gaudreault

Of all the nominees for depiction on the tail of an RCAF fighter aircraft, hockey coach and flamboyant broadcaster Don “Grapes” Cherry was first on the list. He is known for his outspoken combative manner, flamboyant dress, and staunch Canadian nationalism – old, scrappy and dangerous… just like the CF-18. Canadians adore their sartorial bad boy and pilots, many of them aggressive hockey players themselves, are always delighted to sign out the Don Cherry Hornet for some Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Air Combat Manoeuvring in Canadian skies. Here Don Cherry is photographed doing a max performance takeoff at the Wings Over Gatineau–Ottawa en vol Air Show in 2012. Photo: Richard Mallory Allnutt

Over the years, there have been many celebrities who have gone for a flight in a CF-18. Canadian rock legend, Geddy Lee of the group Rush, whose soaring and astoundingly high tenor voice carries RUSH to the stratosphere, went for a ride in 2001. The band’s next album, Vapor Trails, and the song Ceiling Unlimited was the result of Lee’s experience. Here, the Geddy Lee Hornet catches the wire at Inuvik, Northwest Territories. CF Photo by Corporal Jean-François Lauzé

The production of the RUSH album Vapor Trails has been criticized by critics and fans alike because of the album’s “loud” sound quality. Albums such as this have been mastered so loud that additional digital distortion is generated during the production of the CD. The trend, known as the Loudness War, has become very common on modern rock CDs. When asked why the album was mastered so loud, Lee shouted and answered: “What? I can’t hear you. Ever since my Hornet ride, I’ve had hearing troubles.” CF Photo by Corporal Jean-François Lauzé

While the two-seat CF-18 Hornet dedicated to teen sensation Justin Bieber, unaffectionately known as the Bieber Bomber, seems to be a hit with girls under 13, pilots shy away from it like the plague. In the 3 Wing ready room, straws are drawn to fly the Bieber Bomber, with the loser getting the stick of the “teenybopper special”. Embarrassed to be seen in the fighter, pilots have claimed an abnormally high percentage of dubious technical aborts while flying the Bieber Bomber. Mechanics scratch their heads and say there is never anything wrong with the Bieber Hornet, while in response, the pilots say “Never say Never.” This photo was taken at an air show in Gatineau in 2012 just two weeks before 3 Wing stripped the design from the aircraft and, miraculously, the serviceability rate went up nearly 20%.  The editors have lost track of who gave us this photo, so if you see this, give us a heads up and we will credit it properly.

While boxing is known as the Sweet Science, Mixed Marshal Arts (MMA) is the fastest growing fight sport in the world, and the greatest of all MMA fighters on the planet, Georges St. Pierre is from the same Canadian province as these two Bagotville-based CF-18 Hornets and therefore a logical choice to grace the tail of one of them. The two CF-18A Hornet aircraft from the 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, based at 3 Wing Bagotville, fly over the Saguenay river near La Baie, Ville de Saguenay. Photo by 3 Wing Imaging, Private Pierre Thériault

Every living Celebritail honoree gets a ride in the aircraft type dedicated to that person and, if possible, the actual aircraft itself. Because the St. Pierre Hornet was a single seater, the MMA star St. Pierre had to do his ride in the much reviled Bieber Bomber. The flight with St. Pierre was nearly called off when the aircraft he was scheduled to fly was the Bieber Bomber, which he out and out refused to fly in, citing he had a reputation to protect. At the last minute, the aircraft was switched for the David Suzuki. After his flight he refused to have his photo taken with the Bieber Bomber, citing possible damage to his reputation as a tough guy. After his ride, he was asked if he found it physically demanding. He smiled politely and said, “I can take 26 consecutive rabbit punches to my face from that steroidal monster, Brock Lesnar, so do you think a few barrel rolls and Gs bother me? Hell, 7.5 Gs is what I earn every day! But it was fun.” He also called the Hornet a true MMA fighter – fighting with bombs, guns and missiles. Photo by 3 Wing Imaging, Private Pierre Thériault

Hobo 917 goes to burners. The only non-human recipient of the Celebritail honour is a dog by the name of London, the four-legged, silent star of the worldwide soft-hit TV series The Littlest Hobo. The 6-season, low-production value series revolved around a stray German shepherd, the titular Hobo, who wanders from town to town, helping people in need. Although the concept (of a dog saving the day) was perhaps similar to that of Lassie, the Littlest Hobo’s destiny was to befriend those who apparently needed help. Despite the attempts of the many people whom he helped to adopt him, he appeared to prefer to be on his own, and would head off by himself at the end of each episode. Never actually named on-screen, the dog is often referred to by the name Hobo or by the names given by temporary human companions. Hobo’s background is also unexplained on-screen; his origins, motivation and ultimate destination are never explained.There were four separate shepherds used in the filming of the series – London, and his relatives Litlon, Thorn, Toro, but London was the longest playing star and hence the honouree for the Hornet. Photo: Corporal Pierre Habib, 3 Wing Bagotville

Along with Suzuki, the Pamela Anderson Hornet was one of the most controversial Celebritail designs. Feminists, the Christian right and the Order of the Sisters of Unhappiness decried the image of the silicon inflated breasts of a Canadian soft porn star on the tail of one of Canada’s fighting jets. The nations of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan also lodged vociferous complaints, yet photos of the aircraft were the most downloaded images on Iranian Google in 2013, whose filters had not been able to block the image. Canadian fighter pilots from 425 Squadron feel that the image of the busty Canadian confection is no more sexist than the image of Betty Grable on the fuselage of a Second World War bomber. Major Thomas “Motley” Leigh, 425 Squadron commander also indicated that pilots from his “Crûe” flying the Anderson Hornet (Hornette) have had a higher success rate in combat exercises, attributed to the mammerizing effect of the image on adversaries who seem to hesitate when in close… it takes only .05 of a second to spell the difference between victory and defeat. Worthy of note is the barbed wire motif on the inside of the tails… referencing Anderson’s title role in the 1996 sci-fi action pic, Barb Wire. Photo by J.P. Bonin

The Anderson Hornette. While the Bieber Bomber is the last choice of fighter pilots in the RCAF, fights have been known to break out in ready rooms over who gets to fly the Hornette with the “Double D” tail configuration. Photo credit: Cpl Marc-André Gaudreault, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

When the RCAF and Canadian Heritage looked at candidates for the Airbus A310/CC-150 Celebritails, they felt that the choices should reflect the astronomical namesake of the airliner/refueller, known by the name of the North Star – Polaris. The first on that list was Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Commanding Officer of USS Enterprise as played by Canadian super-icon William Shatner. Polaris crews are apparently tired of the Dilithium crystal joke made by seemingly every refuelling CF-18 pilot. CF Photo by Corporal Dany Michaud

A close-up of the Shatner Polaris flying in formation with an escorting Pamela Anderson CF-18. CF Photo by Corporal Dany Michaud

Mary Pickford, perhaps the world’s first female Hollywood superstar and known as “America’s Sweetheart”, was, in fact, a Canadian and as such was chosen to grace the tail of a CT-142 Dash-8 “Gonzo” navigation trainer. Pickford was also the co-founder of the film studio United Artists and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Known as “America’s Sweetheart,” “Little Mary” and “The girl with the curls,” she was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting. The Dash-8 navigation trainer is operated by 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron in support of the Canadian Forces Air Navigation School (CFANS) at 17 Wing Winnipeg. CF Photo

Many of the Celebritail design subjects were chosen after polling pilots and aircrew from the bases where the aircraft were based. Greenwood, Nova Scotia airmen and women voted almost unanimously for the lovable character known as “Bubbles” from the hit Nova Scotia mockumentary series called Trailerpark Boys. The character known as Bubbles, played by Mike Smith, sports excruciatingly massive Coke-bottle lenses, drives around the trailer park on a go-cart, has a predilection for “kitty cats”, lives in a tool shed and repairs abandoned shopping carts for cash. The choice of Bubbles, while wildly supported by the young airmen and women of 14 Wing Greenwood, was seen by the religious right and evangelical Christians as delivering the wrong message to Nova Scotia youth. The Trailerpark Boys series focuses on a group of ex-convict layabouts living in fictional Sunnyvale Trailer Park, bent on growing weed, getting rich without effort, stealing cars, swearing and drinking – which, as everyone knows, is practically the definition of Nova Scotia Youth. Photo: Sgt Pete Nicholson, 14 Wing Greenwood

Bubbles has long been a strong supporter of Canada’s armed forces and as such, he is much loved by our men and women in uniform, especially the Royal Canadian Air Force. Bubbles made the trip to Cold Lake, Alberta to experience the thrill and stresses of flight in a Hornet. The footage was part of a comedy piece on the CBC comedy show called “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” and was broadcast to our troops in Afghanistan. Video Capture from CBC

Cheech & Chong were a Grammy Award–winning comedy duo consisting of Richard “Cheech” Marin and Canadian Tommy Chong, who found a wide audience in the 1970s and 1980s for their films and stand-up routines, which were based on the hippie and free love era, and especially drug and counterculture movements, most notably their love for cannabis. The Tommy Chong CC-130J Hercules (130612) has met with some degree of controversy from the Military Police, who have questioned the sense of honouring a Canadian who championed laziness, marijuana and portrayed himself as a stoned dimwit. At air shows, crews have been referring to the Herc as a “Jay” Model, and use the Call Sign “Dave”. One humorous exchange between the tower at 8 Wing Trenton and the Chong Herc reportedly went like this: “Dave 612, Tower Control. You are cleared for takeoff.”  This was followed by, “Tower, …Dave’s not here.” True story. Photo credit: Cpl Darcy Lefebvre, DND

Long may she run. The highest time E-Model CC-130 Hercules known as Crazy Horse to its crews, wears the youthful face of legendary Canadian rock star Neil Young. Like Young, the Hercules transport type is a legendary veteran which is still in production nearly 60 years after its production line commenced in 1956. Photo by Reinhard Zinabold

When people look upon the friendly face of the C-130 Hercules heavy lift transport, they cannot but smile at the soft, non-threatening and chubby lines of this classic from the 1950s, so what better man to dedicate one to than The Friendly Giant, an iconic children’s TV character from the 1950s to the 1980s. The Friendly Giant aired on CBC Television from September 1958 through to March 1985. It featured three main characters: a giant named Friendly (played by Bob Homme), who lived in a huge castle, along with his puppet animal friends Rusty (a rooster who played a harp and lived in a book bag hung by the castle window) and Jerome (a giraffe). Trust me, I am not making this up! As you enter the short flight of stairs to the cockpit of the Friendly Herc, there is a small sign which reads: “One little chair for one of you, and a bigger chair for two more to curl up in, and for someone who likes to rock, a rocking chair in the middle.” DND Photo

According to Wikipedia, the lifting and storing capacity of the Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King is 159 “Squares” of Molson Canadian beer (a square being Hoser parlance for a case of 24 beer bottles.) This particular Sea King carries the only Celebritail design to be of more than one person – the famous McKenzie Brothers, Bob (Rick Moranis) and Doug (Dave Thomas), of SCTV. In addition, the sides of the fuselage of the helo were used as the tail boom did not offer a good place to display the design. There is a link between the McKenzie Brothers Sea King and the Geddy Lee Hornet. Bob and Doug the crest of a fad, peaking in 1982–83, that produced one comedy album, The Great White North and a movie, Strange Brew. The album, released by Anthem Records in Canada and Mercury Records in the US, went platinum in sales, won a Grammy nomination and broke the top ten on Billboard’s Top LPs and Tapes list in March 1982. It is noted for the song “Take Off” which featured fellow Canadian Geddy Lee of the rock group Rush chorusing between the McKenzies’ banter. DND Photo

The honouree for the Sea King ship borne ASW helicopter attached to HMCS Fredericton (FFH337) was chosen by her Captain’s mother, a big fan of the 1950s to 60s East Coast musical show called Don Messer’s Jubilee, which featured the homely, boozy-looking duo of Marg Osborne and Charlie Chamberlain. Photo credit: DND Photo, MCpl Randy Burnside

At Vintage Wings of Canada, we applaud the choice of a REAL spaceman to grace another CC-150 Polaris tail. RCAF Colonel Chris Hadfield is the present commander of the International Space Station, a Vintage Wings board member, one of our pilots and the sole RCAF member past or present to grace the tail of an RCAF aircraft. Photo: Corporal Pierre Habib, 3 Wing Bagotville. © 2011 DND-MDN Canada

A close-up of the Canadian Forces Chris Hadfield Airbus CC-150 Polaris showing it gassing up the Geddy Lee CF-18. Hadfield, a rock star of space travel and an accomplished musician himself is no doubt pleased to see his airplane giving sustenance to the Rush star’s fighter. Photo: Corporal Pierre Habib, 3 Wing Bagotville. DND Photo

The spy who came in from the cold. Canadian Heritage felt that politics were a key component of Canadian culture and so proposed two remarkable Celebritail ideas that have had people talking about the sanity of the entire program. The first, a bizarre portrait of defected Russian spy Igor Gouzenko, appeared in the tail of a CC-130 Hercules (130335) and was thought by most Canadians who did not know their history to be the portrait of a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s strange indeed, for most Canadians who remember Gouzenko, that the face of the cold war had no face at all. Igor Gouzenko would always wear a white hood over his face during appearances in order to maintain anonymity for his new identity and life in Toronto. Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko (13 January 1919 – 28 June 1982) was a cipher clerk for the Soviet Embassy to Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. He defected on 5 September 1945 with 109 documents on Soviet espionage activities in the West. This forced Prime Minister Mackenzie King to call a Royal Commission to investigate espionage in Canada. Gouzenko exposed Joseph Stalin’s efforts to steal nuclear secrets and the technique of planting sleeper agents. The “Gouzenko Affair” is often credited as a triggering event of the Cold War, with historian Jack Granatstein stating: “Gouzenko was the beginning of the Cold War for Public Opinion.” The New York Times described Gouzenko’s actions as having “awakened the people of North America to the magnitude and the danger of Soviet espionage.” CF Photo by Master Corporal Kevin Paul

The only known photograph of the 412 Squadron CC-144 Challenger with the Celebritail image of Gerda Munsinger, whose autobiography, My Life Under the Tories was a Canadian non-fiction best seller in the 1960s. Gerda Munsinger (10 September 1929 – 24 November 1998) was an East German prostitute and alleged Soviet spy (ultimately unproven) who was the centre of the Munsinger Affair political scandal in Canada. Born in Germany and married for a short period to American soldier Michael Munsinger, she emigrated to Canada in 1955. Gerda Munsinger lived in Montréal where she worked as a maid, a waitress and as a hostess at the “Chez Parée” nightclub. While in Canada, she became involved in relationships with a number of high government officials, most notably cabinet ministers George Hees and Pierre Sévigny. She was deported to East Germany in 1961 as the matter was dealt with privately. Sévigny resigned quietly from the cabinet of John Diefenbaker in 1963. Some believe that it was approved by the Prime Minister’s Office and placed on the airplane to remind Cabinet Ministers of the tremendous height a fall from grace might bring. Regardless, the artwork was removed after only two weeks. DND Photo

When 442 Squadron of 19 Wing, Comox, British Columbia, the last operator of the venerable CC-115 de Havilland Buffalo in Canada, was given the chance to select an honouree for their Celebritail Buffalo, the pilots wanted to chose a person who represented what they did for a living. Since the squadron is a long-time Search and Rescue unit, they selected a man who also made “saves” for a living – the legendary Ukrainian-born, Canadian raised professional hockey goalie – Terry Sawchuk. They chose for the portrait a copy of the famous photograph of the Detroit Red Wing net minder which showed a shirtless Sawchuk sporting scars and stitches applied by a make-up artist and depicting the many horrendous injuries he suffered after years as an NHL goal tender BEFORE the use of goalie masks. Like so many of the tail designs, this too brought the ire of certain community groups. Meddling Parents of the Comox Valley (MPCV) petitioned to have the portrait removed on the grounds that it scared children at air shows. The RCAF, recognizing that Sawchuk was a true Canadian hero, would not back down. DND Photo by 9 Wing Imaging, Corporal Miranda Langguth

To see more of the Celebritail design to come and to suggest recipients,
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