The 211 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron delivers youth programming to help them build aviation, citizenship, teamwork, and leadership skills.


The Air Cadet Organization originated in the early days of World War II when the war effort required young men to meet Canada's military obligations. By 1938 there existed a couple of groups that would help promote such an effort. In Winnipeg, Manitoba this was the Winnipeg Air Cadets launched by Albert Bennett. Other such groups existed in St. Catharines, ON, and in Penhold, AB.

Prior to 1940, official Air Cadet squadrons did not exist. However, in 1939 Alan Duncan Bell-Irving and A.W. (Nick) Carter formed the 1601 Air Force Cadet Wing in Vancouver. This Squadron was operated directly by the Department of National Defence in association with the 111 Squadron of the RCAF, which was stationed in Vancouver at the time. A.W. (Nick) Carter became the first commanding officer of the 1601 Wing until he was called to Ottawa to assist in the formation of the new Air Cadet League of Canada. After the formation of the Air Cadet League of Canada, the 1601 Wing was chartered to the League and became 111 Vancouver Squadron. The 111 Air Cadet Squadron still exists and parades at Bessborough Armoury in Vancouver under the name 111 Pegasus Squadron.

In 1940, Air Minister Power directed that a nationwide voluntary organization be formed to sponsor and develop a select group of young men who would be trained to meet the increasing need for operational pilots in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during World War II.

On November 11, 1940, an Order-in-Council was passed to establish the Air Cadet League of Canada to work in partnership with the RCAF. The first squadrons were organized in 1941 and by 1942 there were 135 squadrons and 10,000 cadets, mostly recruited from the Army Cadets. By 1943, there were 315 squadrons with a membership of 23,000. In 1944, the program reached its peak membership with 29,000 cadets in 374 squadrons.

The first uniform the Air Cadets used were hand-me-down uniforms from the Pre War era RCAF. It consisted of a blue/gray wool uniform; a cap (wedge), pants, and a full-collar tunic. This was phased out in 1943 with an open-collar variation similar to the wartime RCAF enlisted man's tunic. After the war, the air cadet organization received more hand-me-down uniforms from the RCAF before adopting the battle dress style uniform.

After the war, membership dropped to a low of 11,000 in 155 squadrons and the Air Cadet program underwent a transformation to reflect the changing needs of Canada and the cadets. The Air Cadet League introduced awards for proficiency and loyalty to the squadrons, summer courses were offered at RCAF stations, and a flying scholarship course was developed. To date, more than 15,000 cadets have received their private pilot licenses through the scholarship course. Training shifted to be focused on the development of citizenship and an interest in aviation. Interest was renewed; by 1961, 332 squadrons were in existence, and in 1972, authority was given for membership of up to 28,000 cadets.

In 1953, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was appointed the organization's Air Commodore-in-Chief, a position he held until his death in 2021.

In areas where there was a high interest in air cadets, additional squadrons were established with different parade nights to accommodate the numbers. These squadrons were often placed into air cadet wings (a formation of two or more squadrons) with a separate wing HQ staff of both officers and senior cadets overseeing the operation. The system was discontinued in the late 1960s and all squadrons became independent once again.

From the early days senior air cadets were given opportunities to work in staff positions beside officers, certain contracted civilians, and RCAF/CF members at summer camps across Canada. A system was developed where senior cadets aged 16 or older were temporarily enrolled in the RCAF/CF on short-term contracts and given the rank of Acting Corporal. They were referred to as Call-out Corporals. The Senior Leaders Course at Cold Lake later even used the CF rank of Acting Master Corporal among its staff of Call-out Corporals. Later the system was abolished and the "staff cadet" program selected senior cadets for advanced training who were appointed as staff cadets to assist the adult leadership.

With the unification of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1968, the Canadian Forces became the Air Cadet League's military partner in the delivery of air cadet training.[15] In 1975, legislation was changed to officially allow the enrolment of female cadets into the Royal Canadian Sea, Army, and Air Cadets. The "battle dress" style woolen air force blue uniform was changed to a CF rifle green safari style uniform. The style and weight were more suited to the indoor and summer training reality of the program. The first of these was issued to cadet squadrons commencing in 1978. A new embellished brass cap badge was issued and air cadet wings were worn on the left breast rather than the right. When the CF went back to separate uniform colours in the mid-1980s, cadets followed again with a new air force blue cadet uniform being issued but following the same style as the outgoing green uniform. Squadrons received these new uniforms commencing in the fall of 1992.

Today, the Royal Canadian Air Cadets has a membership of approximately 23,000 in 456 squadrons; and together with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and Royal Canadian Army Cadets, forms the "largest federally funded youth program in the country". The membership has also diversified, becoming gender-balanced and attracting and retaining visible minorities.