Nanaimo Airport has a long and proud history of supporting Canada’s veterans. Every Remembrance Day it salutes the many who have served and continue to serve Canada during times of conflict and peace.
The airport’s history is intertwined with the country’s air force. It began in 1942 when the Department of National Defence purchased the site in Cassidy from a local family. The government constructed an airstrip and made it war-ready. It became a Royal Canadian Air Force glider pilot training facility. It also was designated a wartime emergency airfield.
Decades later, Nanaimo Airport Commission named the Air Terminal Building in honour of World War 1 flying ace Raymond Collishaw. The air vice marshal was born in Nanaimo on November 22, 1893, the son of a miner and prospector. He went on to become the second-highest scoring ace of the First World War I. Later, he was an important Royal Air Force commander in the North African theatre during the Second World War.
Collishaw’s bravery and leadership earned him numerous medals and commendations. They included the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Order with a bar. He also earned the Distinguished Flying cross. He passed away in 1976.
The terminal building was named after him in October 1999. Permanent exhibits in the building chronicle his heroism.
The Nanaimo Airport also has a strong connection to Canada’s air force via the famed Snowbirds. The airport has hosted the iconic Canadian Forces Snowbirds 431 Air Demonstration Squadron numerous times. They’ve given several aerial performances over Nanaimo.
On Nov. 11 each year, Nanaimo Airport Commission observes a traditional moment of silence at 11 a.m. The Commission encourages residents to honour all veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, our peacekeepers, the wartime Merchant Navy or Ferry Command, and the RCMP.