Lost Airmen of the Empire

Lost Airmen of the Empire

Lost Airmen of The Empire

Victoria International Airport
North Saanich, BC, 2016

Originally the site of the Victoria International Airport was Air Station Patricia Bay which was the second largest training airbase in Western Canada. These personnel were at the Air Station to be trained for an active position in the RCAF. As pilots, navigators, armourers and mechanics they would serve their country in their new wartime roles. These people came from all walks of life, surviving the depression with an optimistic outlook as to the challenges before them. Upon completion of their training, these service personnel went on to serve in various theatres of war where they were confronted with the harsh realities of survival.

Tragically in this time period 177 servicemen lost their lives in training mishaps. These men perished around the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Aircraft failure and pilot error resulted in air crew crashing into places such as Salt Spring Island, Mill Bay, Whidbey Island, Tofino, the Vancouver Island Mountains,Patricia Bay, Satellite Channel and Active Pass to name but a few locations. Often the air crews would be interred together at the location of their respective crash sites reflecting the pragmatic reality of war.

Symbolically the feathers create an allegorical narrative about the spirit of these fighting men who were training to be our nation’s airborne warriors. This is about lofty ideals and the romantic desire to fly. The Wright Brothers first flew only 37 years before. The Feathers inspired by the Flight Feathers of the Cooper’s Hawk are fabricated out of Corten Steel. Corten steel oxidizes (rusts) permanently and seals itself. This finish is symbolic of time past and reflects the 76 years of flight at Patricia Bay. The names of the fallen airmen are cut into the steel feathers. The feathers are arranged in a military matrix with some removed representing the randomness and divergent accident locations over South Vancouver Island.