The Top 'AT Trophy
The Top ‘AT Trophy was created by Maj AK (Bert) Casselman sometime during his tenure as OC of the Army Aviation Tactical Training School (AATTS) 5 Jul 61-Jul 64 (see historical note below this paragraph). The second word in the trophy’s title ie, ‘AT, was basically a play on the pronunciation of the abbreviation AATTS which was colloquially referred to as “ATS”. The trophy was intended to be awarded to the top student on each of the Light Aircraft Pilot Courses (LAPC) being run by AATTS at the Canadian Joint Air Training Centre (CJATC), Rivers MB. From what can be determined by extensive research by the author (with limited and disappointing results, unfortunately), LAPC 34 which graduated in Apr 63 was the first of the series of LAPCs to have the trophy awarded. Personal knowledge to this effect, supported by the fact that no name or names existed on the trophy at that point in time, confirms this belief. The last LAPC to have the trophy awarded would logically have been LAPC 44, the last LAPC per se which graduated in Dec 66 at CJATC. LAPC 44 was the last Course of its type to receive primary flying training on the de Havilland Chipmunk at Primary Flying School (PFS) RCAF Station Centralia ON, before proceeding to AATTS at CJATC Rivers for advanced flying training to Army wings standard on the Cessna L-19 Bird Dog. (PFS was eventually moved to CFB Borden upon closure in Mar 1967 of RCAF Station Centralia).
Of historical note is the fact that the Light Aircraft School (LAS), a unit of CJATC, was re-organized and re-named AATTS on 1 Aug 61. Maj Casselman, the School’s first OC, remained as its OC until Jul 64 at which time he handed over command to Maj LM (Marsh) Wright.
In an attempt to determine who the recipient of the Top ‘AT Trophy was on each of the LAPCs starting with LAPC 34 and ending with LAPC 44, the following was discovered by the author:
LAPC 34. Award won by 2Lt JA (John) Dicker RCCS 11 Apr 63
Trophy being presented to Dicker by LtCol AB Stewart DComdt CJATC (worthy of note in this instance is the fact that the trophy was presented before the wings)
Close-up of Trophy being presented to Dicker
LAPC 36. Student Vandyke was asked and replied (in part): “I really don’t have any recollection (of the award) being presented to anyone”
LAPC 37. Student Nordland was asked and replied (in part): “no knowledge (of said trophy)”. Fellow student Ayers also was asked and he suggested it could have been student Pellow, due to his recollections of him being very, very keen and hard-working on the Course. All efforts to contact Pellow to date have failed. Very close-up examination of the trophy being presented to student Waldrum for LAPC 41 indicates a plaque that has Pellow’s name on it for LAPC 37. Based on this observation, it can be concluded that Pellow was indeed the recipient for LAPC 37 in Apr 64
Note: Student Pellow was contacted by telephone 13 Dec 21 by fellow former Army Pilot John Dicker. Pellow confirmed that he was indeed the Top ‘AT Trophy recipient for his Course, LAPC 37.
LAPC 38. Student Farncombe was asked and replied: “I do not recall ever hearing about such a trophy”. Fellow student Springford was also asked and replied basically the same as Farncombe
LAPC 39. Award won by Lt RW (Reg) McCann RCCS Dec 64 *(see note under LAPC 44 below)
Trophy being presented to McCann by LtCol (Ret’d) DL (Dave) Fromow, Guest of Honour at Grad Parade (note the colour of the top hat on the trophy has apparently changed from gold to black)
Trophy was presented by G/C RTP Davidson Comdt CJATC
LAPC 41. Award won by Lt AJ (Butch) Waldrum RCASC Jul 65
(note number of tiers on base of trophy by this time)
LAPC 43. Student Marceau was asked and replied (in part): “never heard of such a trophy”. Fellow student Mathias was also asked and echoed Marceau’s reply
LAPC 44. Student Anglesey was asked and replied (in part): “no such award even mentioned during LAPC 44”. Student Flath doesn’t remember a Top ‘AT Trophy presentation at the end of LAPC 44 either. He did say, though, while instructing basic helicopter courses at 3 CFFTS CFB Portage la Prairie starting in Aug 72 that the best student was declared “Top Hat”. No trophy per se was involved but the winners were allowed to wear a fabric top hat during their grad dinner
*LtCol (Ret’d) Reg McCann noted in a subsequent email to the author that: “the trophy migrated to RCAF Station Portage la Prairie sometime prior to my Instrument Course in 1965 when I was told, on graduation in Feb 65, that I had won it again but, since my name was on it already, it wouldn’t be presented”. This comment is interesting in that it was not known by the author that said trophy was ever awarded for top student on any of the C-45 Multi-engine Conversion and Instrument Rating Courses at 3 FTS Portage. The comment is also puzzling to the author in that the trophy was in fact awarded to Lt Waldrum in Jul 65 for LAPC 41 at Rivers and McCann’s C-45 Course graduated in Feb 65 at Portage
There is always the distinct possibility that no top student per se was selected for LAPCs 36, 38, 42, 43 or 44 and that would be the simple reason why no record exists of said Trophy being presented; or, conversely, all students on those five Courses were considered to be top students, thereby precluding the presentation of the Trophy to one individual! The case where none of the students were worthy of the award is very, very highly unlikely in the opinion of the author.
To this date, the whereabouts of the original Top ‘AT Trophy is unknown. By locating it and reading the names on all the associated plaques would clearly answer the question as to who the Trophy had been awarded for each of the Courses in question.
The Trophy may have gravitated to 4 FTS from AATTS at CJATC when reorganization saw AATTS and the former Basic Helicopter Training Unit (BHTU) at CJATC become sub-units of 4 FTS. It may well have travelled to CFB Portage la Prairie upon closure of CJATC at Rivers in 1971. This is pure hypothesis on the part of the author as there is no known evidence proving that this ever happened. The trophy could well be stored, for example, in a box in the basement of the former Officers’ Mess CFB Portage la Prairie, never to see the light of day again! However, recent efforts by interested staff at 3 CFFTS Portage la Prairie have failed to produce any results to date.
10 Oct 20
While not the same Top AT Trophy from the CJATC AATTS/BHTU Rivers MB era nor the same criteria for its award, a tradition involving the award of a Top Hat is currently being carried-on at 3 CFFTS Portage La Prairie today (2021). The award is given to the graduate student on the Basic Helicopter RW Course by the Chief Flying Instructor: “for being the course member who through their helicopter flying ability, time, effort, good spirit, dedication and sense of humour has contributed the most to improving the flying standard, morale and good friendship of their course”.
Below is a photograph as provided by Capt Mike O’Kane, currently a RW Instructor at 3 CFFTS, of the School Commandant LCol Colin Peek awarding the Top Hat to Lt Marc-Antoine Pelletier, the recipient for RW Course 2001. It should be noted that Lt Pelletier was also the top student on his course.