Al Cooper was born 2 May 39 in England. In 1949 his family emigrated to Canada and settled in Hamilton ON. He attended school in Hamilton and graduated in 1958 from Central Secondary School with a specialty in drafting. During this period he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and while a member, won an Air Cadet Flying Scholarship, obtaining his Private Pilot licence after successfully completing the program. Following graduation from Secondary School, he worked for the Steel Company of Canada in the metallurgical laboratories. Having been bitten by the "military bug" at one point Al decided to join the Canadian military, eventually enrolling in the Canadian Army (Regular) 17 Sep 59 in the Officer Candidate Programme. He underwent officer training at the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps School (RCAC[S]) at Camp Borden ON and was subsequently commissioned as a 2Lt in the Armoured Corps on completion of his training one year hence.
In Sep 60 he was posted to the Fort Garry Horse (FGH) Armoured Regiment in Camp Petawawa ON, becoming a Tank Troop Leader in that Regiment.
After two years of regimental duty, in Jun 62 he was selected for Canadian Army Pilot training, and, subsequently underwent four months of flying training on the Primary Helicopter Course at the US Army aviation training facility at Fort Wolters TX on the Hiller H23D (Course ORWAC [Officer Rotary Wing Aviator Course] 6210). Then he went to Fort Rucker AB for another four months of advanced flying training on the H19 (it was supposed to have been on the Huey helicopter; however, all the Hueys had gone to Florida by that time, due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. He did, however, get 10 hours familiarization on the Huey before departing Rucker). On completion of this training, along with his other Canadian Course mates, he received the coveted Canadian Army Flying Badge 8 Feb 63 from the Canadian Liaison Officer at Rucker at the time, Maj John Beament RCAC. As well, at the same ceremony he received his US Army Pilot Wings from a senior US Army Officer and Aviator.
Following his training in the USA, Al proceeded to the Canadian Joint Air Training Center in Rivers MB where he undertook the Advanced Tactical Helicopter Course on the Hiller CH-112E helicopter at the Army Aviation Tactical Training School, fully qualifying him as a tactical helicopter pilot in the Canadian Army upon graduation.
In Sep 63 Al returned to his former Armoured Regiment, the (FGH) now in Iserlohn West Germany, again as a Tank Troop Leader, maintaining his proficiency on the Hiller CH-112 on the Regiment's helicopters. After a short time he moved internally within the Regiment to the Recce Squadron as a recce pilot. In Jan 64 he was loaned to the British Army and flew with 4 Flight Army Air Corps until 1967. While with the British Army, Lt Cooper was promoted to the rank of Capt.
Oct 67 saw him back in Canada as a flying instructor and flight safety officer with the soon to be established 403 (Helicopter) Operational Training Squadron (403 HOTS) in Camp Petawawa ON. During this time interval he undertook the three month US Army Aircraft Accident Investigator's Course at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles; said training leading logically to his next posting in Jan 69 to the Directorate of Flight Safety at NDHQ as an Aircraft Accident Investigator, until 1973. During this posting he attended the CF Staff School in Toronto ON and later (spring 69) his Fixed-wing Conversion to the Cessna L-19 Birddog aircraft, again at Rivers MB.
Subsequent postings and career appointments/events occurred as follows:
- Jul 73. 422 Tactical Helicopter Squadron CFB Gagetown NB as Operations Officer and then DCO
- for a period in 1974, CLFCSC Kingston ON as a student after which he was promoted to the rank of Maj
- Aug 77. 10 TAG St Hubert QC as Group Staff Officer Flight Safety
- Aug 79. CFCSC Toronto ON as a student
- Jul 80. 403 HOTS CFB Gagetown NB as OC Tactical Flight
- Jul 81. DCO 444 Helicopter Squadron, Lahr Germany
- 1 Jan 84 promoted to the rank of LtCol
- Jan 84. Royal Air Force College Cranwell UK to attend the Air Warfare Course
- Jul 84. CO 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron CFB Edmonton AB
- Mar-Sep 86. CO Helicopter Unit and Canadian Contingent Multinational Forces Observers (CCMFO), El Gora, Sinai, Egypt
- Dec 86. CLFCSC Kingston ON as DS
- 14 Dec 87. LtCol Cooper was appointed to the rank of Officer of the Order of Military Merit (OMM)
- Jul 89-93. CFCSC Toronto ON as DS
LtCol Al Cooper retired from the Canadian Armed Forces (Regular) in 1993.