Built under licence by Canadair, the CF-104 Starfighter entered service with the RCAF in late 1962 to equip eight squadrons in Europe for the nuclear strike/reconnaissance role. This example, serial 12854 of No 441 Sqn, is seen at the Paris Air Show in 1965 with its anti-flash white upper wing surfaces and ventral reconnaissance pod containing four Vinten cameras and electronic sensors.
Being a member of the Golden Hawks led to some unusual duties, which in June 1959 included posing for publicity photographs on the port wing of a Sabre with Hollywood movie star and swimming champion Esther Williams at RCAF Station Uplands in Ottawa. Fern looks on bemused at far left.
Corporal George Hardy’s breathtaking photo of the RCAF’s Golden Hawks, led by Wg Cdr Fern Villeneuve AFC, in their gleaming Canadair Sabres, inverted over Niagara Falls in 1959.
One of a series of superb colour photographs taken by RCAF CpI George Hardy not long after the formation of the Golden Hawks in the spring of 1959, taken from the open side door of an RCAF Canadair North Star. Interestingly, Fern recalled that he was initially allocated an RAF exchange officer as liaison between the team and Air Defence Command HQ.
In the summer of 1959, having seen an American magazine cover with the US Navy’s Blue Angels flying over Niagara Falls, Fern insisted on going one better by having the four-Sabre formation photographed by George Hardy and his cumbersome Speed Graphic 4x5, this time in a T-33, over the Falls - inverted with coloured smoke.
In September 1959 the Golden Hawks team was officially disbanded, and Fern was posted to the OTU Tactics Flight as an instructor, where he flew Sabre 5s, as seen here. The Hawks had proved so popular, however, that the team was re-formed for the 1960 season, Fern completing his second and final season as the team’s leader.
The Golden Hawks at Chatham, New Brunswick, beside one of the team’s Sabre 5s before the start of the inaugural cross-country tour in May 1959. From left to right: Fg Off Bill Stewart; Fg Off Ed Rozdeba; Flt Lt Jim McCombe; Sqn Ldr Fern Villeneuve; Flt Lt Jeb Kerr; Flt Lt Ralph Annis; Fg Off John Price and Fg Off Jim Holt.
A contemporary promotional pamphlet for the 1959 Golden Hawks tour, detailing the pilots (and their airshow "voice” Fg Off George MacDonald, who travelled with the team as full-time commentator). Despite some initial grumbling in the air force’s higher echelons, the Hawks proved extremely popular with the Canadian public.
In 1970 Fern joined No 414 Sqn, based at RCAF Station St Hubert in Quebec, which operated Avro Canada CF-100s in the electronic warfare role. This rather weary No 414 Sqn CF-100 Mk 5, serial 18776, seen here in the summer of 1967, was one of those used by the unit for electronic countermeasures calibration and training during Fern’s tenure as CO from 1970 to 1972.