VPI has its history founded in May, 1966 at 407 Sqn as the P-2000 Club (based on the P2V7 Neptune) with the intent to establish an association of airmen to foster goodwill and fellowship among land-based long-range, sub-searching and reconnaissance flyers through the promotion of understanding and recognition of VP operations and their impact on military aviation. The membership eligibility was based on aircrew having a minimum of 2,000 hours flying on the Neptune aircraft. With the demise of the P2V7 Neptune, the Club expanded its mandate to include all varieties of long-range patrol (LRP) aircraft. The P-2000 Club transformed into VPI in 1970 with a charter and constitution to reflect the broader variety of LRP, with the Base Commander at CFB Greenwood becoming the Official Sponsor of the VP International (VPI) Association. The VPIHQ is also located at CFB Greenwood, and it has become a truly worldwide Association with some 6000 members of serving and retired aircrew from 23 countries.
VPI quickly became the focus of attention of many of our NATO and allied air forces flying similar missions around the globe. Since then VPI has continued to grow and to play a key role in the ever-changing strategy of maritime patrol aviation around the world. To remain relevant to evolving international security challenges in which current VP aircrew are exposed more often to C4ISR operations, including overland, than to traditional anti-submarine/surface missions of the Cold War era, the VPI objective was revised in 2006 as follows:
“To maintain a worldwide organization of aircrew to foster goodwill and fellowship through the promotion of understanding and recognition of VP operations.” The term “VP” is accepted by VP International as a military designator applied to fixed-wing, Maritime Patrol aircraft, employed in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, anti-surface and anti-subsurface operations; ”. The activities of VPI can best be illustrated by highlighting a few of its accomplishments since its inception.
VP International has established a worldwide aircrew association with a membership of over 6000 regular and retired aircrew in 23 countries. Countries represented include Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States. All have voluntarily joined this not-for-profit Association and continue to foster the recognition and development of professional interests and MPA capabilities.
The Association has established international recognition with the VPI emblem, the flight suit badge and associated blue, red, silver and gold maple leaf lapel pins as symbols of maritime flying experience and achievement.
The badge was designed, featuring a red maple leaf and a P2V7, the symbolic links denoting Canadian origin and the founding P2000 Club. The letters VP identify with heavier than air, land-based operations and the globe with no boundaries, balanced within a gyro ring, represents the worldwide international scope, stability and precision essential in maritime patrol aircrew teamwork.
In 1988, to promote professionalism in the field of maritime aviation, Col (Ret’d) Herb Smale formed a volunteer editorial team of current and retired aircrew to start production of the “Maritime Patrol Aviation” magazine. This magazine was free for all members and provided to various civil and military organizations. It was a huge success worldwide for many years until costs for production and mailing became unsustainable. Current plans are afoot to make greater use of current computer technology and internet/web-page capabilities to re-establish communications amongst its membership with an electronic newsletter.
The VPI Memorial at 14 Wing Greenwood and its accompanying “Book of Remembrance” recognizes and records the names of all aircrew, from member countries, who have been killed on active duty in maritime patrol operations over the past 65 years. The Memorial was dedicated in 1993 and the Greenwood Military aviation Museum (GMAM) is the permanent custodian of the “Book of Remembrance”. Each year in October, a Memorial service is held at the Wing to dedicate new names to the Book and honour the 1,896 entries from 13 countries of aircrew that have died in the service of their countries since 1947.
The dedicated work of tracking and compiling this important information over the past 18 years has been the responsibility of Maj (Ret’d) Norman Donovan.
Two flying trophies were established by VP International for aircrew competition. The VPI O’Brien Attack Trophy was donated for Maritime Patrol rivalry for Canadian Squadrons. The coveted VP International Fellowship Trophy, which became a symbol of the fellowship and professionalism shared by each country’s top air and ground crews, was for flying excellence in the Fincastle Commonwealth Competition between Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Among its NATO and other allied squadrons, VPI has achieved international recognition and trust for the sponsorship role 18 previous WComds from 14 Wing Greenwood have played as Patron in accommodating VPI HQ, the VPI Wing and the official site of the “Centre of Excellence” it shares with the Museum.
Here at home, over the last 49 years, VPI has provided regular assistance to the Base/Wing/Squadrons in terms of organizing and hosting various events such as exchange visits, professional days with military or industrial presentations; awarding honorary recognition to deserving individuals; supporting Reunion activities, hosting visiting air and ground crews and communicating world-wide with its members in many countries. Over the years when tragedy struck, VPI was there to support other Air Force’s projects like the RAF Nimrod and USN/VP50 Aircrew Memorials.
As has occurred in the past, VPI has continued to adapt its operations over the years to fit the ever-changing aspects of the maritime patrol community. Periodic reviews by the VPI HQ were generally greeted with interest and support. Various reviews have recommended changes to the flying hours criteria for membership, which originally required 3000 hrs. Now membership only requires aircrew to graduate from a VP OTU with a posting to an operational squadron. Graduates are offered a blue maple leaf pin. Other pins reflect VP flying milestones, with a red pin for achieving 1500 hrs; a silver pin for 5000 hrs; and a gold pin for a 8760 hrs (a year in the air). These changes were necessary to reflect current challenges and evolving operations including the end of the Cold War; changes in the scope of maritime patrol operations; the reality of reduced flying hours and inventories; national priorities, social influences and a renewed effort on the part of VPI to encourage the younger aircrew to volunteer to join and support the aims of the Association.
In 2016 the VPI community will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. This is a significant milestone marking key challenges for the membership, considering the ever changing scope of maritime long-range operations. Key to the success of VPI is the official support it receives nationally and internationally from its military sponsors, and the pride, motivation and dedication of hundreds of current and retired aircrew members who take leadership roles within the Association. The support and maintenance of current aircrew involvement is crucial if VPI is to continue to grow and succeed. Even after 49 years this unique, volunteer association still continues to evolve and promote aircrew interest in its goals of professionalism and fellowship in maritime patrol aviation. This is an extraordinary legacy of fellowship, leadership, commitment and determination on many levels. Our Royal Canadian Air Force community has a right to feel proud of this unique aircrew Association.