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Local veteran recounts 'terrifying times' in RCAF during Cold War

The 86-year-old has been invited to speak at the Bradford West Gwillimbury library on Nov. 10
Scott Maclagan spent the 1950s flying all-weather jet interceptors for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Cold War. Six decades later he is sharing his stories with the public through his new book, Cold War Over Canada.

An Orillia veteran has written a book to share his experiences as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during the Cold War.

Scott Maclagan, a graduate of Orillia District Collegiate & Vocational Institute, released his book Cold War Over Canada earlier this week. He joined the RCAF when he was 18 and flew an all-weather jet interceptor over Canada defending a potential attack from Soviet bombers.

Maclagan, 86, was a backseat navigator and radar operator until 1959 when he was grounded for eyesight deterioration. He decided to write about his story while being isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I wrote this story to get recognition for my pilot," he said. "We saved three other aircrafts during our time together by guiding them into emergency landings."

Without the exceptional piloting talents of Dave Strachan, Maclagan says he and other RCAF members wouldn't be alive today.

"I learned through one of his daughters that Dave died very frustrated with the lack of recognition," he said. "So, I decided to write the book and hopefully something will be done for him down the road."

Maclagan says his book is mostly written for military personnel but can be enjoyed by everybody.

"It's about a guy who saved my life and the lives of so many others, many times," he said. "It's a great story that I think everybody can enjoy."

Now six decades removed from his time in the RCAF, Maclagan says he is excited to share his experiences with the public.

"Being in the RCAF shaped my life," he said. "From 18 to 25, being in the military gave me a grounding, self-responsibility, leadership, and a variety of things that I would have never got from a university anywhere in the world."

Since releasing his book, Maclagan has been invited to speak at the Bradford West Gwillimbury library on Nov. 10 to share with the public more about his experiences.

"It's important that I get to share this story," he said. "There were a number of us who joined the Air Force after Grade 12 or 13. They were terrifying times but thoroughly enjoyable."

In his book, Maclagan recounts a specific time when he watched aircrafts collide in training which caused fellow servicemen to be killed right in front of his eyes.

"We saw so many deaths," he said. "It's impossible to count how many."

Maclagan's new book is the only published account of the experiences of a Cold War flier over Canada. In it, he recounts his recruitment by the air force, the early training which graduated only two of 100 young men, and his many adventures flying as a navigator in the two-man Canadian-built jet CF-100.

He and his pilot partner were in line to fly the famed Avro Arrow which was to replace the CF-100. Ironically, as Maclagan tells in this memoir, he was able to denounce the decision to cancel the Arrow shortly after when he came face to face with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

Cold War Over Canada costs $29.95. You can find it and more information about Maclagan here.

Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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