On 26 September 1939, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, approached Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King with a proposal to establish an air-training program in Canada. On 28 September, the Canadian cabinet approved the establishment of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program.
Initially, the goal was to train 20,000 pilots a year for the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Britain would supply the aircraft, while Canada would be responsible for providing the airstrips and other facilities. King insisted that all Canadian pilots would be assigned to RCAF squadrons. At the beginning of the war, however, the RCAF had only four operational squadrons, so an agreement was reached that Canadian pilots could also be assigned to the RAF if the need arose.