The Big Five-0
The Canadian Aviation Historical Society held its fiftieth annual convention in Ottawa, from September 11th to the 15th.
By Gord McNulty
A hearty thumbs-up is in order for everyone who made the CAHS 50th convention in Ottawa a five-day aero-extravaganza enjoyed by approximately 90 people. The milestone celebration was organized by Timothy Dubé, Chairman of the host Ottawa Chapter, and CAHS President Gary Williams, actively supported by our friends at Vintage Wings of Canada and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
From excellent historical presentations at the convention headquarters at the Albert at Bay Suite Hotel in downtown Ottawa, through to closing day events including the 73rd annual Battle of Britain Parade and Flypast and the CAHS Banquet and Awards, the program more than lived up to expectations. A 50th anniversary silent auction enriched this year’s event. Good weather prevailed for an exceptional Wings Over Gatineau-Ottawa Airshow at Vintage Wings of Canada on September 14, where afternoon sunshine ensured impressive flying demonstrations.
|Speakers and the Annual General Meeting, Albert at Bay Hotel, September 12th and 13th|
|Rob Fleck, president of Vintage Wings of Canada, spoke about the "Cross-Canada Air Cadet Programme" they flew in the summer of 2013||Dan Dempsey, former commanding officer of the Snowbirds air demonstration team, spoke about Canada's air display team heritage|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk
|Linda Granfield spoke about Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, author of High Flight. The portrait of Magee was unveiled during her talk, and will hang in the Canadian War Museum||The national executive committee presents reports to the membership - from left, Caitlin McWilliams, vice president, Gary Williams, president, Jim Bell, secretary, and Rachel Lea Heide, treasurer|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk|
Presentations opened on September 12, with a fine discussion on War Trophy Fokkers and the First CNE Airshow by Edward Soye. An experienced glider tow pilot, he flies the First World War replica aircraft of the Great War Flying Museum and the Harvard with the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association. He also flies the John Gillespie Magee Harvard with Vintage Wings of Canada as one of the volunteer pilots on its Yellow Wings Tour. Edward outlined how famous wartime fighter pilots William Barker and Billy Bishop brought factory-new examples of the German Fokker D.VII to bring military aviation to the public. Bishop Barker Aeroplanes Limited (BBAL) gained access to six D VIIs that were used widely in 1919 and 1920.
The Canadian Air Force in England had used some of these spoils of war during the spring of 1919, before packing them for shipment to Canada. Upon arrival, the aircraft reached the zenith of their popularity while being flown at the CNE in 1919. Thereafter, they faded from public memory until historians, such as Fred Hitchins and Ken Molson, began to uncover this fascinating story. Only one of the D. VIIs is extant today: 6810/18, “The Knowlton Fokker,” on display at the Brome County Historical Society museum in Knowlton, Quebec.
Edward also explored the role of Sir Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist and Keeper of the Record, in developing the Canadian war trophy program, both during and after the Great War. He underscored Doughty’s role in safeguarding the artefacts that eventually formed the nucleus of the Canadian War Museum and the CASM collections. For more, search “Those Canadian Fokkers” on the Vintage Wings of Canada website.
The next speaker, Lieutenant Col (Ret’d) Dan Dempsey, presented From Siskins to Snowbirds: Canada’s Airshow Team Heritage, a history of Canada’s military air demonstration teams. Having flown two tours with the Snowbirds, including Commanding Officer and Team Leader in 1989-1990, Dan’s expertise on the subject is second to none. His outstanding flying career of more than 14,000 hours also includes flying the Vintage Wings of Canada F-86 Sabre Hawk One with the Centennial Heritage Flight in 2009, and team leader and demonstration pilot for Hawk One in 2011 and 2012. He authored the classic A Tradition of Excellence: Canada’s Airshow Team Heritage.
Dan’s engaging presentation traced the early days of aerial demonstration flying by pioneers like Lincoln Beachey in 1914 and covered all of Canada’s legendary military teams – from the RCAF Siskins through to today’s RCAF Snowbirds. It was enhanced by scores of photographs and the impressive 14-minute video “Pursue Your Dreams.”
Jay Hunt, the next speaker, reviewed his colourful personal flying story in The Adventures of a Competition Aerobatic Pilot. Jay described his preparations for the World Aerobatic Championships at Kiev in 1976, the challenges of getting to the Soviet Union, and the experience of being a first-time competitor at a world contest. Returning to Canada convinced of the benefits of a monoplane over the biplanes of the day, Jay partnered with Chris Heintz of Zenair to design and develop the Super Acro-Zenith CH-180. Jay competed and flew airshows in the prototype aircraft, C-GZEN, dubbed “The J-Bird,” through the 1980s. Jay’s extensive accomplishments and experiences in aerobatic flying made for a lively presentation, bolstered with video excerpts from the National Film of Board of Canada’s short Video Roll.
Rob Fleck, president of Vintage Wings of Canada, then made a presentation outlining the organization’s policy of dedicating the aircraft in its collection to distinguished airmen. As he reviewed each aircraft, and the people whose names are recognized, Rob said that honouring Canadian aviators who have made a difference in wartime or in civilian service helps to get the Vintage Wings message across to the public in a way that the public can relate to.
Rob, who is one of the pilots of the Fern Villeneuve F-86 Sabre and the Robillard Brothers P-51 Mustang, covered various aspects of the Vintage Wings including Vintage Wings West. The growing Yellow Wings program, paying tribute to the BCATP, touched 6,000 air cadets in the Cross-Canada Air Cadet Tribute of 2013. With the support of Raytheon Canada and others, some 500 cadets were selected to fly in a Vintage Wings aircraft. Rob’s dedication to the leadership of VWoC and confidence in its future was readily apparent as he emphasized the importance of grooming the leaders of tomorrow on the wings of history.
Next, three key figures with Project North Star: Richard Lodge, president; Bruce Gemmill, project manager, overseeing the airframe and the interior; and Garry Dupont, deputy project manager, responsible for the engines – discussed restoration of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum’s Canadair C-54GM North Star. RCAF 17515, retired in December, 1965, is the last remaining example of the North Star in the world. Restoration has proven to be a challenging task. The classic aircraft stood outside the hangars of the museum, unattended, for almost 40 years.
In 2003, Project North Star was launched as a collaborative effort between the museum and an all-volunteer group to restore the aircraft to its former glory. About 20 stalwart volunteers are actively working to overcome many challenges, from tackling the effects of corrosion to the need for fundraising. To their great credit, they are making progress with the engines and the interior of the fuselage in methodical fashion.
That evening, we boarded buses to visit the CASM, for a barbecue and a tour of the storage hangar, workshops and library. We enjoyed a much-appreciated opportunity to see the interior of the once-mighty North Star, courtesy of Project North Star volunteers. For additional details, visit the website, www.projectnorthstar.ca.
The next day’s presentations opened with author Hugh Halliday, a founding member of the CAHS Ottawa Chapter, discussing Canadians in the Battle of Britain: Where did they come from, and where did they go? True to form, Hugh gave a comprehensive overview of more than 100 Canadian fighter pilots who flew in the struggle, either as members of the RCAF or as men who had enlisted in the RAF before the outbreak of hostilities.
Hugh, who previously wrote about this subject in the CAHS Journal, updated his findings with previously unavailable personnel records, squadron diaries, and other official files. Outlining the service of pilots such as Willie McKnight, Stan Turner, Ernie McNab, Gordon McGregor, Hartland Molson and Edwin Reyno, Hugh showed that the Battle of Britain was as much a turning point in personal lives as in military events.
A moving presentation on the life of Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr., author of High Flight, was provided next by award-winning author Linda Granfield. An Associate Air Force Historian with the RCAF’s Office of Air Force Heritage and History, Linda showed photographs and art revealing fascinating personal and family details about the poet-pilot. The materials became available while she met John’s brother, David, in 1998 while collecting materials for her book, High Flight: A Story of World War II. So began a close friendship with David, and later another brother, Hugh, that has continued to grow.
Some stories told to Linda by David and Hugh, and the men who trained with John, had not been heard before. Linda has transcribed Magee writings and facilitated donation of Magee materials to various collections including, most recently, a charcoal portrait of John Jr., done for the family just after his death by the New York artist Jere R. Wickwire. It was given to the Canadian War Museum in 2012 by the Magee family. Linda unveiled the portrait, which the museum loaned for the occasion to Linda’s pleasant surprise. It was, as she said, “a nice first public welcome here in Canada.”
Linda also replayed a brief 1938-vintage audio tape of John which is the only known voice recording of him. She is currently working on a major biography of John’s father, the Reverend John Magee. The Internet has numerous references to Linda’s work and the VWoC website also has an excellent story, Finding Magee: The Story Behind the High Flight Harvard. Linda’s presentation was compelling and her passion for the subject was readily apparent to everyone.
Peter Allen, a familiar figure to everyone in the CAHS, closed the presentations by outlining his remarkable personal flying story in Views from the Cockpit: An Aviation Biography. Peter, CAHS national president from 1985 to 1987, has accumulated more than 2,500 flying hours. He’s flown in more than 120 different aircraft types covering the history of flight from the Silver Dart to the Concorde. Peter drew from his extensive slide collection as he described his many accomplishments and adventures in flight.
Among other things, Peter described ferrying Citabrias from the factory in Wisconsin while a university student, overnight deliveries of car parts in C-47s for Millardair, and his involvement in the Great War Flying Museum and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. He recalled his considerable experience with the GWFM’s Dr. 1 Triplane, and also working for Antilles Air Boats, flying both the Grumman Goose and Short Sandringham (a civilianized Sunderland). Peter’s wide-ranging aviation background and personal reflections engaged the audience from start to finish.
The CAHS Annual General Meeting and Election of Directors took place at the hotel on September 13. Various reports were presented, including updates from the Chapters. The membership update showed that 822 members were on the spring 2013 mailing list for the Journal.
|Vintage Wings of Canada "Wings over Gatineau" Airshow, Saturday September 14th|
|Vintage Wings Canadair Sabre "Hawk 1", commemorating the RCAF Golden Hawks air display team. The fiftieth anniversary of their final show was September 30th, 2013||Vintage Wings North American Mustang Mk IV in the colours of 442 Squadron|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk|
|Vintage Wings Vought Corsair commemorates Lt Robert Hampton Gray, VC||The Canadian Warplane Heritage's Fairey Firefly, painted as an aircraft that flew from HMCS Magnificent in 1949|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Bill Zuk|
|Vintage Wings Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVIe is painted in the colours of No 421 Squadron, RCAF||Vintage Wings Westland Lysander flew with Nos 110 and 112 Squadrons, RCAF, in Rockcliffe in 1939|
|Photo by Bill Zuk||Photo by Jim Bell|
|Convention attendees watched the show from the Veterans Tent, close to the flight line. Sheldon Benner, William Wedderburn, George Fuller, and Brian Griffiths chat with Vintage Wings of Canada pilot Rob Erdos||Vintage Wings fighters peel off before landing, the Corsair first, then the Spitfire, Mustang, and Kittyhawk|
|Photo by Jim Bell||Photo by Jim Bell|
After the AGM, we boarded the buses to enjoy an evening barbecue and engage in hangar flying at VWoC in Gatineau. An overcast, chilly evening eliminated any potential sunset pictures of visiting aircraft that arrived for the air show the following day, but it was a great opportunity to touch base with guests such as Buffalo Airways’ Mikey McBryan of Ice Pilots fame. Skies cleared beautifully for the Vintage Wings Wings Over Gatineau-Ottawa Airshow, an aerial circus that included formation flypasts of the CWHM Lancaster with the Vintage Wings fighters and many other highlights during five hours of flying. Convention attendees enjoyed Veterans Tent seating, close to the flight line, with lunch and hospitality provided by the Vintage Wings of Canada and its volunteers. For more show photos, go to: www.Gusair.com.
Plan to attend our fifty first convention in Regina, Saskatchewan, 4 - 7 June 2014!
Images are copyright by the photographer, and used with permission.