Richard Mallory reports:
Vintage Wings of Canada’s annual aerial extravaganza, Wings Over Gatineau, has fast become one of the North America’s “must-see” air shows. Located in Gatineau, Quebec, just a few miles east of Canada’s capital, Vintage Wings of Canada has managed to gather participants from across the nation. Canadian Warplane Heritage (CWH) always provides a strong contingent; bringing their Avro Lancaster, Westland Lysander, Fairey Firefly and North American Mitchell this year. The CWH Lysander was a special treat, as Vintage Wings flew their example alongside it during the show; two Lizzies in the air together being a sight rarely seen anywhere in the world.
Vintage Wings of Canada has a cadre of pilots with unique credentials, more distinctive than probably any other flying collection in the world, with a half dozen or so being active or recently retired test pilots with the National Research Council just across the river in Ottawa, Ontario. Not only does Vintage Wings have this enviable collection of world-class professional pilots within their ranks, but also two of Canada’s astronauts as well, both of whom participated in Sunday’s show. Seemingly straight out of Hollywood’s Central Casting, freshly minted astronaut, Jeremy Hansen, flew Vintage Wing’s Sabre Mk.V early in the show.
And the recently-retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, attended as well. Hadfield, as most will know, has just returned from a six-month sojourn as commander of the International Space Station. He became an overnight internet sensation with his daily Facebook and Twitter postings of beautifully composed and thoughtfully captioned photographs of earth as he saw it from space. To say he’s a national hero in Canada would be a gross understatement, but Hadfield, to his great credit, is poised and calm amid the public commotion wherever he goes. He patiently answers questions, poses for photographs and signs autographs with no outward sense of ego. Chris Hadfield sees these moments, that many would consider real inconveniences, as an opportunity to encourage Canadians, and especially Canadian youth, to value education and get involved in science and engineering. The former Space Station Commander’s brother, Dave Hadfield, is a regular pilot with Vintage Wings of Canada. His regular mount is the Curtiss Kittyhawk IV, and he gave a silky smooth demonstration of that aircraft’s aerobatic capabilities during each day of the show. Paul Kissman, a current NRC test pilot, made a similarly flawless performance in the Vintage Wings FG-1D Corsair. The precision and deftness of his flight routine has to be seen to be believed.
Another spirited performer at Wings Over Gatineau was Carol Pilon with her now-famous wing-walking act. Pilon’s bravery seems to know no bounds, and Marcus Paine, her pilot put their Stearman biplane through its paces as they trailed white smoke through the sky. Pilon, never one to hold back, started out between the wings struts on takeoff, rather than from the relative comfort of her seat.
Among the aircraft in the static park was an unusual visitor, a Convair CV-580 in cargo configuration. Once common, an airworthy CV-580 is a real rarity these days, and the aircraft, operated by Nolinor, is available for charter flights around the world alongside four other examples. They frequently fly passengers and cargo to remote locations with semi-prepared airstrips in the Canadian north. This was Nolinor’s first time ever participating in an air show.
The Canadian military, which has strong bonds with Vintage Wings, provided several aircraft on static display, including a CF-118 Hornet, CC-130J Hercules and CH-147F Chinook. The J-model Hercules is new to the RCAF, but the F-model Chinook is literally hot off the press, and still had Boeing-employees aboard when she arrived. The unique sight of an RCAF CC-150 Polaris trailing two CF-118 Hornets from just off it’s refueling drogues was a fascinating addition to Sunday’s performance, and likely not seen before at a formal air show. The trio had just made a flypast at the Battle of Britain memorial celebrations in nearby Rockcliffe, Ontario and timed their visit to participate at Gatineau just after the show opened. The CWH Lancaster, in formation with four Vintage Wings fighters, also took part at Rockcliffe, before heading back to serenade the audience at Gatineau with the symphony from their eight piston engines.
As usual, Vintage Wings staff and their myriad volunteers pulled together to produce a fantastic air show in Canada’s capital region. Next year’s show promises to be even bigger, and will bring a return visit by the RCAF Snowbirds demonstration team.
Richard Mallory Allnutt is a British-born photographer based in the United States. He focuses primarily on portraiture, but his passions for aviation and the natural world also play a strong role in his repertoire. He has won several significant awards for his work, such as ITVA-DC (still photography) and the prestigious Aviation Week & Space Technology photography competition. His images have graced the covers and pages of many books and magazines such as JazzTimes, Swing Journal, Aircraft Illustrated and Capitol File. Richard Mallory Allnutt has also worked as a set photographer on several motion picture films. His clients include, among others, Dom Perignon Champagne, Moet Hennessy, Nike Communications, Virginia Tech, Concord Records, Telarc, and Aircraft Magazine. He works primarily in Washington DC, New York, Ottawa and London.
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