Historic aircraft fly into Yarmouth

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Air show a living piece of 100 years of aviation history

By Dave Tinker



The Nova Scotia International Air Show opened at Yarmouth airport on September 12, literally to a sellout crowd: every available parking spot on the grounds was filled and folks were parking at a nearby church and walking almost two kilometers to the gates. They were rewarded with a great aerial display and a modest collection of aircraft on the ground, considering the limited tarmac space. Even the weather co-operated, for while it was overcast with an occasional light shower, conditions were perfect for flying with good visibility, high ceiling, and light winds. Unfortunately, the famous Yarmouth mosquito squadrons were also active, much to the amazement and discomfort of visiting pilots. The only disappointment was the absence of the promised US military aircraft. Only a U.S. Navy Knighthawk helicopter made the trip from its base in Norfolk Virginia, but its three cheerful crew made good ambassadors.


As this is a major anniversary year for Canadian aviation (the 100th anniversary of powered flight as well as the 85th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force), several historic aircraft were on hand. For this reporter and for many veterans who served at CFB Greenwood, a highlight was the PBY-5A Canso from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWH) in Hamilton Ontario. For trivia buffs, "PB" stands for "Patrol Bomber" and "Y" was the U.S. Navy's code for the Consolidated Aircraft Company in the 1920s and 1930s. PBYs served in every theatre in the Second World War, and were loved by their crews for their rugged durability, magnificent flying qualities, and ability as a fighting machine - although pilots also took perverse pride in flying the slowest warplane in service. Its huge wing gives the PBY enormous lift and it could carry over 4000 pounds of munitions and enough fuel for 24 hours in the air.

This particular aircraft was built by Canadian Vickers in Montreal in 1944, and served with 103 Search and Rescue Squadron out of Greenwood until 1961. She was then sold to the Quebec government and like many Cansos converted into a water bomber, and in 1995 found a permanent home at CWH. She is painted in Second World War RCAF colours and named in honour of Flight Lieutenant David Hornell who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery as commander of a Canso of 162 Squadron RCAF, one of four Canso airmen to be awarded the highest military honour. David's nephew Rod Hornell is a member of the CWH crew and was on hand. David Hornell's squadron commander, Wing Commander Bill Poag, is still alive at an active 91 years old, and can still fly the Canso. The crew (all volunteers) and pilot John McClenighan (in daily life an Airbus captain with Air Canada) were wonderfully hospitable and helped this ancient reporter in the somewhat athletic task of getting aboard and into the cockpit.


Also on display from CWH was one of their most famous aircraft, the Douglas DC3 flown by RCAF squadrons 435 (Canucks Unlimited) and 436 (Burma Star) in the gruelling "over the hump" flights from Burma over the Himalayas to supply the Chinese army. The DC3 is perhaps the greatest airplane ever built, and this grand old lady is still flying after 70 years and with 82000 hours on the clock. Not many, perhaps no other aircraft, can match such a record. Postwar this plane flew for North Central Airways, a U.S. carrier, and was mothballed in Arizona where she was discovered by CWH in the 1980s. Thousands and thousands of volunteer hours went into restoring this living piece of Canadian history to airworthy condition, and she now flies all over North America.


Another veteran with Maritime connections was the restored F86-F Sabrejet "Hawk One" owned by Vintage Wings of Canada, another volunteer-run museum located in Gatineau, Quebec. This plane is painted in the glorious colours of the Golden Hawks display flight, which had its headquarters in Chatham, NB. This was the first RCAF aerobatic squadron, formed in 1959 (and disbanded in 1964 by a penny-pinching government), and many folks remember their spectacular appearances at airshows in the early '60s. They were the ancestors of today's Snowbirds, and pioneered many of the routines now flown - remember, the Hawks were among the first in the world to use high performance jets in aerial displays. Unfortunately the Sabre was not parked where fans could see her, but the sight of that familiar swept-wing shape in the air and the thunderous roar of her engine brought a lump to many a throat. Yes the Snowbirds are great and their performance was wonderful as usual, but the Golden Hawks were first and they flew combat jets, not trainers.


We hope the Air Show returns to Yarmouth for many years to come. We have proved that there is a large and enthusiastic base of aviation enthusiasts here in Southwest Nova Scotia, and the Yarmouth folks have shown real professionalism in organizing a great show. Well done.

Organizations: CWH, U.S. Navy, Canadian Air Force Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Consolidated Aircraft Company Canadian Vickers Airbus Air Canada Canucks Unlimited North Central Airways Hawk One

Geographic location: Yarmouth, U.S., Norfolk Virginia Quebec Hamilton Ontario Montreal Burma Himalayas Arizona North America Canada Gatineau Chatham Southwest Nova Scotia

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