“Celebrating Canada’s Aviation Industry” resonated as a theme at the highly successful 2015 Convention. About 70 attendees from as far as BC, Nova Scotia and South Carolina, as well as the Toronto Chapter, enjoyed a rewarding program with impressive presentations. Top-notch prizes, aviation books and art enhanced a memorable event. Participants also appreciated a 35-page printed outline of the presentations and highlights of Hamilton aviation history. The Convention included the unveiling of “A Nation Soars,” a First World War Commemorative Project. Former Air Canada pilot Allan Snowie, of Bellingham, WA, who flies a replica Nieuport, outlined an aeronautical roadshow of replica biplanes to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017.
Co-chairs Richard Goette and Jim Bell, along with Registrar Rachel Lea Heide, Gord McNulty, John Chalmers and CAHS President Gary Williams, formed the Convention Committee. Special thanks to generous sponsors led by the RCAFA; the Office of Air Force History and Heritage; the City of Hamilton; CAE; Hamilton International Airport; uFly Simulator; and CWHM. We much appreciate contributions from Bob Winson – www.torontoaviationhistory.com; CANAV Books; The Great War Flying Museum; SOSA Gliding Club; Aviation World; Red Canoe; Historic Aviation; Challenge Publications; Crystal Sissons; Matt Schweyer; Tourism Hamilton and all others.
Proceedings began with a Meet & Greet Reception at 447 Wing, RCAFA, in Mount Hope. Roger Cross of Beachville, ON, screened his fine documentaries on the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association: “The Yellow Birds of Tillsonburg” and “A Gathering of Harvards and Heroes,” the 2014 celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Harvard. Presentations, at the Courtyard Marriott, began on 18 June. LCol Dean Black (Ret’d), Executive Director of the RCAFA, discussed the capabilities of the F-35 Lightning II and its ability to defeat an enemy with stealth and advanced sensors. Maya Hirschman, of The Secrets of Radar Museum in London, ON, covered Canada’s contribution to the Allied radar effort. Gerald Haddon of Oakville, grandson of J.A.D. McCurdy, highlighted the career of the man who made the first powered, heavier-than-air flight in Canada in the Silver Dart in 1909. The story of another but lesser known pioneer aviator, William Watson Gibson, “the Balgonie Birdman,” was told by Peter Roe of Lunenburg, NS. Lunch speaker Anna Marie Willey, of the CAHS Regina Chapter, presented a musical video montage, “The Willow Tree.” This heartfelt tribute to those who served the Allies was written and produced by the family of her father, RCAF veteran John Winichuk.
Robert Galway (www.placesandplanes.ca) recalled the career of Captain William Roy Maxwell, founder of the Ontario Provincial Air Service. Diana Trafford presented “Howard Watt: From Bush Pilot to Independent Operator, 1926-1941.” Matt Schweyer described Final Descent, the book written by his father, Rob, about a DC-3 crash in 1941 near St. Thomas. Two dedicated CWHM volunteers came next. Don Coit outlined the Avenger restoration. Wayne Ready traced the Bolingbroke rebuilding. On 19 June, Mark Peapell of the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum told the story of the Lancasters built at Malton. Jerry Vernon, Vancouver Chapter President, discussed Handley Page Hampdens built in Canada. The only Sabre Mk III was outlined by Bernie Runstedler of Nepean. Avro Canada’s Secret Projects, including the Avrocar “flying saucer,” were described by Bill Zuk of Winnipeg. After lunch, Mindy Gill-Johnson, of the Bishop House Museum in Owen Sound, highlighted “Billy” Bishop’s career and his two books. Will Chabun of Regina discussed “Airline Genealogy in Saskatchewan.” Historian Isabel Campbell analyzed the RCAF Air Division in Europe, 1959-1967. Toronto Chapter Director John Bertram discussed “Aerophilately: Where Business, Art and History Fly Together.” Some participants then enjoyed the CWH Fighter Night Run. Others watched the classic “Captains of the Clouds” courtesy of John.
On 20 June, Western University doctoral student Jonathan Scotland presented “George Drew and Canada’s Fighting Airmen.” John Weatherseed of the Vintage Aviation team in Caledon discussed building reproduction aircraft. Canadian Ninety-Nines stalwart Marilyn Dickson covered Vi Milstead’s Air Transport Auxiliary service. Lunch speaker Gary Williams described the rescue of his father, F/Sgt George E. Williams, in a Lancaster that ditched near the coast of Sweden. Crystal Sissons of Ottawa described her book, Queen of the Hurricanes: The Fearless Elsie MacGill. Final presenter, Erin Gregory Rice, of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, covered Canadian Aeroplanes Limited. After a productive AGM, 54 people enjoyed the banquet featuring keynote speaker Larry Milberry’s presentation on the history of CAE. The CWH Skyfest was an ideal finale to a remarkable 2015 Convention. Winnipeg will be the Convention site in 2016. Mark your calendars!
— Gord McNulty