Friday, June 18, 2010

It's Official; She's Airborne!

No, this is not Photoshop. The Lysander really did take flight today, on a perfect day made for flying - light winds, CAVOK!

If you followed the blog recently you will have noted the announcement of the long-awaited Westland Lysander flight. The day that it was to happen came and went and came and went again. And, yet again! The problem, the brakes. Unlike the British engineering of that era (not to offend) working brakes were perhaps an option but not paramount to the mission. We don't uphold that philosophy here at Vintage Wings. Safety is at the core of our operations and if there is any chance of a snag, planes simply don't fly. And so, the Lysander's time frame to meet operational airworthiness slipped to the right but for all the right reasons.

Today, that all changed. Just a week away from the COPA Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Summerside, PEI 26-27 June, our meticulously restored Lysander finally took to the skies, and what a sight to see both overhead and in the hangar.

Here is a quick summary from Rob Fleck, Chief Operating Officer:

Andrej Janik and his dedicated maintenance team chased last minute Lysander snags and sorted out paperwork into the wee hours this morning.

People in Ottawa awoke this morning to clear skies, warm temperatures and a slight westerly breeze – perfect conditions for a test flight.

At 10:03 EDT our Lysander left the ground for the first time in 64 years. Rob Erdos was at the controls with Mike Potter and Peter Handley flying photo-chase in the Harvard. Rob’s debrief, thorough and professional as always, indicated that the first mission was a total success. John Aitken is currently making preparations to take the Lysander for it’s second mission, before the forecast gusty afternoon winds arrive.

We are on track for the ceremonies at the COPA fly-in AGM in Summerside next weekend.

- Over the field at 3,000 AGL

-Rob Erdos, test pilot, is all smiles after completing the first official check ride.

A milestone indeed, and one for the history books. Vintage Wings is now the proud owner of what is potentially the third airworthy Lysander in the world. In fact, following the Second World War, the entire fleet was put into storage never to be used for military operations again, save a few that were privately acquired for roles such a crop dusting. Vintage Wings came to own one through a private acquisition from Saskatchewan. She has since been restored and painted in the markings of the National Steel Car factory prototype model 416. The Lysander has come to be referred to as Operation Spy-Taxi and will be dedicated to Cliff Stewart (one of two recipients of this dedication) later this month in Summerside, PEI. Cliff Stewart, a WWII veteran, set up radios for the Allies' spy network in occupied France. He always attributed the short take-off and landing (STOL) capability for being instrumental to his safe delivery and recovery on such risky missions.

The Westland Lysander will soon join the ranks of many of the other warbirds in the collection, as it is another opportunity to tell Canadians about the many contributions aviation played during the war era and commemorate the men and women who risk their lives for freedom. The Lysander will be featured later this summer at the Clasic Air Ralley here in Ottawa.

However, before we fill the Lysander schedule, a few more flight checks are in order.

- Rob and Deryck Hickox take a dousing for their successful mission!


  1. It is refreshing to see such interest and dedication to commemorate the efforts of freedom loving servicemen and women who gave us this chance to see, hear and touch one of the tools instrumental in keeping us free from tyranny.

    J. R. Baldwin

  2. Wow! I wish I could have been there to see this historical flight, it must have been simply amazing and awe inspiring.
    I can’t wait to see pictures of her with Mr. Stewart.
    Congratulations to the entire restoration team, Job well done!

  3. Thank you gentlemen for those terrific comments. I will share this with Deryck Hickox and his team.
    All the best.
    -Mary, PA