Documentary crew aboard Canada's Avro Lancaster
Buying insurance proved complex for Dundas-based television producer Morgan Elliott’s latest project.
She was invited to send a camera operator and sound technician up in the air with the Canadian Lancaster when it departed for its transatlantic flight a couple of weeks ago.
“We were curious to see even if we could insure them with a 70-year-old airplane,” she said.
But the more she learned about the plane’s World War II-era design, the more confident she became about her crew’s safety.
“This plane was meant to be shot up, have wings missing and come back,” she said of the war bomber.
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Elliott is zealous about the project.
“These opportunities rarely present themselves,” she said. “The coolness factor of the transatlantic journey alone is off the charts. We have incredible and unprecedented access.”
'The clouds opened a very small window'
On the ground in England, Elliott met a 103-year-old veteran of Bomber Command. That’s the contingent of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Air Force that constituted one of Canada’s most difficult and significant contributions during World War II.
“To watch the faces of the dwindling numbers of the veterans of Bomber Command when they see two Lancs (Lancasters), is difficult to describe but incredibly powerful to witness,” Elliott said.
The plane’s trajectory, not just its insurance challenges, presented the film crew with some drama, like its failed takeoff on the first day.
Then, when the plane arrived in England, a massive storm was keeping all other historic planes grounded. Crews thought the Lancaster would have to reroute and find a different place to land.
As it left Keflavik airport in Iceland, it was dodging thunder and lightning all the way to the landing site, where veterans had gathered to see the British and Canadian planes fly in concert.
Four minutes out, the plane was about to abort its landing and find another location.
But then the control tower turned on its lights, full power, Elliott said.
“The clouds opened up a very small window and the decision was made to take advantage of this bright spot and land her,” she said.
'Thank you for bringing her over'
To capture the high tension, Elliott’s crew has five GoPro cameras mounted on the plane, a cameraman, Matt Clayson, inside and another camera, operated by Jeff Denesyk, on the ground.
They’ve left the GoPros mounted on the plane and will be back to England to pick up where they left off when the plane takes off to return to Canada.
Elliott said she’s heard numerous comments during her travels around England wearing Lancaster pins and hats. Britain’s “Bomber County,” an area dubbed that due to its connection with the Royal Air Force, has not forgotten Canada’s contribution, she said.
One person she met recently said “Thank you for bringing her over,” Elliott said.
“I’m just the film crew,” she joked. “But I’ll pass your message on to Canada.”
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