Rare Mosquito, Lancaster, CF-18 among headliners for Hamilton Airshow

A mosquito is usually the last thing people want to see in summer - unless it's the ultra-rare de Havilland Mosquito WWII fighter-bomber that's headlining the June 15-16 Hamilton Airshow.
The British-designed Mosquito WWII fighter-bomber, nicknamed the Mossie, was also known as the wooden wonder because it was built largely of lumber by de Havilland in Downsview, Ont. (Courtesy Gavin Conroy)

A mosquito is usually the last thing people want to see in summer – that is, unless it’s the ultra-rare WWII de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber that's headlining the June 15-16 Hamilton Airshow.

"This is the only Mosquito in the world that's flying, and Hamilton is the only Canadian appearance I'm aware of this year," says the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Al Mickeloff.

The British-designed Mosquito, nicknamed the Mossie, was also known as the "wooden wonder" because it was built largely of lumber by de Havilland in Downsview, Ont. The plane appearing in Hamilton on the weekend was recovered from an Ontario farm, restored by Avspecs Ltd. of New Zealand over the past seven years, and recently moved to its new home base in Virginia Beach.

"We have 36 veterans who had connections to the Mosquito during WWII coming to see it — pilots, mechanics, crew members," Mickeloff says. "It's going to be a really special thing. These people are in their late 80s and early 90s, and they want a chance to see this rare aircraft fly again."

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Mynarski Memorial Avro Lancaster Mk X bomber was built at Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ont., in 1945. It didn’t see action, but was used to train air crews and later for coastal patrols and search-and-rescue work. It was retired in 1963, and starting in 1977, museum volunteers spent 11 years restoring it. (Courtesy Rick Radell)

The Mosquito will appear in the flying portion of the airshow that runs from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It will be in formation with several other airshow fan-favourites – the Hamilton-based Lancaster bomber, as well as two Spitfires and two Hurricanes.

The flying show will also feature vintage aircraft such as the Corsair, the distinctive PBY Canso flying boat, a DC-3 Dakota, a Firefly, a Skyraider and a Lysander, as well as the B-25J Mitchell (which had to have its nose paint modified after the plane was originally restored — ask the crew why). 

Rounding out the WWII-era part of the show in the air will be the German Focke-Wulf 190 fighter-bomber and a reconstructed Me 262  "Schwalbe" (Swallow),  the world’s first operational combat jet.

A recreation of a World War I dogfight will pit several aircraft against each other, including the SE5A, Nieuport 28 and Sopwith 1½ Strutter biplanes, and a Fokker DR.I triplane. Other aerobatics performances include:

  • The Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team 
  • Matt Younkin's unusual act in a Beech 18 transport plane
  • Hamilton's "Super Dave" Mathieson in the world's most advanced aerobatic aircraft, the MX2

The airshow will also have jet-powered attractions. Capt. Patrick "Flocho" Pollen will put the Canadian Forces' CF-18 Hornet through its paces, and the Snowbirds will appear in their red and white CT-114 Tutor jets.

"This year in the States, because of sequestration and budget cuts, all military airshows have been cancelled," Mickeloff says. "It's been a real blow to a lot of shows. Hamilton is one of the few places in North America this summer that you're going to be able to see historic aircraft, but also high-performance [military] teams and jets flying."

The show on the ground

Another 30 aircraft will be on static display, ranging from a CT-155 Hawk and CC-130 Hercules transport, to a T-33 Silver Star, a rare Lockheed 12 and many of the planes from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's collection.

"Buffalo Joe" McBryan and his son Mikey from the TV reality program Ice Pilots will also be on hand to film an episode of their show.

The Hamilton Airshow drew more than 30,000 visitors last year and Mickeloff said preparations have been made for more than 40,000 this year.

"We'll have lots of bus transportation from the parking areas to the airfield, but I'd still recommend that people plan to arrive early to make sure to avoid getting caught in the rush before the flying starts," he says. "There's lots to do - the static displays, autograph area with the pilots, a play area with inflatables for the kids, and lots of food and vendors."

The airshow runs June 15 and 16 at the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, 8235 Airport Road East, and the gates open at 8 a.m. (the show's lineup is the same both days). Follow the signs to nearby parking and shuttle buses.

At the gates, adult tickets are $30, children aged 6 to 15 years are $20, and children under 5 and museum members are free. The show is also selling an additional Ramp Pass that lets visitors get up close to all the aircraft (except the Snowbirds) from 9 a.m. until noon each day - $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 4 to 15.

Here's a look at some of the aircraft housed at Hamilton's Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum that will be flying or on ground display at the weekend airshow: