First World War fighter planes land at London International Airport
Display will honour Canada’s victory at Vimy Ridge as part of 150 celebrations
Two First World War fighter planes that helped Canada win the battle at Vimy Ridge will swoop down on London Friday.
The visit is part of a national tour called Vimy Flight, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Canada's 150th birthday. The planes will be displayed at the Jet Aircraft Museum at London International Airport through Sunday.
Team leader Alan Snowie, a retired Canadian Navy and commercial pilot, will fly one of the planes. He was a guest on CBC's London Morning Friday with host Rebecca Zandbergen.
The Nieuport 11 was Canada's first fighter aircraft. The planes visiting London this weekend are replicas.
A 3-dimensional motorcycle
What's it like to fly one of the vintage planes?
Snowie compares it to being on a three-dimensional motorcycle.
"On a motorcycle, the wind's in your face and you're wearing goggles and a helmet and you have ... freedom of the road. And likewise for these little things."
Flying the replica fighter plane over Vimy Ridge in April during the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the famous battle was an emotional experience.
"Much to my surprise flying alone over the Ridge I was quite overtaken. I misted up the goggles a bit. We had been planning this for years and to suddenly look down and see that magnificent monument just a few hundred feet below brings it all home," said Snowie.
The vintage fighter planes were due to land at London International Airport Friday afternoon but have been delayed until Friday evening. Snowie cautioned observers not to expect a display of speed and power.
"We're not the Snowbirds, we're the slow birds!"
Only 2 originals remain
"There's only two of the several thousand that were built left and they're both in museums in France," said Snowie.
He says the clones look like the real thing but use modern technology.
"They're not built out of wood, (but) aluminum. It's covered with a modern, non-flammable-type man-made material, much safer than what our young men flew in the day."
Snowie said the biplanes were used to keep the enemy away from Canada's reconnaissance aircraft, which were photographing the trench lines at Vimy. Maps were made from the photographs and were passed on through the military ranks.
"In fact, Canadians are famous for the fact that they gave the maps to all the troops, much to the horror, I think, of some of the British hierarchy, who thought the troops should just follow blindly," Snowie said.