In our Aug/Sept issue, Rob Erdos muses on float flying and we discuss night aerial firefighting. Plus: Air Canada in the pandemic, KF Aerospace at 50 and Canadians in the Battle of Britain.
Ten Rolls-Royce Merlin engines left their sonorous note in the Hamilton sky. I wanted to enjoy the view, but I had my hands full. Flying Vintage Wings of Canada’s beautiful Hawker Hurricane fighter, my call sign was “Merlin 4.”
From the moment we gathered for the briefing, all of the pilots knew that this formation was unique and possibly historic. Six classic warbirds. Ten Merlin engines. In attendance were veterans who flew these aircraft in combat. We were motivated to make it a memorable flypast!
Once established in formation, I couldn’t take my eyes off the achingly beautiful de Havilland Mosquito. My focus wasn’t entirely aesthetic, however. My job was to hold echelon left formation position on the Mosquito. Formation flying discipline requires that one maintain primary reference to one’s wingman. A Mosquito! I couldn’t believe it! Occasional glances were required for lateral alignment behind Vintage Wings’ Spitfire fighter, flying echelon left behind the Lancaster. Another Spitfire-Hurricane pair, from the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, mirrored our position on the right wing.
Behind the Lancaster, each aircraft was stepped down slightly to remain clear of the preceding aircraft’s wake; always a wise precaution, but especially when the lead aircraft is a Lancaster bomber! The summer afternoon air gently bubbled with convective turbulence. I found station-keeping relatively easy, provided that I kept up a continuous scan. In formation flying, if your eyes stop moving you soon start to drift. From personal habit, I trimmed the nose down a bit, holding back pressure on the stick, but tensioning the control system to make it more sensitive. The Hurricane’s throttle was continuously being jabbed and poked with small corrections.
I can’t recall ever just sitting back and smiling, not for the duration of the flight. I was too busy. After landing, however, I climbed out of the cockpit, recalling a view that I will remember for the rest of my life. When I close my eyes I can still see that Mosquito.