25th anniversary of Harvard’s post restoration flight

On Nov. 12, 1994, Les Balla and Al Mulder performed the first post-restoration flight on RCAF Harvard Mk.II 2918 at Toronto International Airport. It was the first flight of 2918 since it was struck off strength from the RCAF in 1960. Balla purchased the Harvard in 1985 from the Toronto Board of Education where it was used as an instructional air frame at Central Technical High School. Balla did a ground up restoration that took nine years. It was given the civil registration of CF-NAH for North American Harvard.

Pete Spence flying Harvard 2918 with Les Balla in the back seat. Eric Dumigan Photo
Pete Spence flying Harvard 2918 with Les Balla in the back seat. Eric Dumigan Photo
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For the past 16 years the Harvard has been owned and flown by Pete Spence, Harvard lead for the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team. For the 25th anniversary of the first flight, Spence invited Balla and Mulder to go for a flight in 2918 at Highgate airport near Chatham, Ont., where the Harvard is based. On Nov. 12 it snowed so the flights took place on the Nov. 16.

Harvard 2918 restorer, Les Balla with current owner Pete Spence and first flight pilot Al Mulder. Eric Dumigan Photo
Harvard 2918 restorer, Les Balla (left) with current owner Pete Spence (middle) and first flight pilot Al Mulder (right). Eric Dumigan Photo
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Harvard 2918, SN 66-2651, was taken on strength by the RCAF on Feb. 21, 1941. 2918 was with 2 FTS Gimli, Man., from September 1951 to May 1952. It was then flown by the 411 Auxiliary Squadron between 1953 to 1958. It was struck off strength on April 28, 1960, and went to 13 SFTS Dunnville; from there it was eventually sold to the Toronto Board of Education where it was used as a training airframe until it was obtained by Balla in 1985, who had been a student at Central Technical High School. Balla sold 2918 to Spence in August 2005.

Spence learned to fly in a Piper J3 Cub. He began performing at air shows in the early 1990s with the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association. He also performed aerobatics in his DHC-1 Chipmunk and flew his family’s rare Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber that his father restored. Since 2000, Spence has been the lead pilot in the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team that have performed across Canada and the United States.

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