We share highlights from Airshow London SkyDrive 2020, fly along with the Waterloo Warbirds in a formation clinic, and get the lowdown on Vans RV aircraft, Chorus Aviation, and Spidertracks.
An extremely rare, Canadian-built Second World War aircraft has been purchased by Canadians and will not be leaving the country. The Westland Lysander IIIa was built in Malton in 1942 and has been restored to flying condition. It will continue to appear at events in Southern Ontario.
The Lysander Funds — a Toronto investment firm — and John Carswell of Canso Funds, together with Tim Hicks, have combined to purchase the extremely rare aircraft from collector Michael Potter, of Ottawa. The Lysander Funds draws its company name and philosophy from the unusual aircraft and its independent, remarkable, stealth flying history.
This is the only Lysander flying in North America. Aircraft enthusiasts may have been concerned that this wonderful piece of Canada’s aviation history would be sold and taken overseas, but it’s staying where it was built and where it began its RCAF career! The pre-purchase flight was conducted by pilot Dave Hadfield, taking off from Rockcliffe Airport, in October 2019.
“The aircraft performed perfectly — it’s an amazing aircraft to fly. Totally unique,” said Hadfield.
The intention is to build a hangar for it — and to support an outreach program — at an airport in the Toronto area in 2020. No firm location has yet been decided. Once established in the new facility, the aircraft will be flown to support Lysander Funds activities, as well as some airshows. Until then it will be kept at the Gatineau airport with the Mike Potter Aircraft Collection.
Carswell has been involved with the iconic aircraft before; he sponsored its Outreach Flight Program in 2015 and 2016 in which the Lysander was displayed at many airshows and events in Southern Ontario, and “wowed” many Air Cadet first-time flyers. A retired RCAF officer, his commitment to Canada’s aviation history is clear: he is a generous supporter of Veteran’s House, which provides homeless veterans with a place to stay, as well as the Birchall Leadership Awards, and many other commemorative activities.
The aircraft will be flown and managed by vintage aircraft specialist pilot Dave Hadfield, who flew the aircraft during the 2015-16 seasons, and who is often seen in the cockpits of the rare fighters of the Mike Potter Aircraft Collection such as the Spitfire and Mustang.
The iconic aeroplane was built in Malton, Ont., in 1942 under license by National Steel Car as a Westland Lysander IIIa, and saw service in Canada as a bomber and gunnery trainer. Post-war it was sold and allowed to deteriorate, until it was bought by collector/restorer Harry Whereatt of Assiniboia, Sask. The final restoration and return-to-flight was completed by Vintech Aero of Gatineau in 2010.
Overseas, Lysanders achieved fame during the Second World War for the mission to land and pick up agents in Occupied France. Flying into small unprepared fields on moonlit nights, Lysanders used their unique slow-flight and short-field capabilities to land using the flashlight-beams of the Resistance fighters, often under the noses of the Gestapo.
This Lysander is currently dedicated to Sgt Cliff Stewart, of Charlottetown, P.E.I., who undertook a number of such clandestine missions successfully, in 1943-44, training the French Resistance in the use of radios, demolitions, sabotage, and tactics.