A bit of Vimy Ridge history flies over P.E.I.

Replica First World War airplanes stop in P.E.I. in honour of Vimy


Published on May 22, 2017

Pilot Peter Thornton, from, chats with brothers George and Mikhail Lebedev and their mother Georgina Bassett next to a replica Sopwith Pup plane during the Charlottetown stop of the Birth Of A Nation tour being held by the “Vimy Flight” pilots. The pilots previously participated last month’s 100th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France.

©MITCH MACDONALD/THE GUARDIAN

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Some Islanders got a higher appreciation this weekend of the role Canadian pilots had during the First World War.

Two of the replica military biplanes that were flown during last month’s 100th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France were on display in Charlottetown Monday.

It was pretty emotional. I kind of misted up my goggles when I looked down on that big monument

Pilot Allan Snowie 

The “Vimy Flight” pilots who flew during the tribute are now on the Birth Of A Nation tour, which will see them fly coast to coast to commemorate Canadian heroes of the past 100 years while also marking the country’s 150th birthday.

Team Leader, Allan Snowie, was one of the pilots who flew over the monument last month during a re-enactment of the 1936 fly-over ceremony.

“It was pretty emotional,” said Snowie. “I kind of misted up my goggles when I looked down on that big monument.’

The replica airplanes are just slightly smaller than the actual planes used. Although there were thousands built during the time, only two remain in French museums.

The small, open cockpit replicas are outfitted with 75 horsepower air-cooled Volkswagen engines. They also have little instrumentation in them, although are still more technologically advanced and sturdy than the actual ones used in the First World War.

Still, Sunday was too windy to fly the planes during a Summerside event.

“They’re sure fun to fly, but not in the wind,” said Snowie. “The British called them kites during World War One and you see the way they’re all strung together, it was a bit like a kite.”

Pilot Peter Thornton flew one of the planes into Charlottetown and said he felt lucky to have the opportunity.
“It’s a real honour to fly these, especially since we’re doing it to recognize the veterans of Canada…  all of the people that made it possible for us to enjoy such a wonderful country in peace.”
All of the pilots involved in the tour are veterans themselves and those on P.E.I. spoke with members of the public following a formal presentation involving Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis and Charlottetown mayor Clifford Lee.

Thornton answered questions from brothers George and Mikhail Lebedev about the plane.

 “I love them,” said Mikhail about the planes.

His brother was equally impressed.

“They’re cool, especially the one with the machine gun on top,” said George.

Members of the public could also get up close to the plane, while the event also saw a number of presentations and displays.

Brian Pound, president of the P.E.I. Flying Association, said when he found out the planes would be going to Greenwood, N.S. following the Vimy Ridge ceremony, he asked about having an event in Charlottetown.

Although the group did not have funding to make a P.E.I. stop, Pound reached out to the provincial government, which in turn supported the stop.
Ultimately, the group was able to do four shows, including two in New Brunswick, over the weekend.
Pound himself also attended the Vimy Ridge ceremony and spoke of the deep respect shown for Canada following the battle.

“It’s heart-warming to see what we have over there, it’s phenomenal,” said Pound. “This whole tour is called Birth Of A Nation… Canada really became known as a country because of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.”

After the tour, the replica planes will be kept at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, B.C.

More info on the tour can be found online at www.vimyflight.ca.
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Leading a lofty mission: Pictou County pilot part of flypass at Vimy mmacdonald@theguardian.pe.ca
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