Tag Archives: Aviation

Windy Peg

Sunday 25 September 2022 – We might have done with Montréal, but Montréal (and fate) had not done with us. As I mentioned in my last entry, the itinerary we’re following has evolved over the course of three years and, as a result, has produced some wrinkles. The order of cities was one; the timing of this morning was another. We had grown rather alarmed at the prospect of an 0530 pickup at the hotel – particularly when we saw that the flight that this was to take us to was not at 0800 as originally specified, but 0855. So we had a bit of a back-and-forth with Discover Holidays, who are in charge of local details, and they agreed that an 0630 pickup was OK. 0630 is not good, but it’s a whole lot better than 0530.

0530, however, was, of course, the time we had to set the alarm for. Having done so, and heaved ourselves up to face the rigours of the day, a text arrived at 0553 from those nice people at Air Canada, telling us that our flight was delayed until 1045, “due to a technical problem with the aircraft”, and would be departing from Gate A9.


It was too late to change the timing of the pickup, so we got ourselves ready and checked out before 0630. Unsurprisingly, we were alone in the hotel lobby, apart from the receptionist and a chap in a cap. Equally unsurprisingly, it turned out that he was our driver, André (an Italian-Canadian ex-truck driver with a New York accent), and he took us out to the car.

Perhaps a bit OTT for two people and two suitcases to go to the airport, but, hey,

it perks the day up a bit. So did the sunrise.

Our hopes that perhaps fate was making up for the mix-up with the early start were at first slightly lowered when the Air Canada machinery wouldn’t take our checked-in bags and then dashed when we headed for security.

You’ll remember (of course) that we were heading for an A gate, and you can just make an A out in the distance. When we got near it, though,

we saw that there was a huddled mass of humanity between us and it. This was Montréal, we thought, having the last laugh. Actually, it was only about a 35-minute queue and then we were free! Noticeboards were still talking about our flight leaving at 0855 from gate A1, but we smiled, knowing that Air Canada had given us the skinny of the new gate and time. So we sat at Gate A9, not worrying at all about our almost total isolation because We Knew The Score.

At about 40 minutes before the scheduled departure, though, we began to worry that We Didn’t After All Know The Score, so we hurried off to Gate A1, where AC371 (yes, our flight) was still showing as departing. A lady at an adjacent Air Canada desk saw us and the uncertainty we were radiating and shouted out that the flight was no longer going from Gate 1, but was just about to board at Gate 15. So nice of Air Canada to contribute to our exercise regime.

The rest of the journey was fine, involving as it did a decent but not excessive amount of gin and Pringles. It was a little bumpy towards the landing

due to a not insignificant wind. We arrived in Winnipeg (for that was the correct destination) at around midday; by the time we arrived at the carousel our bags had just appeared and we had just a short (but slightly puzzling) walk to our airport hotel, the sumptuously named Lakeview Signature by Wyndham (which is not sumptuous at all, and has a view only of the airfield, but otherwise appears to be perfectly workmanlike). Our room was ready, and the organisers of this next segment of our holiday were obviously on the ball, as there was a board in the hotel lobby telling us where we had to be and when for the introductions and briefing.

So. Why are we in Winnipeg, a westward step in our otherwise eastward progress, significant enough to warrant a change in time zone?? You’ll find out if you keep reading these pages.

In the meantime, we had some hours to kill, and Jane had spotted that Winnipeg airport is home to the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. This seemed to be only a couple of minutes’ walk away, but the hotel reception virtually insisted that we take the hotel shuttle bus. I think this was to make the driver feel part of the team, because it was a ridiculously short drive. We were greeted by a charming lady called Hedie and welcomed to the museum.

Which was not huge, but really interesting.

Assembled here is a collection of those things that are significant in Canada’s aviation history, particularly in the development of the bush plane. For example, the first purpose-built example, the Fairchild AC71

had great capabilities for all those things that bush planes needed to do (e.g. land on and take off from water). It suffered a little from the fact that the pilot’s ability to see forwards was very limited because the cockpit was set so far back, so it never entered commercial production.

The museum also gave me a chance to show you another one of them Fokkers, in this case a Super Universal.

There are many curiosities on display: an example of a sesquiplane, something I’d never heard of before – a plane with one and a half wings;

a nuclear bomb, which I’m glad the organisers rendered inert before displaying;

a replica of the Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar, a top secret US Air Force funded attempt to create a supersonic fighter capable of vertical take off and landing (it was underpowered, unstable and cancelled, having never got more than a metre into the air);

the Froebe Helicopter, designed in 1937, built from salvaged truck parts and featuring design points that are still in use on today’s helicopters,

but underpowered and hence also not able to rise higher than one metre from the ground; the Vedette, the first attempt at a boat that could fly;

and – my favourite – the Canadair CL-84 Dynavert.

As soon as I saw this beast I thought “Bell Boeing Osprey” (for those of you not familiar with it, here’s a picture of one I took at Farnborough Air Show some years ago)

FIA 2012 - Bell Boeing Osprey

and, indeed, the Dynavert was a predecessor – well ahead of its time, having first flown in 1965, a quarter of a century before the Osprey (though it never found a buyer so was cancelled in 1974).

I particularly like the little helicopter rotors on the tail.

There were many other, more serious, exhibits as well, but I found these the most engaging and we spent a happy hour at the museum in one of those lovely bits of serendipity that contribute so much to life’s pleasure.

Rather than attempt to call up the hotel’s shuttle bus for a return journey, we dared the walk back unaided – the hotel is just under the control tower, so it wasn’t exactly a major expedition. So we stepped out – into an astonishing wind – and fought our way home against it. Apparently it’s been windy here all month.

And this brings you bang up to date. The sunset here is as interesting as the sunrise this morning back in Montreal

and we have about 90 minutes to wait until we get our briefing on the next few days. All we know is that we have to be up, packed, checked out and breakfasted in time to leave the hotel at 0700 tomorrow. So there’s no chance I will report back today about what we learned at the briefing and what we’re up to over the coming days – you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out more. See you then!

Plane About in Ottawa

Sunday 18 September 2022 – The weather forecast for the day was rather wet and gloomy, and in any case we’d explored most of what was accessible on foot from the hotel, so we made a plan that said we’d take the hop-on-hop-off bus to view the further reaches of the city.  So, how was the weather?

At this point in the day, it was drizzle rather than historic rain (and I wonder if anyone in Canada had thought about labelling this image “A Historic Reine” as a sort of bridge between English and French-speaking locals?).  What rain that there was made photography from the top deck of a (closed-top!) moving bus rather tricky.  We managed a couple of shots of passing street art

and decided that the only destination worth getting off the bus in the rain for, was the Aviation and Space Museum, which has a mind-boggling display of aircraft of all sorts,

as well as a much smaller area dedicated to satellites and other Space-related materials.

There follow a number of photos of aeroplanes, for which I make no apologies, as I’m passing interested in them, particularly historic ones; and there’s a decent joke towards the end, so it may be worth your while reading on.

We accidentally timed things right such that we were able to join a guided tour, which went round highlighting certain areas where planes were grouped.  Early Aviation had a section and featured this original Blériot XI, which was a huge commercial success for Louis Blériot after his pioneering flight across the channel.

World War I had a section, of course.  It contained a version of my favourite WWI aircraft, the Sopwith Camel (from reading Biggles books as a lad), modified to launch from a ship.

An intriguing section was dedicated to “Bush Planes”, a term we hadn’t come across before, and which means aircraft modified to meet the unique travel requirements of Canada’s wild northern regions (i.e. no runways and no airfields but lots of rivers and lakes). Below is a reproduction of one of the first attempts, with, next to it, the remnants of the original as eventually extracted from the lake it crashed into after an unsuccessful landing.

Also on display was a De Havilland Beaver, probably the most successful Bush Plane in Canada’s aviation history, here shown with the unprecedented volume of cargo one could fit into it and still be able to get airborne. One certainly managed to ferry us from Victoria to Farewell Harbour earlier in our trip, as you will remember because you were paying attention, weren’t you?

An interesting angle on Bush Planes is shown with this Junkers W-34, a plane to which one could fit floats, wheels or skis to help access a variety of terrains.  You can see a model of an airman taking a wheel off, presumably to leave the floats active.  To do this, he had to lift the plane somehow, and the exhibit shows that he had to chop down trees to make logs to use as a crane, rig up ropes to lift the plane and be able to change its undercarriage type.  He was alone, so he had to be pilot, navigator, mechanic, lumberjack and structural engineer, all rolled up into one.

Of course, aeroplanes were used to distribute mail, but in the severe winters, landing and taking off could pose a problem if the fuel lines froze. The solution was to have a hatch in the floor of the aircraft so the mail could be parachuted down.

There was, of course, a section dedicated to WWII aeroplanes.  One display had a Hurricane, a Spitfire (another plane I love) and their enemy – a German ME 109, which I’d never seen close to before.

The museum has a Lancaster, the first time I’ve ever been in the same room as one. It’s their biggest exhibit in the hangar, displayed with bomb bay doors open to show how the passing air would arm the bombs by spinning their propellers, before they were dropped.  This was OK provided all of them were dropped, but problems were inevitable if something prevented dropping the entire load of up to seven bombs, as landing with an armed bomb under the pane was bound to end in tears.

There were also several aircraft from the Cold War era, such as this Lockheed Martin F18 (foreground) and Avro Arrow (background).  The Arrow was far more advanced (Mach 2.5) than the F18 (Mach 1.8), but never made it into production and all examples destroyed save the portion on show here.

We learned that many aeroplanes used as trainers were painted a bright yellow.

This served several useful purposes: identifying aeroplanes to steer clear of if in operation; making it clear that they were not combat aircraft; and making it easy to find the pieces in the event of a crash.

There were several charming elements in the display, such as this helicopter with its rodent grin;

a rather poorly-placed warning over an aircraft’s gun

since if you were able to read it you were already in serious danger; and toy planes for the kids to whizz about on;

One exhibit was called an “ornithopter”, which I was very curious about, having had my head filled with images from sci-fi books and films such as “Dune”. It turned out to be “Snowbird” – the first successful human-powered aircraft – very light, and with an enormous wingspan.

And so passed an enjoyable 90 minutes at the museum.  But I can’t allow you to leave without the joke I promised.  In all of the aeroplane exhibitions I’ve seen before, the plane were all “ours”, i.e. British/Allied, rather than enemy.  By having at least one German plane on display, this museum allowed me to show you a picture of one of them Fokkers. (Decent joke??? Hah. Ed)

I suppose using the hop-on-hop-off bus to visit just one place in Ottawa wasn’t the most effective use of resources, but we really enjoyed the museum and did get to see some other places outside the immediate environs of Parliament Hill, albeit not very clearly.

We had to scamper rather back to the hotel, as it was raining heavily by that stage. But after a late lunch/early dinner the rain appeared to have abated, and we needed a reason to shake down the food (and gin).  So we went for a stroll along the banks of the Rideau Canal in the gathering evening.

We passed the Senate,

the Shaw Centre (what is it with Canada and GBS? Anyone?),

an odd-looking boat outside the Shaw Centre,

some bridges,

(the second of which we used to cross the canal and walk back on the other side), that boat again

(very strangely laden), and our final glimpse of the city and Parliament.

This pretty much ended our time in Ottawa.  Because of the overwhelming presence of government, it’s a slightly odd place, but one we found it very enjoyable to learn about and walk around.  Tomorrow we must leave, taking another Via Rail journey to Québec, where we have a Fabulous Country Tour awaiting us.  Let’s hope the weather is clement; please come back in a couple of days to find out.