DND-MDN Canada 2012; Photo by Cpl Arthur Ark
There's an old saying in Western culture that states, “You can't go home again.” This somewhat unhappy chestnut can be traced to an excerpt from Thomas Wolfe's novel of the same name The title comes from the denouement of the story in which the main character, a writer, who realizes that: "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
The phrase “you can’t go home again” entered the common lexicon of our culture to mean that, once you have left your rural home town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis, you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail. It has been suggested that the phrase is sometimes spoken to mean that you can’t return to your place of origin without being deemed a failure.
Well, we are here to tell you that it is indeed possible to go home, to be seen as an inspiration, to be covered in glory and to fly the skies of your youth. Last month, Vintage Wings President Rob Fleck, working the western tour with the Vintage Wings of Canada P-51 Mustang, flew into 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta to attend the Cadet Summer Training Centre as well as the Change-of-Command ceremony for the commander of the RCAF's Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment. He was met there by another Vintage Wings of Canada legend, LCol (Ret'd) Dan Dempsey, flying the Discovery Air Hawk One Sabre. While Fleck flew in from Calgary in the south, Dempsey was coming in from the North where he had been performing at the Northern Skies Air Show in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Back in May, Dempsey approached the 4 Wing Commander, Col Patrick Laroche, with an offer to drop into the historic RCAF base for the Cadet Summer Training Camp. This offer was met with an enthusiastic response and some 400 cadets had the opportunity to visit the Discovery Air Hawk One and the P-51 Mustang on July 17th and 18th. Cadets also benefited from a motivational briefing on Canada's space program by astronaut Maj Jeremy Hansen and another on the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan by Rob Fleck.
A change of command parade at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment on the day of departure presented a unique opportunity for a rare four-plane photo session featuring the P-51 and Hawk One along with an AETE CF-18 and two CT-114 Tutors. The 15 minute photo flight was briefed by senior test pilot Maj Reagh Sherwood after special authorization was received for the two groups to do a flypast for the change of command from BGen Kowal to Col Leblanc.
With Rob Fleck leading the formation while holding for the flypasts, some exceptionally rare photographs were captured by AETE photographer Cpl Arthur Ark flying in the right seat of the Tutor chase aircraft. Recalls Dan Dempsey: "The opportunity to fly in formation with four legendary RCAF aircraft types that collectively have served in the RCAF/Canadian Forces for almost 100 years was a rare privilege. We are indebted to AETE for having helped make it happen. The outstanding quality and uniqueness of the photographs speak for themselves."
For Rob Fleck, a former CF-104 and CF-18 pilot who trained at Cold Lake and the world famous Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range, flying back home to his old haunts in the Mustang was cathartic–an emotional return which gave him perspective on his own history and accomplishments. The pride he felt leading a formation of four aircraft types that he had flown during his career overhead Cold Lake was palpable.
It was a triumphant return for the two Vintage Wings pilots who were there to impart the knowledge, the joy and the commitment they both feel to a new generation of airmen and airwomen... the leaders of tomorrow. Yes, indeed, you can go home again.
Dan Dempsey taxis in to AETE at 4 Wing Cold Lake in preparation for a static display for the annual summer training camp for Cadets. DND Photo by Cpl David Tomes
Dan Dempsey, Hawk One Team Lead shuts down the Fern Villeneuve Sabre 5 in front of the big hangar doors at Cold Lake's AETE Canadian Flight Test Centre (CFTC). DND Photo by Cpl David Tomes
Rob Fleck, Vintage Wings of Canada pilot and President tells assembled Canadian Cadets about Vintage Wings of Canada, the Mustang IV and the story of the Robillard Brothers, Larry and Rocky, two Second World War fighter pilots to whom the aircraft is dedicated. DND Photo by Cpl Ian Thompson
The entire cadet camp turns out for a group photo with the Vintage Wings of Canada Mustang and Sabre. DND Photo by Cpl Ian Thompson
Royal Canadian Air Cadets listen intently to an explanation of the history of the Sabre from Sgt Bob Schwindt, one of two RCAF (AETE) techs seconded to our team on a part-time basis. Being near to and able to actually touch the vintage aircraft meant much to the youth assembled at the camp. These determined and motivated young Canadians listen to every word offered up at the camp. These are truly the leaders of tomorrow. DND Photo by Cpl Ian Thompson
Hawk One Lead Dan Dempsey removes the pitot cover and explains the function of the pitot tube, a device found on every aircraft. A
pitot tube is a pressure measurement instrument used to measure fluid flow velocity. The pitot tube was invented by the French engineer Henri Pitot in the early 18th century and was modified to its modern form in the mid-19th century by French scientist Henry Darcy. It is widely used to determine the airspeed of an aircraft. DND Photo by Cpl Ian Thompson
Aboriginal, European or Asian, the make-up of Canadian society is diverse and strong and is no better represented than these young boys relaxing on the wing of the Mustang while Rob Fleck gives a cockpit check-out to another cadet. DND Photo by Cpl Ian Thompson
Cadets pose along with Sgt Bob Schwindt and a piece of the history that made Canada and its air force great. DND Photo by Cpl Ian Thompson
It's clear that Canada's future is in great hands, thanks to inspirational men like Dan Dempsey and Rob Fleck. DND Photo by Cpl Ian Thompson
Dan Dempsey and Rob Fleck frame the entrance to the sound studio of radio station "CLTC - The Hawk" named by the students of The Art Smith Aviation Academy located at 4 Wing Cold Lake in tribute to the inspiration provided by the Hawk One team. Photo by LCol Ferguson Mobbs
In a bog sweeping left turn, Rob Fleck in the
Robillard Brothers Mustang IV leads a very unique formation – a CF-18 from Cold Lake-based 409 “Nighthawk” Squadron, a CT-114 Tutor from AETE (Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment) and the Vintage Wings of Canada Fern Villeneuve Hawk One Sabre 5. DND-MDN Canada 2012; Photo by Cpl Arthur Ark
Vintage Wings of Canada President Rob Fleck leads the formation through a series of racetrack turns holding for the formal flypast for the change of command of the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment at 4 Wing, Cold Lake. The ever-increasing size of front line fighter aircraft can be seen in this photo despite the perspective. The Mustang from the 1940s leads the 1950s era Sabre on the right and the 1980s era Hornet on his left. DND-MDN Canada 2012; Photo by Cpl Arthur Ark
Rob Fleck, in the 442 Squadron Mustang IV leads a group of very dissimilar aircraft that have one thing in common – Fleck has flown them all! DND-MDN Canada 2012; Photo by Cpl Arthur Ark
Vintage Wings of Canada President Rob Fleck leads Hawk One team leader Dan Dempsey and friends from the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment based at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta on a rare photo shoot. Collectively, the P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, CF-18 Hornet and CT-114 Tutor represent almost 100 years of service to the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Forces. DND-MDN Canada 2012; Photo by Cpl Arthur Ark
Fleck begins another gentle turn to the right with the formation, the jet-powered aircraft flying at the lower end of their envelope of performance. DND-MDN Canada 2012; Photo by Cpl Arthur Ark
Fleck brings the formation around to the left in a 45 degree bank back to the heading for the flypast. DND-MDN Canada 2012; Photo by Cpl Arthur Ark
Rob Fleck leads Dan Dempsey in a flying salute to the personnel of the RCAF's Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) during the commanding officer's change-of-command parade. DND Photo by Cpl David Tomes