Howard Cook with the Vintage Wings of Canada Hurricane IV. In the outpouring of support for Howard and his wife Peta, the kudos have a common theme - Howard's friendly and welcoming attitude towards those that come out to see him and his compatriots demonstrate historic aircraft. Typical of the kudos is this note from "Danni" - "Howard's a lovely bloke, very friendly and will always stop and chat about flying etc. He's happy to explain different flight manoeuvres/techniques without making you feel stupid for asking the question. Peta is also a lovely lady so our thoughts are also with her whilst Howard starts his recuperation". Photo Peter Handley
Flying in the Vintage Wings of Canada Harvard, Rob Kostecka and I returned from the Classic Air Rallye on Sunday. Immediately after climbing out of Rockcliffe Airport we turned right over the Ottawa River, climbing to 1,500 feet for the short flight to Gatineau Airport. On our way, pilot Kostecka radioed the Flight Services Station requesting landing instructions and permission to do a stop and go. For the next ten minutes Danielle, the woman at the FSS, and Rob were total professionals - clear, crisp and business like radio calls - her voice steady, level and cool. But just as soon as we had come to a full stop after our second landing, Danielle's voice changed dramatically from cold FSS to a completely different, softer one filled with emotion. "How is Howard?" was all that came through our headsets.
Her query was typical of the outpouring of concern and good wishes we have received from around the world for Howard Cook after Friday's accident during take-off from our Gatineau home base. Howard was practicing for his display of the Tiger Moth at the Classic Air Rallye. He survived the accident with very serious but not life-threatening injuries. He was rushed to Gatineau Hospital, then transferred to the Ottawa Civic Hospital to undergo surgery. After assessment, Howard's injuries were listed as: a broken back, broken right ankle, broken wrist, two broken ribs, facial lacerations, damage to his left heel, and a bruised lung. Needless to say, he was in considerable pain. He was stabilized on Friday night at the Civic Hospital and prepared for surgery the following day.
After a 10 hour surgery to repair first his back and then his ankle, he was taken to the Intensive Care Unit where he remains well taken care of and has just this afternoon been taken off a ventilator. Happily, they were able to save his trademark mustache. Throughout the whole ordeal, Howard has remained talkative, aware and with his sense of humour intact. Typical of a man whose passion in life is aviation, he can't stop thinking about his various ongoing projects with Vintage Wings. Still in emergency and still in extreme discomfort, he was visited by Rob Erdos, who came out shaking his head - among other matters Howard had insisted on talking about valves for the Bristol Pegasus engine on our Swordfish!
Howard's wife Peta is cut from the same cloth - steady, strong and cheerful in light of the injuries to her beloved husband. She is staying with VWC family and is close to the hospital where Howard will recover. Her spirits are high considering the traumatic events and she is settling down to help Howard through his recovery. We are all in awe of her strength.
Overall, the prognosis is one of full but lengthy recovery for Howard and Peta. This is good news to all of us here at Vintage Wings. Howard and Peta are vital and much-loved members of our family and we have all come together to help in any way we can to get him up on his feet and back home to his other families at the Historical Aircraft Collection in Duxford and Cambridge Flying Group.
Howard and Peta will be our first priority throughout all of these trying days. The condition and the restoration of the damaged Tiger Moth will be looked at in the days to come. The cause of the accident will not be speculated on in any way by Vintage Wings of Canada. We are cooperating fully with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and have the wreckage secured in the hangar ready for their investigation. We will let them do their job.
It is our goal to restore both the Tiger Moth and Howard Cook to full flying condition and get them back in the air - together. There is plenty of work ahead for Peta and Howard and your good thoughts and support will go a long way to speeding this up. The Tiger Moth will be assessed once the investigation is completed and we will let all of our readers and fans know how they can contribute to getting this priceless part of our heritage back into Canadian skies.
In the meantime we will keep you in the loop about Howard's recovery. Best not inundate him with visits at this point. Should you wish to send him greetings and support in the form of words, feel free to e-mail him at <email@example.com>
Following the accident, the Tiger Moth was collected from the field with TSB's permission and brought to the hangar where it was secured. Photo: Peter Handley