Eye of the Beholder - The Best Vintage Wings Images

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In 2008, Canada celebrated 400 years since the founding of La Ville de Québec. One of the premier events of the year of celebrations was a grand air show in this most magnificent and historic of North American cities. The air show included a night show with airborne pyrotechnics and a fireworks finale. Here Québec native and friend of Vintage Wings of Canada, J.P. Bonin found the perfect spot to capture not only the display, but three aircraft from Vintage Wings of Canada - Beech Staggerwing in the foreground, Mustang IV and freshly marked Royal Navy Corsair. That's three skyrockets in the air and three on the ground. Vintage News votes this image the best of the year - maybe the past 400 years!.  Photo: J.P. Bonin

Rock idol Rod Stewart once crooned "Every picture tells a story, don't it?" Well that's the way we would like it, but most photographs we receive, while pleasant, tell no story at all. But, then again, many do.

Throughout the past couple of years, Vintage News, the editorial enterprise of Vintage Wings of Canada has received many thousands of photographs from both professional and amateur photographers, both solicited and unsolicited, both good and bad, both repetitive and unique. It becomes difficult to sift through 5,000 post air-show photographs from 20 amateur shooters who believe they have THE shot of this aircraft or that in order to find ones that do what we want - and that is TELL A STORY. 

During this period we have used many of the remarkable images to help us tell our even more remarkable stories. But some images never see the light of a Vintage Newsday because they weren't relevant at the time or we could not find a story to go with them. Some we were going to use in stories, but we never got around to doing the story. Some we have used, but deserve honourable mention and some are just beautiful.

So we thought it might be good to select say 40 images from the past few years and present them as the beautiful images they are. For the most part they have never been seen before, but some are simply classic images that we use a lot that deserve mention.

Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. Here are the best previously unseen images of the past three years as seen through the eyes of Vintage News. Into the mix are several of our signature images.

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One of the first photographs to come to our attention was this bucolic scene as our new Harvard awaits Tim Leslie beneath a broad maple tree. Yellow dandelions, blue sky and the green green grass of home. Many people have remarked that this photo is the quintessential Harvard image - it's not about the machine, but about the experience. Photo: Tim Leslie
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A young boy spreads his wings and swoops over the rain-soaked grass at Geneseo 2008 feeling the rain on his face and the joy in his heart - like the airmail pilots of old. An inspired child is just the sort of inspiration us old farts need. Great shot Pierre!. Photo Pierre Lapprand

Supermarine Superstar


Inside every aircraft's sleek, faired, filleted, and streamlined surface beats a complex and explosive heart of valves, chains, rods, pipes, hoses, pumps and cylinders all held together by clamps, welds, wires, bolts and cotter pins. Beneath the lovely brutality of the Hawker Hurricane's form envisioned by Sydney Camm, the systemic complexities of her guts are sometimes revealed when her access panels are removed. One look at her bowels and you know why mechanics are so revered. Photo: Blair Olson
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One of the best air to air shooters this side of Duxford is Vintage Wings volunteer Eric Dumigan from Southern Ontario. Eric knows the many planning issues involved in getting superb A2A shots. Sometimes though, all the planning in the world can simply vanish when weather closes in like a Hurricane on your six. While waiting for the action to begin in the waist gun position on the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's B-25 "Grumpy", a nasty spot of weather threatened to close Toronto's airport causing diversions to Hamilton. The formation commander did some quick thinking and scrubbed the mission before it even started. This was based on the need to get the valuable warbirds safely on the ground in Hamilton before the inevitable congestion began. There was barely enough time to snag a few shots of Rob Erdos swinging into echelon position, but enough to give us this unique view of the Hurricane and the Mitchell. Photo: Eric Dumigan
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Supermarine Superstar


Sometimes, a quick scan of popular photo and social networking sites like Flickr.com can net you some very beautiful shots. This one caught our attention earlier in the year when the Vintage Wings of Canada Taperwing overnighted in a hangar at Downsview's Toronto Aerospace
Museum. With barely any colour, this image is simply rectangles and flat planes of reflected light, yet the unmistakable racing heritage of this classic beauty is obvious. Photo: Ken Mist

Supermarine Superstar


I
n this photo, early-rising mechanic Marty Periard works his way across the hangar floor before the lights go up. With his entirely unprofessional Sony point'n'shoot, he captures this truly professional shot of the warming rays of a winter's sun streaming across the beautiful body of our Supermarine Spitfire XVI. No need for a massive camera, just the opportunity - the most efective component of great photography. Photo: Marty Periard.

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Like a spotter-shooter sniper team, great air-to-air photos are only as good as the person flying the "photoship".  Here, veteran pilot John Aitken in the front climbs high over the Battle of Britain Flypast formation and reefs it over so that Eric Dumigan in the back can look-down, shoot-down at the eight Merlin engines thundering over the Québec countryside. If there was ever any doubt that camouflage works, one look at the two Spitfires and the top Hurricane should help convince you. The Vintage Wings Hurricane at bottom is having a harder time blending in with its desert camouflage. Photo: Eric Dumigan
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Every Vintage Wings of Canada team member is familiar with this "Fire up Your Imagination" photo taken by our own Peter Handley. Vintage Wings Chief of Operations Tim Leslie cranks up a somewhat reluctant Merlin burning off a bit of accumulated fuel and pleasing everyone but the mechanics at Classic Air Rallye 2007. In our opinion, one of the best photos of the past few years and winner of "The Spirit of Vintage Wings Award" for its metaphoric and inspirational beauty. Photo: Peter Handley

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As the Battle of Britain Flight forms up over Gatineau airport, the tight formation moves across the face of a daylight moon. The day was crystal clear and the memorial flypast a superb and fitting end to the Vintage Wings 2008 flying schedule. Photo: Peter Handley

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A well groomed warbird reflects well on our enterprise. Well before this bare metal P-51D became the camouflaged Mustang IV of Vintage Wings of Canada, it sported one of the finest and best-buffed bare-metal finishes in the warbird world. It also required a lot of elbow grease to keep it that way. Here Anna Ragogna, our aircraft groomer, attacks the mirror finish offering a reflective image of the work required. Wax On, Wax Off. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Despite deep experience, state-of-the-art gyroscopic equipment and cameras and a perfect background, a well choreographed photoshoot can be a bust. But if one great photo emerges from it then all is well. John McQuarrie, one of Canada's top photographers sitting in the tail of a B-25 thundering over the autumn-painted hills of Western Quebec was not prepared for the bucking and frisking that came from a hot afternoon low over the hills and lakes. He spent most of his time with a hand on the upper fuselage trying the prevent a concussion and most of the images were "soft" as we say. Despite the expensive gyro-stabilizer mount, the constant and unpredictable sharp movements caused all but a couple of shots to be blurred. But one is enough! Here Tim Leslie follows hard on the Mitchell's tail with the near-full arc of the propeller disc - a very desirable photo effect afforded by the gyro-stabilizer which allows for slightly longer exposures. Photo: John McQuarrie

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Seems this image was caught by more than one photographer at one of our open house events in 2007. It shows what lengths our maintainers will go to to keep our aircraft flyable. Pilots and maintainers alike will shake their heads at some of the odd, seemingly counter-intuitive and just plain hard-to-get-to systems and engineering of the British types. Here Andrej Janik (we think) goes head first into his work. Photo: Simon Nadler

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Achtung Spitfire! Just about the last thing a rear gunner on a German Heinkel 111 bomber would want to see over the Thames is now a great opportunity for a unique backlit image of Britain's most famous aircraft of all time - flying not over the Thames, but the Ottawa River. What better man to fly it than Vintage Wings founder and London-born Mike Potter? And what better man to photograph it than English photographer Richard Allnutt?

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While many inexperienced viewers of aviation photographs often marvel at how the photographer was able to "stop" the propeller in its arc, it is pretty well an aviation photographer's biggest no-no. A stopped prop says "dead engine" to a photographer, taking out of the picture the feeling of power, motion and any sense that there is noise associated with the aircraft. Above all, aircraft warming up and taxiing need the full arc to make them appear to be the powerful beasts that they are. The full arc of our Spitfire's propeller exudes power and noise as she warms her engine at Hamilton's Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. Photo: Eric Dumigan

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The joy of flying can be read all over the smiling face of  Dave Hadfield as he slides the de Havilland Fox Moth in on the wing of our Harvard on the way back to Gatineau after Classic Air Rallye, 2008.  The photoship was piloted by Howard Cook while Vintage Wings of Canada videographer shot stills in the back seat. The photo was so tack sharp, that we could crop in tight to see Dave's face. Photo: Mike Hennige
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Guns, Guns, Guns.  Vintage Wings of Canada's staff photographer, Peter Handley, captures John Longair (left) and Dave O'Malley as they muscle the Hurricane IV out of the Canada Aviation Museum hangar at Classic Air Rallye, 2008. While our aircraft run on avgas, our entire endeavour runs on volunteer power as exemplified by the huge "guns" on these two fine specimens. Photo: Peter Handley

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J.P. Bonin photographed Dave Hadfield at Geneseo on 2007 as he climbed out after a passing cloudburst. The silhouetted elegance of the de Havilland Fox Moth against the sunlit cumulus speaks volumes about the golden age of biplane aviation. Photo: J.P. Bonin

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The great photographers are early risers or late afternoon loiterers. They do this specifically for the golden light afforded by the low sun angles. In 2007, Vintage Wings volunteer Michel Côté managed to wait out the sun as it set in the west over the green valley of the Geneseo air show known as the "Greatest Show on Turf". Here the sun sets on another wonderful day for Vintage Wings, our crews and our aircraft - like our Supermarine Spitfire XVI - buttoned down for the night.  Photo Michel Côté.

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Wheels in the wells boys! The three highly-skilled and easy-going pilots of the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team lift off in unison at Vintage Wings of Canada's Fall open house. Together, these three aviators have proven to be one of the best things about the Vintage Wings of Canada experience. They have offered their considerable knowledge on Harvard care and feeding as well as acted as great teachers - passing on their wealth of knowledge and experience in formation flying to our entire team. Nearest the camera, Kent Beckham keeps his eye on the Dave Hewitt who in turn is fixated on Lead, Pete Spence. All three have become vital members of our family - Kent as one of our pilots in the Spitfire, and Dave and Pete flying our Hurricane and Spit from time to time. Photo: Eric Dumigan

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If there's any doubt we take our jobs at Vintage Wings seriously, this image by Colin Huggard shows the earnest look on Tiger Moth pilot Howard Cook's face as he checks aileron movement at one of our Open House events. Howard's commitment to the team is obvious - he lives outside of Duxford, England yet still finds the time to come cross-pond three times a year to help out - from flying Tigers, Hurricanes and Harvards to announcing at Classic Air Rallye - a role much suited to someone with his fine English accent. Photo: Colin Huggard

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There are literally dozens of photos that come into Vintage News editorial office every year that portray the details of a Rolls Royce Merlin's nostrils. They are all beautiful, and only one can be chosen for this "genre" of photography. Eric Dumigan gets the nod in a packed field of quality shooters for his "Study in Exhaust" close up of the Spitfire's stacks. Photo: Eric Dumigan

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One of our favourite images from the phenomenal body work of Peter Handley and perhaps only a few of us know why. For the past two years, Peter has been invited aboard the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Mynarski Lancaster to capture the essence of the annual Battle of Britain Memorial Flypast. Peter is a true story-telling photographer in that he has the presence of mind to tear himself away from shooting yet another photo of the Lanc's Merlins to shoot an image, that for Vintage Wingers, should be as important as a flypast of the RAF memorial in England. Through the unmistakable slit port on the starboard side of the Lancaster, Peter captured this otherwise unremarkable office building and carpark. For those who do not know, this was the world headquarters of the Ottawa-based software giant Cognos, the hugely successful company started and built by our founder Mike Potter. Mike's successes in the corporate sector not only put Ottawa on the technology map of the world, but led to its powerful beacon flashing on the warbird map as well.  Photo: Peter Handley

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Leave it to Peter Handley to tell a story that is as compelling as the real thing. This year, a jacket that was once worn by an Ottawa-born Spitfire pilot was gifted to Vintage Wings of Canada. The original owner was Pilot Officer David Rouleau who was killed when he was shot down near the island fortress of Malta during the Second World War. He returned his winter flying jacket to stores before he left for the heat of a Maltese summer and it was sold at a surplus store immediately after the war. Jim Cobley (on the TV screen) wore the jacket for nearly six decades after the war - especially to football matches in his home county of Oxfordshire where he became "The Fan in the Flying Jacket". Jim spent more than 20 years trying to track down the family of Rouleau, resulting, this year, in a dedication of the jacket which is to be on permanent display in the Vintage Wings of Canada Library. Jim's battle with kidney disease and his all-important dialysis meant that he could not attend the ceremony where Rouleau's newly discovered relatives were in attendance. Thanks to the foresight of his friend Pat Hall, Jim was able to record his thoughts for everyone to enjoy at the dedication. A toast was given to his efforts to bring closure to the jacket story. All who chose to be there were party to a remarkable afternoon with Jim, Rouleau and Mike Potter. Photo: Peter Handley

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There are two ways to look at this photo by Pierre Lapprand. One could interpret it as the eve of D-Day with the sun setting on a Wasp-winged DC-3 Dakota waiting for its compliment of airborne troopers or glider tow. There is such a sense of impending drama. OR you could simply look at it as a beautiful sunset in the gentle valley of the Geneseo Air Show - signalling the sublime end to a perfect day at the Greatest Show on Turf. What awaits tomorrow? Photo: Pierre Lapprand

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Another perfect day at Geneseo dawns on the dewy grass as a squadron of Harvards and Texans await their crews. Photo: Pierre Lapprand

Supermarine Superstar


It was difficult for Vintage News to choose between this image and the similar one by Peter Handley above since they were both taken from the starboard window of the CWH Lancaster on the same flight, but this one deserves a mention for its storytelling. No matter where it goes, the Lanc draws people out to learn her remarkable story. Here staff at the Transport Canada hangar at YOW watch in awe as she taxies by.  Photo: Peter Handley

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All the bravado, machismo and balls-to-the-wall attitude of an experienced fighter pilot are out the window when it come to a man and his daughter. Here, high time Hornet pilot, former Snowbird Lead and Hawk One pilot Wing Commander (LCol) Steve Will shares a chip and a moment with his daughter. Photo Peter Handley

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Soft hands, hard banks. Vintage Wings pilot Kent Beckham plays follow the Harvard with Dave Hewitt as part of their breathtaking Canadian Harvard Aerobatic team show. The lumbering, 60 year-old trainers in the hands of these gifted pilots are as awe-inspiring to watch as the USAF Thunderbirds of the Snowbirds. Photo: Eric Dumigan

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The latest and best air-to-air of our newly marked FG-1D Corsair is provided by our own Mike Henniger enroute to Gatineau from Rockcliffe. The special Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm markings celebrate one of Canada's best known fighter pilots of the Second World War  - Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, VC  Photo: Mike Henniger

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From every angle, the Spitfire is a beautiful creature. With the cerulean sky of a Québec autumn reflected in her satin camouflage, our Spitfire belches streams of heated air. Mike Potter is caught taxiing out to join the Battle of Britain Memorial flypast, September 21st, 2008. The image is perfected by the metallic flash of sunlight from her four-bladed propeller. Photo: Peter Handley

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Speaking of beauty from behind... J.P. Bonin captured the Robert Hampton Gray Corsair as she thunders away from his lens. Her inverted gull-winged form is her most remarkable feature and in this shot... You can't miss it. Photo J.P. Bonin

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There's something for everyone at our Open House events even if you are 4 years old. Here Véronique Dhieux, Citabria pilot, is cruise director aboard the Vintage Wings of Canada tow mule. At the helm is Marty Periard hot footing the heavy tow vehicle at more than 2 kilometers per hour. Photo:

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Two of Vintage Wings of Canada's 18-aircraft collection came from Harry Whereatt's restoration facility in Assinaboia, Saskatchewan. Whereatt, seen here saying goodbye to his flat-bedded Westland Lysander, was and still is one of the legends of early warbird restoration in Canada. The comic hitch-hiking board and wistful look on his face in this story-telling photograph are just shy of heartbreaking as he bids farewell to his life's work. Photo: John Brennan

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Educate, Commemorate and Inspire - these are the three pillars of our mission. Lumbering along the taxiway, Roll Royce rolling over like a Harley, waving to the kids in the crowd of slack-jawed onlookers is sure to inspire - Tim Leslie provides young and old alike a good view of one of the great fighters of all time. Photo: Peter Handley

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When Englishman Jim Cobley first noticed the name of David Rouleau and his RCAF service number on the lable of his Second World War leather flying jacket, he already had worn it for very nearly forty years. The discovery lead to a 24 year search for Rouleau's family, which culminated this year in the jacket's return to Ottawa. Here at a ceremony at Vintage Wings, relatives of Rouleau, a Spitfire pilot who would have been 90 this year had he not been killed in 1942, reverently inspect the label and the name he wrote on it more than 66 years ago. Photo: Peter Handley

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Flying Officer William Harper, 421 Squadron RCAF, banks his Spitfire gently over the farmlands of Kent closely followed by a 6 Squadron Hurricane - the year is 1945. Well actually it is in fact just a few weeks ago over Québec with Mike Potter and Rob Erdos of Vintage Wings.  Removing colour in some of these images has a way of transporting you back quicker than the beautiful colour that was in this shot originally. Photo: Peter Handley

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It's all about the legacy, isn't it? Our founder - veteran warbird and high performance pilot - Michael Potter envisioned a foundation that would acquire, maintain and display flying aircraft of importance to Canada's aviation heritage. No part of a legacy is more important to him than knowing his three daughters grow up with the full knowledge of the sacrifices made by Canadian men and women to ensure their future. Photo: Peter Handley.


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