Driver's Seat - The ground schools

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Photo: Gavin Conroy

Looking for the perfect Father's Day Gift for your dad, grand father or uncle or sweetheart? Does your father read airplane magazines while your mother is talking to him? Feel the need to get your pale-skinned, cheezie-gobbling teenager (no doubt hand-flying a Boeing 747SP from Dubai to Tokyo as we speak) out of his basement Flight-Sim station and into the rarefied air of real airplanes and real aviators? Searching high and low to top that lame "Paint Schemes of Soviet Night Fighters, 1939-45" book you gave your hard-to-please aviator friend, sister or boss last year? Trust us when, as aviators, we tell you "They will thank you for years to come" if you sign them up for next weekend's P-40 Fighter Ground School at the Canada Aviation Museum, brought to you by Vintage Wings of Canada.

Two weeks ago, Vintage Wings of Canada, in partnership with the Canada Aviation Museum, conducted the second of three ground schools, each dedicated to the history, operation and systems of one of the most important aircraft of the Second World War. This one was dedicated to the delights and dangers of the brutish and glamourous Corsair naval fighter. All who attended responded with such enthusiasm, we feel compelled to share their thoughts with you and urge you to sign up for the P-40 Kittyhawk school this coming weekend.  Aviators have signed up from as far away as Hawaii and as close as Gatineau, but there are still some spots available to the creative gift-giver, the adventurous aviator or the dyed-in-the-wool aero-nut.

The P-40 Kittyhawk Ground School, presented by Dave Hadfield, promises to be just as exciting - with two information-packed days and hands-on instruction and insights you won't find in books. The poster-plane for the course is our own P-40N Kittyhawk, affectionately named "Betty". Hadfield, a life-long aviator and vintage warbird pilot, knows every rivet and actuator from the tip of her cherry-red spinner to her cute little rudder trim-tab. No one knows more... save for Angela Gagnon, Betty's crew chief.


Veteran pilot Kevin Britt is making the journey all the way from Kauai, Hawaii to take the P-40 Ground School - most certainly qualifying him as the student attending from the farthest distance. Kevin now operates a company called Tropical Biplanes, providing open cockpit tours of the scenic wonders of this island paradise. Kevin will not only be coming to take the course, but he has sponsored our P-40 on a heritage flight and because he is a member of VW, he will be eligible to be a crew member when the P-40 goes wheels in the wells. Immediately after his ground school, Kevin and instructor Dave Hadfield will be taking the Kittyhawk aloft for an hour's flight where Kevin will experience first hand the complexities and joys of flying a classic Second world War fighter aircraft - something he has wanted to do since childhood. Given the fact that Britt lives near Pearl Harbor, it is a natural that he should want to fly in the P-40 - perhaps the only USAAF fighter aircraft type to get airborne during the infamous attack in 1941.  Photo via Tropical Biplanes

This course will give students insights and knowledge not found in books but in the collective memories of aviators like Hadfield, Gagnon and aces like Stocky Edwards. And here's the thing... this ain't no watered-down class for first-timers! Every pilot at Vintage Wings of Canada is required to take this  very course if he wishes to dance with Betty this coming flying season. You get what we give our own and they will share with you their experiences. At the end of the weekend you or favourite aviator will sit in the Kittyhawk while a qualified P-40 warbird pilot will introduce you to the complex world of one of the most important fighters of of the last world war.

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The iconic P-40 Warhawk/Tomahawk/Kittyhawk series of aiplanes was the F-16 of its day - ubiquitous, simple to fly and fix, relatively inexpensive and exported to many foreign countries. At the P-40 Ground School this weekend, you will learn every detail of its systems and checklists... and then you will sit where some of the great aviators of the Second World War sat. Photo:Colin Hunter

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Like so many of the classic fighters of the Second World War, the P-40 is a stunner to look at... and to fly.  If you become a member of Vintage Wings of Canada and sponsor a heritage flight of this historic aircraft, you will be eligible to ride in the plane as a crew member along with Dave Hadfield. For more information about our ride sponsorship program, visit our home page. Photo by Eric Dumigan

The last ground school on the mighty Corsair was very well attended by young and old alike, pilots and mechanics, veterans and youth. Everyone in attendance responded with enthusiasm and rave reviews. Here are just a few of the responses we received.

Bryan Hayter wrote to us: "I am back in the office today and wanted to express my complete satisfaction with my weekend at Corsair ground School. I am a marketing person and, as such,  I look for the attention to details when I participate in events. This was done very, very well, and with flexibility and humour. We were treated like honoured guests and given the benefit of all of Vintage Wings' people's enthusiasm. Everyone seemed to have good stories and shared them willingly. I went to the event with my son with a mission to learn about the airplane in which my father "Red" spent so much time as a member of the Royal Navy Fleet Arm...Mission accomplished!!! Having Hugh Pawson attend was a stroke of pure luck for me as he served with my father and trained in the same locations en route to bombing the Tirpitz and fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. Congratulations also to the presenters, whose lectures were excellent and whose material was highly relevant. What can I say? I'll be back!"

Patrick Simmons, a former Navy engineer write to us about his experience with the Corsair Ground School, saing "This time last week, I returned home from a Corsair Seminar held at Rockcliffe Airbase. It was the most enjoyable day since leaving my Naval Service as a Mech. A/E. Whilst most of my fellow attendees were Pilots, I found the whole day more than worth while. All those who presented the Seminar did a first rate job, and I for one enjoyed the whole weekend. I certainly look forward to the Kittyhawk Seminar this coming April 17th/18th. 

Mark Dagenais, a local aviation enthusiast said : “Well hell, that was just simply, and splendidly, superb!! “

I got in a little bit of trouble with my wife on Friday, before the course even started, by saying to her, that I was about to have the two of  best days of my life!  I should have qualified that, marriage to her, and the day we adopted our daughter Lia would trump this statement. Okay, I’ll give her that.  It was almost the two best days in my life.

Please give say “Thanks” to everyone. I know spending weekends away from families and loved ones after a long week at work coupled, by the dozens and dozens of hours by many people to put these events on is not lost on me. 
It was wonderful to talk to Tim, Paul and Mike for the first time, in a small venue like this.  I don’t as a rule try to approach to them on Open House days, when they shou
ld be concentrating on more important matters, so this  weekend was particularly gratifying."

Mike Hamilton wrote,  "this past weekend I had the unique privilege and pleasure of attending the VWC Corsair Ground School Program. I am writing to thank you and the staff and volunteers of Vintage Wings for the absolutely fantastic experience provided to all who attended. The program was top-notch and Vintage Wings are to be commended for the effort put forward... The presentations by Paul and Tim, the VWC hangar tour... were impressive. Your course reinforced the exuberance of taking flight and the brotherhood in the aviation community! ... the cockpit orientationyou gave was VFR over the top (as in Very Finely Received).... It was an experience of a lifetime to attend this course.

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VWC Corsair aircraft manager, veteran test pilot and CF-18 fighter squadron commander Paul "Rose" Kissmann enthralled a full class of Corsair enthusiats with a superbly detailed and fascinating Ground School. Photo: Pierre Lapprand

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There was a lot to assimilate in the two-day class. Study materials are provided, and there are coffee breaks, but the day was packed tight with information, insights and war stories. Luckily, the seating at the Bush Theatre at the Canada Aviation Museum was very comfortable. Photo: Peter Handley

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Everyone is welcome at the Vintage wings of Canada gournd schools, but for some, it is simply compulsory. Every Vintage Wings of Canada pilot who wishes to fly the Corsair this year, is required to take the course - meaning you are getting the very course our pilots take. Here Dave Hadfield, Mike Potter and Tim Leslie grapple with the details of Corsair operations. Photo: Peter Handley

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Fortunately, the Vintage Wings Corsair had spent the winter months on display at the Canada Aviation Museum, and was close at hand as an instructional airframe - just outside the doors of the classroom! Photo: Pierre Lapprand

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Also on hand for the first day's classes was Hugh "Moe" Pawson, a veteran Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Corsair pilot. Having men like Pawson on hand gives powerful insights into the daily operation of these aircraft.  As well, Pawson shared with the students his combat experiences.  The class was struck with the man's humility, elegance and fitness. Photo: Pierre Lapprand

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Two of the students on hand for the ground school found that they had a direct link to the Pawson's wartime experiences. Bryan Hayter (right) and his son Devon (left) came to learn first hand some of the experiences of Hayter's father Barry "Red" Hayter.  Red Hayter was a Corsair pilot during the war and in a wonderful moment of coincidence, they discovered that Moe Pawson and Red Hayter served together. Hayter's namesake, Uncle Bryan Hayter was also a naval pilot after the war with the Royal Canadian Navy and has written a story about his experiences that will appear on Vintage News next week. In speaking about the Ground School Hayter said, "Just between you and me, this was a major event in my life. When I sat there in that cockpit just like my dad did for the first time in 1943, I had a pretty big lump in my throat. Mike Potter was trying to tell me all kinds of stuff about the instruments, but I could only sit there and feel like I'd gone back to a place I never thought I'd was big. In fact I was so excited and emotional, I lost , not one...but two,  pairs of glasses up there somewhere on Sunday!!!"  Photo: Pierre Lapprand

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Two generations of Corsair pilots seem to have the same taste for leather flying jackets. Vintage Wings of Canada founder Mike Potter poses with High "Moe" Pawson and the beautiful VWC Corsair prior to the attempted engine start.  Photo: Pierre Lapprand

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Instructor Kissmann demonstrates the size of the ego required to be a fighter pilot.  Photo: Richard Lawrence

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After a winter's sleep at the Canada Aviation Museum, the Corsair was pulled outside and students were treated to a walk around demonstration. The plan was to start the Corsair and fly it back to Vintage Wings of Canada for the second day's class - but this was not to be. The recalcitrant Pratt and Whitney, after a comfortable months-long sleep in the cathedral-like warmth and silence of the museum, refused to start.  Alas... this is aviation! Photo: Eric Dumigan

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As part of your Ground School, you will receive a cockpit checkout and a "hero shot" for your "I Love Me Wall". Above we see most of the graduating class of the 2010 Corsair Ground School. Photos: Peter Handley

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The Vintage Wings of Canada Corsair, call sign Ghost One,  will travel the country this summer in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy. Photo: Peter Handley

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The Corsair class was very well attended and the response from students was overwhelmingly positive. Photo: Richard Lawrence

This week's P-40 Kittyhawk course promises the same unique blend of detail, visual presentions and shared passion for aviation. Your or a friend can become part of our very small warbird community and share stories over coffee and lunch and sit thorugh what you will agree was the best two days of hangar flying you ever had.

Whether you are a modeller looking for extreme detail, a long time pilot like Kevin Britt, an experienced AME or even history buff, this is the school for you. Come join us as we celebrate our passion for warbird flying and the memory of all the great Allied pilots of the Second World War who flew the remarkable P-40 in all its incarnations - the Kittyhawk, the Tomahawk and the Warhawk.

If you wish to join us this weekend, the cost it $200.00 for Vinatge Wings of Canada members and $250.00 for other friends. Why not sign up to become one of our members. Members are eligible to be a crew member on a sponsored flight in the P-40 as well as many other benefits. 

Sure, you may have promised your partner that you would turn the compost, do some shopping for lawn furniture or vacumn the drapes this weekend, but really... doesn't taking a half gainer with a full twist into the oh-so-studly world of warbird operations seem just a little... oh I dunno... cooler? You bet it is! So, sign up without delay and we will get set to welcome you into our brotherhood. After this weekend, you will walk with flyboy swagger, fly your hands with gusto, talk with a Yeager-esque drawl and look down with a touch of distain at mere mortals...  just like fighter pilots do.

Dave O'Malley

P-40 Ground School, when taken as directed, may cause a racing heart, feelings of euphoria, high testosterone levels, and can temporarily cure mild forms of erectile dysfunction.  If you experience a straighter back lasting more than 4 months, seek advice from your doctor.

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The Instructor for the P-40 Ground School is life-long aviator Dave Hadfield of the Flying Hadfields - the First Family of Canadian Flight.  Dave's father Roger flew B-17s for Kenting Aviation out of High Arctic gravel strips and then enjoyed a long airline career with Air Canada, while son Chris became a test pilot and astronaut. Brother Phil is also a long time airline pilot and Dave's son Austin is at the beginning of a long career in the air transport business.  Dave is presently a Captain with Air Canada. This wealth of experience and Dave's easy going ways provide the student with a wonderful teaching style. Photo: Peter Handley

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We'll take the covers off our Kittyhawk so that you can have a good look at the working heart of this classic fighter. Photo via Pioneer Aero/Colin Hunter

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After your Ground School experience you can sponsor a flight of the P-40 and, if you're a member of Vintage Wings, we'll put you in the back seat for the flight. For more information on how you can sponsor a flight and go for a ride, visit our website. Photo: Eric Dumigan

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Beautiful Betty... the large chin air intake made this beauty a favourite of comic book and pop-culture artists worldwide.  Photo:Eric Dumigan

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The man in the back of the P-40 in this shot is none other than legendary fighter ace James "Stocky" Edwards. You can experience first hand what Stocky knows by signing up for the P-40 Ground School and if you are wanting more, you, as a member,  can sponsor a flight and go for a ride in the backseat and see the world as Edwards and his squadron mates saw it 65 years ago.   Photo Eric Dumigan

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