Photo courtesy Magee Family
Not to be too macabre, but as an aviator, there is a more than 50-50 chance that the poem High Flight
will be read at your funeral by a family member or fellow flier. This iconic poem is known by nearly every one who has soloed in the blue beyond and continues to this day to be the finest and most perfect expression of solo flight extant. Penned in England in 1941 by a pilot of the Royal Canadian Air Force named John Magee, the poem lives on while its creator died mere days later.
For us here in Ottawa-Gatineau, Magee and his poem hold even more power, for it was here at No. 2 SFTS Uplands that Magee earned his RCAF pilot's wings. With those wings, he was sent to England to an OTU and then on to 412 Squadron, RCAF. Magee's 412 Squadron still exists to this day and since the 1950s, it has served right here in Ottawa as the VIP flight for the RCAF and later the CAF, flying Ministers and Prime Ministers around the country and the world.
Magee was one of thousands of young American fliers who joined the fight with the RCAF long before the United States entered the war. In 2011, Vintage Wings will celebrate the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and the contributions made be men like Magee. Throughout the summer we will be flying our High Flight Harvard along with our Cornell, Fleet Finch and Tiger Moth across the country and into Wisconsin to the EAA's Airventure event. The Vintage Wings Harvard
is painted in the markings of a No.2 SFTS Harvard known to have been flown by Magee during his tarining at Uplands.
John Magee receives his Royal Canadian Air Force wings here in Ottawa in 1941 at No. 2 Service Flying Training School Uplands. Photo courtesy Magee Family
No one in the world of aviation knows more about John Gillespie Magee than Ray Haas of Wilson, North Carolina (except maybe Linda Granfield). he has dedicated years of research into the life and death of this aviator poet. On Tuesday March the 1st, 2011 at 1900 hrs, Central Standard Time,
the Experimental Aircraft Association and Haas will present a free live "webinar"
or on-line seminar about Magee and his contribution to the war effort and to aviation history. From his early days with his missionary parents in China and life in the US, to his need to join the fight against tyranny and his subsequent training in Canada, this promises to be an informative talk. All you have to do is click on the link above and follow instructions... it's darn easy... even for me.
There are not many images known to exist of Magee in his early life or his short-lived flying career. Ray Haas has tracked down two including his official RCAF photo (right) and one possibly taken during his training as he is standing before a biplane. Photo courtesy Magee Family
A dashing-looking Magee sits proudly in a 412 Squadron (VZ-squadron code) Spitfire in England shortly before his death in a mid-air training accident. Photo believed to be Magee Family