Spitfire Classic

About five years ago I stood on the 10th tee box at a golf club which occupies land along the Nation River directly adjacent but lower than the former No. 10 EFTS at Pendleton. It was a lovely, hot afternoon in the dead of summer. I waggled my driver over the ball and looked up at the fairway – a par 5 dogleg right, into the afternoon sun. I froze in mid-waggle. Rounding that dogleg about 400 yards down and 200 feet up was a Spitfire, sun dazzling off its banked wings, looking like it might have in East Anglia in the hot summer of 1940 and me a farmer bringing in the hay. With mouth agape I stood transfixed as the Spitfire rolled wings level coming out of the turn and descended steadily as it thundered down the fairway towards the tee-box, its immense propeller disc shimmering in the high sun. As the thunder of the Merlin and the magnificent sight of those big radiators and elliptical wings swept past a mere 70 feet overheard, I was jumping up and down like a madman.

Turning with the Spit I watched as Mike Potter, Vintage Wings of Canada's founder, disappeared over the rising ground and the perimeter fence that surrounds Pendleton, setting up for a low level pass of the airfield he flew gliders from nearly 40 years before. His old glider friends were waiting over the rise. At that point, any hopes that I might break that elusive 100 were sucked up into his slipstream and carried a way on the hot, high-octane air. From that point on, my excitement at what I had just witnessed caused erroneous electrical messages to shoot from my brain stem, down my arms, into my over-gripped hands and down the shaft of my golf clubs. Leaving my brain might be the clear message “Hammer this baby straight for a thousand miles, big boy!”, but by the time it made the point where the dimples meet the titanium, it had somehow been garbled and the message received was “Go hard right into those stinging nettles.” No matter how hard I concentrated, I couldn't put that airplane out of my mind.

Despite the upending of my score, golf has long been the relaxation and sport of choice for aviators. With lives connected to airline schedules or military duty, belonging to a pick-up hockey team or an industrial softball team is not a commitment most aviators can make. But finding 5-6 hours between taskings or pairings to walk 18 holes with some buds, that they can do. If you want the perfect story about how aviation and golf work together, watch the Hollywood Viet Flick called BAT 21. In this true story, real life Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton played by Gene Hackman, is rescued from the clutches of the Viet Cong after he is forced to eject from an electronic countermeasures aircraft. His knowledge of this super sensitive technology made it imperative that he be extracted at all costs.* After a failed first attempt deep behind enemy lines, he was directed to a remote second collection point using headings and distances from golf course holes that he had played many times - for instance he might be directed to "the 13th hole at Beale AFB's golf course”, which to Hambleton would mean “324 yards southwest”. It is clear that golf can save an aviators life!

Now, this Thursday, June 21st, 2012, Vintage Wings is staging its first annual golf tournament fundraiser to keep our warbirds flying. We invite you, your friends, your clients, your family and your co-pilots to sign up for an afternoon of golf, friendship, laughter and dinner for a cause we all share a passion for - vintage warbirds and honouring our heroes. 

Here are some of the details about the tournament

Where: Scenic and rolling Mont Cascades Golf club

When: Registration starts at 1130hrs followed by a BBQ lunch with shotgun start at 1300hrs.

Who: anybody who loves to golf... even those who don't

Featuring: Flyovers by Vintage Wings aircraft, dinner, bar, and prizes.

Cost: $200.00 per member player (Includes cart and green fees plus a tax receipt for a portion of the cost), $300.00 for non member player (with a tax receipt for a portion of the cost) or $1,000.00 for a corporate foursome–Includes green fees and golf cart.

For more information about the days events and to register yourself or a foursome, contact Gareth Dare, Vintage Wings of Canada's Director of Advancement and our resident pro. E-mail Gareth

So, folks, here's a chance to spend some time on an excellent course, not with high tech sales people and financial wealth advisors, but with avgas loving aero-philes who talk like you and think like you. Above all here's a chance to contribute to a cause of great importance and have a whole lot of fun doing it with a low risk of speech making. So sign up brothers and sisters! I just got two spots, but if you want a ringer... don't contact me.

Dave O'Malley

While we can't actually promise an aircraft at every hole, each hole will be named after one of out 18 vintage aircraft.

Golf has long been the pastime of naval aviators. Recognizing the importance of the mental break that golf offers carrier-qualified fighter pilots, in 2006, a former nuclear aircraft carrier was recommissioned as CG-01 USS Frederick S. Couples. Officially a RDGCF (Remotely Deployed Golf Club - Floating), Couples (called Freddie by its crews) deploys with a Carrier Task Group in the Red Sea.  Couples joins two other commissioned RDCGFs USS Samuel Snead, and USS Payne Stewart. The RDCGF type is the only ship in the US Navy commanded by a PGA pro.

We expect Vintage Wings of Canada mechanics to use their secret weapon - the 60º loft torque wrench. Outlawed by the CPGA, the TorqueMaster 2000 is allowed in amateur events like ours.

*Hambleton had Top Secret access to Strategic Air Command operations and was an expert in surface-to-air missile countermeasures. The North Vietnamese Army may have gained intelligence about him and his capture could have meant a huge bonanza for the Soviet Union.

To prevent friendly fire incidents, the Americans imposed a standard no-fire zone within a 27 kilometres (17 mi) radius of Hambleton and diverted aircraft to aid in his rescue. It is likely that additional South Vietnamese soldiers died as a result. Hambleton along with 1st Lt. Mark Clark, who was shot down during rescue operations, were finally recovered from behind enemy lines on two different nights in daring, covert, night-time rescues carried out by U.S. Navy SEAL Thomas R. Norris and VNN commando Nguyen Van Kiet. Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor and Nguyen was recognized with the Navy Cross for their actions. Nguyen was the only South Vietnamese naval officer given that award during the war.

The direct and indirect cost of rescuing Hambleton was enormous and became a watershed event in Air Force search and rescue. The Air Force did not put limits on what it took to rescue a downed airman. Five additional aircraft were shot down resulting in the deaths of 11 airmen, the capture of two others, and another air man trying to evade capture. As a result, the USAF altered the way search and rescue missions were planned and developed new techniques and equipment to improve their ability to rescue downed air men.

The complete Warbird U Calendar for 2012
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