The Ace Makers – Yellow Wings Warbird School

During the Second World War, it did not matter whether you were a four-engined bomber pilot, a flying boat captain, a fighter pilot or ground attack pilot, RCAF pilots had one thing in common—they learned the basics of flying, the skills they would need to survive the war, and the ability to make aircraft do what you wanted, on an elementary flying trainer—the de Havilland Tiger Moth, Fleet Finch or Fairchild Cornell. These simple aircraft were designed for and succeeded at imparting the magic of flight. They had to be easy to master, but not too easy. Pilots had to learn that limits existed in all aircraft, but they needed to come back alive if they crossed over the threshold of controllability. 

All of us pilots remember the euphoria of our first solo flight, a memory that will stay with us to the end of our days. Despite long tours of bomber operations or hundreds of fighter ops, every Canadian pilot of the Second World War looks back on one of these three types with deep affection and respect. These aircraft are the first step on the way to success, the first mesh in the layered filter that selected only the best of the best pilots. These aircraft were the ace makers, the inspirers, the great equalizers.

Vintage Wings of Canada’s Warbird U series of Technical Ground Schools is proud to offer members and the general public a two-day ground school dedicated to the aircraft that birthed the great aviators of our time. Two of the three principal trainers of the Second World War—the Finch and the Cornell—plus perhaps the finest primary trainer of the Cold War era, the de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk, will be studied in great detail, analysed and compared. Three of the principal light engines of the war will also be studied—the Ranger L-440 6-cylinder and Gipsy Major 4-cylinder inverted in-line engines and the clattering 5-cylinder Kinner radial that powered the Finch.

This two-day weekend with like-minded aviation and history lovers is surely meant for the true aviation aficionado, one who needs to know what made the heroes of the Second World War so great, so accomplished and so revered. You can’t build a strong building without a strong foundation, and the same goes for fighter and bomber pilots. This course will take you much further into how that foundation was built, than reading books or watching videos. Like you, your instructors love this material, understand history, and are looking forward to meeting you and spending some quality aero-time together. 

Ace Makers—the Yellow Wings Training Aircraft 

Two-Day Warbird Technical Ground School
11–12 April 2015 at the Vintage Wings of Canada Hangar
Tuition includes homemade lunch, coffee breaks, hero shot in the three cockpits, course material DVD and certificate of completion.

Click here for more information and to register for this course.

The training aircraft of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan utilized several unique engine types, in themselves as simple and understandable as the aircraft they powered. These engines, like the Cornell’s Ranger inverted 6-cylinder in-line engine, had just the right degree of complexity and power to help young students master the fundamentals of flying, engine temperature management, electrical components and maintenance. A student, who took great care to understand the motor that pulled him through the air, had a better chance of completing the syllabus and of surviving even combat. Your Ace Maker instructors will school you on the Cornell’s Ranger, the Finch’s Kinner radial and the Chipmunk’s Gipsy Major engines. It’s both fascinating and understandable. Photo: RCAF

Weather and maintenance permitting, there will be an opportunity to start one or more of the Yellow Wings aircraft. Photo: Peter Handley

The Vintage Wings of Canada Fleet Finch is dedicated to the memory of RCAF ace and fighter pilot Squadron Leader Hartland “Hart” Finley, who trained on Finches during the hard winter of 1940–41 at No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School at Windsor Mills, Québec. In fact, Hart Finley flew this very Finch (4462) during his training. The Hart Finley Finch is painted in the markings it once had when it was flown by Finley and others that winter. You will be sitting in the same place a great Canadian hero once sat. Attendees are encouraged to read his story in preparation for the two-day course. Click here for A Thundering Hart. Photo: Peter Handley

Young Leading Aircraftman Andrew “Andy” Carswell, father of John Carswell, a major sponsor of Vintage Wings’ flying program, trained on the Finch as well—at No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School, at Goderich, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron. Carswell, flying an Avro Lancaster a year later, was shot down over Germany. He went on to escape twice from his POW camp, managing to survive on both occasions many days wandering about Nazi Germany before being captured. The story makes good background study for those attending the Ace Makers Ground School. Photo: Andy Carswell 

Elementary flying training students practice formation flying on Fleet Finches somewhere over Canada in the early 1940s. Photo: from copy print LAC-Canada. D&D-PL 4178

Peter Ashwood-Smith, your Fleet Finch instructor, warms of the vintage 5-cylinder radial Kinner engine on the Hart Finley Finch. Peter has many hours experience flying the Finch and many more flying his beloved Pitts Special aerobatic biplane. Peter can be seen regularly in the skies above our Gatineau hangar, wringing out his Pitts. Photo: Peter Handley

The de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk has often been referred to as the “Poor Man’s Spitfire”, though you would have to be a wealthy man to own one. The sobriquet is more in reference to its elegant and slender lines and its exceptionally smooth flying characteristics. One thing’s for sure, she’s a beautiful aircraft. A Canadian design, more than 1,200 Chippies were constructed in three countries—Canada (217), England (1,000) and Portugal (66). Photo: RAF

The Vintage Wings of Canada de Havilland Chipmunk is owned and operated by Don Buchan, your Chipmunk Ground School instructor. Don is a lifelong pilot and aircraft aficionado, Air Cadet Instructor and former president of the Rockcliffe Flying Club. Painted in the markings of a 1950s RCAF trainer, Chipmunk 18028 is dedicated to Flight Lieutenant Patrick Joseph “Tim” Timmins who trained on the type before going on to become an RCAF CF-100 fighter pilot and a Trans World Airlines Boeing 747 Captain. Photo: Peter Handley

Chipmunks are a delight to fly, providing awesome 360 degree visibility through the blown canopy, quick response and gentle ground handling. Photo: Peter Handley



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