Time well wasted

Well, another April Fool’s has come and gone, and we have another 365-day reprieve before having to deliver again on what has become sort of an obsessive tradition at Vintage Wings—the annual reinvention of Canadian aviation history. Our April Fool’s jokes started out fairly small and fairly lame, but we soon ratcheted up the bogus-factor to create wide and deep historical contexts for each story. Some of these ridiculous historical pieces took upwards of 80–100 hours of Photoshop work, actual honest-to-goodness research and creative writing. To what end? None, actually. That’s the beauty of it all—just time well wasted. 

This past week, we ran our tenth April Fool’s hoax and for the most part over the years, they were all very well received and shared about the “interwebs”. Needless to say, we’ve pissed off a few folks—most because they were duped, but some because we took a swipe or two and because we’re a bit insensitive. Regardless, we press on.

It’s interesting to note that other aviation groups and even WestJet also do elaborate April Fool’s hoaxes… all of them starting a few years after our first. A coincidence I am sure, but interesting though.

For those of you who have just joined us and have not perused our archive of more than 500 stories and posts, we thought we would celebrate the past decade of bullshit by sharing all ten April Fool’s hoaxes with you. You’ll think it ridiculous that anyone believed this stuff, but believe they did. 

Evad Yellamo

In 2008, the first attempt at a Vintage Wings of Canada April Fool’s joke was rather pathetic in comparison with later epic stories and Photoshop extravaganzas, but it was a start. It was simply the one image of a floatplane Corsair. But it got me thinking about something more elaborate for 2009, the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada.

There is a Royal Canadian Air Force, a Royal Australian Air Force and a Royal New Zealand Air Force, so why wouldn’t Newfoundland, which was, in the first half of the twentieth century, a self-governing dominion of the British Commonwealth as were Canada, Australia and New Zealand. All of these air forces came into existence as a result of lessons learned from and contributions made during the First World War. So why would it not be believable that Newfoundland also had its own “Royal”–designated air force, born of its contribution to that war. Why not indeed! This is the April Fool’s joke that demonstrated how easy it is to write a historically correct-sounding document when you get to make up the entire history. It also demonstrated how successful a complex, thorough bit of bullshit can be in convincing even one of Canada’s big league historians that it was true, even though he had never heard of it. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

In the period between the world wars, zeppelins and dirigibles were ascendant. In 1927, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King moved to get Canada involved in the Imperial Air Ship Scheme and set aside funds to build an airship base, airport and mooring mast in Saint-Hubert, Québec. Canada was getting set for the arrival of the massive British airship R.100 in the summer of 1930. Though it was such big news in the early 1930s, not many know that much about Canada’s flirtation with dirigibles today, so it seemed a natural garden in which to plant the story of the not-so-real airship known as Samuel de Champlain (RCN.100) and the non-existent Royal Canadian Navy dirigible program. As ridiculous as it seemed, many were duped (not you of course!) and one television production company actually contacted me to see if they could join us on our voyage to James Bay to recover the recently-discovered remains of the long lost airship. Something to remember… if you’ve never heard of something, it’s entirely possible that it’s because it never actually happened. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

On the outer fringes of aviation and aerophiles, there exists a whole planet called Geek 51 where people wonder “What if?”— What if the Avro Arrow was still being built today? What would the all-carbon fibre Avro Arrow Mk LVII look like? What if the Germans flew P-47 Thunderbolts? What if there were Spitfires in the Victorian Age? It’s a world where just knowing about history and the development of aircraft is not enough; where people breathe the air of impossibility. Let’s journey to Geek 51 and see a past where Canada, having just cancelled the Avro CF-105 Arrow program, did the impossible—they bought MiGs from the Soviets and stretched American–Canadian relations to the breaking point. This story inspired a number of model makers to build CF-121 Redhawk fighter aircraft. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

As the Russians in the East and Canada, Great Britain and America in the West pushed deeper into Germany in the early months of 1945, intelligence teams from both sides fanned out, looking to scoop up leading edge German rocket scientists, nuclear physicists and aircraft designers to reap the benefits of their desperation technologies. The Soviets thought they had captured Heinkel’s senior aircraft designers in the Zwillingsbeiber brothers. They were of course wrong. While only a few thought this story to be authentic, it spurred Swiss model aircraft flyer Hans Jürg to ratchet up the craziness with a real flying Twin Beaver and then a Twin Beaver Biplane. Check out the images at the end of this story. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

Nothing gets people more riled up than our government spending taxpayers’ money on something like “culture”, but mixing it with military spending is sure to push every button. Apparently not. Many believed the story and those that didn’t said “If it’s not true… it should be”. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

With the possibility of a future without leaded 100 Octane aviation gasoline looming over the horizon, it wasn’t a stretch for Vintage Wings to be looking into firing up those old Kinner five-banger radials with a fuel made from recycled products. Being in Québec, why not stop all that French fry and poutine grease and oil from being flushed down the drain? I had one bio-fuel purveyor offer an alternative additive that might help boost performance if we were interested. Once informed of the hoax, he never wrote back. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

As April 1st approaches, so does the stress level for hoaxers like Evad Yellamo of Vintage Wings. Trying to equal previous years’ stories, let alone best them, causes some degree of agitation. As April approached 2 years ago, Yellamo was desperate for an idea that could be both believable and executable—some things are simply too complex to Photoshop (Yellamo’s most potent tool). A chance encounter with the fuselage of the Mk IX Spitfire TE294 getting a coat of white primer in the paint bay spawned an idea and the rare Supermarine Spitfire APR-IX was born. The best stories start with dramatic introductions that set the scene. The story of the Canadian Icefire is one of Yellamo’s favourites for the opening yarn that involves U-boats, weather stations and polar bear hunting. Thanks to Yellamo’s sidekick Albert Prisner for suggesting that the real life German missionaries on the Labrador coast play a part in the story and for the Inuit carving of an Icefire. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

In the late 1950s and early 60s, airlines that had invested heavily in reciprocating engine-powered airliners and their attendant infrastructures for fuel, servicing and passenger handling, welcomed the advent of the jet age, but were not yet ready to dump their fleets of big radial powered aircraft like the Lockheed Constellation or the Boeing Stratocruiser. Before they threw in solidly with the 707s and the Comets, they briefly considered a mid-Atlantic aerial refuelling station to make their propliner aircraft more competitive in terms of flight time between continents—or at least that’s where the bullshit began. And there was the benefit of connecting to a Canadian story here too… to the long-gone, but much-loved Supertest Petroleum Company, a Canadian icon for much of the 20th Century. Thanks to Albert Prisner for his support and set of Supertest Wings. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

This year, our April Fool’s hoax explained that we were selling off aircraft to purchase a major collection of rare Second World War propaganda posters. It was hard to stand in the 21st Century and pretend to be in the 1940s without being somewhat sexist, racist, and stereotypical. So I didn’t try. I took a swing at the Irish, the Germans, the wealthy, the Japanese, the French, the British, Torontonians, managers, the National Rifle Association and women. There were people who were upset. Not about the other groups made fun of, just their own. Click here or on image to view story. Images by Dave O’Malley

The complete Warbird U Calendar for 2012
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