The First Flight of the Roseland Spitfire IX

Arnold Roseland was just 28 years old when he died in an aerial gunfight over Normandy in the summer of 1944. He had fought both the Japanese in the Aleutians and the Nazis before and after D-Day. If anyone deserved to return home to his family, it was the well-liked “Rosey”. But it was not to be. Instead he died when his parachute caught on the tail of his burning Spitfire and he was thrown to his death when the aircraft struck the ground.

Since that day, Rosey’s remains have lain in a well-tended grave site at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in Calvados, France. In those days, men who died in battle were not returned home, but were often buried in the small town graveyards where they died and then moved to a larger site after the war. Their spirits returned to be captured in the hearts of loved ones, there to live forever in their memories. The memory of Arnold Roseland lived on in his wife Audrey’s heart until her death, and since then his story has been carried like a torch by his son Ron and his children and grandchildren. Though Ron would never meet his father, he had some artifacts to help him construct a bridge to him—his eyes have scanned the words that Rosey’s hands penned in his logbook, his hands have caressed his pilot’s brevet, his story has coursed through his bloodstream like a ghost. But there was no actual living memory he could attach his love to. Until last week.

Last week, Rosey’s spirit rose into the air over his native Canada, casting a physical shadow across a country he gave his life to protect and to preserve its freedoms. Last week, after many years and millions of dollars, Spitfire Mk IX TE294, known as the Roseland Spitfire, took to the skies for the very first time. The Roseland Spitfire is the very embodiment of that brave, fatigued young man from so long ago. It is in fact the embodiment of every young Spitfire pilot who went to war and never came home. That is why we took on this project—to honour these courageous Canadians by building the first Spitfire ever built in Canada and flying it in Canadian markings.

We offer up the very fine photographs taken by Vintage Wings of Canada’s official photographer Peter Handley as well as a short video by our official videographer Jonathan Edwards who was there to record it. It was a happy day for the entire Comox/Gatineau team, but all of Canada should be proud of their accomplishment.

When the volunteers at the Comox Air Force Museum began work on TE294, they went forward under the hopeful banner “She will fly again.” Vintech Aero and Vintage Wings of Canada have always respected this vision of the project’s founders and we are proud to have helped fulfill that promise they made. Since this first flight, the Roseland Spitfire has now completed six test flights, each one carefully and gradually expanding the flight envelope of the aircraft. Vintage Wings of Canada will now take TE294 through a lengthy, meticulous and methodical test process for the rest of the year to ensure she is in perfect order before she attends any distant air show or other events. She will, however, be debuting for all of Canada when she makes a triumphant flypast over Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Canada Day to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday. How’s that for a homecoming for long lost but not forgotten Arnold Roseland!

Dave O’Malley

After many years, Spitfire Mk IX TE294, wearing the markings and serial number of Y2-K, a 442 Squadron Spitfire, sits in the morning sun on the ramp at Vintage Wings of Canada, ready to go flying for the first time in many decades. The build is finished, the engine tested, taxi tests complete and the weather is gorgeous. Nothing left to do now except go flying. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

After a restless night, Vintech Aero aircraft structures wizard Ken Wood continues to stress about the upcoming flight. Wood has personally built the wings from the spars up and oversaw the completion of the build project. The fuselage was largely completed by Vintech Aero’s team in Comox with ground work laid by Comox volunteers and staff. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Vintage Wings test pilot John Aitken (right) will fly the full test program for the TE294, the Roseland Spitfire. Here he talks with Mike Potter about what will happen in the next hour or so. It cannot be overstated enough that this project would never have come to fruition in Canada without the financial commitment and constant support of Mike Potter. Mike more than bankrolled the millions of dollars necessary to keep both the Comox and Gatineau work moving toward the finish line, he was there at all stages showing his support and fuelling confidence. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Potter and Wood, perhaps the two men who have invested the most in this project, talk about the upcoming test flight. Both will chase the Spitfire in Mike’s Extra 330 LT and see the results of their lengthy commitment first-hand and up close. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Briefing time. Since Potter and Wood will fly alongside Aitken in the Spitfire, the test pilot briefs the team about the join-up and the test flight profile. Aitken, a highly-experienced military and civilian test pilot and a Canadian aviation legend, was relaxed and in the zone, instilling confidence and calm as he described the upcoming first flight. Aitken worked alongside Ken Wood and the Vintech Aero team for the final months of the build project as both the aircraft and the pilot were preparing for the test program. Photo: Peter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Despite the solid preparation for the flight and Aitken’s calm demeanour, Wood was as worried as an expectant father. It was understandable as he has poured his heart and soul into the project. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Vintech mechanic Gerry Bettridge accompanies test pilot Aitken out to the awaiting Spitfire. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

The two ships are set for the first flight—the Spitfire Mk IX and the Extra 330 LT. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Aitken turns the propeller through a few blades and begins his walk-around inspection. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Bettridge helps Aitken strap in. A Canadian test flight needs a Canadian helmet—Aitken sports the classic Gentex fighter pilot’s helmet of the 1960s and 70s Canadian Air Force. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

The Spitfire’s Rolls-Royce Merlin barks to life. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Mike Potter with Ken Wood roll first in the Extra 330 LT, to be in the air when the Spitfire begins its takeoff roll. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Chocks out and Aitken rolls forward to taxi to the main airport ramp for engine run-up. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Aitken runs up the Merlin and checks that everything is set for the first test flight. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

The two aircraft taxi to the single 6,000-foot runway of the Gatineau–Ottawa Executive Airport. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Aitken is all business now as he rolls out to the main runway. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

A good look at the post D-Day markings of Spitfire Y-2K (MK304). The sun is shining, the winds are light and down the runway. Let’s go flying. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Lift off. The Roseland Spitfire flies for the very first time. With it flies the ghost of Flight Lieutenant Arnold Roseland of 442 Squadron, RCAF, who was shot down and killed the very day MK304 arrived on squadron in Normandy. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

As Aitken climbs Y2-K out on this perfect day, we are reminded of a day 73 years ago when a pair of 442 Squadron Spitfires climbed to do battle. This photo, supplied by Spitfire guru Peter Arnold, was crucial in helping us determine the markings we would paint on TE294. Photos: Top Peter Handley; Bottom: from the Collection of Peter Arnold

A great shot of the Roseland Spitfire as she climbs back into the sky. The first flight would be carried out a low speed with the landing gear extended throughout. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

On a second pass of the airfield, Potter and Wood in the Extra come in close to look over the aircraft carefully, checking for leaks and any telltale signs of a problem. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Aitken rolls out after landing, opening his door for cooling. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Home safe and very sound, Aitken taxies back. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Mike Potter and John Aitken shake hands after the historic flight, while steadfast Vintage Wings volunteer “Taff” Williams looks on. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

After the flight and its unmitigated success, Wood chats with Aitken, but can’t seem to hide the raw emotion he feels from watching her take to the skies and come home again safely. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Just some of the people who worked to bring the Roseland Spitfire across the finish line. Left to right at back—Gerry Bettridge, Mike Potter, Pat Tenger, John Aitken, Ken Wood, Mike Irvin, Mark Dufresne, Guy Richard. Kneeling in front: Paul Tremblay and André Laviolette. Of course, it took more than just these men to build this aircraft. This includes the dedicated Vintech Aero team at Comox who worked on the fuselage—Ken Hazell, Dean Sept, Kaven Tremblay, Henry Bukach, Terry Chester, as well as Bonn Svensson, Andrej Janik, Korrey Foisy, Mario Guèvremont, Ian Ward, Rob Fleck, Dave O’Malley, Stocky Edwards, and of course Mark DeVries who started it all 20 years ago or more. A special mention goes out to all the volunteers at the Comox Air Force Museum who began this project at the beginning of the new millennium—people like Irv Fraser, Pat Murphy, Dave McLeod, Mike Forbes, Tom Quibell, Harold Mulder and many more. We should also mention the help of people like Peter Monk, Guy Black, Martin Phillips, and Brenden Deere as well as the folks at Cunningham Aero, Supermarine Aero, Airframe Assemblies, Retro Track and Air. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

John Aitken was very satisfied with the flying qualities of the Roseland Spitfire and the atmosphere in the debrief room was relaxed and happy afterward. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Director of Maintenance at Vintech Aero, Paul Tremblay displays the feeling of the entire team—relief and great joy at the success of the first flight. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Mechanic Gerry Bettridge takes a closer look at the Merlin post-flight, checking for leaks and any signs of a problem. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

The engineers discuss the flight with Mike Potter. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

With pride of ownership in his work, Ken Wood personally crawled under the Spitfire to wipe her down after the first flight. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Mike Potter, Founder of Vintage Wings of Canada, was the man who made this all happen. Despite setbacks, years of restoration and major cost overruns from earlier work, Potter never lost sight of the idea of a Canadian-built Spitfire flying in Canadian skies, paying homage to a Canadian hero. Without his determination, support and encouragement, this event would not have happened here in Canada. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

The Spitfire was started up later that day, but a hydraulic issue scrubbed the second flight. Since that day, the Roseland Spitfire has made two more flights. PhotoPeter Handley, Vintage Wings of Canada

Watch the official video of the first flight. Video: Jonathan Edwards, Vintage Wings of Canada

 

Additional photographs taken from the chase plane during the second test flight follow.

PhotosPaul Tremblay, Vintech Aero

 

For more information on the life and death of Armold Roseland, click here… and here.

Chercher
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