Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cool Airplane Night

Last week I was asked to attend the Air Force Mess Dinner, a big affair here at 14 Wing, Greenwood. The dinner celebrated the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada, and was located in a hangar belonging to 413 Search and Rescue Squadron. The hanger allowed the dinner to feature as set pieces two antique aircraft.

One was the replica of the Silver Dart, the first powered aircraft in Canada, which made its first flight here in Nova Scotia, at Baddeck Bay, on 23 February, 1909. Here's a link to the Silver Dart Project's website picture of the replica making it's centennial anniversary flight this year:

And the original:

Here's the same replica aircraft, which was disassembled and shipped to Greenwood for the Air Force mess dinner, as it appeared behind the head table.

One of the guests of honour at the dinner was retired Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, who piloted the replica Silver Dart this February. Here he is wearing considerably less gear than he did on the Space Shuttle.

Tryggvason offered some very interesting remarks on piloting both the Silver Dart and the Shuttle, and dropped a few jaws when he described how much fuel it takes to get the Shuttle into orbit. He certainly underscored how much technological change has occured in one century.

Also present behind the head table was a rebuilt Avro Anson, a training aircraft that was used extensively here in Canada to train Allied aircrew during the Second World War. This aircraft has been lovingly restored but is not airworthy.

The other guest speaker was the Chief of the Air Staff, Lt. General Angus Watt, who circulated amongst the audience with a microphone, asking people to say how old the Canadian Air Force is (I guessed 100, which is wrong, but he should have known better than to ask a guy in an army red mess jacket). The correct answer can be found in the book that the CAS announced, a little publication, On Windswept Heights, which tells the history of military aviation in Canada. It can be downloaded here. General Watt reminded us that experts generally suck at predicting the future, and that the Air Force, together with the rest of the Canadian Armed Forces, would be kept busy preparing and training for an uncertain future.

For my part, I showed the fruits of the last three month's second language training by saying the grace in both official languages.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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