BC Pilots to fly at Vimy Ridge 100th Anniversary Celebrations in France April 2017

Jun 2, 2016


BC Pilots to fly at Vimy Ridge 100thAnniversary Celebrations in France April 2017

Vimy Flight was formed four years ago by 4 retired Canadian military pilots who had acquired replica Nieuport XI World War One scout aircraft and were flying them as a hobby. While so engaged they pondered the possibility of flying over the Vimy memorial in France for the upcoming centennial celebration to honour those who fought in that conflict. Their imagination was piqued by a 1936 photo which depicted bi-planes flying over the Vimy memorial during the opening ceremony in July 1936. A plan was formulated to replicate this event during the dedication ceremony scheduled for 9 April 2017 in France.

Bi-planes over Vimy at 1936 opening 2-Vimy flypast 1936

With the cooperation of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, the Canadian Geographic magazine and with the collaboration of the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum the plan, called “A Nation Soars”, was designed by Sound Ventures Productions telling the story in three segments. The first, titled “Drawn to Victory” will be a made-for-TV movie about the use of aviation in creating maps of the battlefield. Large scale maps will be made for inclusion in a cross-Canada trek in company with the aircraft. These maps, measuring some 8 by 10 meters, will be set up in gymnasiums or sports centers to show the public how aerial reconnaissance and maps were used to great success during the war.

Tim Joyce and Barry Stanton – Abbotsford, BC11-Comox Airshow - Allan Snowie (center- top), Peter Thornton (right), Paul O'Reilly (center) and Larry Ricker (left)

The second project, called “Wings of Courage” will look at early Canadian aviation using the construction of two Sopwith Pups as the vehicle to introduce young adults into the field of aviation just like they did 100 years ago. This project will be completed at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, BC.in time to join the Nieuports in the spring/ summer of 2016. In addition, Sound Ventures will be conducting interviews with those Canadians who have ancestors who fought in the Great War. Selected interviews will be interspersed into the project to put the human element into the story. People with ancestral records of military service or photographs of Great War veterans would be good candidates for such interviews. A schedule for the process will be published at a later date but interested candidates should contact Paul O’Reilly at his e-mail address: navalaviator2@shaw.ca Be sure to indicate your contact information as well as the ancestor you wish to honour.

Sopwith Pups under construction6-Sopwith Pup being built up at the Canadian Museum of Flight


The Royal Canadian Air Force has tentatively agreed to transport the aircraft, supplies and personnel to France during the winter of 2016-17 and provide liaison services with the French authorities to ensure all concerns are addressed – provided, of course, that real world issues don’t intervene! It is hoped to base the four Nieuport replicas plus the two Sopwith Pups aircraft at a grass airfield near Vimy Ridge to make the occasion as realistic as possible!

The third filming project, titled “Flight Path of Heroes”, is the actual cross-country expedition and it will start with the return of the aircraft from France in the spring of 2017. It will begin at an east coast departure point, most likely Halifax, with the movement of the group through New Brunswick and Quebec to arrive in Ottawa in time to participate in the 1 July 2017 flypast over the parliament buildings for the 150th commemoration of Canada. Thereafter, the group will fly westward to the Toronto – Hamilton area visiting population centers and military bases enroute. The map presentation team from the “Drawn To Victory” project will accompany the aircraft. Thence, the group will proceed westward through Ontario and the Prairie Provinces to arrive in Langley in October which will mark the end of the project.  The precise routing has yet to be determined.

Newports over Vancouver Island 4-Nieuports over Vancouver Island

The federal government has approved the project but would only provide funds for the current fiscal year. In addition, the project must obtain other funding from private sources to cover the other aspects of the plan which will amount to some $800,000.00. To that end the Vimy Flight has partnered with the Canadian Museum of Flight which can provide tax receipts for donations to the cause. Just make sure you indicate your donation is for the Vimy project. The internet address is: Canadian Museum of Flight:http://www.canadianflight.org/content/donate

In the meantime Vimy Flight has been appearing at various local flying venues in BC such as the Comox airshow and Abbotsford airshow. Vimy Flight is led by Allan Snowie who now lives in Bellingham, Washington. Other pilot members are Dale Earhart of Comox, Paul O’Reilly of Victoria and Peter Thornton of Chilliwack, BC. Other spare pilots are Larry Ricker and his wife Lucie of Moncton, NB, Bob Wade of Calgary, AB, David Wilson and Rod Ermen from Nova Scotia. The Business Manager and Press Agent is Bernada Bilic of Vancouver, BC while Bob Stickley of Langley, BC is an aviation adviser. The maintenance manager is Darwin Dzuba of Comox, BC.

The Team at Comox Airshow3-the Team at the Comox airshow


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