Aviation Ambassador

Adventures with G-AKDN - Chapter 14

The sky was falling at the Reno Air Race. One second Karen and I were watching the modified P-51 Mustang roar past at over 300 mph and in the next split second it pitched up, zoomed to 1000’, rolled onto it’s back, stalled and dove straight for us!

Time stood still. I grabbed Karen’s arm and ran. Looking over my shoulder the Mustang accelerated. Slowly the nose started to lift and it changed direction. It slammed into the grandstand-seating full of people. We were in shock, but unhurt.

That wasn’t the end of our day. A few hours later, we got a call to tell us the museum at Downsview was closing, and our Chipmunk KDN was about to be locked in! Not a great day.

Previous to this, James and I had been flying KDN at events around Saskatchewan and enjoying it. But we had decided the best future for this airplane would to be part of the collection at the museum located in the same building where KDN had been built. We met with the museum management and arranged to donate it, if we could have it protected by getting it recognized as a Canadian Cultural Property. This would protect it forever as a recognized national treasure.

In the meantime, we agreed to fly it to the museum and have it put on display.

Another exciting cross Canada flight. This time we flew over the north shore of the Great Lakes. Everything was going smoothly, until a broken bolt was found during a fuel stop. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but we were at Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island in the middle of nowhere (or maybe the middle of everywhere?) with no source of aircraft parts. It looked like we were about to spend a long time here. Were we surprised when we were airborne within 2 hours after a few talented gentlemen on the airfield machined a new bolt from a piece of metal and we installed it and were good to go. You meet the most amazing people in aviation.

We arrived in Downsview where KDN was greeted once again, like the celebrity she is. We spent a couple days there offering rides and finalising the details of KDN’s future. It was very emotional to leave, as I patted her on the nose, walked out the door, leaving her sitting on the spot she was built on 65 years before.

As time passed we worked on the paperwork needed to gain a cultural property designation for KDN, and secure it’s final disposition. Then, that terrible day at Reno, we received the unexpected call that the museum was closing. I made a call to our contact at Bombardier, which manufactures aircraft at the south end of the airfield. They reassured me they were already on their way to the museum and were towing KDN to their Delivery Hangar where it was welcome to stay as long as we needed. At the end of a very long and stressful day, we were very thankful that KDN, Karen and I, were all safe and sound.

You just never know what the day will bring.

To be continued…

KDN being removed from the museum.

KDN safe and sound in the beautiful Bombardier Delivery hangar

The sixth annual Wings & Wheels event was held at the Downsview Park & Airport, formerly CFB Downsview, at the end of May. Despite the poor weather, crowd turnout was pretty good, as was the turnout of vintage aircraft and antique, classic cars.One of the stars of the event was, what is believed to be, the oldest, flying Canadian built de Havilland Chipmunk in the world, built in 1947, serial No 11. The aircraft made the trip from Saskatchewan flown by owners/pilots Dave Gillespie and James Brooke over 2 days. It was expected the aircraft would arrive earlier in the day but the low cloud and fog meant the arrival was delayed until mid-afternoon. Despite that, the aircraft made it and was the highlight of the day for many with it returning to its place of birth, where de Havilland Canada built her some 64 years earlier.

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