Not long after we claimed a spot by the taxiway at the 2013 Hamilton Airshow, the weather began to improve slightly and the cloud ceiling lifted sufficiently to allow for flying. It was so exciting to hear the first aircraft powering up, and it was even better when they rolled straight in front of us on their way to the runway! I was deeply impressed by the vast variety of aircraft at Hamilton- not only did they have the usual aerobatics planes and customary Canadian Forces contingent, but they also had a stunning assortment of old aircraft, and many- to my delight- from World War II.
The first plane to set off was a Consolidated PBY Catalina; an American flying boat used in extensive anti-submarine, convoy escort, and search and rescue roles during WWII.
The sleek, boat-like shape of the PBY makes it obvious that this is an amphibious aircraft
The PBY is a surprisingly large plane- quite close in size to an Avro Lancaster
Next to materialize through the fog in front of us was a B-25 Mitchell, painted in invasion stripes. I’d seen this particular aircraft a few times before, but never up close and on the ground. Most impressive was the noise of its two radial engines, and the purpose with which it moved along the taxiway.
On the ground, I think the B-25 looks a bit like a mosquito; with long legs and odd appendages
The dorsal turret is easily visible in this photo. B-25s were armed with over a dozen 50 cal machine guns
Once it got into the air, the B-25 put on a wonderful performance. The pilot was not hesitant to execute some low passes and sharp banks, and it was pretty cool to see a vintage bomber flying so enthusiastically.
Despite the low cloud cover, the B-25 put on an impressive display
Look at those beautiful invasion stripes!
Another warbird at Hamilton was the Vought F4U Corsair. I’d never seen one of these planes before, but my brother is into aircraft scale models and he had recently completed a model of a Corsair; so I was familiar with the plane and was quite excited to see one. The Corsair is a very quick airplane, and it served with the US Marines, US Navy, and British Fleet Air Arm during WWII.
The peculiar and distinctive gull-winged Vought F4U Corsair
The Corsair was built as a carrier-based fighter in WWII, and featured folding wings
Next up was a true icon of the war- the C-47 Skytrain. Used in such missions as D-Day and the ill-fated Market Garden, this aircraft is synonymous with both supply drops and American airborne troops. I am still staunchly determined to someday parachute from an original C-47!
The workhorse that is the C-47
More obscure wartime aircraft were also present; such as the Westland Lysander and Fairey Firefly. Seeing aircraft like these (which are not really widely-known names, unlike the Spitfire or Fairey Swordfish, for example) reminded me of how huge the war effort was. It was not only fought with phenoms like Avro Lancasters and Spitfires; lots of less impressive aircraft also made essential contributions.
Westland Lysanders were used for secret missions in occupied France; a role they were well suited to, with STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities and a stall speed of only 65 miles per hour
Although similar in shape to the better-known Spitfire and Hurricane, the Fairey Firefly was a carrier-borne aircraft that was often used for anti-submarine warfare
A modern-day Canadian Forces anti-submarine aircraft was also present- the Lockheed CP-140 Aurora. Slightly slimmer and smaller than the well-known C-130 Hercules, the Aurora has a range of nearly 6,000 miles, and can carry a wide array of torpedoes, rockets, and other ordnance. Four Allison turboprops power the Aurora, which made its numerous low passes a treat to experience.
CP-140 Aurora taxiing past a commercial airliner and a Lysander
The distinctive airborne profile of the Aurora, with faint contrails visible
The fabled Harvard team was at Hamilton, as it seems to be at every airshow. Even though I’ve seen them many, many times, I always look forward to the Harvards. I think the Harvard (which is actually the British Commonwealth version of the T-6 Texan) is very appealing to look at, and the sharp drone of its props is beautiful. I’ve loved this aircraft since I was a little girl.
Three Harvards awaiting their turn in the sky
Because of its role as a trainer aircraft, the Harvard is easily maneuvrable
The Harvards can perform maneuvers that are nearly as impressive as those of the Snowbirds demonstration team
The Snowbirds, of course, had a performance at Hamilton as well. As great as they are though, the Hamilton routine seemed very long and I got a bit bored. Fortunately, the next performers snapped me out of the tedium. I watched, thrilled, as two heroes of the wartime Luftwaffe taxied by: a severe grey Fw-190, and a softly dappled Me-262!
The Fw-190 was used for many tasks by the Luftwaffe; it was a ground-attack aircraft,fighter-bomber, and fighter in all conditions
What a unique aircraft- nothing else even resembles the Me-262 Schwalbe
It was fantastic to see these two planes. The Fw-190 was great, but the Me-262 was one of the most memorable things I’ve witnessed. Due to engine troubles (which bring to mind the engine problems it had during its operational life) it only made one pass, but that lone pass won’t soon be forgotten. The Me-262 was like nothing else seen in WWII, and was the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter plane.
The undisputed highlight of the show for me, however, came a little later. It was the appearance of (what was at that time) the world’s last remaining airworthy de Havilland Mosquito, along with a legion of other aircraft all powered by the illustrious Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.
The Mosquito is special because of its wooden construction; and it was even more special for me to see one because of its unfortunate rarity. Photo by Andrew Jacobs
Elegant in flight and fearsome in combat, the “Mossie” is a sight to behold. Photo by Andrew Jacobs
The Mossie rolled past and then took off, doing some solo passes, before it was joined by the other aircraft. There was an Avro Lancaster, two Spitfires, and two Hurricanes- all aircraft that would have flown in support of one another during WWII. What an unimaginably amazing thing to see; it made me wonder how many times since the war anyone had seen what I was witnessing.
The Avro Lancaster utilized four Merlins to lug around its 34 ton frame. Photo by Andrew Jacobs
Six beautiful RAF legends. No words can describe how phenomenal this was to see and how blessed I felt to see it. Photo by Andrew Jacobs
These six aircraft flew around together for perhaps ten minutes, and the noise of their combined ten Merlins was so evocative and poignant. I imagined old WWII newsreels telling of these aircraft’s accomplishments; and pictured them above the green fields of England which came so close to ruin in 1940, saved only by airplanes like these and the bravery of the men who piloted them.
The airshow commentator stressed over the loudspeaker how unusual it was to have these six aircraft together in the air seventy years after the war- very true, since there were only two flying Lancasters and one flying Mosquito left as of 2013. The display was a very emotional moment for me, and there could not have been a more fitting finale to the show. I came very close to crying- it was that special- and I left the airport feeling slightly sad, extremely delighted, and above all, blessed beyond belief to have been at Hamilton that day.