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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedCanadian vintage wings spread over Oshkosh
By Frederick A. Johnsen,  EAA AirVenture Today

Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen
Tim Leslie’s smiling because when he’s not flying warbirds for Vintage Wings of Canada, he gets to be a test pilot. Behind him are (left to right) a Corsair, Hurricane, and Spitfire from the Canadian collection.

July 28, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - The pride and enthusiasm for preserving and showing the aircraft of World War II has a new supporter at AirVenture 2009, the Vintage Wings of Canada Foundation.

Vintage Wings is celebrating 100 years of Canadian flight by bringing three warbirds to Oshkosh – a Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire XVI, and an FG-1D Corsair, all representing Canadian fliers of World War II.

Tim Leslie, Vintage Wings’ chief of flying operations, is a test pilot by trade. He tells a story on himself about the time the organization’s founder, Michael Potter, asked him to fly a rare Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bomber for evaluation before Potter considered adding it to the collection.

Test pilot Leslie, applying modern warplane expectations to the old-school biplane, told Potter not to buy it. Potter bought it anyway, telling Leslie, “you have no sense of history,” Leslie recalls with a smile.

Leslie came to understand Potter: “He’s inspired as much by the history as the looks and performance,” Leslie explains.

Leslie smiles as he gestures toward the trio of fighters his group displays on AeroShell Square this year. Investigating each aircraft for flying or restoration uncovers a wealth of knowledge.

“You can either call it a Pandora ’s Box or you can call it uncorking a good bottle of wine,” he observes.

The museum’s Curtiss P-40 handles well and chugs along behind its Allison engine with reassuring authority, Leslie says. Yet the higher-performing P-51 Mustang has demandingly difficult stick forces that make coordinated maneuvering a task.

This has been part of Leslie’s warbird journey, as he has come to appreciate Michael Potter’s love for them all, despite any performance quirks.

“It’s still a thrill flying these aircraft,” he says, “but it’s the people you meet, the history that you learn, and the appreciation that freedom is earned,” that are really important in Leslie’s work with Vintage Wings of Canada.

Almost wistfully, Leslie compliments his American warbirds counterparts on their sense of history: “You guys don’t take freedom for granted.”

Noting that Canadians have a lot to be proud of, Leslie and the Vintage Wings of Canada are determined to showcase that pride.

Their introductory brochure says it succinctly: “…it is our mission to celebrate Canada’s aviation heritage and to inspire Canadians with the powerful stories of the heroes, aircraft, and events that make up this legacy… Only you can ‘keep ’em flying’ for future generations of Canadians.”

Leslie, like so many participants at AirVenture 2009, has another life away from here. He serves as supervisor of flying operations and training for Canada’s Institute for Aerospace Research.

A week from now, he’ll be flying micro- gravity parabolic arcs in a stout Falcon 20 business jet to validate Canadian experiments intended for a weightless space environment.

In addition to the trio of famous fighters the group flew to Oshkosh, Vintage Wings of Canada preserves historic Canadian civil aircraft. And its postwar F-86 Sabre, freshly refinished in commemorative Royal Canadian Air Force gold show markings, is currently on tour north of the border during this centennial year of Canadian flight

 The group’s message at Oshkosh is clear: pride in the accomplishments and sacrifices of the victorious airmen of World War II knows no boundaries.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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