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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedCanadian invasion continues with Lysander
By Frederick A. Johnsen, EAA AirVenture Today
  

Photos by Frederick A. Johnsen
The 50-foot wing of the Lysander uses automatic flaps and slats.

Rick Rickards says the view is tremendous from the pilot’s perch in the Lysander.

August 1, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin  - Warbird fans still revel in tales of World War II Canadian surplus aircraft languishing on farms in the western provinces into the 1970s.

That’s where the Canadian Warplane Heritage’s (CWH) rare Westland Lysander came from, as a skeletal promise in 1975. 

From that farmer’s field to the skies in June of this year for the first time since its rebirth, this Lysander is one of perhaps three flying in the world. The Lysander is displayed on AeroShell Square at AirVenture 2009. 

Pundits have opined that British aircraft designs come in two styles: sublimely beautiful and, well, aesthetically challenged. 

If the Supermarine Spitfire captures the beauty trophy, the Lysander better not quit its day job. Nonetheless, it proved to be a durable, flexible, viable, and just all-around able utility aircraft for the Royal Air Force and commonwealth air forces. 

The Lysander incorporates fully automatic flaps and slats, says CWH pilot Rick Rickards. He does not have a lever to invoke their use; they deploy when the speed range dictates. 

Outboard, leading edge slats help direct airflow over the ailerons at slow speeds. Inboard, as wing flaps automatically deflect down from the trailing edge, more leading edge slats move to stand off from the wing. 

Rickards has been flying the Lysander since June. He’s learned to respect the auto flaps: “If I lower the nose too abruptly after takeoff, they’ll go in and I’ll lose altitude.” 

Rick says takeoffs are three-point nose high affairs. After a roll of about 500-600 feet, “it starts to levitate,” he says. 

The Lysander’s 870-horsepower Bristol Mercury radial engine can pull the fabric covered beast through the skies at a cruising speed of 150 miles an hour. 

It lands at 70, with movable leading edge slats augmenting its slow-speed performance. 

Weighing 4,600 pounds empty, the Lysander grosses out at 6,200 pounds. Its high wing spans 50 feet. From spinner to tail, the tape stretches 30 feet, 6 inches. 

Before making his first takeoff Rick read the pilot’s manual and grilled some of Canadian Warplane Heritage’s docents who had flown them decades ago. 

“I’ve flown taildraggers all my life; nothing but,” he explains. And Rick’s thought process before he first clambered up the side of the high-rise fuselage to fly the beast? “You have to ask yourself: ‘Do you have the minerals to do it?’” 

With modifications, some cannon-armed Lysanders flown by Canadians patrolled the English coast when invasion seemed probable. External bomb racks could be installed like vestigial wings extending outward from the landing gear for the carriage of eight small anti-personnel bombs. And the huge art-deco wheelpants concealed a pair of .303-caliber machine guns on combat models of the Lysander. 

CWH’s Lysander is painted in stark yellow-and-black diagonal stripes. These markings were used on target-tug aircraft in an effort to point out to student gunners where not to shoot as the Lysander motored along, dragging a target sleeve reeled out behind it. 

The museum’s Lysander IIIA was built in June 1942 by National Steel Car Corporation at Malton, Ontario. 

Retired from military service in 1946, it was sold by Crown Assets to a farmer in the western provinces of Canada. Such farm field boneyards subsequently fed the growing warbird movement with everything from Lysanders to Yale trainers and Bolingbroke bombers.

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