Flying On The Ground

One of the many benefits of PCA membership is Panorama magazine. I particularly enjoy the From the Regions section, to see events other regions run and perhaps borrow ideas for UCR. Photos of Porsches parked in front of vintage and recent military aircraft are not unusual in Panorama, and I’ve always found the similarities between P-cars and aircraft striking. Fast. Aerodynamic. Mechanical. Timeless even.

As any member who has tried to sign up for a tour, only to see it sell out just after registration opens can attest, UCR Driving Tours are extremely popular. This past winter as I was considering how to keep the October Grand River North Driving Tour fresh, I thought back to From the Regions, and thought that the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) and its impressive collection of vintage military aircraft would make a cool tour destination.

After planning a route full of twists, sweeps and river views with fellow member Aran Matier, and working with the museum on event logistics, we decided this deserved an additional tour, and the June Grand River South Driving Tour was born. Focusing on lesser-known roads and following the Grand River south of the 401 to conclude at the museum, this additional event was intended to give members another driving tour option and provide some fantastic photo opportunities for the participants. A prize draw for a museum membership and gift certificate for a flight on one of the museum’s vintage aircraft was also set up by CWHM staff.

After an 8am departure from west Kitchener, participants snaked their way through fun, twisty back roads towards Caledonia and Dunnville before heading back north, enjoying some fantastic views of the Grand River along the way. Upon arriving at the museum and pulling into our private parking area on the tarmac in front of the hangar, participants were treated to an amazing sight: the WWII-era Avro Lancaster bomber flying overhead, banking hard above us on a training flight. The museum’s Lancaster is one of only two airworthy examples in the world and is the crown jewel of CWHM. Two different participants told me they had relatives who served on Lancasters, so seeing the plane was very meaningful to them. Participants were able to socialize, check out each other’s cars and enjoy the exhibits before a catered lunch was served in the hangar. The prize draw occurred at lunch, congratulations to Ella Warren for winning the flight gift certificate and membership!

More surprises were still to come however! As the group began eating, the massive hangar doors unexpectedly opened and the Lancaster was pulled inside, providing quite the backdrop for our meal. Finally, as participants were departing for the day, they were able to have pictures of their cars taken in front of two different aircraft- a Lockheed CF-104 Starfighter and a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber. 

Melody Zapotoczny volunteered her assistance on this tour months ago and did a stellar job, taking dozens of photos to ensure everyone left with great memories of the day.

I’d like to recognize Aran for his help with the route and invaluable work as tour sweep, and Melody for handling the photography. The day would simply not have been possible without their help. The CWHM staff deserves major kudos for their efforts in coordinating our group and making sure everyone enjoyed their time at the museum. Finally, I’d like to sincerely thank all the participants who came out, several of whom made long treks to Kitchener for the early departure. I’m already looking forward to next year’s edition, in the meantime I’ll be on the lookout for more inspiration from Panorama and elsewhere! </>

Story By Rob Payne
Photography by Melody Zapotoczny

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