Future leaders earning wings in history

Air cadets from across B.C. take part in Yellow Wings Youth Leadership initiative at Victoria airport

Air cadet Felix Chan of Richmond peers out of the cockpit of a Boeing Stearman biplane as Vintage Wings of Canada pilot Derek Blatchford taxis from the Victoria Flying Club hangar. The aircraft was taking cadets

Roaring to life, the engine of the Boeing Stearman biplane pulls the aircraft forward on the tarmac of the Victoria International Airport.

On board is Vintage Wings of Canada pilot Derek Blatchford and Richmond air cadet Felix Chan. Chan is one of 50 cadets who were able to get into the sky aboard the Second World War-era training plane, as part of Vintage Wings’ Yellow Wings Leadership initiative this week.

“They are getting about a 40-minute experience in the aircraft,” says Todd Lemieux, program team leader and chairman of the board for Vintage Wings of Canada.

The cadets are in the program to learn about aviation and aerospace technology, science and math — with the goal of helping create future leaders and  turning youth on to careers in the field. Viking Air is a supporter of the program, Lemieux said, and are interested in helping create a new base of workers in the industry.

“We are teaching the cadets about the history of the aircraft and about who the plane is named for — Warrant Offer Harry Hannah. It’s a combination of skills training and good citizenship.”

Vintage Wings will be conducting 500 flights on heritage aircraft across Canada this year, hoping to reach 6,000 youth.

Air cadets at the Victoria Flying Club hanger for the activity were part of a group on their Power Scholarship course this summer. Captain Amélie Leduc, regional cadet public affairs officer, says the youth will end up getting their pilots licence once they complete the program, which takes place over three weeks.

“The cadets are here from all over B.C.,” she said, adding they learn about all sorts of jobs, from flying and technology to public relations.

Flight Corporal Florence Calder from Nelson says her flight on the Stearman was “amazing.”

“It was really fun,” she said, adding they received a quick lesson on how to hold onto the controls and once in the air, they were allowed to take the stick and fly on their own — under supervision, of course.

Calder said she has been in cadets for two years and joined because she enjoys aircraft and hopes to earn her pilots licence. She is part of a contingent of some 1,000 cadets, she said, at Albert Head this summer for a variety of courses.

Corporal Felix Chan, from Richmond, says he enjoyed his turn at the controls of the Stearman, adding he too wants to be a pilot someday.

“I enjoyed the take off and landing,” he said, noting that the experience was quite different from flying gliders, a typical activity for air cadets.

“It makes sharper turns,” he said of the vintage biplane. “In a glider, you don’t pitch around as much.”

Vintage Wings of Canada, based in Gatineau, Quebec, tells the story of historic aircraft and the people who flew them. To learn more about them and about the Yellow Wings youth Leadership initiative, visit www.vintagewings.ca or www.yellowwings.ca.