Spitfire, Mustangs and more take Gatineau Airshow spectators on a journey into the past

Spitfire, Mustangs and more take Gatineau Airshow spectators on a journey into the past

A few thousand people sitting next to their cars near the runway lifted cell phones and cameras to the sky as the planes flew past.

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Spectators at the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport were treated to a thunderous display of aviation history on Sunday as the fourth edition of the Gatineau Airshow took off.

“How can you not be happy to be out here? It’s a beautiful place to be, ”said John Bennett, president of the event, as two World War II fighter jets flew low overhead.

Asked what his favorite aircraft was among the planned aviation shows, Bennett pointed to Spitfire, a Royal Air Force fighter from World War II. Its engine growled as it hurried across the runway, displaying the elliptical wings that make it one of, if not the most recognizable, fighter jets in the world.

“The Spitfire is just a great plane to see,” Bennett said. “We have CF-18, and it’s always noisy and amazing, and the other really nice action is the Canadian snowbirds.”

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Behind the controls on the Spitfire sat Dave Hadfield, who comes from a family of pilots. His brother, Chris, is the famous astronaut.

Two P-51 Mustangs, American fighter jets, also from World War II, started together with Spitfire. Although more than 15,000 were built during the war — used in a variety of roles, but especially as companions to American long-range bombers, only a handful still fly.

One of the P-51s, a craft nicknamed Mad Max, dipped and twisted over the crowd for nearly 20 minutes. Sunlight shone from the polished metal exterior – a stark contrast to the gray and green camouflage of the Spitfire.

The crowd, a few thousand people sitting next to their cars near the runway, lifted cell phones and cameras to the sky as the planes flew by.

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A Spitfire and a P-51 Mustang remain in tight formation at the Gatineau Airshow on Sunday.
A Spitfire and a P-51 Mustang remain in tight formation at the Gatineau Airshow on Sunday. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

The organizers described the setup as a “drive-in” due to COVID-19 physical distance requirements.

“It allowed us to have the public distance that we needed,” Bennett said of the drive-in format. “There are far fewer people coming, but we at least have an airshow. It’s better than being without a show. ”

One thing the crowd missed, however, was the ability to see the plane up close and even walk among them.

“That’s what people like to see,” Bennett said. “They like to touch and feel them.”

The Spitfire and the Mustangs were just one of several historic air shows.

To start the show, before jumping into the cockpit of the Spitfire, Hadfield took off in a Lysander – a markedly slower aircraft, with a large fixed landing gear hanging under its steel hull.

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Lysander also has a historical past. It was used to rescue downed pilots and also for secret missions in occupied Europe during World War II.

Hadfield demonstrated the aircraft’s ability to land and take off on a dime using a short stretch of asphalt to get it up in the sky and, after knocking it past the crowd, it landed on the grass next to the runway, much like its pilots. in the war would have done to hand over spies and saboteurs behind German lines.

It was a flying piece of history – and not the only one that started on Sunday. A glossy black DH-83 Fox Moth — a biplane with an enclosed cockpit and room for four passengers behind the engine — toured across the airport. Its record reinforced its rarity; It was first owned by the Prince of Wales in 1932.

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Pilots chat during a Lysander at the Gatineau Airshow on Sunday.
Pilots chat during a Lysander at the Gatineau Airshow on Sunday. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

Faster and louder than Fox Moth were the jets whose roar echoed across the Gatineau hills and into Ottawa. Two L-29s training aircraft used by many Soviet bloc countries set off a dogfight in which one jet chased the other, both weaving and twisting through the air.

But if the L-29s sounded like a thunderstorm, the CF-18, a multi-role fighter still in service with the Royal Canadian Air Force, sounded like a hurricane.

The plane, which weighs more than 10,000 kilos, fired its afterburners as it took off and drove its nose directly into the sky, blowing up the air.

To conclude the show, The Snowbirds, celebrating their 50th anniversary, performed an aerobatic air show that flies in tight formations and streaks across the Gatineau sky.

“They are so graceful,” said Bennett, “and so famous all over the world. … We were lucky. ”

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