In April 1918, Great Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) was founded, making it the first independent air force in the world. To celebrate the RAF’s 100th anniversary, we’re hosting The Great British Fly-In April 15 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
As part of the celebration, some of Britain’s most celebrated aircraft are flying in for one day only. These aircraft are owned by private collectors and organizations, so we got to know a bit about the aircraft, their owners, and what drew these pilots to flight.
Probably the most famous Allied bomber of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster had impressive flying characteristics and operational performance. The aircraft won a place for itself in history with the daring and precise bombing raids on the Ruhr Dams in May 1943 and with the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz in November 1944. Thousands of Canadian airmen and ground crew served with RCAF and RAF Lancaster squadrons in England during the war.
The Great British Fly-In will feature the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Lancaster, one of only two flying examples in the world—and the only one in North America. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Dambuster Raid and the RAF’s 100th anniversary, the port side of the Lancaster will have the markings of Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, specifically Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s aircraft AJ-G, ED932.
The Lancaster will be flown in by two of the most experienced current Lancaster pilots in the world – Leon Evans (Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum chief pilot) and David G. Rohrer (Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum president & CEO). Both pilots are honored to be displaying the Lancaster to the next generation of aviation and history enthusiasts. Evans and Rohrer flew the Lancaster to England in 2014 when it joined up with the other flying Lancaster for a two month tour of the UK.
De Havilland Chipmunk
Richard Wilsher will be bringing his de Havilland Chipmunk T.10, the RAF’s primary trainer in the 1950s through the early 1970s. Wilsher’s interest in aviation was fueled by his father, who served in an administrative role in the RAF. Always drawn to vintage aircraft, Wilsher liked the look of the Chipmunk and was especially entranced by his Chipmunk (RAF s/n WP833) and the role it played as part of a two-Chipmunk “Around the World” exercise organized and executed by the RAF in 1997. Wilsher has spent the last eight years restoring ’833 to her configuration from that “Around the World” flight. According to Wilsher, “bringing ’833 to DC to participate in these RAF 100 events is the highlight of my flying adventures.”
Growing up in Birmingham, England during World War II, Michael Dale knew he wanted to fly from a very young age. He joined the Royal Air Force when he was 17, and the Percival Provost was the first aircraft he flew while training at RAR Ternhill in 1953. That is what inspired him to purchase and restore a Percival Provost in 1990. The project, which was handled by Kampel Engineering in Wellesville, Pennsylvania, was a major engineering challenge and took eight years because many parts had to be made from scratch. The restored aircraft is in the markings of the aircraft in which Dale went solo over 60 years ago. Dale’s Provost is one of only a few known to be flying in the world.
The Great British Fly-In will also feature a number of P-51D Mustangs, including pilot Andrew McKenna’s P-51D 151AM. McKenna and his Mustang have volunteered for numerous ceremonial events in and around Washington, DC, over the past decade, including Arlington National Cemetery for fallen airmen. McKenna also participated and led the fighter formation in the 2015 flyover of Washington, DC, celebrating the 70th anniversary of VE Day, so it is fitting that he join our celebration the 100th anniversary of the RAF as well. McKenna completed his first solo flight at age 16 and finished private pilot training at 30. He has flown over 650 hours in the P-51, performing at airshows and events up and down the east coast, and holds a surface-level aerobatic waiver for solo and formation aerobatics in the P-51 as well as the T-6. McKenna is also one of only 10 certified Civilian United States Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation pilots, through which he leads and flies with the F-16, F-35, F-22, and A-10 (along with other World War II and Korean War-era vintage aircraft), at numerous airshows and events across the country.
See these aircraft and more at The Great British Fly-In on April 15 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.