Southwestern Ontario is home to a collection of nine World War II planes called Harvards. They were built as training planes, to teach pilots how to fly and maneuver in sticky situations. Over 140,000 men were trained to fly on these planes, from North America but also from France and Poland.
Keeping the planes in flying shape takes a lot of patience and a lot of money. From time to time they offer 'backseat' rides as a way of keeping awareness up and the coffers, too! So yesterday Ian got his chance to take a backseat ride in a Harvard himself.
As luck would have it, his pilot, David Sheppard, got called into Formation duty for a private airshow that was taking place today. So Ian got the special thrill of flying in a formation training circuit instead of just a sightseeing ride. I know Rick will appreciate this - afterwards, Ian said "As a pilot I spend all my time trying to avoid other aircraft. Having to fly this close to other planes was a real shocker!"
Anyway, just thought a few of you would like to see a little (very poor quality cell phone video) of his flight yesterday. The unusual noise that the Harvards make is from the props, not the engines, incidentally. The props rotate so fast they are supersonic.
Loc: Vero Beach, Florida
That is really cool Amie! I hope Ian got a chance at a little stick time also? Up until several years ago the same engine used in the Harvard and Texan (Pratt & Whitney R1340) was the same engine used in most spray planes and I have accumulated a little over 3k hours with that engine, great engine but a little too old and fragile for rugged use anymore but I always love to hear the sound of them. Ask Ian if the sound from inside the cockpit reminded him of a locomotive initially, that's usually most folks first impression of a radial engine.
Thank gawd that our Air Force had retired the Harvard just before I joined the RCAF as a noob pilot in 1966 or I'd still be flippin burgers somewhere, ha!!
The Harvard is a real handful for novice pilots due to it being a tail-dragger coupled with the strong torque properties of a big radial engine swinging a good sized propeller. They often ended up off the runway in the grass after suffering the infamous 'ground loop'.
I was fortunate as an 18 year old just-out-of high school dweeb to go directly from the street to our CT-114 Tutor Primary Trainer that is still being flown by our Snowbirds Aerobatic Team today. Thankfully it is a very civilized & forgiving aircraft in every way - & a lot of fun as well. Even so, the majority of pilot candidates failed to achieve their wings due to the speed & complexity of starting out from scratch on a jet. Because of the high failure rate, that program lasted for only a couple of years when they introduced the prop-driven Chipmunk (sort of a much smaller Harvard) as the Primary Trainer before candidates carried on to the jet.
Looks like fun Amie. I'd love to fly in a vintage plane. I'm not a pilot but have been in quiet a few different types of aircraft as a passenger.
I once flew in a WW I plane! Well OK, actually it was a Cessna. Sounds boring, but actually, it might have been one of the the dumbest thing I ever did as it did have a very distinct WW I feature.
We discovered that the pilot's nickname was "The Spinnmiester" but it was not because of his aeronautical shenanigans as we suspected, but because the starter was gone on the plane and he had to jump start it by spinning the blade by hand. I had no idea you could actually even do that on a modern place.
In hind sight, we probably should not have flown in it but since we were going skydiving, we figured as long as he could at least get to 1000 feet before stalling, we would be OK since we had parachutes.
FYI, it also had a broken tach and the fuel was leaking out of the drain hole "or something" on one wing. He tried to stop it by tightening the fuel cap on the top of the wing, then he had us push the plane over to park it on a hill so that wing was elevated.
Not sure if these guys are still operating a skydiving school. I certainly hope not. Although the crazy instructor from New Zealand who let one of us pack his chute was a fun guy and he bought a round at the bar that night because he said we deserved it for not backing out of the jump.
With great power comes Awesome irresponsibility.
It was very cool. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is into flying. I had to decide between going in the formation run or being able to fly my own sightseeing trip from the back seat. Tough call; I end up deciding that I can always go back for the actual chance to fly the Harvard but they don’t do the formation practices all the time.
It is pretty barebones in these planes. There is no floor, just two rails where you put your feet. The instrumentation was surprisingly complete for a 1937 aircraft. No VOR/DME but other than that it had the basic IFR package we could get by with today.
I hadn’t thought of a locomotive at the time but that is a pretty good description for it. These planes have a huge engine for the size of the plane and it is all about torque. The top speed is only 157 knots, which may have been considered fast then, but lots of power for aerobatics which they are capable of.
Ian Colquhoun President & Chief Engineer