The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum near Hamilton Ontario has just introduced a new exhibit. “Virtual Reality Experience – BBC 1943 Berlin Blitz”, produced by the BBC, takes you along on a flight on an AVRO Lancaster as it flies a bombing mission to Berlin in 1943.
On September 3, 1943 BBC reporter Wynford Vaughn-Thomas and soundman Reg Pidsley climbed on board “F for Freddie”, a Lancaster with the No.207 Squadron of Bomber Command. Their flight from RAF Langer in Nottinghamshire was part of a 316 Lancaster raid on the Berlin area. Vaughn-Thomas and Pidsley recorded the sounds of the flight on acetate records including banter amongst the crew and the tense moments of the approach, bomb release and return. 22 Lancasters were lost in the raid but F for Freddie made it home – the aircraft was shot down the following year.
76 years later you can relive their experience thanks to the magic of Virtual Reality. Donning the VR glasses takes you back in time as the Lancaster rumbles down a grass runway struggling under the weight of fuel and bomb load to get off the ground. As you look in every direction, you’re immediately immersed in the experience.
The entire experience lasts for about 15 minutes and covers the flight to Berlin complete with searchlights, flak and enemy fighters and all the time you’re hearing the actual crew chatter that was recorded so many decades ago. As flak bursts around you it’s impossible not to get caught up and think of how terrifying it must have been for these young fliers. You share their relief when the coast of England comes into view and a crew member breaks into song.
CWHM is the first location in North America to host this exhibit and it is a perfect prelude to seeing the museum’s own Lancaster VRA, one of only 2 left flying in the world.
Virtual Reality Experience is FREE with admission. Regular admission rates are Adult (18 – 64) $15, Senior (65+) $13, Student (13 – 17) $13, Youth (6 – 12) $10. Free admission for museum members.
The Canadian Warplane Heritage museum is located at 9280 Airport Road Mount Hope, Ontario – right beside Hamilton International Airport.
On September 24, 1949 the North American T-28 “Trojan” made its first flight.
Nearly 2000 Trojans were built between 1950 and 1957 and were used by the United States Air Force and United States Navy. Besides its use as a trainer, the T-28 was successfully employed as a Counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft, primarily during the Vietnam War.
Many Trojans still fly today like the aircraft seen above flown by the Trojan Horsemen team at Oshkosh.
T-28 at 2014 Waterloo Air Show
The high undercarriage and throaty growl from the Wright R-1300 or R-1820 radial engine make them impossible to miss at air shows all over the world.
I may not be the sharpest knife in the block but at least I’m smart enough to know when my friend Bill Shepard says “Road Trip” I pack my bags. This time we were off to Port Clinton Ohio with the CAF Red Tail Squadron and their Rise Above exhibit.
Our destination was the Liberty Aviation Museum, home of the B-25 “Georgie’s Gal” and the Ford Tri-Motor restoration project celebrating the local use of a Tin Goose as an island hopper commuter airplane servicing the area around Put-In-Bay.
I drove down with good friends Melanie and Tracy and we met up with the rest of the team on Friday evening for dinner and some laughs. The weather was less than perfect but it didn’t dampen the team’s enthusiasm. The Red Tail Squadron travels an incredible display around the US in the capable hands of Terry and Jeanette who live in this custom truck and do the majority of the setup and teardown of this theater on wheels. Hundreds of thousands have passed through to watch an informative movie telling the story of the famous Tuskegee Airmen who fought tremendous battles both at home and in the air over Europe. Their story inspires the youth of today to “Rise Above” and reach for the sky.
The Rise Above Team
The main sponsor of the weekend at the museum was one of those brave airmen. Dr. Harold Brown is a resident of the Port Clinton area where he is much loved by the whole community. Dr. Brown started working at the age of 11 and went on to become one of those famous black aviators who played such a pivotal role as escorts for the waves of bombers flying to Germany. Shot down near the end of the war, Dr. Brown spent some time as a POW before being liberated and returning to the US where he remained in service for a total of 23 years, retiring as a Lt. Colonel having spent a number of years with the Strategic Air Command flying B-47 Stratojets. After leaving the military, Dr. Brown went on to play a pivotal role in the growth of Columbus State College. He “retired” but went on to run a consulting business and become a much sought after public speaker. I was privileged to be able to spend most of Saturday listening to Dr. Brown as he talked to children and met fellow veterans including one who flew a B-24 bomber that was escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen so many years ago. In this day of packaged celebrity it is truly rare to meet people for whom the term “hero” is somehow less than adequate. I was in the presence of greatness and I will always hold that day close to my heart.
Dr. Harold Brown, Tuskegee Airman, and the CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang.
Sunday morning, I again got to accompany Bill as he flew the P-51C Mustang back to Tillsonburg Ontario.