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Wings & Wheels Heritage Festival celebrates - DHC-1 Chipmunk 60th Anniversary

By Ken Swartz, TAM Marketing

The 60th anniversary of the first flight of the de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk training aircraft was the subject of a major aviation event organized by the Toronto Aerospace Museum (TAM) at Downsview Park on May 26-28.

Highlight of the weekend was the Wings & Wheels Heritage Festival, organized by the museum, showcasing vintage aircraft and classic cars on the site of the original de Havilland Canada heritage aircraft factory in Downsview Park, where the prototype Chipmunk CF-DIO-X was constructed and first flew on May 22, 1946.

The Chipmunk was the first original aircraft design developed by de Havilland Canada, and the first aircraft with a “Made in Canada” label to be widely sold and flown throughout the world.

A total of 217 were built in Canada at Downsview, 1,000 in the United Kingdom, and 60 under license in Portugal.

More than 30 vintage aircraft, including 13 airworthy DHC-1 Chipmunks and about 150 classic cars were on show along with exhibits from various groups including the Canadian Armed Forces, Bombardier Aerospace, and Diamond Aircraft.

The Festival began on Friday evening with a captivating symposium on the Chipmunk and attended by 80 participants. It was held within the Toronto Aerospace Museum’s unique heritage building which in 1946, the prototype Chipmunk was constructed.

The Symposium included an overview of the history of the Chipmunk by Bill Fisher and Hugh Shields; first-hand recollections of the aircraft’s development by well-known

de Havilland test pilots George Neal and Russ Bannock; tales of RCAF adventures by retired air force instructors Stan Miller, Howard Malone and Bill Long; and a fascinating discussion on the challenges and rewards of restoring, flying and maintaining the Chipmunk by current owners.

Festival sponsor Bombardier Aerospace kindly opened their private 7,000 foot runway at Downsview to the Festival organizers. Saturday and Sunday were busy days with the arrival and display of 13 Chipmunks from Canada and the USA - the largest gathering of Chipmunks in North America in recent memory. 

One of the first Chipmunk’s to touch down at Downsview for the 60th anniversary festivities was G-AKDN, Serial 11, which has the distinction of being the oldest flying Chipmunk in the world! 

G-AKDN was built in 1947 and is one of the three original Canadian-built Chipmunks shipped to the UK to help launch the British production line for the type. It’s owned by Dave Gillespie and James Brook of Saskatoon who piloted the unique aircraft on an historic 2,220 km (1,380 miles) flight to Downsview where they were greeted by George Neal, the aircraft’s original pilot 59 years ago!

This shiny Chipmunk will be on display at the Toronto Aerospace Museum until mid-July.

In addition to the a ramp full of Chipmunks, the festival showcased replica World War One fighters from the Great War Flying Museum, Tiger Moths from Guelph and Collingwood, a Turbo Beaver and a pair Fleet 80 Canucks – a type also celebrating its 60th birthday this year.

The modern era in aviation was represented by a pair of Eurocopter helicopters from the Ontario Provincial Police and Global TV, a brand new Diamond Star DA40, a Canadian Armed Forces Dash 8 navigation trainer from CFB Winnipeg, and a brand new 50-seat Q300 Dash 8 airliner awaiting delivery to Air New Zealand.

Fun flights in Chipmunks and a Harvard proved extremely popular, and the crowd was able to observe several brand new Bombardier Q400 airliners and Global Express business jets making routine test flights from the airport.

Not to be outdone, members from various auto clubs throughout the Greater Toronto Area brought their gleaming period cars for display. The presence of these wonderfully restored cars added substantially to the interests of those attending the festival. 

More than 150 cars were displayed and each was a shining example of the cars of the 40's and early 50's - some were even older.

There were also exciting activities for the family and children ranging from military displays, by the Governor General's Horse Guard, to scale model aircraft building and flying as well as opportunities to watch radio-controlled electric models doing stunts within the cavernous hangar.

This first Wings & Wheels Heritage Festival at Downsview Park was a definite success. More than 3,000 people attended and enjoyed this Chipmunk celebration. 

A bigger event is being planned for 2007.

A great deal of appreciation is due the organizers of this event in both the Toronto Aerospace Museum and the Parc Downsview Park organization - the co-hosts of this event. 

Its success was also due to the support and sponsorship of Bombardier Aerospace, Sun Publications and Boston Pizza of Downsview.

For more photos and additional highlights visit www.torontoaerospacemuseum.com