Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association Chief Pilot Greg Burnard knows his way around vintage aircraft.
And while it certainly wasn’t nervousness, it was with heightened respect that he took CHAA Yale 3399 to the air for its maiden flight of 2014.
“It’s like borrowing dad’s car the first time,” he explained on the runway Saturday at Tillsonburg’s Regional Airport after a gentle touchdown that elicited positive comment from his CHAA compatriots. “The guys have put so much labour into this over the past 20 years, I’m afraid to scratch it.”
CHAA Yale 3399 was a flight training aircraft, which as an aside, appeared in the 1942 Warner Brothers movie Captains of the Clouds starring James Cagney. Purchased in the Ernie Simmons estate sale in 1970 by Don Goddard of Waterloo, it was obtained by CHAA in 1987. Its restoration to airworthy condition began under the direction of late ex-RCAF Wing Commander Lou J. Hill, and its registration (C-GLJH) bears his initials to honour that fact.
Its restoration garnered one of two Canadian Aeronautical Preservation Association (CAPA) Excellence in Restoration awards presented in 2013, ‘for completion or significant progress toward completion of an aircraft with special significance to the history of aviation in Canada.’
The Yale is an earlier training aircraft leading up to the Harvard, which formed the backbone of World War II’s British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Externally, a Yale may look the similar to its more-famous relative, but closer inspection reveals few, if any parts are interchangeable, and the fact a Yale’s 450-horsepower engine (compared to 600 HP for a Harvard) and different design translate into distinct aeronautical characteristics.
“When it stalls, it decides to flip over on its back in a hurry,” explained CHAA historian Shane Clayton. “If you fly it like a Harvard, you’re going to be in trouble.
“If you fly it like a (Piper) Cub with a radial engine in it, you’re fine.”
Yale 3399’s first post-restoration flight on May 20, 2010, ended with an unscheduled touchdown in a nearby cornfield.
“A forced landing is the technical term,” explained Clayton.
Subsequent work led to a successful flights in August and October, 2013, limited air time due in part to inclement weather and pilot availability.
“The Harvards take priority,” said Clayton. “But it needs a chance to fly and prove itself.”
Following additional ‘tweaking’ over the winter with a goal of flying in a BCATP commemorative event this May 31 in Hamilton, Yale 3399 completed a near-flawless flight Saturday as a highlight of CHAA’s first fly day for 2014, with what Clayton described as an ‘excellent’ landing.
“A good landing is one you walk away from,” he clarified with a smile. “An excellent landing is when you can use the airplane again.”
This year is shaping up as a busy one for CHAA, with subsequent open house/fly days scheduled for Saturday, June 7, Saturday, July 12, Saturday, August 2, and Saturday, September 13 (Wings and Wheels). In addition, the association’s Harvards will be participating in the BCATP Fly-In in Hamilton, the Waterloo Air Show, Thunder Over Michigan, the Ontario South Coast International Air Show at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport Saturday, August 23; and hosting ‘A Gathering of Harvards and Heroes’ June 20-22nd, celebrating 75 years of Harvards in Canada. Those seeking additional information on the organization or its events are welcome to visit the website: www.harvards.com.
Burnard has made the Yale a personal priority for 2014, in part for the enjoyment of flying a different ‘bird’, and also in large part to honour the restoration work on the long path back to airworthiness.
“Flies straight, engine ran well, still learning a little bit about it, that’s all,” Burnard summed up. “Its little idiosyncrasies are different than the Harvard.
“Even though they look the same, they don’t act the same.”