Air show thrills

Vincent Ball

By Vincent Ball, Brantford Expositor

Kees VanBerkel might not get as much press as the Canadian Snowbirds but the longtime pilot has been getting more attention than usual this year.
“We’ve been pretty busy and lot of that has to do with the 100th anniversary of the First World War,” pilot VanBerkel, 69, said Wednesday. “”We did a show on April 9 – the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge - and we’ve done a lot of other shows, as well, We’re glad to be in Brantford today.”
VanBerkel is a member of the Great War Flying Museum at the Brampton/Caledon Airport. He and a crew from the museum were at the Brantford Municipal Airport on Wednesday for this year’s air show.
The museum was established in 1970 and is dedicated to the commemoration of aircraft used during the First World War. They build, maintain and fly the planes, which are replicas, including a Sopwith, the forerunner of the Sopwith Camel and a Fokker DR1, a German plane.
VanBerkel has been flying the replica First World War planes for a few years now but still remembers his first time at the controls.
“I kept thinking, I hope nothing goes wrong because I really didn’t want to damage something that didn’t belong to me,” he said with a smile. “It’s a different kind of plane to fly.
“You have to have a lot of confidence, experience and you need a really good briefing.”
The Great War planes are among the earliest aircraft made and the pilot has to do everything.
“As the pilot you are in control of the plane from the moment it starts until the moment it is parked,” he said.
Great War Flying Museum officials also brought an exhibit that was on display during the pre-show charity dinner on Tuesday night.
“One of the things we like to do is educate people about the role of aircraft in the First World War,” said Nat McHaffie, the museum’s president who was also at the air show. “We commemorated the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge this year and when most people think of Vimy, they think of the trenches.
“What we want people to realize is that aircraft played an important role in that battle, too.”
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Brantford and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum this year’s air show brought thousands of people, including a lot of shutterbugs. Among them was Frank Job of the Etobicoke Camera Club.
“A group of us from the club came down for this and I have to say that it’s a great show,” Job said. “The show at the CNE gets a bigger crowd and there are a lot of oohs and ahhs but this show is more intimate.
“Here you can get closer to the performers and, really, there is a much better chance of getting the kind of shot that you’re looking for.”
Job was armed with a 150-500 mm lens and was busy moving throughout the crowd looking for the ideal shot.
“This is a good place to shoot because you can get the planes as they come through at a low level and get them with the planes that are on the ground at the same time.”
Job was especially impressed with Indira Thackorie, the voice of the air show.
“She’s really good,” Job said. “She really knows her stuff.”
In addition to a performance by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic team, the show featured local pilot Danny Richer, the Canadair T-33 Mako Shark, a BAC Strikemaster and the North American T-28 Trojan.
The Avro Ancaster wasn’t part of the show as had been expected because it is in need of repair.