SLIDE SHOW: Langley-built biplanes in France for Vimy anniversary

Sopwith Pups built by volunteers at Canadian Museum of Flight ready to take to skies over Europe

A squadron of replica First World War biplanes that includes three Langley-built aircraft has arrived at the airport in Lille, France, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.

The two Sopwith Pups, built by volunteers at the Canadian Museum of Flight at the Langley airport, were partially disassembled and packed into a Royal Canadian Air Force transport jet at Comox air force base on March 17 for shipment to France, along with a Langley-built SE5a and four replica Nieuport 11 ‘Bebe’ biplanes of the same era.

Museum general manager Mike Sattler said volunteers in Lille were reassembling the aircraft and preparing them for the April 9 fly-past.

Sattler said more than two dozen people, some of them air cadets, helped to build the Sopwith Pups.

“It was done with volunteers in an incredibly short period of time and a high degree of professionalism,” Sattler said.

“Only three, maybe four volunteers came from a professional aircraft maintenance background. I’m incredibly proud of their achievement.”

The tight construction schedule was nearly upended by an unexpected problem with malfunctioning engines that forced the museum to scramble for replacements.

Because of that delay, while both Pups are complete, one didn’t get enough test flying time to be declared airworthy and may have to stay on the ground at Vimy.

Unforgettable Moment

Even so, the fact the planes were completed despite the tight schedule and setbacks is something to celebrate, said Sattler, who recalled watching one of the Sopwith take to the air for the first time as an unforgettable moment.

“It was absolutely, wow,” Sattler said.

Sattler will be one of several Langley representatives attending the anniversary.

“The support we’ve been given by Transport Canada, Royal Canadian Air Force, municipal ad provincial governments and  general public has been absolutely outstanding,” Sattler said.

The fly-past was inspired by a 1936 photo which depicted biplanes flying over the Vimy memorial during the opening ceremony of the memorial, which records the time and place where four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first time.

RCAF Capt. Brent Handy will be flying one of the Nieuport 11s over Vimy.

“I honestly felt like I won the lottery when I found out that I was assigned to the program,” Handy said.

The Nieuports, he said, were “top-line fighters” for their time.

It’s really thrilling. It’s a single cockpit airplane as well, so only one seat, so you have to teach yourself how to fly.”

In the First World War, pilots had little training before they left for war.

“They probably had about a grand total of four hours of flying experience, and they’re strapping these things on their back and heading out over the horizon to fight a war for us,” Handy said.

“To me, this experience is all about perspective — it’s just really opened my eyes as to what we’ve accomplished as a nation in 100 years, and what these veterans did for us.”

After the anniversary celebrations in France, the aircraft and pilots will return to Canada and begin a cross-Canada tour from Shearwater, N.S. to the Comox Valley between May and November.

The flight will include a fly-past over the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on July 1 during the 150th commemoration of Canada.

For more information, visit

– with files from Black Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Delta yoga studio’s Fridays at the Farm to benefit local animal sanctuary

The outdoor four-class series will benefit Perfect Pastures Animal Sanctuary in Ladner

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

North Delta crime beat, week of June 27

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

South Delta crime beat, week of June 27

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

Surrey officer-impersonation scam continues ‘almost daily’

Police reiterate warning that demands for Bitcoin in exchange for waived charges are fraudulent

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

B.C. premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

Police shouldn’t struggle with health issues, Horgan says

Vancouver double homicide leads to arrest in Harrison Hot Springs Wednesday

VPD and RCMP tracked dumped vehicle connected to killings to Chilliwack

Most Read