Peter M. Thornton "Grumpy"
David Scott Wilson
Vimy Flight Pilot
April 9, 2017 Allan was honoured to have Canadian Ace Joe Fall's WWI flying helmet and gloves fly with him over the Vimy Memorial
Al joined the RCAF in 1965, and underwent pilot training in Gimli MB, on the CT-114 Tutor, and CT-33 Silver Star. After receiving his wings, he briefly flew the F-86 Sabre in Chatham NB before going to Cold Lake AB for training on the CF-104 Starfighter (pictured above). He completed a tour with 430 Strike/Attack Squadron in Zweibrucken and Lahr Germany, returning to Cold Lake as an instructor with 417 Squadron.
In 1973, Al left the RCAF and began a 33-year career with CPAir, Canadi>n Airlines, and Air Canada, flying both domestic and overseas. During the second officer years with the airlines, Al worked as a flying instructor, teaching ab-initio, commercial, and aerobatic students. While with the airlines, he was active in pilot associations, at the company, national, and international level. He has also been involved, with the Abbotsford International Airshow, for over 30 years as an organizer, Air Boss, and Director.
Now retired, he is married to Sheila, who he met in Zweibrucken 48 years ago. They have two grown children and five grandchildren. Flying is now a pleasure and a hobby.
Paul hails from Saint John, New Brunswick but spent a number of years in Moncton, New Brunswick and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia before joining the military in February 1968 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Planning to join the Royal Canadian Navy as a pilot, he ended up joining the Canadian Armed Forces, which came into being the very day he enrolled. He was the second person in Canada to do so, the first being a fellow from Newfoundland.
Completing basic training in Esquimalt, British Columbia he began flying training in Camp Borden, Ontario in May with additional training in Gimli, Manitoba and Portage La Prairie, Manitoba where he earned his wings in June 1969. His first squadron was in Shearwater, Nova Scotia flying the Tracker aircraft involving anti-submarine duties.
With the retirement of the aircraft carrier Bonaventure he retrained as a helicopter pilot to continue his nautical aviation career at sea. He flew several tours of operational flying on the venerable Sea King helicopter in Canada plus an exchange tour with the US Navy based in San Diego, California. After a few additional tours in various headquarters positions Paul retired in 2002 with 35 years of service and some 6,500 hours of military flying.
Paul resides in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia with his wife, Nancy. In 2012 a chance encounter with former squadron mates involved with the Vimy Flight resulted in his joining the group.
Peter emigrated to Canada from Britain in his late twenties. He learned to fly in the Royal Air Force. First flight was in 1976 at a University Air Squadron. The instructor looped the aircraft and upside down at the top of the loop, hanging in his straps, Peter was hooked. Two ground attack fighter tours followed: Jaguars at No 6 Squadron and Tornado’s on 31 Squadron. Peter joined the RCAF on arrival in Canada and flew Challengers and T33’s between 1988 and 1995. Since then Peter has been flying for Air Canada, based in Vancouver.
Peter was introduced to the Nieuports by Allan Snowie who he flew with at Air Canada. He has owned and flown ‘Blighter’ for five years. He is honoured to have had the opportunity to fly over Vimy and across Canada in the Nieuports on Canada’s 150th birthday.
Copyright 2017 VIMY FLIGHT © - Birth of a Nation. All rights reserved.
Pilots: Allan Snowie, Peter Thornton, Larry Ricker, Dale Erhart, Paul O'Reilly, Rod Ermen, Will McEwan, Gord Cooper, Dave Wilson, Al French, Tom Sabean
Dale R. Erhart “Jessie”
Allan Snowie “ Skipper”
Larry Lorne Ricker
Rodney Michael Ermen
Vimy Flight Pilot
Will McEwan graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc (H) in Biology. He joined the RCAF in 1988 and was selected to become an instructor in Moose Jaw on the CT-114 Tutor after receiving the Top Graduate award (Overall and for flying proficiency). Will qualified as an A2 Instructor, Four-plane lead and an Instrument Check Pilot during his tenure as an instructor.
In 1993, Will was selected to fly with the Snowbirds (431 AD Squadron) as the First Line Astern Pilot, Snowbird 4 for the 1994-1995 season. After a short tour in North Bay, ON in Fighter Group Headquarters, Will joined Air Nova in Halifax NS in 1996 and flew the Dash-8.
Will joined Air Canada in 1997. He has flown the CRJ as Captain, the B767 and is presently a B777 First Officer based in Toronto. Will is married with two daughters. His hobbies include cycling, skiing, piano, scuba diving and renovations.
Will has accumulated over 16,000 hours of Military and Commercial flying and is very honoured to be a part of Vimy Flight.
Allan emigrated from Scotland with his family at the age of twelve and found a future in aviation through the Air Cadet flying scholarship program. Joining the Royal Canadian Navy Air Branch in 1965, he flew at Shearwater, Nova Scotia and later with 412 Squadron, Ottawa. His aviation career next encompassed thirty-three years with Air Canada. During that time he served with the Highland Fusiliers Army Reserves and wrote the regimental history. A book on Canada’s last aircraft carrier, HMCS Bonaventure, and another on Canadian Naval Aviators 1914-1918 followed. As a Charter Member of the Guelph-Wellington Rotary Club in the 1980’s, Allan was introduced to Abbeyfield, a non-profit housing concept for seniors based out of St. Albans, England. He volunteered with them for over two decades including a term as International Chairman and received the Prince Charles’ Royal Patron Award in 2011.
Larry has been in love with Flying since the age of 2. He completed an Air Cadet flying Scholarship through 101 Squadron in Moncton New Brunswick in 1972. Graduating from the University of New Brunswick with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1977, he joined Air Canada in April 1979, and joined the RCAF in 1981 with 420 Air Reserve Squadron flying CP-121 Tracker Aircraft in Summerside PEI. He upgraded to Crew Commander in 1984 flying Maritime Fisheries Patrols, Naval Support, and Search and Rescue Operations.
He Completed CT-114 Tutor Refresher at CFS Winnipeg, and OTU on CT-133 T-Bird in North Bay with 414 Squadron in May 1991 and became a Line pilot with VU-32 and 434 Combat Support Squadron in Shearwater and Greenwood Nova Scotia from 1991 to 2002 flying Fleet Support, Close Air Support, and Operational Readiness Exercises. He was also active as a Squadron Flight Safety Officer, weapons Officer and Air Display pilot.
He was promoted to Captain with Air Canada in 1994 on the DC-9, and has flown as a training captain on the CL-65 Challenger, Airbus 320, and Boeing 767. Larry is presently flying the Boeing 777 aircraft on worldwide routes. He now has a total flying time of over 20,000 hours and more than 50 types of aircraft flown. Larry is very honoured and excited to have been included in the Vimy Project under the banner A Nation Soars.
Gordon Victor Cooper “Gordo”
Vimy Flight Pilot
40 years of flying, but first Dale started as an Airframe Tech in 402 Reserve Sqn prior to Regular Force pilot training. A fighter pilot on CF-101 Voodoos, Dale at 26, was selected as the youngest of the 13 initial cadre Instructor pilots on the CF-18. One of the original Hornet demonstration pilots, he was also a Top Gun Fighter Weapons Instructor.
At 30, Dale transferred back from the Regular to the Air Reserve, (leaping backward in technology from the CF-18 to the DC-3 Dakota). His new career at Air Canada covered 20 years of domestic and International flying as well as roles in Technical and Flight Safety. It is there that Dale met and flew with team members Allan Snowie and Peter Thornton and he also met up with Larry Ricker -both in the Air Reserve as well as at Air Canada. Dale left Air Canada in 2007 to fly a Global Express in Egypt. Only then did he get the privilege to fly with Rod Ermen. The two made a pilgrimage to Vimy from a Paris layover in 2010 and were both struck by the experience. Who knew they would fly together over Vimy seven years later?
Dale and his wife Laurel, retired to the Comox area. He now consults as a professional speaker, has many interests including outreach within the community and enjoys building and flying a Challenger ultralight on floats.
Peter, Larry and Allan reconnected with Dale at the 2015 Comox airshow and introduced him to Vimy Flight. Dale is honoured to share the epic and historic history that deserves to be told about our brave forefathers.
Dave Wilson started his flying career when he joined 18 Dartmouth Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in 1959. In 1963 he won a flying scholarship and completed private pilot training at the Halifax Flying Club in Waverley that summer. On completion of High School in 1964 he joined the RCAF as a pilot candidate on the second course to receive flying training on the Tutor jet trainer. On completion of Tutor and T-33 training he was awarded pilot wings in February 1966.
Through the next 35 years he flew the CF101 Voodoo, CF-5 Freedom Fighter, T-33 and Tutor as a fighter pilot, pilot instructor and member of the Snowbird team. In 1991 he transferred to the Air Force Reserve to take up the position of Regional Glider Operations Officer and CO of the Atlantic Region Glider School. Following the 1992 gliding season he transferred to 420 Squadron as Operations Officer and flew in the Combat Support role till he and the T-33 were retired in 2002.
As a civilian, he ran a seaplane conversion school, managed the Shearwater Flight Centre and flew Fire Bombers in New Brunswick, Idaho and British Columbia. In 2011 in company with three others, he bought Eastern Air Services in Trenton and has acted as Operations Manager and Chief Pilot since. He now resides in Marshdale with his wife Penny.
The Team Behind the Vimy Flight Mission
Gordo Cooper was determined to fly since the time he was able to speak. He joined 43 Squadron Air Cadets in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in 1974 and received his glider pilot and private pilot license through the Air Cadet Scholarship program. He achieved the top Air Cadet flight test award in 1979 for Western Canada.
On joining the RCAF in 1980 he initially flew Trackers from Summerside, PEI with 880 ‘Bearcat’ Squadron and was the Tracker airshow demonstration pilot in 1984. In 1985 Gordo led 3 Trackers into the Arctic against the ‘Polar Sea’ ice breaker that was transgressing on Canadian sovereignty. For that action Gordo received a personal commendation from the Prime Minister and was nominated for the Admiral’s Medal, at the time the only Air Force pilot ever so nominated.
In 1986, upon being selected for fighter pilot training, Gordo converted to the CF-18 and flew operationally with 425 ‘Alouette’ Squadron, in Bagotville, QB. He flew a successful interception of 2 Russian ‘Bear’ bombers off the coast of Newfoundland in 1988 and in 1990 was chosen to be the 425 Sqn. Detachment Commanding Officer for the first Gulf war. In 1991, he was selected to be a fighter pilot instructor and transferred to Cold Lake, Alberta as a CF-5 instructor pilot with 419 ‘Moose’ Squadron. In 1994, Gordo became the CF-5 Fleet Standards Officer (‘Chief Pilot’) stationed at Fighter Group Headquarters in North Bay, ON. Throughout his military career Gordo held a variety of positions including Instrument Check Pilot (ICP), Flight Safety Officer, Deputy Operations Officer and Flight Commander. He flew for 15 consecutive years in the RCAF without a ground tour which is likely an RCAF record. Gordo was often seen on the airshow circuit with a CF-18 or CF-5 throughout the late 1980’s and the 1990’s.
In 1997 Gordo joined Air Canada where he is currently a Boeing B787 pilot, based in Toronto. Gordo is married with one daughter. Among his many hobbies are flying, auto restoration, music and military history. Gordo has accumulated over 16,000 hours of military and civilian flying experience.
William Gordon McEwan “Will”
Vimy Flight Pilot
John Paul O’Reilly “Sea Dog”
Vimy Flight Pilot
Rod, who’s hometown is Moncton, NB received his glider pilots license in 1982 and his private pilot’s license in 1983 with the Air Cadets and has been flying ever since.
After one year of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick in 1985, he enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces and received his military pilot wings in 1987. Upon graduation he went on to fly the CF-5 Freedom Fighter for a short time before ending up on the east coast to fly the CT-33 T-Bird in Halifax, Nova Scotia with VU-32. This job consisted of flying combat support missions for the Canadian navy, army and air forces as well as many NATO countries during various training exercises. In 1991, he was posted to fly the CC144 Challenger (CL60) with 414 Electronic Warfare Squadron in North Bay, Ontario and then returned to Halifax in 1992 with 434 Combat Support Squadron.
Subsequently in 1994, he was posted to Fighter Group Headquarters back in North Bay. After 16 months working as a Staff Officer tasking Canadian Forces support squadrons he was selected to fly with the Canadian Forces “SNOWBIRDS” in the number 2 inner right wing position. This is the most memorable flying that he has accomplished in 30 years of flying. After the two-year tour with the Snowbirds, Rod went to work for Bombardier Aerospace in Montreal as a simulator instructor on the Challenger CL604. The experienced earned, as an instructor was invaluable as he started flying as a Corporate Pilot in 1999 on the Challenger and the Global Express, held positions as aircraft type leads and as a Chief Pilot. Flying these aircraft have brought him to all corners of the world including Japan, Chile, Australia, South Africa, Russia, Myanmar and most notably Pyongyang, North Korea.
Currently employed in the Middle East flying both the Global Express and the Gulfstream G650. He has accumulated over 7800 hours of jet experience of which 3800 hours is military jet time. Rod, his wife Karen, children Katherine and Sean live in Sherwood Park, Alberta
Vimy Flight Pilot