Photos by Frederick
The 50-foot wing of the Lysander uses automatic flaps and slats.
Rick Rickards says
the view is tremendous from the pilot’s perch in the Lysander.
August 1, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Warbird fans still revel in tales of World War
II Canadian surplus aircraft languishing on farms in the western provinces
into the 1970s.
That’s where the Canadian Warplane Heritage’s
(CWH) rare Westland Lysander came from, as a skeletal promise in
From that farmer’s field to the skies in
June of this year for the first time since its rebirth, this Lysander is
one of perhaps three flying in the world. The Lysander is displayed on
AeroShell Square at AirVenture 2009.
Pundits have opined that British aircraft
designs come in two styles: sublimely beautiful and, well, aesthetically
If the Supermarine Spitfire captures the
beauty trophy, the Lysander better not quit its day job. Nonetheless, it
proved to be a durable, flexible, viable, and just all-around able utility
aircraft for the Royal Air Force and commonwealth air forces.
The Lysander incorporates fully automatic
flaps and slats, says CWH pilot Rick Rickards. He does not have a lever to
invoke their use; they deploy when the speed range dictates.
Outboard, leading edge slats help direct
airflow over the ailerons at slow speeds. Inboard, as wing flaps
automatically deflect down from the trailing edge, more leading edge slats
move to stand off from the wing.
Rickards has been flying the Lysander since
June. He’s learned to respect the auto flaps: “If I lower the nose too
abruptly after takeoff, they’ll go in and I’ll lose altitude.”
Rick says takeoffs are three-point nose high
affairs. After a roll of about 500-600 feet, “it starts to levitate,”
The Lysander’s 870-horsepower Bristol
Mercury radial engine can pull the fabric covered beast through the skies
at a cruising speed of 150 miles an hour.
It lands at 70, with movable leading edge
slats augmenting its slow-speed performance.
Weighing 4,600 pounds empty, the Lysander
grosses out at 6,200 pounds. Its high wing spans 50 feet. From spinner to
tail, the tape stretches 30 feet, 6 inches.
Before making his first takeoff Rick read the
pilot’s manual and grilled some of Canadian Warplane Heritage’s
docents who had flown them decades ago.
“I’ve flown taildraggers all my life;
nothing but,” he explains. And Rick’s thought process before he first
clambered up the side of the high-rise fuselage to fly the beast? “You
have to ask yourself: ‘Do you have the minerals to do it?’”
With modifications, some cannon-armed
Lysanders flown by Canadians patrolled the English coast when invasion
seemed probable. External bomb racks could be installed like vestigial
wings extending outward from the landing gear for the carriage of eight
small anti-personnel bombs. And the huge art-deco wheelpants concealed a
pair of .303-caliber machine guns on combat models of the Lysander.
CWH’s Lysander is painted in stark
yellow-and-black diagonal stripes. These markings were used on target-tug
aircraft in an effort to point out to student gunners where not to shoot
as the Lysander motored along, dragging a target sleeve reeled out behind
The museum’s Lysander IIIA was built in June
1942 by National Steel Car Corporation at Malton, Ontario.
Retired from military service in 1946, it was
sold by Crown Assets to a farmer in the western provinces of Canada. Such
farm field boneyards subsequently fed the growing warbird movement with
everything from Lysanders to Yale trainers and Bolingbroke bombers.