Vintage Wings of Canada is restructuring the way it conducts its flying operations and public outreach programs. To understand these changes and their implications, it is helpful to recap the nearly 20-year history of the collection and its 14 years of operations under the Vintage Wings of Canada name.
In the late 1990s, Ottawa high-tech entrepreneur Mike Potter, a lifelong aviation enthusiast and pilot of high performance aircraft, embarked on an ambitious plan to acquire a world–class collection of classic aircraft in flying condition. The Michael U. Potter Collection was to have a distinctly Canadian focus, comprising the finest examples of types that played an important role in Canadian military and civilian aviation history.
The power of this collection to inspire emotions and open up dialogue came into focus in the summer of 2001. Potter had completed the repaint of his beloved Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI in the markings of one that flew on combat operations with 421 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. In August of 2001, with the help of volunteers, he planned an unveiling event at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and invited Canadian air force veterans and their families. With scores of eighty-something veteran pilots among the 3,000 or so in attendance, Potter demonstrated the flying qualities of the Spitfire with several emotional and inspiring flypasts for the invited guests. The sight and snarling sound of a Spitfire in swift flight, light glinting from her elliptical wings in the afternoon sun, brought tears to the eyes of many of the veteran fighter pilots in attendance. For many, it was the first time they had seen a Spitfire since their demobilization after the war.
At the end of the demonstration, Potter taxied the Spitfire up to the crowd and volunteers helped veteran pilots to step up on the wing and into the cockpit. Memories were rekindled. Tears and laughter mingled with silence and pride. Families saw their aging grandfathers in a new light, one swelling with both admiration and compassion. Everyone in attendance felt it — the obligation we have to remember the brave young men from Canada who flew in combat, many of whom paid the ultimate price, deprived of their future so that we might have one.