“What happened to the Vedette? Are there still any flying?”
This single inquiry by founder Doug Emberley around the family’s dinner table set off a chain of events that led to the creation of the Western Canada Aviation Museum, the precursor to our Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.
Finding a Vickers Vedette was high on the wish list for the founders of the Western Canada Aviation Museum.
The Vedette was the first military aircraft designed and manufactured in Canada and played an integral function for the RCAF and government in the 1920s. However, it quickly became apparent that no complete examples were in existence. If the museum founders wanted a Vedette, they had little choice but to build their own.
The museum built a replica using templates made from analyzing the remains of three separate Vedette wrecks:
The first was Vedette, G -CASW, which had crashed into a mountain on Porcher Island in British Columbia while conducting a forest fire survey. The crew escaped the incident without injury, and their crash report led museum investigators to the wreck site 70 years later.
The second was Vedette CF-MAG which the Manitoba Government Air Service owned. The engine failed, forcing the pilot to land in a swamp near Cormorant Lake in northern Manitoba. The Air Service decided to abandon and torch CF-MAG, a decision that turned out to be a stroke of luck because the museum’s dive team, who retrieved much of the fuselage in 1977, discovered that charring from the fire had preserved many delicate wooden fragments of the wings and hull.
The third Vedette consisted of preserved pieces loaned by the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. These fragments would form the groundwork for the creation of blueprints. A restoration volunteer named Doug Newey, who had recently retired from Bristol Aerospace, had worked at the Vickers Plant in Montreal building Vedette wing struts early in his career. By memory and thorough examination of the assembled Vedette remains, Newey reproduced drawings from which Bristol Aerospace used to create a set of blueprints, the only set of Vedette blueprints now in existence.
It took a group of more than 100 dedicated volunteers 22 years to complete. The replica was considered airworthy according to standards of the 1920s; however, the museum has no plans to fly it, and it has never been certified.
Today, with the completion of a second Vickers Vedette replica at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon (built using the RAMWC blueprints), it is now one of only two replicas of Canadian Vickers Vedettes in the world.