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ISSUE 79 - August 2009
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Golden Hawks Revisited

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

Arguably the most beautiful F-86 Sabre in the world, Hawk One performs a high-speed pass showing off the Golden Hawks paint scheme.

In the late 1950s, the Royal Canadian Air Force created an aerobatic display team to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of (powered) Flight in Canada. March 1st, 1959 saw the creation of the Golden Hawks flying team consisting of a six-plane formation of Canadian built Canadair Sabres, known in the USA as the F-86 Sabre.

As the nose gear door closes, Hawk One climbs out in preparation for the solo performance, left. An absolutely beautiful F-86 Sabre, Hawk One sits on the tarmac at CFB Trenton painted in Golden Hawks colours, right.

The Golden Hawks team was first lead by Squadron Leader Fern Villeneuve and they were quickly known as one of the top aerobatic display teams in the world. The team and the airplanes represented the RCAF in all their glory…. They were simply “Golden!”

Before the Golden Hawks paint, Vintage Wings of Canada rolled out their restored Sabre in September of 2008, left. Hawk One’s impressive group of pilots posing with the original Golden Hawks Team Leader, (H)Col. Fern Villeneuve, right. From left to right are Maj. Tim Leslie, LCol. Paul Kissman, Col. Fern Villeneuve, LCol. Dan Dempsey, LCol. Steve Will, and Col. Chris Hadfield.

Though originally formed with the intention of flying for only one season, the popularity of the team assured their continued flying for 5 seasons. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the team was disbanded and their season ended in February of 1964, much to the dismay of the RCAF and the Canadian public.

Showing off the lines of the Sabre, Hawk One does a tight, right turn out, left. In an almost knife-edge pass, Hawk One screams across the flightline in a high-speed pass, right.

The Golden Hawks performed in both Canada and the USA and had an estimated 15,000,000 people watch their aerobatics over the 5 years they flew in more than 300 performances. Canadians have never forgotten the Golden Hawks; those who remember seeing them fly and those who haven’t but have read about them or seen photos and film. Today, a strong sense of pride still exists when you see and hear people talk about them.

Three of the many that have made Hawk One and the Heritage of Flight a huge success throughout 2009, Pilot and Team Lead LCol. Steve Will, Team Public Affairs Officer Maj. Mary Lee, and Team Coordinator Capt. Dominic Taillon, left. The vertical stabilizer of Hawk One displaying the Canadian Centennial of Flight logo and an image of the Silver Dart, the first powered airplane to fly in Canada, right.

In Canada, the year 2009 is cause for celebration in that it is the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada. As part of that celebration Vintage Wings of Canada in Gatineau, Quebec purchased a Canadair Sabre, formerly flown by the RCAF. In conjunction with the government of Canada, and other sponsors such as Magellan Aerospace, Discovery Air, and WestJet to name a few, they have helped to recreate some of the magic that the RCAF Golden Hawks gave to the Canadian people 50 years ago.

With the leading edge slats deployed, the Sabre performs a right turn out, (left) before coming back around in a close-in knife-edge pass, right.

Hawk One, as it is known, is a Canadian built Canadair CL-13 (F-86) Sabre 5. Though it never flew painted in Golden Hawks colours, it did fly as one of the supporting aircraft in a training role for team tryouts wearing serial number 23314. The Sabre was ‘struck off strength’ of the Canadian Air Force in 1970, and was eventually sold to an American interest. Until 2006, the Sabre saw many different US owners, ultimately finding its way back home through Vintage Wings of Canada, where it was restored and then flown to CFB Cold Lake to be painted in its outstanding Golden Hawks colours.

During airshows, Hawk One often performs several formation passes with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic display team, left. The Sabres nasty guns and the nose of the “Hawk,” right.

Vintage Wings of Canada’s list of experienced pilots of Hawk One is a dream team of aviators. Former Canadian Air Force pilot, LCol.. Steve Will heads up the group as Team Lead & Demonstration Pilot. Other pilots include Maj. Tim Leslie, Vintage Wings of Canada’s Vice President and Chief of Air Operations; LCol. Paul Kissman, Deputy Team Lead & Demonstration Pilot; Col. Chris Hadfield, pilot and Training Officer (and Canadian Astronaut); and, last but not least, LCol. Dan Dempsey, pilot and Team Historian.

The pride of Canadian Skies, The Golden Hawks Sabre (Hawk One), the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, background, left, and the Centennial CF-18 Hornet right and behind Hawk One, left. Hawk One in a formation pass with the CF-18 Centennial Hornet and a CT-114 Snowbirds Tutor, right.

No team is complete without a number of dedicated people who work tirelessly in the wings, and the Hawk One maintenance and support teams are no exception. Without these hard working folks, the pilots couldn’t show off the fruits of their labours. Vintage Wings of Canada and the Hawk One team have a group of people who are, bar none, better than any other group of devoted volunteers and staff anywhere.

The Sabre in a ‘down and dirty’ pass… gear down, flaps down, speed brakes and leading edge slats deployed for slow flight, left. Taxiing back to the ramp past the crowd and the new control tower at CFB Trenton, Ontario during the 8 Wing Air Display, right.

The Sabre, as part of the Centennial Heritage Flight, has and will perform in several airshows and displays across Canada throughout 2009. Though the original plan was to fly the Sabre during the 2009 flying season only, interest has been phenomenal and there are tentative plans to have Hawk One fly into 2010 and possibly beyond. Hawk one performs both a solo act, and with a formation group of three aircraft. The other two airplanes include the Centennial CF-188 (CF-18) Hornet and a CT-114 Canadair Tutor, painted in the colours of the “Golden Centennaires,” another former Canadian Air Force aerobatic display team which flew in celebration of the 100th birthday, Centennial of Canada celebrations. Both aircraft were also painted at CFB Cold Lake in Alberta.

A good view of Hawk One from below, speed brakes out and leading edge slats in full view, left. Two high performance fighters from different generations, both with pedigree and performance, right.

Across Canada, Hawk One will grace the ethereal blue and dance on golden wings.  For those who had the fortune of seeing the Golden Hawks aerobatic team perform some 50 years ago, the opportunity to see the flaxen Sabre execute its graceful ballet brings tears to their eyes.  For others, who have only seen photos or some of the rare bits of film footage, shivers will run up their spines as the Canadian built fighter jet screams across the airshow flightline, then points its nose skyward toward the clouds.  It is often said that history never repeats itself.  When you see Hawk One in the air, history comes close.

For more information on Hawk One visit:
For more information on Vintage Wings of Canada visit:
For more information on the Canadian Centennial of Flight visit:

Breaking right, the Snowbirds Tutor leaves the formation, left. Performing a slow-speed flypast for the crowd and the cameras, right.
In a gentle climb-out, Hawk One passes the crowd close-in, left. Coming around in another formation pass, Hawk One and the Snowbirds offer the airshow spectators another great photo-op, right.

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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