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ISSUE 82 - September 2009
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Friendly Foes Above the Falls

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

The Russell Group attraction, Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX, Messerschmitt bf109E, and the Hawker Hurricane Mk XII in front of the crowd on the grass flightline.

Most people around the world have heard of, seen, or are aware of Niagara Falls, a one-time 7 Wonders of the World place to see. There are many attractions in Niagara Falls, Ontario including the Skylon Tower which overlooks Niagara Falls, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, the Niagara Falls Casino, and Marineland to name but a few. However, there is another attraction that has quietly been gaining popularity not 10 minutes from the falls and that’s the Russell Aviation Group.

Battle of Britain line-up, Spitfire, bf109, and Hurricane, left. Close-up, the hurricane looks big and bulky but was a formidable weapon at the hands of her skilled pilots, right.

Located at a former World War II era ‘satellite’ airfield is this unique and rare group of 4 aircraft that often grace the skies of Southern Ontario. Whether they appear at an airshow individually or together, they attract attention where-ever they go.

The hurricane beginning the taxi out to the runway, left. The spitfire taxiing out in preparation for one of the three flights it made during the show, right.

However, once a year, the Russell Aviation Group hosts a small but wonderful airshow and the 2009 version, Friendly Foes Above the Falls, brought aviation enthusiasts out of their winter hibernation. Held at the Russell field in South Niagara in Ontario, Canada it offers a unique opportunity to see several World War II era aircraft operating from a grass runway, a rarity these days.

Performing one of several passes, the spitfire shows off the elliptical wings and sleek, unmistakable lines, left. One of several solo passes performed by the hurricane during the show, right.

The 2009 show was dedicated to former World War II ace, 88 year old HCol Charley Fox, DFC, CD who sadly lost his life in 2008 in a car accident. Fox was credited with helping end the career of German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel shortly after the invasion of Normandy when, while flying his spitfire, he strafed Rommel’s black staff car.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX, serial #912 sits on the grass flightline in the early morning.

Flying in the show was Russell’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX. A stunning example of the famous World War II British fighter that helped fend off a German invasion during the Battle of Britain. This spitfire was built in Castle Bromwich in June of 1944 and was delivered to 312 Czech Squadron of the RAF. The Russell Group website indicates that their spit, serial #912, was thought to be the first allied aircraft to land in newly liberated France after D-Day due to loose radio equipment.

Hawker Hurricane Mk XII built by Canadian Car and Foundry in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The airplane also served with the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Belgian Air Force, eventually ending up as a pole mounted airplane at the Straffraenberg Air Force Base. In 1997 the spitfire was purchased in an unrestored state by Historic Flying and was eventually fully restored and is said to be more than 75% an original factory spitfire.

Individual passes by the spitfire, left, and the hurricane, right.

The Russell Group Hawker Hurricane was originally built by Canadian Car and Foundry in Quebec as a Mk IIB. However, in the early stages of the war, the airplane was converted to a Mk XII. It was saved from the scrappers hand by Jack Arnold of Brantford, Ontario in 1984 and the Hurri was eventually shipped to and restored in the UK and flew again in 1991. It was then sold to the Museum of Flying in Chino, California until the museum closed. Mr. Ed Russell purchased the airplane from the museum in 2002.

Messerschmitt bf109E with a DaimlerBenz DB601A inverted V12 liquid cooled engine.

One of the rarest airplanes in the world, the Russell Group’s Messerschmitt bf109E is a unique example of the famous World War II German fighter. This 109 saw action on the channel front where it shot down a spitfire over the Thames Estuary. Though the airplane had a forced landing on the beach in Calais-Marck in 1940, it was recovered and repaired to fly again and eventually saw action in Russia on the Eastern front before being abandoned.

Once pitted against each other in the skies over England, these three stunningly beautiful airplanes now perform together at various airshows. Each with its own unique sound, the heart pounds and every camera points skyward for that perfect picture.

Found in a Russian swamp, it was recovered in the early 1990s, shipped to the UK for restoration and eventually found its home in Chino, California. There, the airplane was re-fitted with a DaimlerBenz DB601A engine and is the only flying example 109 in the world today with the Daimler Benz engine.

Close up of a formidable foe, the bf109 sits with the sun warming her, early morning dew covering the cockpit glass, left. The spitfire & hurricane performing one of many passes together, right.

Rounding out the Russell collection is a Harvard Mk IIB built by Norduyn Aviation in Montreal, Quebec in 1943. The Harvard, known as a T-6 Texan in the USA, was the advanced trainer for the BCATP (British Commonwealth Air Training Plan) during World War II and flew with the RCAF until 1966. Many Harvards still exist and fly today in Canada, the USA and around the world.

The Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association (CHAA) Harvards flew a graceful display of aerobatics during the show, left. One of several DH Tiger Moths that made the show, this Tiger Moth makes a slow pass for a photo op’, right.

During the Friendly Foes Over the Falls airshow, a variety of visiting aircraft offered airshow patrons an opportunity to see vintage aircraft in the skies and on static display both. A Boeing B-17 painted in the livery of the Memphis Belle flew several passes. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Avro Lancaster performed a pass with the Russell Group’s spitfire and hurricane, then wowed the crowd with several solo passes.

Visiting the show was a B-17 from the movie Memphis Belle, sitting quietly in the early morning, left and starting up in a puff of smoke, right.

Also attending were 4 of the Tiger Boys DH Tiger Moths, four of the CHAA Harvards, 2 Fleet Finches, Cessna Crane, The Great War Flying Museum’s assortment of aircraft, a TMB Avenger and Rick Volker in his Russian aerobatic aircraft Sukhoi SU-26M. On the ground was an assortment of vintage armor and vendors as well as a full scale flying replica of the first powered airplane to fly in Canada, the Silver Dart.

CHAA Harvards performed a superb aerobatic ballet in the blue skies over Niagara.

Friendly Foes Over the Falls may not be the largest show of its kind, but it’s growing and well worth the drive to Niagara. Come for the show, stay for the weekend, see all the attractions, and watch these magnificent men in their flying machines take you back to an era when hero’s fought and died for our freedom of today.

The Memphis Belle in a low pass overhead, left and
just before touch-down on landing, right.

For more information on the Russell Aviation Group:

For more information on the Tiger Boys:

A different angle view of the spitfire, left and hurricane, right.


Line-up of trainers, Fleet Finches and Tiger Moths, left.
Another view of the beautiful B-17 Memphis Belle, right.


Rear view of the B-17 and its very large tail section, left.
A close-in pass of the CHAA Harvards, right.


A different view from below of the spitfire, bf109 and hurricane.

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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