Lancaster dreams

News Article / April 21, 2016

By Sara Keddy

A little boy, a hulking aircraft, a Second World War veteran: combine these with a peek inside the daily operations of a modern Royal Canadian Air Force wing, and who wouldn’t be over the moon?

Big smiles and hugs for all were distributed by 10-year-old Euan MacDonald of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, when he and his family visited 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, on March 11, 2016. The day was carefully arranged to meet – and exceed – many of Euan’s dreams of military aviation history, particularly that of the Lancaster aircraft. When 14 Wing officials heard of his determination to fly, at $3,500 per hour, in one of just two airworthy Lancasters left in the world, they stepped in to get him a little closer.

Euan started a three-year fundraising project this winter with a planned set of bicycle washes, bake sales and errands for neighbours to earn enough for a flight on the Hamilton, Ontario-based Lancaster.

“His grandfather and his dad were always into military history, and that seems to have rubbed off on Euan,” said his mother, Anne-Marie McElrone. MacDonald’s grandparents met in the Air Force: one was a military firefighter once stationed in the Yukon, and the other was a pararescue nurse.

“He’s been collecting books and been interested in planes – then he discovered you could fly in the Lancaster,” Ms. McElrone said. “I accidently said ‘No’ at first, then I thought I was sending a really bad message as a parent. We said, ‘All right,’ and his first bottle drive raised $80. We walked all day, and he enjoyed it – but he realized what $3,500 meant, and that he was up for it.”

The family was prepared for a “long, slow path” to seeing Euan’s dream become reality, but a groundswell of interest quickly changed things. After just a few months, including some of his planned fundraisers, Euan has collected donations and earned enough to pay for his Lancaster flight.

In the meantime, the 14 Wing visit was taking shape: wing commander Colonel Pat Thauberger mailed Euan a family invitation to come visit. Wing Logistics and Engineering Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Poudrier welcomed the family as they arrived at the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum for the big day.

“For us, it’s heart-warming to see that much enthusiasm for aviation and history,” Lieutenant-Colonel Poudrier said. “You’ve got quite the day ahead – some stuff many people on the base have never done!”

Euan grabbed Lieutenant-Colonel Poudrier for a hug and a picture, and signed the museum guest book; museum staff and volunteers then took over to lead a jam-packed morning.

“The Lancaster has always been my favourite plane – it does so many fantastic things: bouncing bombs, it had so many sorties…,” Euan said. “I’m really looking forward to flying in it, but just being able to touch it today is good enough for me!”

McElrone followed her son around during the 14 Wing tour, busy taking photos for Euan’s Lancaster website and tweeting the highlights. “His friends at school think he’s pretty weird,” she said, “so to have his personal interest recognized and supported by so many people – and strangers – is cool. People want to see what happens when you dream big.”

Sara Keddy is managing editor of the Aurora newspaper.

Life-changing experience with wartime aircraft

“I’m 94 years old,” said Clark Montgomery of Greenwood, Nova Scotia.

“I’m 10,” said Euan MacDonald of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Man and boy met on March 11, 2016, at 14 Wing Greenwood’s Military Aviation Museum, under the wing of the Lancaster bomber that unites them. “Can I give you a hug?” Mr. Montgomery asked Euan.

Mr. Montgomery flew more than a dozen missions as the middle upper gunner in the Lancaster during the Second World War. “If you’ve done one mission,” he said, “you’ve done one too many.”

The New Brunswick native went to England in 1943, at the age of 19, and returned home in 1945. “I was the youngest in my crew,” he said, “and they’re all gone now. My navigator used to ask me to ‘get a fix on that church over there’. I asked if we were lost. ‘No, it’s just that the circle of uncertainty has become larger.’ I never forgot that.

“And I want you to remember something.”

“What?” Euan asked.

“There’s only squadron: 428, the ‘Ghost’ squadron. That was mine.”

Mr. Montgomery commended Euan for both his tie, worn in honour of the special Greenwood visit, and his obvious enthusiasm for the Lancaster. “You know your aircraft,” he said.

“Yes, I study planes quite a lot,” Euan replied. “Me and my Dad watch a show, and I have lots of books on war history and I see a lot of interesting things. I’m also learning from this. The Lancaster is my favourite. First, I didn’t know how to spell it; then I learned about its crew, its guns, its bubbles… it’s unique. It worked really well.

“Then I learned you could fly in one. That will be a life-changing experience.”

This article, sidebar and photographs are republished with permission from the Aurora newspaper.

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