By Nick WOLOCHATIUK
First time visitors to Upper Canada Village are enthralled by its architecture, costumed historical interpreters and its peacefulness. When friends or relatives 'from away' (California, Colombia or China) visit their home (Williamstown, Williamsburg or Winchester), as obliging hosts we once again make our way along County Road 2 to pay the village a return visit.
It's obvious that the St. Lawrence Parks administrators and marketers wanted to encourage the first time visitors to become regulars. There's a new interpretive centre at the front gate, the upgraded and expanded train ride, the "Alight at Night" winter spectacular and special events such as the Mediaeval Festival and the Military Encampment. For many years there has been a landing strip on the north side of the highway that draws aircraft owners to the village and the adjacent golf course and restaurant.
This year, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays during July and August, something new has been added. Actually, it's not 'new', it's a 'back in time' beautifully restored WACO UPF-7 classic biplane from the1940s. It's available to take visitors for a flight over the village area or do a brief St. Lawrence Seaway tour.
This UPF-7 is one of 600 built as trainers in Troy, Ohio by the Waco Aircraft Co. in 1940. It has been meticulously restored and is carefully maintained. For the aviation aficionados, here's a pronunciation note: it's pronounced as 'wack-oh', as in 'a bit crazy', and not 'way-co', the city in Texas.
Greg Reynolds, the pilot, has accumulated over 6,000 hours of piloting experience in a wide variety of aircraft, including turbine-powered DHC-6 Twin Otters and Hawker-Siddeley 748 airliners.
Before passengers get their flight, his ground assistant, gives them a safety briefing, fits them with appropriate flying headgear, anti-noise ear protection and goggles. He then sees to it that they are comfortably seated and secured with regulation seat harnesses. Quite unlike today's airliners, there's lots of leg room and fresh air.
Then the nine-cylinder radial engine comes to life with a brief puff of smoke. The aircraft bumps across the grass to the downwind end of the paved runway. With a powerful roar, it swiftly soars into the air. It's hard to keep 220 horsepower quiet. Having used only a fraction of the runway, the vintage aircraft is soon cruising over the village, its canal, church and barns and the sparkling waters of the St. Lawrence. A freighter is likely to be seen in the course of the exhilarating flight.
All too soon, the flight over Upper Canada's history in a vintage aircraft is over, but the smiles and memories continue long after the engine is shut off and becomes silent. The flight is a time warp of three centuries: the flight in the 21st in the WACO from the 20th and the village is in 19th century.