PARRSBORO – Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the crash landing of the Handley Page aircraft here, and efforts are underway to make sure it does not go by unrecognized.
“This is a very important milestone for Parrsboro and is frequently discussed,” said local resident Alain Couture. “It became known as the Summer of the Handley Page.”
Designed and built as a First World War bomber (the war ended before it could be used) the Handley Page V/1500 Atlantic was in Newfoundland in early 1919 to attempt the first non-stop Transatlantic flight. When another aircraft achieved that feat first, the plane and its crew were redirected to New York City. However, it was forced to land in Parrsboro on July 5, 1919, remaining there for the next four months as it received necessary repair work.
The plane finally made it to New York on Oct. 9, 1919, along with the first airmail between Canada and the United States.
“One of the engineers went on to immigrate to Canada and was instrumental in the formation of the RCAF, and retired as Air Vice-Marshal Edward Stedman,” said Couture.
Couture was long interested by the story. As an air cadet in London, Ont., he had built a scale model of a Sopwith Camel. After discussions with Randy Mosher, he discovered the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society was interested in celebrating the anniversary.
A nine-member board, including Kerwin Davison, Martin Langford, and representatives from the historical society, the Parrsboro Lions Club, 689 Handley Page Air Cadets, and the fire department, has been put together to steer the project, which will include construction of a 1/5 scale model of the aircraft.
Funding is being sought from Heritage Canada for the $25,000 construction project, as well as an anniversary festival expected to cost $100-150,000.
“It is planned that the air cadets will do the construction of the aircraft in the basement of the Baptist church,” said Couture. “Next year, they will hopefully travel to various parades that we hope to be able to have the aircraft in.”