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Canadian Vickers Vedette
Role amphibious general aviation survey
Manufacturer Canadian Vickers
Designer Wilfrid Thomas Reid (preliminary study by R.K.Pierson)
First flight 4 November 1924
Introduction 1925
Retired 1941
Primary users Royal Canadian Air Force
Ontario Provincial Air Service
Manitoba Government Air Services
Servició de Aviación Militar de Chile
Produced 1924 - 1930
Number built 60[1] (plus one that was rebuilt and renumbered)
Unit cost
$15,000 less engine.

The Canadian Vickers Vedette was the first aircraft in Canada designed and built to meet a specification for Canadian conditions. It was a single-engine biplane flying boat purchased to meet a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) demand for a smaller aircraft than the Vickers Viking with a much greater rate of climb, to be suitable for forestry survey and fire protection work. The type went on to have a long and distinguished career in civil operations in Canada. Most of the topographical maps in use in Canada today are based on photos taken from one of these aircraft.

Design and development[]

Based on a preliminary design in early 1924 for a "flying boat" by R.K.Pierson of the home company, Vickers (UK), the Canadian Vickers Vedette was a two/three-seat single-engine pusher aircraft. The design was passed over to the Canadian Vickers Limited of Longueuil, Quebec (formed in 1911) where Wilfrid Thomas Reid served as Chief Engineer.[2]

The prototype Vedette I was first flown on 4 November 1924, powered by a 200 hp Rolls-Royce Falcon III. It was subsequently fitted with 210 hp Wolseley Viper, 200 hp Wright J-4 and 215 hp Armstrong Siddeley Lynx engines for testing. Several versions of the Vedette were produced, including two amphibious versions and one with an enclosed cabin on an all-metal hull. With the exception of these major changes, most of the remaining differences between versions were relatively minor and not externally visible. Each version was produced with a range of optional engine types.[2] Canadian Vickers Limited developed and produced a series of follow-up designs intended for use in the Canadian north (none were related design-wise to the Vedette):

Operational history[]

The first production example was provided to Fairchild Aerial Surveys (c/n 31 G-CAFF) before they started designing their own survey aircraft. The majority of the production run was purchased by the RCAF where the aircraft proved popular and versatile, if somewhat temperamental due to leaky hulls that required constant maintenance (a problem afflicting all wooden hulled flying boats). The Vedette undertook photographic and forestry patrols satisfactorily and provided a backbone for RCAF flying operations through the lean peacetime years. Vedettes started a coast-to-coast photographic survey that was needed to map out the large areas of the country still unmapped. These missions lasted until the outbreak of the Second World War, and would be completed after the war with newer types. Vedettes stationed on both coasts were also used for fishing and smuggling patrols, both with the RCAF and with Western Canada Airways.

The Vedette featured prominently in a number of mercy missions, while some airmen discovered it was nearly ideal for aerial goose hunting, at least until a pilot was hit by a goose. The first Canadian to join the Caterpillar Club by using a parachute to escape from an aircraft did so from RCAF Vedette "ZF" on 17 May 1929. The pilot, C.S. (Jack) Caldwell, while testing the aircraft at the Canadian Vickers factory, entered an uncontrollable spin after the engine failed and bailed out successfully over the St. Lawrence River.

The RCAF acquired one Wright J-4 engined Vedette I in 1925 and 18 Armstrong-Siddeley Lynx IV (210 hp) engined Vedette IIs from 1926 onwards; all of these were out of service before the Second World War began. Starting in 1929, the RCAF acquired 13 Vedette Vs with higher gross weight, and 11 Vedette VAs featuring Handley Page wing slots. The single Vedette VI, with Wright J-6 engine, featured a metal hull and an enclosed cockpit. A mark V was refurbished by the factory and as the sole Vam was given a new metal hull, as well as a new serial number (the last), but it retained its RCAF call sign as "ZD." Seven Vedette VAs and the Mk VI survived into wartime service, flying with No 4(BR) Squadron and the Seaplane and Bomber Reconnaissance Training School (later No 13 OT Sqn) in Vancouver, BC until May 1941.

In addition to the RCAF, The Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan governments used Vedettes extensively for scouting out forest fires in the heavily wooded areas of those provinces. The company exported six Wright J-5 powered Vedette Vs to Chile, where they were based at Puerto Montt (which is on an inlet off the Pacific coast) with the Escuadrilla de Anfibios N° 1 (now known as the Grupo de Aviación N° 5). They were used to forge an air link between there and the capital Santiago, 569 miles (916 km) up the coast. At least one of the Vedettes, and possibly all six were lost due to hurricane force winds, which also caused the loss of two lives when one of the aircraft overturned while on the water.


  • Royal Canadian Air Force (45 used)
  • Fairchild Aerial Surveys (1 used)
  • Manitoba (Government) Air Service (7 used)
  • Ontario Provincial Air Service (2 used)
  • Government of Saskatchewan (5 used)
  • Western Canada Airways Ltd. (1 used)
  • Canadian Airways (1 used)


Vedette I
Prototype (c/n 9) tested variously with Rolls-Royce Falcon III, Wolseley Viper, Wright J-4 and Armstrong Siddeley Lynx engines.
Vedette II
Production version, modified rudder and other minor changes from prototype.
Vedette III & IV
Not built, but may have included an enclosed cabin transport.
Vedette V
Improved amphibian version, but most not equipped with wheels.
Vedette Va
Mk.V fitted with Handley-Page leading edge slots.
Vedette Vam
One off Mk.V (c/n 123/170) refurbished with metal hull.
Vedette VI
One off (c/n 163) with metal hull and Handley-Page leading edge slots.
Vassal I
Proposed variant using Clark Y airfoil section wings, not built.


A Vickers Vedette replica at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg, Canada

A replica of a Vedette V is at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba. The replica project which took a group of more than 100 dedicated volunteers 22 years to complete. The remains of three Vedettes recovered from crash sites formed the basis of a meticulous templating of aircraft components, aided by hand drawn plans created by one of the WCAM volunteers who had been employed by Canadian Vickers as a junior draughtsman.[N 1]

Until the official unveiling on 24 May 2002, there was no known intact surviving examples of a Vickers Vedette anywhere. While the replica is airworthy, the museum has no intention to ever fly its one-of-a-kind exhibit.

Specifications (Mk II)[]

Data from The Canadian Vickers Vedette, Canadian Aeronautics and Space Journal, October 1964.[3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: two/three
  • Payload: 1258 pounds (including pilot, fuel and oil) (571 kg)
  • Length: 32ft 10" (10.0 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft (12.80 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 1/4 in (3.359 m)
  • Wing area: 495.6 square feet (m)
  • Airfoil: Royal Aircraft Factory R.A.F. 15
  • Empty weight: 1,942 lb (882 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 3,200 lb (1,454 kg) for Wright J-4 powered Mk IIs this increased to 3,575 lb (1625 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 4,000 lb (1,816 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × 200 hp Wright J-4, 220 hp Wright J-5 or 215 hp Armstrong-Siddeley Lynx IV., ()


  • Maximum speed: 92 mph (153 km/h)
  • Range: 5 hours ()
  • Service ceiling: 13,000 feet (4,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: 650 feet per min (198 m/min)



See also[]


  1. Considered a recreation or replica rather than a restoration, no original parts were used in the construction.
  1. "Canadian Vickers Vedette." Canadian Historical Aircraft Association. Retrieved: 31 October 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Molson and Taylor 1982, p. 174.
  3. Molsen 1964

External links[]

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