Historic Nieuport XI bi-plane lands in Ottawa

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News Article / July 6, 2021

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Emily Lindahl, D Air PA


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…well…it’s a bi-plane.

At NDHQ(Carling) in Ottawa, the Battle of Britain Building houses RCAF staff, both military and civilian. It is also the latest home for a VIP – a very important plane, a Nieuport XI. 

This 7/8 scale replica of a Nieuport XI, C-IPOR comes with the nickname ‘Pokey’ and is on a long-term loan from the National Air Force Museum of Canada (NAFMC), located at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. The aircraft itself was donated to the NAFMC in 2017 by a private collector in British Columbia.

This Nieuport XI participated in a commemorative flight at the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France, in 2017. The bi-plane also took part of the "Birth of a Nation Tour" across Canada for #Canada150. The aircraft was flown by a currently serving pilot, Captain Brent Handy.

‘Pokey’ recently moved into the Battle of Britain - Building 7, home of the RCAF in the National Capital Region. Re-assembled on March 27, 2021 the aircraft was painstakingly hoisted to hang from the ceiling in the building’s three-story atrium on April 3, 2021.

Constructed with fabric panels, the process to hang the bi-plane securely without compromising its structure was an incredibly delicate process. Metal frames were built to take the aircraft’s weight safely.

The project was coordinated by LCol Jean-Pascal Paris, who is responsible for the Air Staff RCAF Artefacts aircrafts project in the NCR, working in concert with the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) Carling Campus Project Director, Mr. Mark Ross and BGIS Manager, Dave Sprung, as well as a team of aviation technical experts. 

The Nieuport XI is also a tribute to Alan Duncan Bell-Irving of Vancouver, a Canadian fighting with the Gordon Highlanders during World War I. In 1915, Bell-Irving was seconded to the Royal Flying Core (RFC) where he was posted to No. 60 Squadron RFC.

He is known as the first Canadian RFC flying ace following his fourth and fifth aerial victories in September of 1916, ending up with seven aerial victories. He flew the Morane-Saulnier N single-seater, and then a Nieuport 17 fighter aircraft. On September 14, 1916, Bell-Irving shot down an enemy observation balloon over Avesnes-lès-Bapaume, France.

Alan Duncan Bell-Irving was awarded the Military Cross on October 20, 1916 and received a Military Cross Bar in January 1917. For his battle victories, France honoured Bell-Irving with the Croix de Guerre.

He was shot down four times, the last of which resulted in injuries that ended his active combat career. Continuing to serve, he finally relinquished his commission in 1919 due to health concerns.

But it was not the last that the Canadian military would see of Bell-Irving. During WWII, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Forces, serving as the commanding officer at No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, and the RCAF Central Flying School in Trenton. When the war ended, he held the rank of Air Commodore.

Alan Duncan Bell-Irvin’s story was told in the book Gentleman Air Ace: The Duncan Bell-Irving Story. His legacy lives on with the Canadian Air Cadet program, the creation of which he played a key role in, along with Alfred William Carter. In 2010, to mark his role as one of program’s founders, 135 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Cadets, was renamed 135 Bell-Irving Squadron.

There are two plaques on the Nieuport XI. The first one reads: Presented by Boeing Canada honouring Duncan Bell Irving of Vancouver, First Canadian RFC Ace, 30 September 1916. The second reads: Presented by Air Canada Pilots Association honouring Duncan Bell Irving of Vancouver, First Canadian RFC Ace, 30 September 1916.


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