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  • Writer's pictureMartin Zeilig

Pedal Plane Presentation at 402 Squadron

Lieutenant-Colonel Ryan Setter, Commanding Officer of 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron, was somewhat surprised to see a P-51 Mustang pedal plane outside his office door. He wondered where it came from and who had built such an awesome wooden replica of the type of plane once flown by the storied squadron. LCol Setter discovered that it was built by Brandon, Manitoba native Mr. James Sheppard.

Sheppard and his wife, Katherine, were the guests of honour at the 402 Sqn’s offices in 16 Hangar on September 27, 2021. They were flown to Winnipeg onboard one of the Sqn’s Dash 8 training aircraft. A brief ceremony was held in which the pedal plane was officially presented to the LCol Setter and the Sqn. The Sheppards were then taken on a walk around to show them the history/heritage of 402 Squadron. That was followed by lunch at nearby restaurant and Mr. and Mrs. Sheppard were flown home afterwards.

“I was dissatisfied with the way with it transpired initially due to the COVID protocols,” LCol Setter said. He explained that the transfer of the pedal plane was done off base in front of the Canex. “So, I really wanted to have the opportunity to fly him and his wife Katherine out here,” LCol Setter said. “We got the approval from the previousWing Commander, Col Proteau to express our gratitude by flying them here for this beautiful plane.”

Mr. Sheppard, an educator in the Rolling River School Division, noted that his father, James Sheppard Sr., built a Tiger Moth pedal plane for a grandson about 30 years ago. “After my nephew grew out of it the family decided to donate the pedal plane to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon,” he said.

“For the longest time, it was displayed on a plinth then it was decided to let young visitors pedal around the museum in it. That proved to be quite popular.”

About four or five years ago in the wood shops classroom of their school Mr. Sheppard and a couple of his students built a pedal plane version of a Harvard, the type of plane used to train fighter pilots during the Second World War.

“We built it using a kit from the U.S. Once it was built, I thought this would be a good place to donate it. So, I found my cousin Brad’s email and he linked me to someone at the base and it got the ball rolling.” Mr. Sheppard said.

“It was similar to the P-51 and the Tiger Moth. When we finished it, we painted it to be the exact copy of the Harvard that the CATP museum has right now. But, he admitted that he always wanted to build a P-51, then, I found out a few years ago that there were P-51s at 402 Squadron,” Mr. Sheppard continued.

“I bought the kit and built it. I did the best research I could in terms of painting it. I got the decals made up to mimic one of the planes I’ve seen online that 402 Squadron once flew. I finished it in the spring, and dropped it off here in August.” He called it a COVID sanity project for himself. “I’d go into the shop after school and make some sawdust,” Mr. Sheppard joked. “It took about a year to construct after school, between 50-75 hours of construction time.” He sought the help of a cousin, Brad Baker, a retired member of the CAF afterwards. “When it was built, I thought this would be a good place to donate it,” Mr. Sheppard said.

Katherine Sheppard labelled it a great honour to be at such a presentation. “I’m just thrilled,” she said. “I work at the museum in Brandon, so I can attest to how important and popular the two pedal planes are in our fleet. We have repeat customers come back to pedal them. So we’re thrilled that one can now be here at 402 Squadron.” Meanwhile, her husband praised the aircrew that flew them down here. “The flight here was absolutely amazing,” he said. “The professionalism of military pilots is outstanding. They are the best.”

LCol Setter stressed that Mr. Sheppard’s gift to 402 was “awesome.”

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