Canada’s National Research Council operates fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft for world-class in-flight research and development. James Careless examines the unusual mix of old and new types used for this work.

Among the range of tasks that the NRC Twin Otter can perform is to evaluate the health of vegetation.

Some of the vintage aircraft of Canada’s flight test centre belie the high-tech work being carried out there. Based in its own maintenance hangar and machine shop at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (IATA code YOW), the National Research Council (NRC) Flight Research Lab (FRL) fleet relies on various types, and a North American Harvard, Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star and a Bell 205 are among its ‘older generation’. Paul Kissmann, FRL’s head of flight operations, and its main pilot said: “Because of the acquisition cost, we tend to keep aircraft for a long time once we buy them. We have a real museum of aircraft types here – and they all fly.”

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