The first Vedette was acquired by the Ontario Provincial Air Service in 1929 after it had proved itself for forestry work flying with the R.C.A.F. The original layout for a small forestry flying boat for civilian use was brought to Canada from England by W. T. Reid, the Chief Engineer of Canadian Vickers. The anticipated customer was Laurentide Air Service, however, with the advent of the OPAS, Laurentide cut back their operations. Since the specifications for the Vedette were similar to those required by the R.C.A.F. they agreed to take over the prototype.

Designated G-CYFS the prototype flew for the first time with a Rolls-Royce Falcon 111 engine on November 4, 1924. The original construction consisted of a wooden hull of cedar planking with double ply on the bottom over elm frames with a fabric wing and tail over wood and steel respectively. The results were generally satisfactory but the aileron control was judged too heavy and was modified with balanced ailerons and the engine was replaced with a new Wolseley Viper. Over the winter the recommendation that an air cooled engine would be more satisfactory for bush operations resulted in the installation of a 200 H.P. Wright J-4 Whirlwind being installed. The skeptics doubted that an air cooled engine would perform well in a pusher configuration but the manufacturer gave a money back guarantee that took the risk out of the experiment.

The first flight with the new engine was May 9, 1925. The federal government 1925 Report of Civil Aviation described the Vedette as a remarkably efficient little working boat, the equal, and for Canadian conditions, the superior of any flying boat in the world. In the next few years the Vedette was used extensively by the R.C.A.F. for photographing large areas of Canada. The design was not without problems and after several crashes during the 1927 season the problem appeared to be in the hull. It was determined that the hull soaked up water very quickly and unless given the opportunity of periodically drying out the aircraft performance suffered. As a result the bottoms were reinforced with additional stringers, compression members and a duraluminum cross channel between the wing spars for all new production models and retrofitting of existing models.

C. S. Caldwell, a pilot who left the OPAS, to become a Vickers test pilot, made history May 17, 1929 when he bailed out of Vedette ZF in an uncontrollable spiral to become the first Canadian whose life was saved by a parachute descent.

see also ...
Vedette in OPAS service
Online Exhibits