• A replica Sopwith Pup biplane is unveiled at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, B.C., June 2016

    A replica Sopwith Pup biplane, built by Vimy Flight volunteers and Air Cadets, is unveiled at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, B.C., June 2016. (Photo: Carlo Ricci/Canadian Geographic)

Next month, the world will gather at Vimy Ridge in France to commemorate the centennial of the First World War battle that helped define Canada as a nation, and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and its partners will be there to help put the events of April 9-12, 1917 in context for more than 9,000 students and teachers. 

The commemorative events at Vimy are the capstone of A Nation Soars, a three-year multimedia project honouring Canada's Great War flyers by the RCGS in partnership with Canadian Geographic, Sound Venture Productions, CPAC and others that saw the creation of two giant floor maps and accompanying lesson plans, two documentaries (with a third instalment in the works), and, most impressively, two replica Sopwith Pup biplanes. 

The planes were built last year at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, B.C. by skilled volunteers from Vimy Flight with assistance from some young Air Cadets; they will depart for France Thursday aboard a CC-177 Globemaster III. The planes will be displayed at various events leading up to and after the official commemoration ceremony on April 9, including at the Artois Expo in Arras, EF Educational Tours' interactive education hub for its school tour groups.  

Representatives from Canadian Geographic Education will be there with the Drawn to Victory and Vimy Ridge giant floor maps, ready to lead students and teachers through activities that will help them understand the crucial role topographic surveys and aerial mapping played in helping the Canadian regiments take Vimy Ridge.

After Vimy, the biplanes will embark on a cross-country tour, bringing stories of the bravery of Canada's First World War pilots to even more Canadians. A third documentary, Flight Path of Heroes, will focus on the pilots and volunteers behind Vimy Flight, who are working to keep Canada's aviation legacy alive. 

"We are so proud to have been a part of the A Nation Soars trilogy, which began as a documentary series and turned out to be so much more than that," says Gilles Gagnier, publisher of Canadian Geographic magazine. "Knowing the replica biplanes we helped create will be at Vimy for the 100th anniversary celebration and will later fly across Canada raising awareness of this part of our past, and of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society's mission, is very rewarding."

"I can’t believe how far our project has actually soared," adds Tim Joyce, President of Sound Venture. "What’s truly exciting is that we now have the opportunity to be part of a much larger message that will resonate with Canadians from coast to coast.”

The full tour schedule and additional details will be announced later in April. 

In the meantime, watch this breathtaking footage of one of the planes' first flights for a taste of what to expect: