By Adam Hunt
Here in Ottawa we are fortunate to have easy access to so many guest speakers. We have Transport Canada and Nav Canada's headquarters in town, along with the Transportation Safety Board and the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada, too.
We also have Canada's most beloved aviation humorist, Garth Wallace, who lives not too many miles from Ottawa and who is on tour with his latest book The Smile High Club.
For our April meeting we were fortunate to sign up Wallace to come and speak to the Flight at our usual meeting venue, The Ottawa Flying Club. The spacious upper lounge at the club was filled with members and a notable number of non-flying spouses.
Wallace was introduced by Flight 8 Captain, Mike Shaw, who simply insisted that our guest speaker is so well-known to aviators that no introduction was necessary.
Wallace started off by recalling the first time he was invited to speak to Flight 8 many years ago. He had said then he would be happy to talk to any aviation group, as long as they are friendly, have a sense of humour and are willing to spend some money buying his books. The Flight representative had asked if he was still willing to come out for two out of three.
On a serious note Wallace mentioned that aviation clubs are probably more important today then they ever have been in the past, due to the difficult economy, fewer people getting into flying and many people dropping out of it. He is of the opinion that belonging to a club helps people stay in aviation and that makes clubs very important at this point in history.
Wallace went briefly over the aviation background that has given him so many stories to write about. He has about 12,000 flying hours and taught probably about 1,000 different students to fly on wheels, floats and skis.
Flight instructors don't make a lot of money, he said, but they do meet a wealth of funny and interesting people along the way.
Teaching flying was a busy job and while it provided lots of material, it didn't leave him much time for writing. It was when Wallace became a corporate pilot, flying a turboprop out of Toronto that he found time to write.
As he describes, corporate flying involves a lot of "Hurry up and wait" - time spent waiting for executives to finish meetings - and he started using this wait-time to write down his instructing stories and finish his first book.
Later, when he was COPA's Publisher, Wallace met then - COPA director Francois Bougie (website: http://www.bizzart.com). Bougie has been the illustrator for Wallace's books ever since, contributing the many cartoons that grace the covers and show fanciful interpretations of some of the characters and the scrapes they got into throughout the stories.
With 10 books completed, Wallace says that he is now half way through the stories from his flying career and so figures he has enough material left to complete another 10 books, at least.
After giving Flight 8 this brief background, Wallace launched into a series of stories from his flying career. Unlike many speakers these days, Wallace doesn't use PowerPoint slide shows. Instead he tells his stories with simple descriptions and gestures that captivate audiences in much the way that old time story tellers did in years gone by.
Wallace told three stories, the first involved an elderly lady student and a zero "g" mouse. The second was about teaching an ex-navy rating to fly from scratch on floats, including his refusal to go solo. The final story was one from his current book, The Smile High Club, about a first flying lesson given to a rough lumberjack from northern Ontario, who had severe bladder limitations.
Wallace finished off the evening by offering his current stable of books available for sale and he sold quite a number to members of the Flight looking to pick up his latest work or complete their Garth Wallace libraries.
Wallace's books are available through his website http://happylanding.com/ , through a long list of aviation book stores http://happylanding.com/retail%20outlets.htm or by telephone: 613-269-2552 and fax: 613-269-3962.
Flight 8 would like to thank Garth for coming out to entertain us. Other clubs interested in engaging Garth for an evening of funny flying stories can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.