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My friend Big Jerry is the energeticanest airplane person I know. If there’s airplane bits laying about some place, Big Jerr‘s passion is to gather them up into one piece to get ‘em flying.
He’s scoured the world for promising bits, and at times the guys here at Delta benefit greatly, by getting roped in on these ad hoc archaeological field trips. There’ve been the Duncan P-40, a TallMantz A-26, Muthill Spitfires, miscellaneous Harvards, Beech 18’s, P-51, Sea-Fury, and a fabulous Albatross. There’s been more, but one forgets.
Anyway, One cool day in December 20 years ago, Jerry volunteered his best gullible guys into his current Beech 18, an AT-11 with a fabulous glass nose, a.k.a. the Secret Navy Bomber SNB-1 and left for the ‘Great America’ in search of a rumoured abandoned B-25 bomber, that apparently needed just a teensy little bit of work.
This kind of thing makes Big Jerry salivate. The perfect flying machine as a back-up for the Janes Flying Circus.
Andy Wallace and Bob Dick were along to fly it home after Russ Popel signed it off. We picked up Russ at Victoria Air Maintenance, and he didn’t even pack his tools. I was there in case someone was needed to blame.
Barely an hour later we cleared customs at Port Angeles, and set off through the forbidding Olympic Mountains for Kitsap County airport, a disused military field. It appeared the USAF simply left unwanted airplanes all over the place. You could just get lucky.
Plunging into jagged snow covered mountains sets my teeth on edge, especially as Big Jerry didn’t waste gas climbing too high when the DME showed only 40 odd miles. Besides, he’d proved only recently the amazing SNB-1 could manage in formation OK on one. No bigger confidence builder than that, for sure.
In no time at all in ‘Jerry Time’ we popped out over the Hood Canal and peered about for a spare B-25. And there it was!
Down among overgrown bushes, on a neglected taxiway, in a remote corner of the airport. Everyone hollered how good it looked, with whooping, high fives, and all.
Big Jerr plunked us down forthwith, and taxied cautiously down the crumbling tarmac. You couldn’t even see the old Mitchell from the ramp, hidden as it was among a forest of small trees. No wonder it had been forgotten all these years. Right on!
SHE LOOKED GREAT
Eventually, we spied her on a rubble strewed dispersal pad. She looked great. We parked the Beech and enthusiastically walked in. The closer we got, the more she disintegrated. Sigh!
What a sad sight. Great chunks were missing, controls had been flapping about, and sprayed with bullet holes.
Nose wheel, glass and props were gone. Inside was a shambles, and the instrument panel, control wheels, seats and throttle quadrants had been ripped out, with no finesse whatsoever.
But true, the basic airframe was still intact, but a sad Jerry admitted it was just too much to take on. So we took our pictures, sighed, walked away, clambered into our faithful Secret Navy bomber, and winged it for home. Happy Easter!
N.W. COUNCIL OF AIR SHOWS
In February, The Mary and I attended the NW Council of Air Shows Conference held at the Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel in Richmond, B.C., and enjoyed the traditional quality program.
The International Council President, Bruce Wilson, advised members of the latest show attendance statistics, which approximate NASCAR numbers, but the education and affluence level of those attending air displays are apparently higher.
The Air Boss Forum highlighted some important points for everyone. Park your ego at the door, if a problem, talk to the Air Boss first! Be flexible about waiver time; don’t put incoming pilots on the spot. Aircraft following ATC instructions can be allowed in during waiver time, if it doesn’t interfere with show activity.
COMMUNITY FORUMS GOOD IDEA
No matter how good your people, accidents will happen, so have a plan for after it does. Be prepared for something to happen off the field. Have one person as a media contact. Never say “No comment.”
Put out a statement of regret and sympathy. Simply give the facts as you know them, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know.
It is useful to hold community forums to explain how air shows work, and to answer airport neighbour concerns, so that should the worst happen, at least some local people will better understand how things are handled.
Transport Canada’s Wayne Harper and the FAA’s Jeff Weller spoke of their recent successful efforts to harmonize most show procedures between Canada and the USA. EAA Cascade Warbirds Squadron President Dave Desmon presented the ‘Deconfliction Schedule’ for 2007.
After the break we heard about ‘The Pilot Brain’ from Tony Edgar, the season plans for the Canadian Snowbirds, some fantastic ‘Performers Showcase’ videos, followed by the 2007 NWCAS Awards hosted by Darlene Hamre and Michel Peletier.
Canadian winners were Roy Hefley for his commentating skills, and Transport’s Wayne Harper for his efforts with the FAA to harmonize show regulations.
The President’s Award this year went to Triana Newton for her enthusiastic support of NWCAS.
The evening was suitably rounded off with a fabulous dinner Cruise along Vancouver shorelines aboard the MV Hornblower.
AT THE AIR PARK
The Old Coffee Shop hosted a Greater Vancouver Regional District Parks (GVRD) sister volunteer group for lunch last month. The Cammidge House supporters Committee welcome the change of scene in the Delta Heritage Airpark Pilot Briefing Room and appreciate being looked after once in a while. There are numerous such interest groups under the GVRD Parks fold, and it’s mutually beneficial that we get to meet now and then on each others particular turf.
GOODBYE OLD FRIEND
We are sad to announce the passing of Colin Walker, a long time Delta enthusiast, well known for his marvellous wooden ‘Walker Propellers.’ Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Lynn and family. A ‘Farewell Lunch’ held at the Delta Community Centre had a huge turnout. The local Fraser Blues Navions flew the traditional ‘Missing Man’ flypast.
And that’s all. Fly safe now…
Tony Swain, an old Copa Guy…
Photos: All Pics by Tony Swain