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Seems only yesterday that our wonderful Harvard ‘Bessy’arrived back from Pitt Meadows with a smart new paint job. A special wide T-Hangar awaited with a special 45 foot door opening instead of the usual 40.
An enthusiastic bunch of Delta guys heaved her three tons into the hangar, tugs not yet imagined, but much chatter about a winch. She looked marvellously snug and beautiful.
Pleased with ourselves we wandered about checking the clearances; the tail went between the roof supports OK, with the trailing edge just shy of the diagonal braces. The canopy cleared the door lintel, and I endured some gentle leg-pulling about forgetting to put the prop horizontal some day.
Bessy’s previous owner, Air Park owner, farmer Darmel Diston, had built this special space with a wider door opening, to accommodate a Harvard’s 42 foot span, and spread the roof support trusses to clear the stabilizers. The Harvard is long and needed care to not bump the far roof post with the rudder.
STICK A FOOT IN
A new hangar, the adjoining bays were still vacant, and I wondered who might move in. Darmel thought maybe a 172, or a Cherokee. Then it struck me! Where would their rudders be? It slowly dawned. Everything had been increased but the actual bay width, which remained on 40 foot centers! Bessy’s wingtips would stick a foot into the adjoining bays. …Smack into the rudders of any Cherokee, 172, or Chipmunk that moved in!
Disaster! Lots of humming, harring and “What if’s?” etc. but there it was.
“Just take all three spaces,” said Darmel, “ and get a couple of Pitts S1’s to sublet, they’re way too short to hit your ailerons.” I began to sweat. Triple rent! Find two Pittses? Helper Chuck Neutz got all excited and began bobbing up and down.
“You gonna take it or not?” He demanded gleefully. “You can’t? …It dunt fit!”
Darmel was despondent… “Well?” he muttered. “Do you want it?” Stunned by this turn of events, with Chuck jumping up and down, bitterly disappointed, “I just can’t.” I said.
“Bingo!” yelled Chuck, “I’ll take it! My Aero Commander will fit right in!”
Which is why, resplendent in her new paint job, poor Bessy sat out on a dusty tie-down for a couple of years. The hot sun did its worst, and patches of clear coat flaked off like dandruff, specially over the perky red nose and wingtip flashes. Sigh.
HERO BIG JERRY
Then, our hero Big Jerry Janes came along, with his mint blue camouflage Harvard, ‘Honeysuckle,’ and generously engineered bigger doors on the Barn Hangar, just for the two of us. Actually we’d hoped to get Diana’s Chippy in as well, but were stymied by the centre door post. But regardless, Bessy was snug in The Barn for about 35 years.
Over the years, Jerry’s side held a variety of magnificent custom restored Warbirds. A Spanish Harvard, a T-28 Trojan, a Cessna O-2, and his amazing collection of U.S. Navy WW-2 carrier tugs.
One becomes attached to familiar places, so the other day I was pleased to find his son-in law, Barry Mann, easing Jerry’s new Nanchang CJ-6 ‘Yak’ into Bessy’s old spot, next to Dan Zagorsek’s ex Biafra Dornier, parked on Jerry’s old side.
Now that Jerry and I pretty well have permanent Senior Citizen status, and almost too creaky to get into an ah-plane, never mind fly it, the kids are taking over the job. Even the little kids! “Waddaya mean ‘He’s only 18’? Yuh wuz flyin’ T-Bards at 19, fer gosh sakes!”
And it’s true! …At the local Aircrew Association meets, with all these smartly dressed blazer and tied octogenarians, it’s humbling to realize these grand old guys were once 18, 19, maybe 22, and flying feisty little Spitfires, lumbering Lancs or Halibags.
Big Jerry and I have flown some fabulous stuff, but these old guys did it for real, when it really mattered. It’s humbling at their luncheons to find they actually enjoy my simple hangar tales!
ELGOODS MOVE ON
The Elgood family have been Delta folk since the year dot, and when The Mary and I arrived on the scene about 1969, the ‘homebuilt’ Elgood Moths were legion. It was EAA Chapter 85 at Delta those days, and father and son built up magnificent new Canadian Tiger Moths from salvaged engines and original metal fittings after the wooden structures had rotted away.
More recently the present Elgoods designed a fabulous one design resembling a super Fleet Canuck, and now have a mint RV in rebuild.
Over the years their Elgood Moths and One Design have been a major attraction at Delta’s Canada Day Fly-ins, and once moved to Vernon, we hope they’ll still fly down here for Pancakes.
The now RAA Chapter 85 held a farewell Grand Barbie for them last month, and there was a great turnout, presentations and all. Old timer Alf Spence and wife Joyce even turned up in their vintage 1955 Silver Dawn Rolls Royce. Cheers you guys!
OLDEN EARS BRIDGE FLY-OVER
The long awaited Golden Ears Bridge opened across the Mighty Fraser last month, joining Maple Ridge and the Trans Canada highway near Langley. This toll bridge will ease access across the river immensely, and there was great anticipation and excitement come opening day.
There would obviously be a great crush at road level, so Delta’s flying folk of the B-Bay Fly Club and COPA Flight 5, organized an ‘Official fly-over’ to celebrate the event, and get a look-see without being jostled in the crowd.
The flight went off great, and Flight Captain Al Blakely kindly took my hometown UK visitors along for the ride. They were absolutely thrilled. Mike and Diane Wilson were in town to support a WW-2 Liberty Ship Museum in North Vancouver. The ship was the ‘S.S. Flamborough Head’ and near Flamborough, Yorkshire, was Speeton Field, where I first flew Austers in 1950, and RAF Bempton in 1954, where Battle of Britain ace Ginger Lacey was C.O., and I ran the armory for a few months.
OTHER REAL AIRPLANE STUFF
Whilst everyone was flying over the new bridge, a pretty Bellanca 8GCBC Scout arrived sporting huge Tundra tires. The instrument panel was much more businesslike than I expected, not a simple Citabria set-up at all. Surprise for Tony.
Also flying about were Chris Cox and Acrobatic Evaluator John Mrazek completing the Aerobatic Certification of Chris’s RV7A. When they landed they’d obviously had a great time, the superb RV passing inspection with bells on.
There’s a ‘magic’ about aerobatic enthusiasts after a great ride. The still pumping adrenalin and suppressed excitement is contagious. I really miss Old Bessy at such moments, and get a sickly hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. Double sigh!
Last Sunday was similarly bitter sweet, when Kevin Maher arrived in his partner Trevor’s ‘Big Engine’ Stearman. What a marvelous yellow bird! Like many ex crop-dusters, the original 220 Continental has been replaced with a 450 HP P/W 985 Wasp junior. What a great flying machine, all massive cylinders, wings and bracing wires. Fantabulous.
We laughed at his attempts to strain oil in through a filtered funnel. Verrrry slooow!
A family with three adopted kids arrived, and couldn’t believe it when Kevin sat each of them in the cockpit, the first time to savour that indescribable distinctive airplane smell, explore the controls, instruments, and everything. Wonderful. Thanks so much Kevin. There’s a Stearman of his very own growing in the barn. And he remembers well, when just a kid, the Delta guys encouraged and helped him almost build a Flybaby in the ‘70’s.
OLIVER YAK FEST
A reminder to Yak and Round Engine enthusiasts, the 10th Annual gathering at Oliver is Friday, Sept. 4th thru Sunday. There’ll be John Northey’s FAST formation school, Peter Herzig’s Acro Clinic, Round engine care by Walt Lannon and Warbird maintenance by Bill Nicholson.
On Saturday, The South Okanagan Flying Club will host a steak barbeque and dance in the Lannon hangar, c/w refreshments! For fees etc, e-mail or call: Paul Dumoret, 250-535-0395; email@example.com or Walt Lannon, 252-498-8387, firstname.lastname@example.org
And that’s all folk. Fly Safe now.
Tony Swain & The Mary, a couple of old Copaguys. Email: email@example.com