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Forty-five years is a lifetime to folks in their thirties. It whistles by in your sixties and when you’re 70, you want to stop and get off in case you miss something!
So delving into the Diston Delta slide collection is a revelation of idyllic days the Mary and I almost missed, as they slithered into oblivion in the NavCan rush to inverted wedding cakes and mode C at BeeBee’s. Sigh!
The 1964 Delta ‘ramp’ is fascinating. A Stearman, a Ryan, Ercoupe, two Champs, and a Taylorcraft, shine in the sun. The airfield is five years old. No Koffee Port yet, but ‘hangar row’ is springing up.
At the foot of historic Embrey Road, an Embrey brother, Darmel Diston, and wife Corrie slowly built a magical place by the waterfront. They were truly grass roots airplane people. We mere enthusiasts came later!
At this time, a few local farmers headed for RCAF Saskatoon and bid on some surplus old Harvards with an eye to cheap flying and if that palled, a bunch of useful bits. To get home, for a small fee, keen moonlighting mechanics would put the wings on.
Soon super EAA enthusiasts like Dan McGowan, Gogi Goguillot and friends arrived to assemble airplanes they’d built at home. Dan brought a Bowers Flybaby, and Gogi a beautiful Druine Turbi, which is now the RAAC Chapter 85 club plane.
They then coordinated their efforts to dream up and design a scale replica WW-1 SE5a, which became a popular sport plane around the world. (Since Gogi died, the SE5 Replica Plans are still available from the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley).
Darmel bought a beautiful Stinson Gullwing, and built a wide bay into his new T-hangers to fit. We were lucky that for a while there were three Gullwings locally - truly magnificent flying machines!
Time whistled by, and in June 1995, the B.C. government bought the field for the now Metro Vancouver Parks, and after some folderol this magic place became Delta Heritage Air Park!
THE BAY FLYERS
The Boundary Bay Flying Club meet was held in the historic Diston Farmhouse. They totally restored the interior, which is most attractive, and even graced by a genuine old Hammond organ, from which some of the older members can still wring out a good sing-along tune.
The BBFC hold regular ‘Pot Luck’ dinners, where folks bring their own favourite dishes for a scrumptious nosh-up! Definitely finger licking good.
This is a real flying club in the old tradition, i.e., they hold regular popular group fly-outs to desirable or unusual destinations.
The club is also home to COPA Delta Flight 5, who for the past few years have held 12 young Eagle events, ably organized by COPA Award Winners, Al and Barb Fielder. The recent event in May flew 33 young Eagles.
After six years, Al recently stepped down as Flight Captain, and when Al Blakely took over the job, a proper sixth birthday party was held for the Flight, cake, candles and all!
Our other COPA Award Winner, Harry Pride, who normally flies a Piper Arrow, has just heard that at 83, he is now Canada’s oldest ‘medicalled’ licensed Pilot! Gosh and I thought he was my age, about 50 and counting.
In May The Mary and I attended a potluck dinner at the Langley Flying Club, another great bunch, who meet in a very nice trailer home behind the DC-3 and Mignet Flying Flea gate guardians, close by the Museum of Flight.
I was pleased to find myself seated near past B.C. COPA Director George McNutt, a BBFC member for many years. George was on the COPA board in the early seventies.
A REAL PLANE MOVES ON
Since our Harvard Bessy, left, my round engine withdrawal symptoms have been alleviated by watching Bruce Prior fiddle with the big Continental on his Classic Cessna 190, in Hangar 2.
Resplendent since recent Aero Engine overhaul, with their special gold sparkle crankcase finish, and new prop, it’s been the place to take salivating round engine wanna-haves. I admit to green envy hearing that hoary old radial snap, crackle and pop to life! Pure heaven!
Then suddenly she’s gone. Whisked away by proud new owner Jacques Carriere to the center of the universe, Rockcliffe near Ottawa. She really didn’t want to go, specially this time of year, and so created a bit of argy-bargy with a ralcitrant generator.
We all held our breath as she flew away, and waited anxiously for word. Seems she followed Bessy’s approximate route, pausing overnight or so at Thunder Bay to visit family.
A fixture at Delta for about 30 years, it’s amazing how personal airplanes become to owners and their friends. Sigh!
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Last weekend, a group of guys arrived festooned with cameras, bright shirts and funny hats. As non-designated security bloke, I sidled over to check them out. You know, casual conversation like, "Hi! You come here often?"
"Pardon? Excusez moi!" was the response. Aha! "Est vous from Quebec?" says I.
"Non, Nous sommes de La France!" Oho! Fortunately the far homme spoke English. "We wish to see les avions!" says he.
"Hey I can do that!" says Alex Routh, and away they went on the grand tour, to see Alex’s dismantled Emeraude, and Terry’s upside-down Wilshire Spitfire on custom sawhorses.
THE SEVEN CYLINDER WASP
When we arrived in 1970, there were six Harvards regularly at the field. A visitor by our Bessy once explained to a friend, "Now there’s a seven cylinder Wasp Junior."
So I said, "No no, actually, that’s a nine cylinder Major." But I should’ve kept my trap shut.
"Don’t you tell me!" he barked, "I was crew chief on these!" So I simply counted the cylinders, "One, two, three, etc, etc…" and he went off muttering something about young know-it-alls. So I guess that’s all… Fly Safe now!
Tony Swain, an Old COPA Guy.