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The Mary is 80

 

“Don’t tell anyone about my birthday!” Those were my orders circa January 2009. And I didn’t. The Mary had a plan. We would ‘get away’ for the entire month of May, thus avoiding the entire panoply of family B-days. A plan to which I heartily agreed, un-thrilled as I was by the relentless fast forward of my senior-senior status.

So come Delta’s April Pancake breakfast, whilst busily clearing tables amidst the hubbub, her friend Jean Prior whispered something about Mary’s CV. I was puzzled. Why would The Mary crave a tiny Renault 2CV, over her beloved little Mazda? Sigh, I despair at keeping pace with the feminine mind.

Couple of weeks later Mary’s sister Anne put me straight, “Have Mary at the RAA Roundhouse next Sunday at noon sharp and at 2:30 p.m. at the Boundary Bay Flying Club. There’s two surprise birthday parties for her, flying guys at noon, and family later. Make up a little slide show. Don’t worry about a thing! Me, Jean and the ladies have it organized. Don’t tell Mary! Thanks.” 

The M sat right there in her rocker. Anne’s voice cut through the telly babble like a scythe.  “But wha…????”  I croaked …“It’s gonna be fine! Just do it!”  says Anne. …Click.

Sheesh! A secret documentary covering 80 years of The M’s magnificent hustle and bustle, would take about 200 slides! And horrors, the leading lady is plunked right by the editorial computer! Thankfully she ignores my textercating, grumping I should get out more, or I’ll go blind.

 

A CUNNING PLAN

Come the day, she fussed to be off to her beloved flower garden at Delta, and chuntered at my slow-poking. My cunning plan was to dawdle at red lights, and go buy new charts at ZBB.  “What for?” she huffed. “You don’t have a plane!”

“Must stay current,” says I.

Sadly, to M’s disgust, I found no suitable charts. Sigh.

Heading for the clubhouse door bang on noon she thought, “Looks like someone’s birthday?” Well, surprise!  (‘Gob-smacked’ she said later, a Brit-ism caught from me) as about 90 old friends, “Happy B-Day’ed” her as she went in. Thanks so much everyone. We’ve enough chocs and flowers now to last through the next recession.

Come 2:30 pm, she still wanted to stay and chat, but was enticed away by some grumpy old guys at a BBFC briefing who wanted to wish her well. And thus she was again gob-smacked by her extensive family and more old friends.

Everyone was tremendously impressed by all the Air Park activities. Goodness! You folks were amazing. She can’t stop talking about it.

 

AND DELTA ROLLS ON

Despite our total exhaustion by all this birthdaying, wedding anniversary-ing, tax-returning, medicalling, and B.C. voting, Delta Air Park’s Heritage weekend activities keep rolling along.

All this action plus a new computer conspired to miss my June column deadline, for which I am truly sorry. The M and I can’t wait to see ‘PacPersp’ in print, and were much disappointed it wasn’t there. Sorry guys.

Next up was the May Pancake Breakfast which was honoured by the attendance of George Miller’s popular Fraser Blues formation team. George, an ex Golden Hawk Pilot, was appointed the first real Canadian Forces Snowbird leader in 1973, and is currently Airport Manager at Langley. The team’s sparkling Navions created tremendous interest parked smartly by the taxiway.

Not many at breakfast realized they were ‘Being Served’ by Canada’s top aviation artist!  Volunteer pancake server, Virginia Ivanicki, had just heard that her oil painting, ‘Harvards over Boundary Bay’ had won Canada’s highest Aviation Art Award in the 2009 competition, held at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa.

That’s our very own Ginny, who’s been commissioned for a number of ‘my plane’ portraits by local pilots. Congratulations Ginny! We featured her winning work in the May Pacfic Perspective before we knew it was entered!

A number of Acrobatic hopefuls gathered around Reno Racer Adrian ‘Coop’ Cooper, who has his lovely little Mong Sport biplane for sale.

Bob Cutting’s magnificent new RV9A was besieged by the Delta Dreamers. Bob’s meticulous workmanship on airplanes and vintage sport cars is much admired by all, and deservedly so. He has built 15 aircraft, and this is his third RV. Bob is a local MDRA.

 

COPA FOR KIDS AT DELTA

COPA Flight 5 ran a successful COPA for Kids day, flying 85 young enthusiasts. Pilots from the Flight and the B-Bay Flying Club have evolved a smooth efficient system for introducing our young to flying as a fun thing to do.

The parents are always thrilled at the experience thus available for their children. The goodwill created for our precious airpark is welcome indeed. This regular event by the mostly BBFC members is hard to match by the rest of us, and we much appreciate their efforts.

The Flying Club house is ideal for registration, Chapter 85’s RAAC Round-house is perfect for the impressive briefings, and Delta’s Old Coffee Shop a romantic place for the parents and kids light refreshment after the flights. Flying little kids is most gratifying. Well done everyone.

 

CENTENIAL OF FLIGHT

We took our UK visitors, 1950’s RAF friend John Wilkinson and wife Eileen, to the Round Engine fly-in at the Langley Canadian Museum of Flight. They were delighted with the vintage aircraft on show, immensely impressed by the Fraser Blues, and particularly the Harvard Pair fly-pasts.

Museum Director Vic Bentley kindly gave John a nostalgia tour of his Harvard cockpit. The Museum’s 1937 Cabin Waco, a Chipmunk and the Replica SE5 flew in with the Centennial Baton, and the Waco and crew delivered it to Calgary the following Wednesday.

The White Rock Air Crew Association veterans provided a smart guard of honour, and John was thrilled to meet an actual troop glider pilot from WW2.

 

A BRANDON CROSSING

In his recent column,’ View from Manitoba’, COPA  rep Jerry Roehr wrote enthusiastically about the doings at the Brandon Flying Club. This reminded me of 1998 when returning from Oshkosh via Brainerd, after fraught weather experiences, we were desperate to return to Canada’s protective bosom.

So, after much agonizing, chose Brandon, rather than the seductive simplicity of North Dakota’s International Peace Garden field at the border, because I wasn’t sure if they had fuel.

Unexpected scary weather required old Bessy to hustle, and the sparsely land-marked crawling track got no help from our iffy 1950’s ADF. It only pointed at stuff you could already see - Passed my instrument flight test with one of those at Penhold in 1953. Sigh!

Anyway, constantly worried by an immense crosswind, after 2.3 hours at about 305 magnetic, the only big town ahead had to be Brandon. A cheerful voice on the MF asked our intentions. “Gas and customs” I replied. The voice directed us to the flying club, where we could use the club phone.

We were weary, and welcomed the energetic club lady who offered gas as we talked to customs.

“Where are you?” demanded the customs lady. “At the flying club.” Says I. “Well you should be at the customs ramp, I’ve driven 60 miles up from the border for you. Get over here right now!”  Whoa! Turfed the gas lady off the wing, bunged The Mary in the back, prayed the hot Pratt wouldn’t flood, and rumbled back to the customs place, quietly cursing the helpful MF voice. Phew!

The Customs Person stormed out looking mighty grim, and peered into our tiny baggage locker. “Is this it?” she demanded. Well no, if she got up on the wing, stuff was packed behind the back seat, and on the radio shelf. Miscellaneous small stuff was in the under-seat boxes and the old map cases etc, to kinda creatively spread the load around.

The rather pregnant officer had a long think about clambering up on Bessy’s wing and decided we were good guys. She was fascinated by a couple of old folk in an old airplane, laughed, and signed us in. Said she’d enjoyed the drive anyway.

We gassed up, filed to Medicine Hat, where 3 hours later, RAAC #4905 members Dave Mann and Herb Arndt settled us in at the Callaghan Inn.

All this reminded me of some circa 1928-ish Brandon photos in the Swain Archive that Delta AME Dave Ellison gave me years ago. I sussed that date from my Ford Trimotor operating manual.

 

Tony Swain & The Mary, a couple of old Copaguys. Email: copaguy@vcn.bc.ca