Siggy Does Delta

Tony Swain


Brian “Siggy” Sigsworth and I spent all Friday night setting up his new ‘birthday’ HP super printer, scanner and everything machine. With relish he promptly plugged in the lovely blue setup CD, thus confounding the whole procedure, which, the book says, is to plug in the CD last.

Further delays ensued as the resident octogenarian scrabbled under his desk for the elusive USB plug… “Is this it?” being his plaintive call.

It was ever thus with my friend Brian, a clone to his dear old Dad’s enthusiastic personality.

Long ago, the elder Siggy I'm - pressed his betrothed with a low pass down Saskatoon’s main street that necessitated their eventual rescue from his faithful Jenny by the local fire department, as it dangled inverted from the city power lines. Apparently the lucky young lady took this with aplomb, simply assuming this was a normal event in the piloting game.

Brian continued the tradition when he was eleven, by ‘popping up’ at 2,000 feet, from among the Royal Mail bags in the front seat of his Dad’s official Tiger Moth, with a cheery “Hi Dad! …Can I come and help you fly?”


Siggy and I raced cars or sailed together for over 50 years so it was great that he joined us in May for Flight 5’s COPA Flight for Kids Day. Saturday was rained off, but more than 50 kids turned up on Sunday.

Nine volunteer pilots and their planes worked non-stop to complete all the flights, and were kept in trim with ham, turkey and devilled egg sandwiches from the duty volunteers in the Old Coffee Shop.

The excited ‘Jun - ior Aviators’ were thoroughly briefed for their adventure by retired Boundary Bay Flying Club President Lowell Breckon.

The pilots of the day were Henry Ilg, Rick Blue, Harry Pride, Don Hubble, Don Brown, John Manuel, Gary Peare, and

B. C.’s new COPA Director, Tim Cole.For kids under seven, not yet old enough for official ‘Young Aviating,’ Delta’s popular ‘Grand-Kiddie Trainer Plane’ was rolled out. It was built many years ago by local romantic, George Noble, famous for his Super Pietenpol which sported a huge Kinner radial!

So… fine job guys! Afterward, ravenous kids and parents quaffed juice and special ‘Bomber’ Hot Dogs, by our world famous Champion Dive Bomber, The Mary, and her faithful assistant, Erica Ohm.

Organizer Big Al Blakely thanked everybody for doing a great job, particularly the ground marshals, for herding the kids back and forth safely. Later he emailed everyone… “Thanks again COPA 5 for a wonderful day at Delta Heritage Airpark. I am still amazed at the volunteerism of this group, and this certainly makes it fun.

Your enthusiasm is second to none, and I will miss you guys. I have received several positive e-mails from appreciative parents. One said that we have ‘definitely turned her son on to flying.’ Out of all the kids we flew, if we can turn just one onto flying, then I would consider it a successful day… Al.” Sad for us, Big Al and Sandy move to Lethbridge this month, and hope for new adventures in the Alberta flying scene. Thanks for everything, Al!


Through all this, Siggy and I ate The M’s Bomber hot dogs, told hangar stories, and wandered around looking at stuff.

Siggy does Delta The Pacific perspective by Tony Swain, BC and Yukon Tony’s 1952 Tiger Moth sketch, ‘The Spin!’ Tony the Copaguy and his old friend Brian Sigsworth on COPA for Kids day at Delta enjoy The Mary’s Bomber Hot Dogs whilst swapping old flying stories.

Photo courtesy Mary Swain May 2010, COPA for Kids Flight 5 volunteer Lowell Breckon, briefs the Junior Aviators in the Delta RAAC Chapter 85’s newly renovated clubhouse.

Photos courtesy Tony Swain Tim Cole points to his new aircraft proximity warning system above the panel in his mint restored Cessna 172, as retired Airpark Secretary Bruce Prior peers through the window.

I had my own adventures in RAF Tiger Moths back in 1952 at Kirton in Lindsey. Spin practice was pretty hairy with Lincolnshire farms, fields, and cows swooshing around like crazy.

“Recover… now!” Mr. Quinn would holler over the crackly ex army tank intercom. Sigh! Those were the days. I even sketched the experience to focus the numbers in my mind.

New B.C. COPA Director Tim Cole proudly showed off his beautifully restored Cessna 172.Modern paint scheme, soft beige upholstery, new safety harnesses, fancy panel, and state of the art G/A TICAS repeater atop the panel. He pointed out the small levelling spacers required to keep the responses honest.

Apparently, compared to the peaceful cruising about he’d previously enjoyed, this machine yells continually about conflicting flight paths, a constant reminder how congested our Lower Mainland airspace really is.

Ken Hicks showed Siggy the fuel usage monitor he designed and installed in his very nice Thorpe T18. He was about to fly off and test it. Very useful indeed.

Gerald Ohm was beavering away on his superb single place RV 3 rebuild in the RAA workshop.It was taking longer than expected and thus he is burning much midnight oil! The reconfigured panel is very impressive.

We took a peek at Charlie Longstaff’s new all wood special, which appears to use fancy flaperons? He previously built a Piel Emeraude, and a scale Spitfire, presently being refurbished in Calgary.

After sitting outside for many years, the Emeraude is being totally restored by Alex Routh, who was delighted to show Siggy and I, Charlie’s clever dual ignition, a normal mag to starboard, but a modified car system to port. Charlie cut down the case of a Toyota Corolla electronic ignition distributor to fit between engine and firewall, and apparently it works like a damn. Only a 4 rpm drop at mag check!


Whilst The Mary was off at Delta on Friday, preparing for COPA for Kids day, she said to get dinner at the Billy Bishop Legion, just four blocks from us in Kitsilano. The Billy’s Friday Roast Beef is legend hereabouts, so I needed no second bidding. President Derek Allan and wife Angela are the super chefs.

I got there early, and Derek showed me the amazing photo collection of the disastrous 1915 Gallipoli War they’d received, in their capacity as a local museum.

It includes even a few ghostly early WWI airplane images.Fantastic! A generous local legion member made prints for display, before they sent the originals to the National Military Museum.


Got a lovely response from a couple of charming ladies recently.

Most recent from author Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, who wrote the story of Laurentian Air Services, For The Love Of Flying, and I wrote a short piece about her presentation here to the Quarter Century in Aviation Club last month She wrote:

“I’m at my parents’ place back east after a talk at the COPA Flight 8 (Ottawa) and en route to Montreal for a couple of aviation history conferences. One of my dad’s friends/neighbours came by this afternoon to hand-deliver a copy of your article in the latest COPA newspaper. Thanks so much for your kind words and for the terrific photo of me and ‘The Mary.’ That’s my mom’s name too and I think she might start demanding we call her ‘The Mary’ as well! :)” AND MORE This from playwright Marie- Lynn Hammond, of Stouffville Ont., regarding my May 2009 tale about flying off English Bay in the 1920’s.

“Dear Mr. Swain, re: Ted Dobbin and Dominion Airways.
It was on my website you found the photo of Ted and Elsie nattily dressed in front of his airplane.

“Elsie was my paternal grandmother and companion of Ted’s for about 20 years, until his untimely death. I stumbled on your COPA material about Ted, Clare and Dominion Airways whilst Googling about last night after showing friends copies of photos from Ted’s Album.

I was tickled to see your photos. Ted’s planes were obviously named for my grandmother. She was several years older than Ted, but my father said theirs was a very happy relationship. Though Elsie never got a license, they did a lot of flying together.

“In the 80s I wrote a play about Elsie and my other grandmother, requiring a lot of research into the Dobbins, etc. My father, a WWII RCAF Pathfinder pilot, even took me to meet Clare Dobbin. Anyway, here’s a photo of the dashing Ted from my collection. The album itself is with my uncle’s family.

“I wrote a couple of songs about Ted and Elsie for my play ‘Over Queen Charlotte Sound’ written from Elsie’s perspective and actually mentions Ted (See lyrics at Anyway, I thought you might find all this interesting!

Sincerely, Marie-Lynn Hammond, Stouffville, Ont.” Thanks so much Marie-Lynn for providing the decidedly romantic story of the Dashing Ted Dobbin and Elsie, your grandmother! My goodness.

Over the years I’ve received a number of wonderful comments and embellishments on stories I can only cover superficially in Pacific Perspective… Sigh!

Tony & The Mary, The Old Copaguys in Vancouver