Psst! Wanna Stearman?

U.S. Navy Stearman N2S-5, Circa 1940

A U.S. Navy Stearman N2S-5, circa 1940

Many years ago, before I knew about flying for fun, the MATA, (man across the alley) said his dear old dad was off to a home, and they were clearing out the stuff he’d been accumulating since the forties, and would I like an old Stearman, as they had no use for it?

Turned out the old guy had been a pilot in somebody’s Navy Air Service, then spent a second life flying the bush, then early airline stuff and eventually getting his very own corporate desk, which ended his flying career.

But it seemed he’d kept a dream all these years. What was I to do with a tatty old biplane? I was once a jet jockey for gosh sakes! Any road, my garage was choka-block with Brit sports car parts and antique boat bits.

He dreamed of flying it all the time, said the MATA, it’s a shame if it goes to the dump. …Sigh! So I went in and looked it over. Bit scruffy, but with a bit of a spruce up, some new wood framing and a bit of wire, it would look quite nice, and I could continue the old chap’s dream.

Well, there’s been some air over my wings since those days. I’ve crossed tracks with many a Stearman, flown a bunch of old biplanes, but until last week, never actually flown one! Back in 1977 my young friend Bob, whose dad once managed Abbotsford airport, brought his father in-law, one Danny Yu to Delta for a Harvard ride. Danny had flown with Chenaults Tigers in China, and they trained there on Stearmans. He had pictures!

They graduated to T-6 Texans, before flying big stuff like P-40’s and Mustangs. Wow! Finished up flying for Air America, before retiring to Vancouver to open a Chinese Restaurant! Anyway, the MATA dad’s’s old Stearman’s looked really nice after some reframing, cover restoration, and a bit of hanger wire. It’s inspired my flying dreams these past 45 years, in pride of place over our mantelpiece. Sigh! 16 X 20 framed is a nice size.


Pacific Perspective

Stearman Line at a 1940’s training school somewhere in China. Photo courtesy Danny Yu.


In the early 1970’s, Delta had an enthusiastic airport kid who seemed always under our feet, full of 14year-old penetrating questions… “What’s this for? …Why’d you do it like that? …Can I help,” ...etc, etc? Drove the local flying folk potty. Darned kid!

Turned out his Dad had been a Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot and the kid was trying to build Flybaby tail feathers at home.

So The Mary said, “Take him for a Harvard ride!” a few times. We bought him a membership in the local EAA Chapter 85 and SHAZAM, he was no longer a nuisance, but a proper member, and all the old bold pilots fell over him with advice. He was one of the guys!

His dad came and checked out these new old friends, and we were approved. Anyway, long story short, young Kevin Maher got his licence, went crop-spraying in Stearmans, working up to the airlines, and stuff.

Some remember Big Jerry got a Mitsibushi MU-2, and “Yeah Boy!” …bragged about needing an official Transport Canada check ride. And lo! The check pilot was Kevin, the airport kid!

Well, Kevin the kid turned up at Delta last week, and said, “Pay back time!” And took me for a great ride in his 450 HP Stearman.

After allowing me a few steep turns and wing-overs, we returned to Delta, and he demo’d a circuit and taxied in. “OK,” says he, “Away you go!” And I’m thrilled to relate, I enjoyed a wonderful circuit in the lovely old bird. Bags of power on climb-out, and very like old Bessy on base and final. Fantastic!

He and Trevor Skillen share this machine, and Kevin is rebuilding one at home near Duncan.

Pacific Perspective 
Above: Kevin Maher gives the Old Copaguy a ‘Pay-back’
barnstormer airplane ride.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain

Pacific Perspective
Above: Tony gets a new Pacific
Perspective of flight!
Photos courtesy Tony Swain

Pacific Perspective
Tony's Stearman ride with
the former Airport Kid.
Photo courtesy Ginny Ivanicki


Hard to believe four years have passed since I retired from the COPA Board. But here we are with a new election for your COPA reps for B.C. At this writing, I know of three who have thrown their goggles in the ring, and busy e-mailing around their bio’s and how they might advocate for us to Transport and the great General Public out there.

This is not a ‘social flying club’ type job, but they will get to know the other reps and their specific concerns across Canada. Putting pilot concerns to government ministers and Transport Canada staff is not an easy task.

COPA representatives need to be fair and reasonable in our discussions and debates. One can’t simply demand things, without a balanced alternative to the problem.

For these reasons I hope for a board comfortable with government, general politics, and the attendant bureaucracy. COPA needs enquiring minds and persuasive turns of phrase. Loud protests and demands get us nowhere. So think carefully about your choices.

The two candidates I support are incumbent Terry Wilshire, who, as our airpark Chair, is already knee deep in local and B.C. aviation affairs, and Tim Cole, late of Transport Canada, has vast experience in flying this coast and across Canada in his varied earlier flying career. On the Island, Bryan Webster, the Dunker Guy, also has a comprehensive career in flying the North and on this coast. There may be others after this writing, however, calm and reasonable is what I believe necessary.


Got to Delta the other week and found a big shipping container by Coffee Shop row, and a couple of strangers loading up with shiny new airplane bits. Hey, hey, hey! What’s going on? Turned out to be Gerd and Danja Strassburg from Germany. They’d just bought Peter Marshall’s RV-8 semi built kit, and were taking it home to Hanover, or there-abouts.

Apparently this will be Gerd’s forth RV build! So we’re not the only keen folk. He says that personal flying in Germany is quite a bit more restricted than here. It’s viewed as a more important activity.

Meanwhile, Peter and Wendy are seeking a classic Cessna-170B, which are a fun machine to fly. Delta’s Chapter 85 had one at one time, and with the help of instructor Mike McDonald, about 25 EAA member’s earned their licence on it, all listed on the registration certificate.


The Boundary Bay Flying Club acclaimed a new executive at their AGM in January. The new president is Jim Niessen, with Gordon Hindle as v-p. Anne Belanger is now secretary, and past president Don Brown returns as treasurer.

The prestigious John Graelis Trophy was awarded to the editor Ray Griffin, of the club newsletter Prop-Talk, a popular choice. After which was a very tasty luncheon, and a pleasant social hour or so.


As I write, big signs are up at the airpark reminding pilots that the Olympic No Flight rules are in effect at Delta and most of our local flying space, extending even across the water to Nanaimo. At the last breakfast before the Oly closure, an interesting visitor popped in from the King George ultra light strip. Very clean and business like, the Aeroprakt-22LS, all the way from the Ukraine!

On bathroom patrol last week, at 3 a.m., I astounded to see an apparent air raid in progress. Searchlights waving about over Vancouver. Talk about de-ja-vu. Just like the WW 2 Blitz! This was the first test of the new Olympic-Lights, which will awe the Oly-masses. These are exciting times. See you next month.

Tony & The Mary, The Old Copaguys in Vancouver…