The chicken motel

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Bessy on display at the 1975 McCord AFB
‘Scout-Arama’ near Seattle.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain


The 1932 Blackburn B-2, star of the
1947 Brough Air Display in Yorkshire.

Photo courtesy Macdonald’s 1955 ‘Aircraft of the World’

Tony’s serious co-pilot for the weekend, pilot
Gordon Winterbourne, visiting from the UK,
where he shared a Jodel with 15 friends.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain

Long, long ago, when flying around was merely a matter of picking a fair to middling day, gas was given away at fly-ins, and girl pilots wore white helmets and sexy goggles, those of us with quirky old vintage airplanes were in great demand at these happy go-lucky cheerful events.

There were spot landing contests, flour bombing competitions, and ad hoc hanky pick-up demonstrations. I recall that at the Great Abbotsford Air Show, a passing spectator regularly pinched, looped and rolled a tatty Champ and the aileron always fell off. We loved it.

Every year near my home town in Yorkshire, at the Brough Air display, the pilot propping the 1932 Blackburn B-2 tripped and fell, and the little biplane roared unsteadily off all by itself, beating up the crowd, zooming about in shaky circles around the chimney at the local cement works. Miraculously it ran out of gas headed in just the right direction, and bumpety bumped to a gentle landing right in front of the crowd.

Big sigh of relief from the Tannoy announcing system, which extorted the ‘Field Marshalls’ to “Push it out of the way!” Boy! How I envied those Field Marshalls, they actually got to touch an aeroplane!

So it was with a high state of anticipation that my UK visitor friend Gordon and I took ‘Bessy the Harvard’ down via Bellingham to the great 1975 Scout-arama Day at McCord Air Force Base.

This was a big deal, put on by the N.W. Antique Airplane Club and we gathered at the Mark Hoskins’ Chicken Motel, located at Aero Plaza near Olympia, WA, just south of Seattle. This was a residential airstrip, lined with hangars and homes of flying folk. 

Already present were an amazing variety of old planes. The Hoskins His & Hers Ryans, a Stearman, a Waco, a Travel-Aire Sport …and, a gorgeous 1932 DH Fox Moth.

The ‘Chicken Motel’ was the Hoskins’s rambling ranch style home, with large swimming pool and attached chicken run, with air-side accessible nest egg boxes, better to serve the under-wing camper guests. A veritable pilot’s paradise.
Non-tenting visitors were invited to crash where-ever they could find a comfy spot. The place was a-buzz with tall story-ing and social discourse.

Next day we flew to the U.S. Air Base in a close gaggle, on one guy’s radio, with strict orders not to go fly-about, in case some general got upset. We were parked in static display with some of the fiercest military iron of the day. We felt really special with Bessy, as many not so old guys spoke of their adventures as kids, flying “them Tee Sixes.”
The Scout-Arama ran full blast, with the obligatory American marching bands, even a full regalia Scottish pipe band. Amazing. Then it was back to Aero-Plaza, and a bunch of simply flying around, just like the Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines movie. Great!


Aero Plaza’s Mark Hoskins with his fabulous 220 HP Ryan
PT-22 Special. Photo courtesy Tony Swain


The Copaguy Harvard, Bessy, stands by as the
Stearman guys laugh at their experiences
having old planes at the McCord AFB Air show.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain



Wandering New Zealander Myles Robertson gives nostalgic
experience rides in his magnificent 1934 DH 83 Fox Moth,
ZK-ASP (Short for ‘All Spare Parts’ in England!).
Photo courtesy Tony Swain

Myles Robertson’s New Zealand registered DH Fox Moth was charmingly English. The type evolved in 1932 using the wings, tail, undercarriage, and engine of the classic Tiger Moth. The pilot was stuck out in the weather a-la handsome cab, whilst facing pairs of rather thin passengers sat in soft leather luxury. …And, reminiscent of Brit 1930’s First Class rail, a grand string bag luggage rack hung above.  Amazingly this venerable Moth could haul five ‘flapper’ sized people!

And, per Bramson & Birch’s ‘The Tiger Moth Story’…” Inserted in the pilot’s panel was a Victorian-looking oval window through which he could wave reassurance to his passengers!”

Naturally everyone wanted to “ ‘ave a go” …and genial pipe smoking Myles happily obliged, tucking us in before cheerfully clambering into his perch.

The ride was wonderfully romantic, passengers agog as the world drifted by through a comforting matrix of struts and bracing wires. A broad goggled smile peered down at us through the little oval window, and the ride was amazingly quiet. 

…Sigh, those were the days!

Vancouver Aviatrix Diana Janes attempts to operate
the Chicken Motel egg machine at Aero Plaza.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain


In his iconic Brit wooly flying jacket, Myles Robertson,
centre, loads enthusiastic passengers
for a nostalgic flight in his Fox.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain


Pilot Robertson checks in
on a delighted Old


RAAC Chapter 85 guest speaker, WW-2
tank buster 440 SQN RCAF ‘Tiffy’
pilot Harry J. Hardy,
DFC CD, then and now.
Photo courtesy Guy Shaddock, RAAC.


Myles relives the romantic experience of flying
New Zealand’s 1930’s ‘Royal Mail’.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain



Up, up and away goes writer Tony with Myles
and his magic flying machine!


Another fabulous time machine was
Dale Detour’s 1928 Waco ASO.
Photo courtesy Tony Swain


Harry and his Typhoon ‘Pulverizer II’
somewhere in Belgium, 1945.
Photo courtesy Harry J. Hardy

It was so much fun that on the next weekend, we flew down for an Antique Pancake Breakfast at Evergreen Field, near Vancouver, Washington. It was a bit rainy so they let us sleep in their cozy little shed clubhouse.

Next day was a bunch of flour bombing, spot landings and the usual air to air photo flights of vintage Stearman Mail Planes, a Meyers OTW, Travel-Aire, Fairchild F-24, and the like. The sound of a bunch of old radials grumbling about is so comfortably re-assuring.  Double sigh.

Took a 1930’s vintage biplane guy for a ride in Bessy, and he took me up in his sturdy old plane. Let me fly it for a bit, and it felt really solid. No intercom so I looked back and gave him a big thumbs up. He made a querulous circling gesture with his forefinger. “Wanna do a roll?” 

Well hey, way to go! Now a big old biplane does a really ponderous nose high roll. You can count each degree. All those wires and struts swooshing around feel like rolling in the Forth Bridge. Magnificent!

Half way round, “click!” The seat belt let go! Holy Shmoley! My hands grabbed at the cockpit sides, my feet shot out to hook under the panel, and then we were back level! I looked back and frantically mouthed… “The belt let go!”

He grinned, gave a thumbs up and did another! I clung grimly to the seat, legs rigidly stuck out under the panel. Thankfully, nose high aileron rolls are almost a looping manoeuvre, and create very little negative G. Nevertheless there was some serious fraught. Fortunately, years ago in the air force, a similar experience at 10 thousand feet prepared me for instant action. We had a little chat about it later, and both learned a bit about flying from that. 



The Mary and I were honoured guests at RAAC Chapter 85’s Annual Awards Banquet last week at the excellent Delta Town and Country Inn, with succulent roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and everything.

The evenings guest speaker was WW 2 Typhoon ‘Pulverizer’ pilot Harry Hardy, DFC CD, 440 SQN RCAF,  who gave a gripping slide presentation of his 1940’s day job of  blowing bridges, trains and tanks. Sometimes over 30 missions a day!
What a grand old guy. A latter day knight on his charger to save our world. But sadly, despite every effort, the human ‘angst’ gene just seems to go on and on. Sigh.

The Chapter presented numerous awards for every conceivable aviation circumstance, including proper thanks to the volunteer team who successfully restored the clubhouse to ‘better than’ its former glory.

Ray Colley took the Ira Jamison Award for being the ‘Unsung Hero’ in quietly doing stuff around the Chapter on his own initiative for the general good. And the prestigious RAAC National Mike Davy Award ‘For outstanding efforts on behalf of Delta and Sport Aviation generally’ went to Delta’s Airpark’s hard working Chairman and B.C./Yukon COPA Director, Terry Wilshire.

Even The Mary was honoured with a well deserved RAA ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ for her efforts in “Taking Care of the Pilot’s Lounge at Delta Heritage Air Park.”

Tony & The Mary, The Old Copaguys in Vancouver. Email: