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Copaguy Archive Tin Box #55 brims with random images from the halcyon years of 1976 and thereabouts. Aaahhh! What a great year for the gang at Delta, Bessy and all.
Summertime, so much going on, and the flying was easy. Gas was cheap, and the great DOT of the sky hadn’t dreamed up too many inverted wedding cake zones as yet. A weekend pilot’s life was good.
Delta Air Park just bustled with vintage and homebuilt airplanes, fascinating stuff materialized from time to time at chapter 85 EAA, and the various maintenance shops by the field at that time.
There was a Harvard Mk 2 in bits in a battered old barn by the north gate, and a mysterious guy was rebuilding a Tiger Moth in the tumbledown haunted Embrey mansion across the street. Twenty five more aircraft were tied down west of the present airport property line, and a diagonal runway provided optional crosswind landing practice, as the wind seldom entirely favoured it. Delta encourages proficient piloting skills.
Dave Ellison’s maintenance shop provided fascinating looky-loo activity, with the various types in for annuals, or a ‘CCI’as they were known then. Affable Charlie Simmons kept his Beech Bonanza there, and we were mightily impressed. The New Mary and I even got a ride. Fantastic!
Dave’s plan to manufacture the cute little Anderson-Greenwood had everyone agog! Wow, we all wanted one! Sadly, that project and the delightful little flying machine simply faded away in the mists of time. Sigh. More fascinating type info available via Google.
Three guys on the field rebuilt a lovely little Champ, A boat-builder, a chorister, and a wannabe bush-plane engineer, Wayne Swanson. They flew it all over, Vargas Island, Tippella forestry strip, Chilliwack for pie. They had a lot of fun till their tie-down rope let go in a gale one night, and the Champ blew over and badly twisted the tail.
A quiet young ex navy chap who secreted his bright red Fleet Canuck ENP in a remote T-hangar, and tagged along on the various fly-outs, stayed the Delta course to eventually step up to the mark, and take over the crucial volunteer job as Air Park Secretary when the B.C. Government bought the field. Delta is now unique as a Metro Vancouver Parks facility.
Bruce Prior retires this fall after 16 years yeoman service. Since the Canuck, he and wife Jean flew a Classic Cessna 190, rebuilt a mint C-150, and son Rob is almost finished an RV. Many thanks, Bruce, for picking up the ball in our time of need!
THE HARVARD GUYS
By 1976, the Harvard guys were getting serious about show biz, and Delta was the rendezvous field of choice for our fly-abouts and formation practice.
At the time about four Harvards called Delta home, with maybe three more up the valley. It was a wonderful time.
Big Jerry Janes had totally restored his Mark 4 ‘Honeysuckle’, and customized the panel to match his P-51 Mustang rebuild still in progress. Thus he felt totally at home when he climbed into his fabulous ‘Cottonmouth’ for the first time!
However, those of us fortunate enough to have a go in Honeysuckle were briefly disoriented by the apparently random positioning of the instruments. You had to concentrate!
A popular Round Robin fly-out was to Victoria, Abbotsford, Hope and Chilliwack for pie. Particularly enjoyable that year was a great scenic trip to Toffino, a walk on the beach, then down the west coast to Victoria for late lunch and back to Delta. Such outings gave immense pleasure. Just rumbling along in these magnificent vintage machines provided unexplainable satisfaction. Sigh!
THE STARLING WARBIRDS
By now, long time Harvard owner Bob Haslam had moved to Sechelt. His tie-down spot next to Bessy taken by Fred Durant, who’s Harvard was temporarily hors de combat after an altercation with a runway marker.
The Harvard guys seemed targeted more than most by a plague of Starlings looking for cheap and comfy housing. They nested between the cylinders, in the internal heat muff, the wheel wells, the elevator fairings, you could hear them bustling about in the wings as they visited back and forth.
I manufactured cunning blanking plates from rubber mats for the wells, tightly tied tarps for the cowls, and bunged all other openings with tough foams. This added considerably to the pre and post flight checks.
Big Jerry’s Honeysuckle and the McMann machine seemed immune. Was it discrimination? Nudge-Nudge Folk-lore opined that Bessy’s bright yellow was the attraction.
The dang fangled birds didn’t care for blue or red airplanes. Fred’s answer was a big rubber owl, a la sailing boats. Hey, hey hey! So we all got ‘em. However, the Boss Starling soon sussed this ploy and used them as a perch. Sigh.
Word arrived that the Haslam machine had been painted! This called for an official visit, so the Janes and Swains got togged up in their Sunday best and hi’ed it off to Gibsons Sechelt airport for a proper inspection. This was serious stuff. It might out-shine ours!
Our admittedly noisy arrival compared with the usual 150’s brought a crowd of enthusiasts up from the village, some of whom thought they’d got the drag racing dates wrong.
Anyway, Bob’s new paint was nice, and not considered a threat, so, after everyone had admired the various paint jobs, all retired to the pleasant Tyee Air Services facility for coffee and cake. Such were our typical weekend activities in those innocent days in ’76.
And back home in Kitsilano, huge excitement when the Vancouver Sea Festival featured the Canadian Reds, a new Pitts Special two-plane Acro team, who did a fantastic job over English Bay and the narrow entrance to False Creek. Pilots Bill Cowan and Rod Ellis.
Earlier, when they first started, and I was then a qualified acrobatic judge, I was thrilled that they asked me to critique their new routine. After they went on to bigger and better things, it was great to think I was able to help a bit in those early days.
At the COPA Convention in Calgary, Clark Seaborn promised to send me a couple of pics of Tom Sigsworth’s Pup around the 50th Anniversary of Flight in Canada.
I can’t believe that was 50 years ago the CPA guys at RCAF Lincoln Park built a commemorative float for the Stamped Parade. We mounted Tom’s Pup and a plywood Bomark Missile on an air force transport flat bed.
Hall of Famer Sammy Tomlinson and his guys built a remarkably realistic Bomark in the woodwork shop.
FAREWELL DON SOUTER
Sadly Delta lost its most enthusiastic and ever cheerful volunteer last month in a tragic aircraft accident. Don Souter was always there, ever helpful, a bubbling font of information. When I needed obscure information for this column, he was there.
We are all so sad to lose such a vibrant friend. We are not alone. Don volunteered at an amazing number of different sport events, Reno Air Races, motorsport at Mission Raceways, The old Vancouver Indy, Abbotsford Air Show, Arlington EAA North West and more.
At this writing a combined farewell gathering is being pondered, but no specific venue decided as yet. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his devastated family. What else is there to say?
The Old Copaguy, Tony Swain and The Mary. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org