Fixin’ Miss Bessy



A Harvard engine change is a Big
Deal! Rolf Yrie’s MK 2 at Calgary,
around 1980.
Tony Swain photo


The magic continues.
The Copaguy, 2002.
Rob Prior photo

From left, BBFC Pres Garry Peare,
Artist Virginia Ivanicki-Strell and
The Mary with Mike Langford’s
Harvard portrait.
Tony Swain photo



Fraser Blue’s Ray Roussey
en route to Arlington.
Virginia Ivanicki photo


Artist Ivanicki and friend Bonnie try
out a Luscombe at
the Arlington Fly-in.
Virginia Ivanicki Collection photo

Big Jerry Janes’ gorgeous Sea Fury
‘Cottonmouth’ goes to the ramp
for his first race at Reno,
September 1988.
Tony Swain photo



“Well! How’d it go?” Jerry’s friends
ask after the race. From left, Keith
McMAnn, Walt Lannon, Big Jerry,
Walter Davidson, Tony Swain
and John Muszala.
Mary Swain photo


Pretty C-140’s owner Ron Green
(right) of Victoria, chats with Delta
Stinson 108 owner, Ian Staines.
Tony Swain photo

Immaculate cabin of Ron Green’s
little C-140.
Tony Swain photo



A delighted Bob Hartin relishes the
arrival of his new Aviat
Husky A-1B at Delta, assisted by
Honey, the Airpark Dog.
Tony Swain photo

Front page of the South Delta
Leader featuring local Air
Cadet members Flt Cpl Penuta,
rear, and from left, Cpl
St-Martin, LACdt Hirst, and
Sgt Gill.
A Jim Kinnear SDL Staff Photo.

Click pictures to view larger images

Bessy apologizes for missing the COPA Convention at St. Thomas, Ontario, but a new engine arrived, and she had to try it on. After all, a lady wants to look nice. Her spare hat, I mean Pratt, waited faithfully in the hangar for 30 years, so, miffed at Bess leaving town, the flighty little Wasp ran away with an American, and was last seen winning ‘The Gold’ at Reno!

We sure miss the surreal ‘tingle’ felt in Bessy’s hangar. That magic machine had presence, and willed you to gambol in the sky. Sigh. Well… it’s good to know she gambols still. The magic passes on to those lucky folks at Tillsonburg, where Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association (CHAA) pilots fly her far more than we were able.

What a huge thrill when, on Monday, July 12, 1971, old military instructor Mel Lee climbed out and said “Go enjoy yourself!” It had been 17 years since, as an 18 year old English Kid, I last flew Harvards with RCAF NATO training, at Penhold Alberta. That the same fabulous romantic experience is still available today is truly amazing. If you get the chance, go for it. If only for a half hour. You’ll never forget it!

To keep us in touch, Bessy’s new owners, the CHAA, have most generously gifted Mary and I Honorary Life Memberships, for which we are most grateful. Their excellent newsletter and web page keep us in touch, however, it gets us a bit teary at times. Fly on Old Girl!



The Mary and I didn’t make it down to the Arlington, N.W. Fly-in this year as visitors arrived from the U.K. However, our Warbird Artist Lady, Virginia Ivanicki, and her friend Bonnie went with bells on, as guests of The Fraser Blues Navion pilots. And what a wonderful time they had!

After producing amazing Warbird works all these years, Artist Ginny got to wander among real breathing warbirds, warbird guys, and fly warbird formation. She and her friend are over the moon, and Ginny has had her first flight lesson from Boundary Bay with the Pacific Flying Club!

Her recent exhibition at the prestigious Elliot-Louis Gallery drew quite a crowd of local airplane enthusiasts to mingle with the Arts set. They even bought paintings!



It was so exciting watching Dennis Buehn drive Bessy’s ‘spare’ engine in his T-6 Midnight Miss to win ‘The Gold’ at Reno last year that we’ll be there with bells on this month to cheer him on again. But really, we got the bug years ago, when my hangar partner, Big Jerry Janes, astounded us all by having a fabulous Hawker Sea Fury assembled by renowned warbird specialist John Muszala. He named her ‘Cottonmouth’ after a Louisiana swamp snake and announced she would race at Reno, and invited a number of us to be pit crew. Incredible. It was 1988.

The Reno International Air Races are the aviation equivalent of Indianapolis, or Formula One auto racing, and we were agog at being in the action. We took a Reno Races charter down to the Circus Circus Casino. The good food and opulent razzmatazz of the place were amazing.

At Reno-Stead Field, Jerry’s Race 20 shared a pit with the Great Howard Pardue, his iconic Bearcat, and his Sea Fury. The next pit held the crowd favourite, Bearcat ‘Rare Bear.’ Like being cheek and jowl with Jackie Stewart, Al Unser Junior, and Mike Schumacher! All of Big Jerry’s trusted people were there, Russ Popel, Joe Howse, Barry Mann, Walt Lannon, and The Delta Guys. The Mary & I were polishing specialists.

Crews were to the field early, grabbing a quick Egg MacMuffin on the way. It was all very tense and exciting. Mustang people changed engines, tweaked props, polished and re-polished. Phew! Took me back to my Prairie car racing days. Only the money and the machinery were just so much bigger!

We didn’t win, but Jerry turned in a tremendous effort for a first timer. We were all so thrilled and tired by the end of the day. What an incredible experience. See you there!



Delta’s regular Second Sunday breakfasts just roll along. The average is about 100 servings. People turn up by plane, car and bike. They’d come by boat if we had a dock.

Trevor Skillen is a popular regular these days with his magnificent R985 Stearman. It’s so grand parked out front of the Old Coffee Shop. If only we had a hangar spot for him, but that’s a big bird. Ron Green comes in from Victoria with his dainty little Cessna 140. Absolutely immaculate, with a very clean original panel and all. There are a few around of the type, both 120’s and 140’s, and the owners enjoy comparing notes.

A new bird on the field is the no nonsense tail-dragger Aviat Husky A-1B of Bob Hartin, a really keen, though relatively new pilot, who looks forward to summer bush flying in his agile little plane. His tail dragger Cessna 150 is on the next tie down. That’s keen. Reminds us of Delta’s early days!

Terry Wilshire, your B.C. COPA rep, is beavering away on his Replica Spitfire’s new engine installation. She’ll be a real stunner when rolled out in the near future. Dornier Dan Zagorsek finally got his prop back from overhaul, got everything buttoned up last week, and was away flying on Saturday. That’s a big relief. It’s been a downer having his cowlings laying around for weeks. The Coxes got back from Oshkosh after the big Trip in their new RV-7. They were thrilled with the whole experience, and won an EAA Workmanship Award for their construction quality and technical skills. Congratulations indeed to Chris, and Joan, the Rosie riveter.



South Delta Leader reporter and COPA appreciation Award winner Kristine Thiessen, of ‘Love is in the Air’ fame, recently wrote another positive story about aviation. This time it was an upbeat story about Canadian Air Cadets.

Her piece, ‘Taking Flight’ features the local 828 Hurricane Squadron. She tells how Cadet members learn to march, stand at attention, and understand the need for discipline. And much more than a smart uniform, they expand their horizons both in the air and on the ground, As Thiessen writes: “There’s more to the youth organization than marching and drills. As cadets discover with increasing excitement, there are survival shelters to be made, community groups to help, air rifle camps to attend, and a glider and pilot’s license to earn.”

Once again, Kristine has put aviation in a positive context, and we in aviation, really appreciate that. Thank You.

Mary and I were delighted to be invited to the S. Delta Leader’s open house recently, and told everyone about Kristine’s 2008 COPA Appreciation Award, which will be presented formally at the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks ‘Super Saturday’ volunteer appreciation luncheon on November first, at the B.C. Institute of Technology in Burnaby.



Except that the Nancheng guys will be having their annual get-together at Oliver as you get this. It was a shock to hear our old rendezvous motel, ‘The Westwind’ is no more, with replacement plans uncertain. So alternative accommodations were suggested. They’ll talk about maintenance, formation flight, and aerobatics. There’ll be a big feed and a Lannon Hangar dance, hosted by the South Okanagan Flying Club…

Tony Swain and The Mary, Old COPA Guys.