Tanks for the memories


Big Fred Grisley and I spent our young life in the RAF zooming around in exciting airplanes, much of it NATO training in Canada with the RCAF on Harvards and T-Birds.

Recently his daughter Maxine sent me pics of him cutting a fabulous ‘Meatbox’ cake at his surprise 80th birthday party.

In December 1953 at RCAF Gimli, Fred was initially deemed too tall for T-Birds, but ‘hey!’ he being RAF, the kindly Canadians let it go… and thereby hung a tale.

Though his helmet bonged frequently on the canopy, and his knees stuck up rather high by the stick, he could fly ok. So one day in January, he’s out solo in his sexy Silver Star 21035 practicing twoplane formation, when after a bit, he found the left wing getting heavy. What’s a-do?

Soon he’d be trimmed out and his right knee would block efforts to hold the wing up. Eventually, he’d be flying in
huge left-hand circles! Not a pretty sight. Discussions with important folk in the tower diagnosed a tip-tank not feeding, which would get heavier and heavier, the circles thus getting smaller and smaller. Problem.

Ejecting over the lake, leaving the aircraft in ever decreasing circles, was not exactly on, as his non-standard size, unless he was real careful, could entail losing some legs at the knees. Anyway it was blinkin’ cold out there. Over 40 below!

The Control guys

Similarly, even if he could coax his circling bird onto a runway, the asymmetric load of the full tank could cartwheel him down the runway. So, he was directed to drop the tank out beyond the parallel runways, and thus avoid frightening the guys in the control trailer between them. This he managed to do with great aplomb, after crabbing to position using a great circling route.

However, unbeknownst to Fred, it snowed while he was gone, and aiming to the right of the two black streaks, they were actually the taxiway and 14 Left, and due to the excitement, 14 Right was not yet cleared. So, he carefully loosed his dreaded tank directly at the trailer, which he believes induced a bit of ringtwitter as it passed a scant 30 feet over the duty caravan!

Hence, Fred was the only pilot known to have napalmed his home base. And very spectacular it was too! Never mind the weird spectacle of a T-Bird circulating with only one tip tank! But hey, Fred, those were the days!

And around Vancouver

The Canadian Museum of Flight held their Annual General Meeting and big feast at their lovely old hangar at Langley Municipal Airport.

It’s like Aladdin’s Cave in there! So much fascinating old stuff, and close enough to really feast your eyeballs on. Everywhere you look there’s an ancient aviation bit you thought you’d never get to see. Even a real ‘see-thru’ WWII Westland Lysander… apparently covered with clear shrink-wrap rather than fabric.

My Maria Katerina was thrilled with the surprise banquet of Ukranian sausage, perogies and cabbage rolls, rarely available at home, unless our neighbour lady drops by.

They are immensely proud of their 1936 Custom Cabin Waco AQC-6, and 1920’s INF, two Harvards, Replica SE-5a, Fleet Finch, Tiger Moth and Fleet Canuck restoration in final recover.

That’s quite the flyable fleet! What a wonderful bunch of volunteers there are out here in the Fraser Valley! For more info visit: www.canadianflight.org

And at Delta

Phew. So much been going on! Our COPA Flight 5/Boundary Bay Flying Club extended their annual clubhouse May
clean-up to include the whole airpark. Working with the Airpark Committee DAPCOM and the RAAC Chapter 85, they were out clearing up, fixing taxiways, and painting anything that didn’t move. DAPCOM Rent Guy, Tom Boulanger, contacted the un-affiliated tenants. About 40 volunteers turned up, an impressive bunch.

Thanks to the macro-organizing of Jim Niessen, Raymond Colley, Mark and Roberta Gayner, everything went smoothly, with Jean Prior bustling about logging hours. The Mary and Ginny Ivanicki organized sustenance throughout the day, and I stood around providing moral support. (I have an ‘on-demand’ bad foot you know).

Great job guys, gals, whoever. The airpark was real spiffy for the Mother’s Day Breakfast the next morning.

Delta Moms’ Day Brekky

It was a lovely day for folks to fly-in for our regular second Sunday Pancake Breakfast, and our visitors were mightily impressed by the new sparkle about the place. People popped in from all over. Even Langley Airport Manager, George Miller dropped in with his shiny Navion, looking for ideas.

George is the original Snowbird leader, and top dog with the local Fraser Blues Navion formation team. He chatted with his old friend, the Western Warbirds Fearless Leader, Jerry Janes.

Jerry’s grandson, Curtis Mann arrived in style in the family CJ- 6, with grand-mom, aviatrix Diana Janes in the back, who used to drive a darling Chipmunk.

The DAPCOM team of Sean Walker, and Gerald Ohm did the cooking, and Jeanette Mitchell took the orders. Ron Zeleschuck served 105 brekkies, and the Copaguy just sat around and cleared a few tables (Intermittent bad foot y’know).

COPA 5 Flights for Kids

The Boundary Bay Flying Club’s COPA Flight 5 guys held another extremely successful Junior Aviator’s Day at Delta in late May.

Ten aircraft and volunteer pilots were organized for an expected 100 kids. There were some cancellations and noshows, some parents went to Boundary Bay in error, and eventually arrived late. A few folks hearing of the event via the grapevine, arrived on spec with kids.

Jim Niesson, Henry Ilg, Harry Pride and their committee did a fantastic job of organizing it all.

Registrar Niesson waved his magic wand, and all on-specs and latecomers got to fly. In total about 75 Junior Aviators took the skies.

The pilots and the line marshals had a most satisfying time.

Volunteers’ lunch was provided by The Mary and her enthusiastic Helper-Gopher, the redoubtable Ginny Ivanicki. And many, many thanks to all the other ground crew, marshalers, etc, too numerous to mention here, but who did a fabulous job.

Whilst B.C. COPA director Tim Cole flew kids in his mint Cessna 172, wife Eilleen escorted kids back and forth between The Roundhouse and flight line.

The kids’ pre-flight briefings were presented superbly by upcoming aviatrix Jessica Peare, 18, who’s from a family with a
long aviation pedigree. Her grandfather Henry Peare was with Whittle’s first British jet engine design team, back in the 1940s.

The next Flight 5 COPA for Kids is planned for Sept. 29, at Boundary Bay Airport.


Regarding last month’s lead story, ‘Tony’s Night Nav’, expert UK ex-NATO pilot consultants, James Stevenson in Cornwall, and F.G. Grisley of S. Wales, gleefully advise me that the Harvard MK 2 had no ‘electrical breakers’ so what the h….ck was I flicking?

They are of course quite correct, I knew that, and they figured this easier to write than to explain fumbling about for fuses? Correct again… But then I thought maybe in today’s convenient world, who’d know what a fuse was, never mind fix it.

Anyway, the pilot’s ‘Switch Box’ on the lower left panel, held 15 switch thingies, providing an ample ‘Do something!’ for a panicking pilot. However! Per RCAF EO 05- 55A-2 Part 8 section 2, re ‘The Main Fuse Panel’ Quote…, “is located at left rear of the firewall… blah, blah, blah, …and opens outside of the aircraft, and may be reached through access panel #27, refer to figure 1 – 3.” …It just seemed easier at the time to frantically flick a bunch of convenient switches, which I knew were there, but not precisely what they did.

Secondly… Regarding today’s T-bird story, my old buddy Big Fred advises by snail-mail that… “No-one would consider baling out for a malfunctioning tank unless: A: It wouldn’t release, and B: There was nowhere to touch down at about 120 knots minimum.” Well yet again, I agree.

However, A: You won’t know till you’ve tried, and B: It’s your behind, and we didn’t practice landing at 120 kts, or heavy braking with one full tank. Even so, none of us thrilled at the thought of ejecting with the primitive ‘Do-it-yourself’ set-up of the day, just to get a Caterpillar Pin! Great stuff. Thanks guys.

Fred Grisley writes time to time for UK’s Aeroplane Monthly, and James Stevenson writes the Friars Goose aviation adventure books Fly the Storm, and The Dartmouth Conspiracy, via Google or www.JamesStevenson.me.UK

And that’s all folks… Fly safe now!

— Tony Swain & The Mary