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Things we did way back when

 

On dark and stormy nights here in Kitsilano, The Mary and I ponder the meaning of life and this airplane thing. Since mid- 1970, like many of our friends, we’ve accumulated slide boxes, files, and digi-images of things we did and the adventures we’ve had. Enough to ‘write a book’, as people say. …Sigh.

It’s easy to say! Your January COPA Flight held a couple of excellent articles by Peter Walpole and Adam Hunt about how to do that. How to write this, and how to photograph that. It’s a lot of work.

The M and I put a sort of ‘Christmas COPA Magazine’ together with photocopies of my 2010 Pacific Perspective columns, and sent them to our friends and relations. It was quite impressive! Flights could do similar with their monthly reports.

As for writing our own book, we wouldn’t know where to start, it’s all been such a wonderful adventure that simply ‘evolved’ with our friends who just flew around for fun, in vintage, home-built, and military surplus planes.

They were not exactly ‘Big Ticket’ items. We bought old Bessy the Harvard in 1971, because it was relatively cheap, and I knew how to really fly it.

The Delta’s, then EAA Chapter 85, was a hive of activity and the celebrity airplanes of the day were Gogi Goguillot and Big Dan McGowan’s Replica WWI SE5As. They’d flown them to Oshkosh where they were a sensation, and WWI airplane fans all wanted one.

Where were the plans? There were no plans. Just a bunch of sketches on the backs of cigarette packages!

When they got home, they set up Replica Plans, hired a draftsman, and eventually sold plans for this delightful little biplane all over the world. The Langley Canadian Museum of Flight fly one, I recall one at Edmonton, and I believe one still flies with the Great War Flying Museum in Brampton, Ont. Those sturdy little planes are now 40 years old!

THE FRASER VALLEY AIR FORCE

About five Harvards were based off and on at Delta back then. A newspaper story called them the Fraser Valley Air Force!

There were two at Pitt Meadows, a couple at Langley, one at Abbotsford, and four on Vancouver Island. They were simply being used to travel around, and have some occasional fun.

After we got Bessy, ex- Typhoon pilot Vic McMann and myself did a bit of formation display at local fly-ins, till Abbotsford asked us to fly in their show. And finally, in 1974 at Airdrie Alberta, we morphed into the Western Warbirds Association great flying circus.

Before long, Harvards were acquired by ex air force pilots, and WWII Warbird enthusiasts. A practice program was evolved from the RCAF training manuals, and we were displaying most weekends over the Canadian and American Northwest. We even flew at Oshkosh. It was a glorious time, but still simply a bunch of friends with similar passions.

Before long the more affluent of us bought Beech 18s, Mustangs, and Big Jerry Janes amazed us all by turning up with a B-25 Mitchell bomber! He was wonderfully generous with giving rides, and allowing friends to get checked out. Eventually, we enthusiastically helped operate the Janes Air Force of a T-28, Tracker, Antinov, Invader, Sea Fury, Sabre, et al!

Sigh. Those really were the glory days!

A book about us…

So when someone actually does write a book about people and places I know, I’m mightily impressed. It’s tough enough getting this column in the chute.

The most recent contender is octogenarian Harry Pride, archivist of the Boundary Bay Flying Club and COPA Flight 5. His new book, A Life with Wings, is about growing up with aviation since 1927 in Richmond B.C.

From his incredible research and the myriad historic photos taken by his family over the years, Harry has created an intimate story of Vancouver’s International Airport from its Minoru Park days, thru Lulu Island, the ‘War Years,’ to the exciting times of CPA and TCA through the 1950’s.

The second half of the book takes us into the fascinating world of Personal Aviation, or flying for fun, introducing the reader to the numerous Vancouver area small airports, the various clubs located there, and the enthusiasts who fly from them.

A hefty 160 pages, choc a block with pictures, it’s a definitive reference to the incredible variety of vintage aircraft that swarmed the area. There’s also a whole section dedicated to the long involvement and growing enthusiasm of women in aviation. This book is a fascinating reference and read. Only available from Self-Publisher, Harry Pride, e-mail to hpride@shaw.ca, at $50 plus shipping.

LAUGHTER AT THE QCAC

According to Secretary Pete Sleeman of Vancouver’s Quarter Century in Aviation Club, my digi-slide presentation, ‘Tony & The Mary do the UK,’ kept everyone laughing at our unusual adventures through my early Brit life, our wandering drive through the UK to Scotland, and My little sister’s place in the Shetland Isles for a proper feed of fish and chips with mushy peas and buttered bread. We ended up in the Harbour Master’s garage, where he was building a Kitfox. Allan Marshall was thrilled to meet us and talk airplanes. That was five years ago, and he told me on the phone recently that it’s about 90% done, but is on hold till he ends a stint as a Town Councillor. Said that city politics seemed like a great idea at the time, and he certainly learned a lot!

So I guess that’s all! Fly safe now.