Duncan that was


My old Warbird Harvard leader Chris McLean called the other day. Did I have any pics of Duncan Airstrip in ‘The Old Days’?

“Sure, sure, sure!” says I ...then proceeded to not find them. Jeez! They were just there…about 20 years ago. Sigh.

So happened, local Chapter 85 RAAC program guy John McReady asked, would I be the after dinner distraction at their great Annual Awards Banquet with some Delta olden days?

Sure, sure, sure, etc. … Except that those rare images were in the same missing box. Double sigh. It’s all The Mary’s fault. She chucks stuff out that’s not been used in a while.

“Never touch your stuff!” she huffed… “Just to clear up and vacuum back there.”

It didn’t look good, and I got a bit antsy. But then lo! In a box plainly marked ‘More old stuff’, was the mother lode, ‘Sport Flying Around Vancouver’, among which lurked a dozen artifacts of an ancient fly-in at the old Duncan strip, which has since moved a bit to avoid relentless gravel gobbling machinery. However, airport owner Butler just promised the fly guys another 10 years in situ. Way to go!

Anyway, those rare archaeological pics are on these pages… Go enjoy.


Duncan folks tend to be airplane nuts, case in point being Kevin Maher, whose dad flew Spits in WWII. Ages ago, when Kevin was a 14-year-old kid, and lived in Tsawassen, he pestered the heck out of the homebuilder guys at Delta, on how to build a Bowers Flybaby, for which he was building a tail.

Flybaby aficionados Big Dan, Grant Sauerburg, Ron Stunden and all, chuntered on about “That darned kid!” So we bought him a Chapter membership, and there-after he got more help than he could use.

Don’t know what happened to the Flybaby, but he worked his butt off at Delta, and as he came of an age, he got a license, crop-dusted, flew the Turbi, joined the airlines, became a Transport approved check pilot on big stuff, got married, has a family, bought the oldest living Stearman in the world from a Californian cropsprayer, has been restoring it these last umpteen years, and moved to Duncan. Then he met Trevor Skillen, a Boundary Bay guy with a Stearman, and now they turn up at Delta from time to time, to cheerfully take deserving folks for rides. Kind of like the old days, today!

Anyway, Kevin proudly tells us he’s just hung his new engine, a P&W R985 Junior Wasp, which should make that big old Bipe really jump! Amazing what goes on in old sheds!


MacLean meanwhile had a Beaver on wheels, which he used to visit the family weekend place on Hudson Island, far across the rather wide Strait of Georgia. I got to sit up front and hopefully learn something. Instruction came swift and loud from a seven-year-old Scott...

“Don’t touch anything!” One learns fast under such conditions. This kid knew everything. Chris, the dad, was obviously grooming him for something! Proud mom simply settled in next to The Mary and looked smug.

You gotta feel safe crossing the gulf in a Beaver, after all, that’s what they were built for.

Landing at Hudson was something else. Strip-side cottages whizzing by amongst the very close trees. But the kinkbend in the strip half way along really got one’s attention. Stab o’ brake, touch o’ rudder. Nifty powered spin around at the end to avoid plunging into the drink. Easy. “Bit tricky with the Harvard cos there’s more span.” Says Chris, “Just get her down right on the button, stay in the middle, and you’ll be right.”

“Ahem, yes!” says I, “What a nice cabin!” Actually it was a wondrous house, all materials, tools, etc., ferried in by the Beaver. That’s what they’re for.

Anyway, time moved on and son Scott became a top Air Cadet, winning a ride in a Cold Lake CF-18 at Comox. Soon there-after he asked us for a reference to the Air Force, but we didn’t reckon much on our clout, but ‘shazam!’ Now he’s flying around in a fancy new Harvard II, just like his dad, and granddad before him. This airplane stuff gets in the genes.

So then they clubbed together to buy a ‘family’ RV-6, and flew it from Quebec, way across the Prairies and over ‘The Rocks’, to Duncan, B.C. And ponder what to do next? Minds me of a shy Yorkshire cobbler’s kid many years ago, whose impossible dream of planes, helmets, and goggles, actually came true. Sigh.


The Recreational Aircraft Association of Canada Chapter 85 Vancouver, held the Delta Heritage Airpark Grand Annual Awards Banquet recently, at the very fine Town and Country Inn by the Fraser Tunnel in Delta, B.C. Approximately 60 people attended, for an entertaining evening, with scrumptious prime roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and sinful deserts.

The surprise Guest Speaker was COPA’s notorious tall tale teller, The Copaguy, who, after much personal sweat, presented a digital slide show on ‘The Good Old Days at Delta!” cobbled up from Airpark founder Darmel Diston’s fascinating stuff circa 1960, and the Slide Shop 1974 production, ‘Sport Flying Around Vancouver.’

This slide show has been lost for many years, and celebrated Delta’s homebuilding heydays of the early 1970’s. Lots of nostalgia for the ‘Old Gang’ still around, and a real eye-opener for the young-uns of recent years. “Didn’t know about all that great stuff!” they gasped.


Being airplane stuff, there are a great variety of awards, The Broken Prop, Murphy’s Law, Peter Chick Memorial, Editor’s Choice, Restoration, Safe Flying, Craftmanship, President’s Shield, door prizes, and all.

But the most prestigious were the ‘Woman of the Year Award’ to club treasurer Carol Foley, for exemplary service to the Chapter. ‘The Ira Jamison Award’ to new Airpark secretary Ray Colley, who, on his own initiative and often un-observed, routinely contributes to the betterment of the chapter, thus the Airpark.For many years, the awards namesake, Ira Jamison, was the epitome of the unsung hero.

And finally, 2010’s ‘Most Valuable Member Award’ went to the club’s popular Membership Chairman, Rob Prior, who the Executive’s feel contributes significantly to the Chapter’s success.

These people really matter to the Chapter and the Airpark. Without them, and their other willing volunteers, Delta Airpark would cease to exist. It’s no easy task liaising with Transport Canada, Metro Vancouver Parks, Delta Municipality, concerned neighbours, and the local press. These are the guys who do it.

Eventually, the most recent old guard all move on. After many years of dedicated service, they must step aside for one reason or other, family commitments, moving away, illness, or simply tired. So those who pick up the traces are precious indeed, and we all thank you.

These sentiments also apply to COPA. Since Terry Wilshire sadly retired due to serious illness, there’s a vacancy here in B.C. These last five years Terry’s done a magnificent job on your behalf. We all thank him deeply for those efforts, but now he and Gillian must look to their own needs and comfort, whilst we carry on with his dream.


Don’t procrastinate your plans to join us for the 2011 Grand National COPA Fly-in at friendly Langley Airport, here in Vancouver’s Fraser Valley. Local COPA Director Tim Cole, and Langley Aero Club’s Bruce Prior tell me everybody’s working their butts off to ensure a fantastic West Coast aviation experience. So don’t delay. Get registered!

Vancouver’s Virtual COPA Flight ‘X’ held its first ‘Second Friday’ social at Kitsilano’s Old Billy Bishop Legion in April. We scoffed delicious roast beef, washed it down for a nostalgic Bea’s piano sing-along, and general Bon-homie.

The next one is Friday, May 13, after 6 p.m. To help us arrange a COPA table, please email me at copaguy@vcn.bc.ca and tell me who’s coming.

And that’s all for this month!

Fly safe now…

— Tony Swain & The Mary