Just a walk in the park


From time to time I walk in Kits Park with my friends Dr. Al and Primrose. She likes to sniff things, so we walk pretty slow, which allows me to demo fancy manoeuvres with my magic walking stick. And so it transpired that Dr. Al once flew Daks and Lancs with RCAF 408 Squadron, at Rockcliff and Frobisher. He just loved it, and swapped a few hairy stories.

Thing about the Air Force was that pilots lived in this club called ‘The Mess’, a hotbed of flying stories. Al’s big adventure was an engine failure in an overloaded Dak when he was new on the job, and he just squeaked in. We agreed that such things profoundly affect young minds, and one’s later concept of ‘the meaning of life’. And oh yes, Primrose is a darling West Highland Terrier.

Al found their Photo Survey Lancasters a pleasure to fly. He criss-crossed the Arctic and enjoyed every minute. We felt fortunate to have served during the 1950’s, steeped in aviation history.

One evening in 1955, whilst relaxing in the 408 Mess, one chap quoted from the paper, that the Brit RAF had just retired the ‘Last Lancaster Flying’ with great ceremony. The room erupted in laughter. Through the window were a row of 10 active Lancs on the ramp waiting to go. Till 1964 anyway. There are now only two flying, at the CWH here, and the RAF Memorial flight in Britain.

In the late 1950’s I was a civilian draftsman at Calgary’s RCAF Lincoln Park, and hangar talk was rife among the resident test pilots. I even flew as test crew on Lancs, Mitchells and Canso’s, etc. Civil test pilot Andy Anderson’s favourite tale was his VIP Mitchell demo flight at Comox full of important folk. A sudden big engine fire vented into the Navigators well, necessitating a rapid hairy landing, to get everyone out, just before the aircraft exploded, and burnt all their stuff to cinders. His big deal story was that they let him in ‘The Mess’, in his flying gear.

It was a great job. My boss, Technical Officer F/O Bernie Semchuk, complained to me that the Mess talk was all “Fly, fly, fly!!!” not the important stuff I drew for him. Control Towers, Crash Rescue Vehicles, Mobile Photo Labs, etc. So when he needed Mess posters for a Thank God it’s Friday, T.G.I.F. night. I provided artwork to suit, per the sample shown here!


Last month’s column ‘Fly for Pie’ Tony-Toon ‘The Stall’ elicited the following from once-upona-time RCAF Comet pilot, Bob Fassold of Ottawa: Just got the September COPA Flight and as always enjoyed your article. You enlighten younger and budding pilots, about the “good old days”, when, put simply, we learned everything about flying, by flying, and lots of it... especially in the RCAF in the ’50s and ’60s!

Anyway, one noon hour, on a “relaxed” Friday, I was to do a solo flight and the servicing desk NCO i/c assigned me a Harvard and had me inspect and sign out the L14 (maintenance log) which apparently I did. But, on searching the line, I just couldn’t find that Harvard. So with trepidation, I returned to servicing, fully expecting ridicule for being “blind,“ stupid, or something.

But, entering the hangar, there was “my” Harvard... with one wing missing!

So I marched up to the service desk saying loudly: “You gave me a Harvard with only one wing!” After a complete silence, the response was... “Soooo... use your initiative, Cadet!”


We used a lot of initiative back in those days. I buzzed Penhold tower once, as was the current procedure to advise I’d lost my radio, and needed a green light. They simply waved back, assuming I was a fellow instructor having a bit of a laugh. No green light!

My next pass cleared the tower, caps flew off, papers blew around, and blokes dove down the stairs... Still no green light, so I simply landed, using the ‘Last Resort’ procedure ...flashing landing lights on final. Returning from a bit of bother after the seat belt broke in a rolloff the top, and dove six thousand feet in a full throttle spiral dive, jammed by G forces in the coupe top, reaching 4,600 revs at about 400 knots, and flew through some poplar trees on pull-out... I was a mite stressed.

When finally parked at ‘F’ Flight with tree bits sticking out, a concerned controller rushed over, jumped on the wing, and insisted I report to servicing that the landing lights flashed on and off on final... Sigh. This was a 1940 MK 2, with a confusing array of switches and dials, and a Tiger Moth style Sutton harness. Probably, during the hard right roll-off, my gauntlet cuff snagged the release pin lanyard.

Eventually, the roll off the top became my favourite air show manoeuvre, followed by a screaming split-S to the 228 knot red-line, vertical pull-up and push-over! I’d already proved the wings didn’t rip off till way past that!

Years later, recounting this at Reno, to North American Aviation’s old-time chief aerodynamicist, he told me I was the fastest T-6 driver in the world! Tell that to the Marines!

I was real careful with the Tech log not to appear at fault! I wrote, “Radio U/S, Generator U/S, possible over revved, and airframe overstressed.” I waited in trepidation for the flight commander to roar for explanation. Nothing! Life simply went on.


In Early August, the Abbotsford International Air Show kind of overwhelmed the local air space, so the Boundary Bay Flying Club, COPA Flight 5 guys high tailed it to the Oliver Fly-in Breakfast, which proved to be a huge success.

The President of Flight 158 South Okanagan Flying Club, Vic Seder and his crew served an impressive 300 breakfasts, with 71 visiting aircraft including the RCMP helicopter from Kelowna. They have a lovely facility, and a number of favourite classic aircraft graced the ramp, including a pretty Fleet 80 Canuck and a Beech Bonanza V-Tail.


The next weekend Paul Dumoret and Walt Lannon hosted their 12th Annual YAK-IN, a FAST formation ground school, with John Northey as FAST Check Pilot. The Swifts Formation Committee processed trainees for FAST cards. Friday events included Formation Flying Training, Recommendation Rides, Check Rides, Happy hour and a No Host Dinner.

Attending were four CJ-6’s, four Harvards, two T-28’s and two Yak 18T’s, all from Canada.

On Saturday, John Mrazek held a Transport Canada Seminar, Peter Herzig an Acrobatic Clinic, Andy Morris a parachute indoctrination, followed by a bunch of flying, and some useful tech forums. A grand steak barbecue and refreshments in the Flying Club rounded off a fabulous weekend.


The Hessberger Barbecue finally reconvened at Chilliwack’s amorphous Hangar 2, so The M and I flew up the #1 freeway in our faithful Protégé, and parked by the door. Our friends were there from the BBFC/ Flight 5, the Priors, the Peares, McNutts the Ilgs et al. We were delighted to find COPA B.C. Director Tim Cole there with wife Eileen, looking much better since his recent illness. The genuine Hessburgers were delicious, with sinful little pastries and such. A jolly time was had by all.


Events overtook us during the COPA AGM and Fly-In, Terry’s passing, COPA Tim Cole’s sudden illness, COPA deadlines and all… So your scribe was unable to fully report on things. At this writing, a modest Farewell Gathering for Terry Wilshire takes place at Delta this Saturday, before the AGM wrap-up barbecue at Pitt meadows.

Some have asked about the future of his Tally-Ho Spitfire Enterprises, and I’m reliably informed that the company has been purchased by Steve Foley of Aerospace Aviation Services at Pitt Meadows. They plan to complete the restoration of the prototype scale Spitfire Mk 1, originally built by Terry Wilshire and his friend Bob Cutting, and provide support for those already in construction around the world. We look forward to seeing these beautiful realistic replicas take to the sky!

And so I guess that’s all folks… Fly safe now!

— Tony Swain & The Mary…copaguy@vcn.bc.ca