They flew for pie


The bustle and excitement created by a half dozen husky flying machines rumbling up for a day of aviating is hard to describe. You could taste the tension. Folks poured out of Delta’s Old Coffee Shop to suck it all in. It was magnificent.

Being part of it with old Bessy fired the imagination. I was 18 again, whisked back to 1953 in an instant, the hallowed checklists running through my being! HTMPFFGGS … Hydraulics, Harness, Hood, Trim, Tension, Mixture, Carb heat, Primer in and Locked, Pitch, Fuel, Flaps, Gills, Gyros, Switches on Both! The Harvard had no ‘Gills’, but they were thus ingrained on us for when we flew aircraft that did. Mustangs, Mitchells, whatever. As a 40-cum- 18-year-old, the thrill still throbbed my psyche.

Then, off we would go, BUMPF–ing, as we climbed away. Modern knights in shining armour. Off for a piece of pie at Chilliwack, fish and chips at North Pender, hamburgers at Hope. Or maybe it was Friday afternoon, and loaded with charts, spare oil, and emergency packs, to a Western Warbirds air show rendezvous at Comox, Vanderhoof, Namao, or beyond. There was no experience like it.

We criss-crossed the continent on missions like this for about 20 years, till for us, things tapered off as our friends moved to bigger ‘iron’, and age stole our pizzazz… Sigh!

We were lucky that our core group was military trained on these very magical aircraft. The Harvard was the Basic and Advanced military pilot trainer for over 50 countries — in Canada from 1940 through 1965, 25 years of service. And from 1971, we flew Bessy for a further 37 years! Incredible!


Like the Band of Brothers, we flew all over the Northwest, from Calgary to Osh - kosh, Vancouver to L.A., Edmonton to Cold Lake. Chris, Rolf, Ed, Jerry, Vic, Keith, Collin, Mike, John, Don, Wayne, Bob, Bud, Joe, Randy, Bill, Jim, Cece, the two Walts, and more. The most Harvards we put up at one time was 13, at Sandpoint, Idaho, the day Mount Saint Helens erupted. Hard to believe.

The Vancouver area still has six flying locally, some of whom run a demonstration T-6 race for the Boundary Bay Air Show, and the inimitable Bud Granley comes up from Seattle to thrill us all with his snap roll on take-off, as the gear slowly clunks into the wells!

The Mary and I, comfortably retired, still thrill to the snarl of a R1340 Wasp climbing out in low gear. There’s nothing like it. From time to time, rides are offered in these fabulous aircraft, so if you hear of such a thing, go for it, it’ll be the flight to remember!


Albeit in gentler mode, the local Canadian Warbirds, and George Miller’s Fraser Blues Navion Team filled the display void for a while, and the mix of Yaks and Nanchang CJ-6s put on a great show. Times change, and the logistics become ever complex. As regulated expectations tighten, commitment of performers must become more intense, until at some point, the show may not be worth the effort.

We who love aviation for business, transportation, or simply recreation, must ensure the fun is not sucked out of it by an over protective bureaucracy. Well meaning people are constantly telling us how to eat, live, consume, drive, and relax. Let’s ensure that those who chunter at aviation, really know about what they preach.

COPA strives to combat this canard, and needs your active support, as do the other similar air-minded groups like RAAC, EAACC, CSA, balloonists, skydivers, et all. The ball is in your court… Support your local COPA Flight, your regional COPA Directors, and your local airport! Don’t flub it!


Recovered from our emotional weekend at Langley, we checked the Bay Flyers secret fly-about e-mails for another such event to attend. Our little Mazda, though willing, is ground-bound, which restricts access to most fly-outs. How - ever, a planned rendezvous at Tofino was reported washed out due to fog, and a barbecue at Chilliwack proposed instead. Way to go, an hour and a bit in the Protégé!

We e-mailed our drive plan; we headed out, fretting about Canada’s #1 Hwy traffic tie-up horrors en-route. The local road ATIS, 730 on our dial, assured a clear run up the Valley. With occasional glitches when already committed route-wise. Situation normal. Where the heck is 237 Street anyway?

The Mary resisted my urge to let down off the freeway too early for Chilliwack Airport. The stand of trees to the left looked identical! Chose the ramp claiming… ‘To the Airport.’ Descending into town and looking to go right, no repeat sign… Then Lo! A clue…’Airport Road’… Gotta be it, and eventually, it was.

The big barbecue destination was Hangar 2. Problem, no numbers on hangars! We drove around, and finally asked at an office in the terminal. Sorry, which number 2 hangar did we want? …Whoa!

In a blaze of clarity, I headed for the ‘I Fly for Pie’ division, to find a bunch of flying folk chomping down. Apparently, fog lifted, barbecue cancelled, and attendees absconded to Tofino. What to do? The Mary opined we should have pie, and hangar talk the friends on hand. Anyway, it would take Mazda two days to arrive in Tofino. The barbecue rescheduled, a good talk was had by all.

Eventually, road ATIS advised that Hwy #1 west was backed up all the way to Ottawa, due to problems with a Port Mann’s bridge. We took route 16 via CYXX, which proved much more scenic.


Old airplane enthusiast Kevin Maher sends this… Put Concrete, Washington on your bucket list. It is the best small town fly-in I have ever attended. A real old-fashioned old-airplane get-together with small-town American hospitality. A place where a guy with a two million dollar airplane sleeps under the wing in a $49 Wal-Mart tent, and the rotary club come out Saturday morning to cook breakfast. And better yet, a place where the FAA inspector shows up in his own Super Cub!


Sad news received recently that Earl Hastings died peacefully at 94. Earl operated his popular Hastings Airstrip on North Pender Island, B.C., for many years. The strip provides both quick and alternate access to the island, critical in an emergency. A number of COPA Flight 5 and Delta pilots flew over at the end of July for a farewell gathering. His cheerful contribution to personal aviation was always much appreciated

And lastly, an update on our Reno Air Race T-6 pilot Keith McMann, who hit a deer on his Harley. He tells me that he’s up and about, but will be out of aviating for a couple more months. They might drive down to Reno to see friends and enjoy the action. Guess that’s all folks… Fly safe now!

Tony Swain & The Mary …