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Flying biplanes !


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English cousins, John and Shirley Purchase, are both pilots!


John and Shirley are lightplane pilots and glider pilots as well! They have their own plane and are the moving force at Hurn Airport- a wartime strip, which houses their plane and gliders as well. A few years ago, I visited them and they gave me the tour and some flights as well. (I just managed to stay aloft in the flat terrain, for about 20 minutes, being used to the thermals in our Rocky Mountains at home in British Columbia!) Above are the three of us are at their busy airstrip in England.


Glider pilots John and Shirley Purchase waiting to be towed aloft.


My army experience with gliders almost ended in disaster. We were crowded into a Horsa troop-carrying glider, with full equipment, to be towed by a Dakota tug, with a rusty pilot, summoned from his desk job! On takeoff, the tow cable got tangled in the plane's elevators, and jammed in the climb position, with the plane hanging on its propellers, just above a stall, on the brink of disaster. Fortunatly, there is an explosive device to cut the cable in case of trouble. We punched the red buton, and just managed to flop back to the field. The plane, free of its tow, staggered around, but also just made it back to the field. After that experience, I always managed to avoid airbourne activities!


In postwar years, I worked for Fairey Aviation at Victoria Airport. Fairey converted several giant four-engined Martin Mars to water bombers which are still in use to combat forest fires. And we installed electronice equipment in airforce Neptune patrol aircraft, like the one in the photo. We avianics types had to go along on the test flights when the conversion was complete. One day, on takeoff, the hydraulic fluid streamed out into the slipstream, so the wheels would not operate. We had to fly around for three hours to use up the fuel, and headed for Comox, where full fire-fighting crews were available. One of the crew- a skinny type- crawled down into the wheel wells, and kicked the wheels down for landing, but were they locked into place? At Comox, the guys in asbestos suits awaited us and we headed down with baited breath. They WERE locked, fortunatly, so it was a normal landing and we breathed easily again!

Sons Glen and Ken are both pilots, and had their exciting moments. One day Glen was towing a 135-foot advertising banner, which is normally dropped on the taxiway before landing. But, one day, the banner refused to disconnect, so he had no alternitive but land far down the runway, dragging the sign behind. As he circled for landing, he noticed that all of the emergency vehicles were out, flashing their lights, as well as the guys in asbestos suits. He called the control tower asking, "what's all that for?" "That is for YOU," the tower replied. But the landing went OK, even with a 135-foot trailer!

My Winnipeg uncle flew airships in World War One- CLICK HERE

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