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Prairie Flying!

Flying biplanes!


Inspired by the Trans Canada Airpagent a few years past, I took up the art at the age of 16 in Brandon, Manitoba in 1934. The instruction, by Lionel Vines and Al Fraser, was on an Avro Avian biplane, like the one shown here. I flew solo after nearly seven hours of dual instruction. After a little more experience we patrolled the power and telephone lines after winter storms (in open cockpits) and dropped circulars advertising the Brandon Fair, sometimes flying out of farmer's fields.

At this time, a farmer built a small plane from plans in a flying magazine, with a converted Ford engine. It was so under-powered that he couldn't get a sensible pilot to test fly it. But, hungry for flying time, I voluntered. We took a fence down on his farm to get room for a takeoff, on very hot day, with little "lift". He was a big, heavy guy, and insisted that he go along on the test flight. We managed a takeoff by running through both fields and flying under the power and telephone wires. I had to fly eight miles before I got enough altitude to turn to return to his farm

He had it brought to Brandon hoping to sell it, but the instructor removed the wing and broke all of the ribs, so nobody could risk another flight. But, happily, local pilot Reg French bought it and had club mechanic "Boots" Elliott rebuild it to comply with air regulations and safety, and it flew well for many years.

Maurice Fry and Roy Parrett with Velie Monocoupe
All of 65 horsepower (when new).

Maurice Fry and I barnstormed all over Western Canada,giving adventurous locals their first airplsne ride-landing on
farmer's pastures, sometimes removing a barbed wire fence for takeoffs! The Velie engine delivered 65 horsepower at the factory- much less as time went on, and hours built up (and on hot prairie days, with little "lift" in the air!)

In those early days of flying, the whole town usually came out to see "the daring youngmen in their flying machine. This little girl admirer was no exception, when we were at Virden, Manitoba on July 1935.

Roy Parrett at Virden, Manitoba in July 1935
The girl was a spectator- a budding flyer no doubt!

Everyone asks "who's the girl?"- so we called her Sylvia.


In those days, without radio, we often flew the railway lines, or highways. Sometimes we headed for the local grain elevator to read the name of the town!

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