UP IN THE AIR: ‘Now’ staffer flies over Delta in a vintage Stearman biplane (videos, photos)

DELTA — Saturday’s Boundary Bay Airshow celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, so it was appropriate that a 1943 Stearman biplane was a star of the show. 

The former U.S. Navy aircraft trained more than 50 pilots who went on to fight in the South Pacific, according to its pilot, Kevin Maher.

Canada also operated 300 of the aircraft, he said, and the one he frequently flies, owned by Trevor Skillen, is painted as one of those.

"The airplane is a dream to fly and represents basic stick and rudder flying like no other, Maher told the Now. 

(Story continues below video) 

Maher, who lives on Vancouver Island and works as a commerial airline pilot, returned to his former Delta stomping grounds for this year’s Boundary Bay Airshow, and was kind enough to offer me a spin in the biplane he adores.

Late Saturday afternoon (July 25), I buckled up in the front seat for a 20-minute flight over Boundary Bay, Ocean Park and the White Rock pier.

It was an absolute thrill ride. 

The Stearman is a noisy beast, so wearing earmuffs (attached to retro-look headware) was mandatory. 

Tightly clutching my iPhone, I took photos and video shown here.

As we flew over the pier in White Rock, Maher turned sharply right, showcasing the plane’s impressive agility.

On the way back, we zoomed over Delta Heritage Air Park, where the plane is usually parked.

"That’s where it (the plane) had a five-second cameo in the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ when he (the lead character) took her for a glider ride," Maher told me.

"I haven’t seen the movie," he added, "but I want to just for that one scene."

(Story continues below video) 

After the war, the agile Stearman spent time as a cropduster. In 1995, the plane, already fitted with a more powerful engine, was re-converted back to its original military configuration; Skillen began restoring the aircraft when he purchased it in 2005.

Near the end of my flight Saturday, we circled over Ladner farms similar to the ones Maher worked at years ago, to earn money for flying lessons that led him to a career of flying a Boeing 777 for Air Canada.

"My passion is vintage aircraft and aerobatics," he said. "I especially enjoy introducing aviation-minded people to the magic and history of these old airplanes."

Job accomplished, Kevin. Thanks again for the ride. 

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com

 

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