I rented the video named “Fly Away Home.” That’s the one where the guy leads the geese with his ultra-light plane. I’d seen it before but I wanted another look and I knew my ten-year-old grandson, Gary, would enjoy seeing it again. I also knew that Poppa Smart, Gary’s other grandfather, wanted to see it, so I’d give him a ring. We’d make an evening of it. So that came to be and we all sat around the T.V. letting our minds get carried away with the story. The following tale is strictly fictional and you could end up as ashes in an urn by building a flying machine as described here.
It all looked so neat, the ultra-light I mean, that guy just sitting there in an armchair with wings. That’s really all it was. It had a small motor and prop pushing from behind the seat but little else. A fellow who was mechanically minded like Gary couldn’t watch that video without having the cog wheels under his hair start turning. He turned to me and said, “Grampa, I’m going to make one of those.” Well, I told him I thought it was a darn good idea and maybe I’d make one too.
Gary looked them up on the internet and said there were lots of ultra-light kits for sale in the States, but they cost to much for us guys. We mulled it over for a few more days and Gary got looking at those white plastic chairs on my porch. He lifted one up and remarked, “They’re light and strong, Grampa. Let's start with one of these, all we have to make are the wings.” So with that we got to work. What we needed were some old tents, the light alpine kind that have those slender fold-up poles that look like fishing rods. Gary asked his dad and friend Paul to watch the yard sales. It wasn’t long before they brought us a whole load of tents in many colours.
We used six of the poles for each wing, fastening one end of each to a chair and spreading the other ends out like bat wings. We covered these with material from the tents. Gary chose the blue one. Next we needed a motor and propeller. I remembered the local snowmobile agent had a yard full of used motors and a phone call got him to sort through them and pick us a good one. Gary went back on the internet and found where we could buy a propeller from a wrecked plane, so he got out an E-mail and had it shipped to us. We mounted the motor behind the chair in a wire cage so Gary wouldn’t be getting his hair cut shorter if he leaned back while flying.
We puzzled awhile over the landing gear. Some planes just used a ski on the bottom and only needed a few meters of wet grass to take off from. Gary decided he wanted wheels on his so we set them far enough ahead that he could brace his feet against the axle when sitting in the chair. We had fastened the wings on a hinge so we could fold them back and haul the plane on my boat trailer. We took it to a nearby field for the test flight.
Well, you never saw anything work better. After getting some flying instructions from his dad, an old air force pilot, Gary sat in the chair, fastened his seat belt and, with feet braced against the axle, opened the throttle. It just took off like a great blue heron. He flew all around the field and then landed as slick as a whistle. When he came in for a landing he was going so slow you could have run beside him.
The ultra-light flew so well I just had to have one too. With Gary’s help it wasn’t long before mine was ready for flight. I chose orange coloured wings for my bird and Gary took it up first to make sure it was working o.k. He really seemed to have the hang of it. We only needed a small piece of open ground to land on and were soon landing in the field at home. I could have easily removed the wheels and landed running on my feet.
One day we packed our lunch boxes with beans and bread and flew past Princeton and down the Similkameen valley to Keremeos where we landed in a field behind a gas station. We bought a bucket of gas and topped up our tanks. We made it a rule to always carry spare gas in plastic containers.
Taking off again we flew up the Ashinola valley, gradually climbing higher until we got above the mountains. It was here that we found a beautiful little lake with a meadow full of alpine flowers at one end. Gary motioned to me that he was going to land so I followed him down and soon we were parked in a place that would easily have passed for heaven.
We got out the lunch and I lit a one burner gasoline stove while Gary got a pail of water from the lake. A campfire would have been nice but we were reluctant to make ashes on such a hallowed piece of ground. Anyway, it was a warm sunny day and, after pacifying our stomachs with beans and tea and good home-made bread, we stretched out on our backs and indulged in the peacefulness of siesta.