Once the winter weather starts to change Len Brown makes it a daily habit to check on his Luscombe 8F two-seater airplane.
That’s because he parks it all winter in front of Gideon Schuetze’s place on frozen Williams Lake.
“We have a couple of weeks left before we’ll have to move them off,” Brown said as he stood alongside his plane one day earlier this week before the weather warmed up and they had to remove the planes Thursday afternoon. “Every day I have to move it over because the sun’s reflection off the plane melts the ice beneath.”
The blue plane next to his belongs to his son Ryan.
Pointing to the ice about 20 feet away from his plane he said the ice over there is only about an inch and a half thick now.
The planes were parked on that section less than two weeks ago.
Brown said he’s always a little sad when it’s time to move off the ice because the ice lets you gotmore places.
“And we like when there’s snow on the ice because it’s easier to steer.”
Brown grew up just outside of Moncton, N.B. and got his private pilot license in 1968 when he was 22.
Luscombes have been his preferred plane since 1971 and the one he has now he’s owned since 1987.
They can fly just about anywhere, he said of Luscombes.
He’s flown to the East Coast of Canada from Williams Lake, a trip that takes 26 hours going east and 30 hours west because of head winds.
“I’ve done it two times,” he said, adding he’s also flown to Inuvik and back, California and Arizona in the same type of plane.
“As pilots like to say, it’s a favourite because it dives deeper and comes up drier.”
Luscombes were designed in 1939 to be better, faster and slower, all at the same time.
“These go as fast or faster, even at today’s standards,” Brown explained.
“Since 1945/46 they still hold land speed records.”
There are some shortcomings though, he admitted, noting they are tricky on the ground and finicky to handle.
And the cabin is very crammed for two people.
“But you don’t actually ride in them, you kind of zip em’ on and away you go,” Brown chuckled as he encouraged this reporter to climb in and see what it felt like to be inside.
Some nicknames for Luscombes include flying sports car and homesick angel for the climb rate they have compared to other planes.
But you fall in love with them and put up with the crammed space if you are a big guy, he said.
Brown and his wife Lorraine came to Williams Lake in 1970 because she was hired as a radiology technician at the hospital.
He opened his own business — Len’s cylinder head and engine rebuilding.
For him flying is a sport and nothing he’s ever intended to do professionally.
“A sports flyer can go whereever he wants,” he said. “People who fly are a great group of people to fly with, too.”
Lorraine loved flying and went everywhere with him. She even made some special custom cushions for the plane.
“One for the floor that had a big hole to allow the rudder pedals to stick through and move while she was sleeping. And then she had a half round with a pillow built for her corner by the door.”
Almost nine years ago Brown lost Lorraine to heart failure without them knowing exactly why.
“She flew with me all the time,” he said, as he looked up in the sky. “I think she still does.”