Innovation by the Vertically Challenged

Innovation by the Vertically Challenged

October, 1939

I was required to make a 3 stop cross country flight to qualify for my commercial license. The trip, in South Western Ontario, was to be from Hamilton to London, to Jarvis, and back to Hamilton. At each stop it was required that the journey log book be signed by a responsible person. On this trip, I was to fly the DH 6O “Gypsy” Moth. I landed at the London Flying Club at Lambeth, and had the log book signed by the chief instructor. The “Moth” does not have a starter, so it is necessary to have someone ‘swing’ the propeller in order to start the engine. The mechanic at London started me up and away I went to Jarvis.

No one had told me what to expect at Jarvis. All I knew was that it was an airport. Sure enough, there was a radio operator and he was happy to sign my log book. He had probably done this numerous times before, but he made it appear serious and official. Perhaps to impress a 19 year old kid who looked all of 15, and 90 pounds soaking wet. Then I asked him if he could help me start my engine, but he declined saying that he had to stand by his radio.

If you were to look at a “Gypsy” Moth, and then me, you’d realize I can’t reach the propeller to start the engine. After a while, I figured out that if I put the tail up on a nearby fence, I could reach the propeller. After much struggling and heaving, I finally got the tail up on the fence. I set the engine controls, pulled the propeller through, switched the magnetos on, and pulled the propeller through once again. The engine started and lifting the tail from the fence was now easier because of the propeller wash over the drooping elevators. It was easier to move the aircraft away from the fence, as well. I jumped in, harnessed up, taxied out and took off.

There was much laughter and teasing around the Club house when I told them my experience at Jarvis.

Photo credit: The de Havilland Flying Club