The First Flight


by Gordon Cook
This article appeared in the March 1993 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.


Test pilot Rick Scott climbing aboard the Falco

Today, June 23, 2006  is the big day.  I have enlisted the services of a friend, Rick Scott, an Air Canada pilot and the owner of a Globe Swift, to test fly the airplane.  I first met Rick in Powell River in the late ’80s  I was very impressed (and still am) at how smoothly he flies his Swift which is not an easy airplane to get good at.  Rick arrived at the Trail airport at about 0900 with the weather behaving perfectly.  A couple of low passes at speed in the Swift with full smoke on and then back into the circuit and landing. The Falco is now the center of attention.  After a thorough pre-flight Rick climbed aboard and fired her up.  My feeling at this point is one of apprehension and excitement tempered by the responsibility for the safety of the test pilot.

My first experience with flying came during the summer of 1954 when I enlisted in the RCAF reserve program at Abbotsford, BC.  During that two months I was enrolled in their ground radio program.  Part of the experience was a flight that came later in the summer, and after watching P-51’s take off and land I was looking forward to it.  The flying bug was biting.  The aircraft was a Harvard trainer, known south of the 49th as the T6 Texan.  Only 16 years old and getting a ride in a Harvard for an hour was almost too much to take in.  The deal was to put down $5.00 (big money for a 16 year old in 1954) and if you didn’t get sick you got $10.00 back.  The pilots didn’t like giving their hard earned money so they did their best to get your stomach churning with loops, rolls, etc.  He did his best, but I kept my lunch down and earned $5.00, not bad for a thoroughly enjoyable hour.  I even got to take the controls for a few minutes.


July 1983. The spars and ribs.


Later, in 1957, I was working in Quesnel installing telephone exchange equipment and had the opportunity to take the milk run from Quesnel to Vancouver on a DC3.  I was warned by my traveling companion not to eat too much lunch because I might lose it during the flight.  It was my last day on my company expense account so I ignored his warnings and had a steak with all the trimmings (cost about $1.25) while he had a lettuce salad.

The flight from Quesnel to William’s Lake was flown at about 1500 feet AGL since distance was only about 75 miles and no mountains to cross.  The day was sunny, hot and there was the river and many plowed fields so there was a fair bit of turbulence at that altitude.  I was fine but my companion filled his barf bag.  The stewardess told us later that we had just ridden the vomit comet since it was common to have a lot of upchucking on that leg of the flight.

I did quite a bit of flying with the company footing the bills for the next few years.  I spent two years in the early sixties working out of Terrace, BC and flying with some of the best bush pilots in the area to exotic locations like Telegraph Creek—a very small community on the Stikine river and the beautiful Queen Charlotte Islands which are west of Prince Rupert.  Ironically, the Sitka spruce for my Falco came from these islands.


Engine mount installed


In the summer of ’64, while still living in Terrace, I took the plunge and signed up for flying lessons at Pitt Meadows airport, about 20 miles East of Vancouver.  I had two weeks vacation, and it all had to be complete within that time.  I asked if they could give me a “crash course” in flying.  Poor choice of words, but they said they could do it, and 10 days and $400 later they did.  The requirements were far less stringent in those days, not to mention cheaper.  The aircraft was a Fleet Canuck, a two-seat side-by-side tail dragger, a great little trainer and one I’d love to fly again.


Engine installed


Back home in Terrace I got checked out in a rental Piper Colt.  I was approached by another pilot who had been renting this aircraft and who was concerned about a low-time pilot flying the same plane.  Several weeks later he crashed on take-off destroying the Colt, fortunately he and his passenger survived.  The Ministry of Transport lifted his license since this was his third crash on take-off accident—and he was worried about me!

Because of the cost of renting airplanes and a family growing in number, my flying career came to a close until 1982. I was living in Langley, BC at the time with much better access to aircraft parts dealers so I decided it’s now or never and ordered Falco plans from Sequoia.  Building an aircraft was something I’d dreamed of since high school.  If I had known then what I know now I probably wouldn’t have started the project, but you get so involved at every level including financial you can’t let go. 

The next several months were spent building rib jigs in my basement workshop and producing ribs from those jigs.  However, there comes a point when you have to start building big things like spars and the basement workshop becomes too small so I built a large work shop next the house.  George Neuman, an early Falco builder, lived in the area so I picked his brain a few times.  With all the spars and ribs built BC Tel gave me marching orders again.  This time it was to Gibson’s, BC (home of the Beachcombers TV series) on the Sunshine Coast, just North of Vancouver on the Sechelt peninsula, probably the nicest and most scenic area we’ve ever lived in although where we are now is pretty hard to beat.


Cowling installed


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