Do you remember Leonard Weston?
Of course you do!
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His son has a special request.
My memory is a bit foggy at times, but I believe this happened in March, 1959. One Saturday, my Dad got a phone call. He said it was one of his buddies from 403 Squadron, who had just bought a war-surplus plane. He was flying in to Waterloo-Wellington Airport (now Kitchener- Waterloo), the next day, Sunday, and that we should meet him there and have a ride. I was 11-years old, and so full of anticipation, I could hardly sleep that night. What was it going to be——a Spit, a Hurri, maybe a Mossie?
The next day, we were parked on the gravel road beside the active runway, watching downwind for something interesting. Soon, a high-wing tail-dragger appeared, and Dad proudly announced “it’s an Auster!”
Oh, well. It was a veteran, and an airplane, and beggars can’t be choosers. He taxied over near our car, and I got in the back (it was a tandem-seater, not side-by-side), and went up for my first flight of ten or fifteen minutes. We landed, I got out, Dad got in the back seat, and they went up for a couple of short circuits. They landed and switched seats. This time, when they had lift, the nose went up sharply, the tail went down, and the Auster was struggling for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a couple of seconds. Then, the nose came back down, it got some airspeed, and flew off for a couple more short circuits. It landed again, the owner got out, and Dad took off properly, and went for a twenty or thirty minute flight.
The owner came over to Mom and I and asked “did you see what happened there?”. My immediate response was “yes, you almost crashed”. He then explained that Dad had his right hand on the stick, and was holding the throttle wide-open with his left. As soon as the Auster lifted off, he tensed up, switched his left hand to the stick, hauled back on it and reached down beside the seat with his right hand, trying to find the undercart lever. The owner said that he had to punch Dad in the shoulder to snap him out of his trance, whereupon he nosed the plane over, and got it back under control. He then explained that Dad had last flown in 1944, and the last plane he flew was a Spitfire.
If anyone knows of a former 403 member who owned an Auster in 1957-59, please contact me, as I have no idea who the man was. I do know it wasn’t Jerry Billing or Cec. Brown.
Mount Forest, Ont.
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