A Seabee, a Pilot and an 80th Birthday
I’m sure many readers will remember seeing Seabee CF-EJE on the ramp at CYYJ. It belonged to the late Dr. Arthur Nash, long-time member and director of VFC. In 1959, Dr. Nash sold EJE to Grant Stephens, who received the magnificent and edible model of the beloved aircraft on his 80th birthday.
My brother Victor and I were looking for an airplane to buy and share in November 1969. I had some knowledge of Seabees and when we were told that Dr. Nash was considering selling his we were ready. We were based at the Courtenay airpark and flew it a lot in those years. I subsequently bought my brothers share when he moved to Victoria. Altogether I had 13 years of great fun. It was still in good flying condition when I sold it to an airman at CFB Comox and I have since lost track of it. The association with this airplane has left its mark on me. Due to its distinctiveness, all my friends and family connect that airplane to me. This is why they decided a Seabee cake was a good 80th birthday cake. Barbara Helme who lives near us in the Nahatlatch River valley 18km from Boston Bar made the cake. I understand it took about 3 hours to do the decorating. Barb has done other cakes I have seen in the past but this one “TAKES THE CAKE”. I could not have a better birthday present.
When we bought the Seabee from Dr. Nash he was about my age now and I sure know how hard it was for him to part with it. He kept it in great condition as I did. Strangely enough it was not a high maintenance airplane as it had been built to take rough water and had simple construction.
Grant continues: Because of its unique design there are many people who have strange ideas about it, mostly wrong. It is a big docile airplane with no bad habits and does just what it was designed to do. I had the great pleasure of spending the day with Percival Spenser at his home in California. He was the designer of the Seabee and was a very interesting and friendly man. At the time I met him he was the oldest licensed pilot in the USA, and had celebrated his 80th birthday some time before by test flying a new design. He was holding a valid license into his 90’s and lived to be near 100 I believe. He looked up my Seabee in his logbook and told me he was the test pilot for that one which was serial number 71.
Seabees were built by Republic Aviation in the factory that produced the Thunderbolt fighter during the war so they had some idea of what they were doing. It is interesting to remember an aircraft design that Spencer created called the Trigull 320. The prototype and many parts were built in a hangar in Victoria. This was a fine airplane but fell to political hassling and was never to be put into production. What a shame. Please give Barbara Helme the credit she deserves for the cake.
With pleasure - ed
Seabee - A piece of cake!!!