In 1955, pilot Bob Gartshore nearly crashed in a Harvard airplane similar to the one beside him. (Hugo Wong/News staff)

Pilot presents life of flight at B.C. Aviation Museum

In his long career in aviation, Bob Gartshore has flown many aircraft, starting with a small Piper Cub over Chestermere Lake in Alberta and ending with the 747 and the Airbus A310.

But when asked what plane he wanted his photo next to at the B.C. Aviation Museum, he immediately said, “The Harvard,” a plane he nearly died in. It’s in his book, A Life of Flight: One Pilot’s Story from Piper Cubs to 747s and Beyond, and he will be telling a few of those stories at the B.C. Aviation Museum on Nov. 15 from 7 to 9 p.m.

He never imagined writing a book, but after getting stuck in a snowstorm in Oregon, he and his wife Joy decided to use their brand-new laptop, which Gartshore said was “pretty skookum at the time,” and began to document their lives.

They ended up with two books, with Bob focusing more on his work and Joy on family life. While Bob’s was published first, Joy’s never was. She died last June and Gartshore felt that her book should be published as well. He recently submitted the manuscript to a publisher.

“She writes very well. Lots of humour in her book; none in mine,” he said.

Gartshore’s career was so influential that one of his sons, Brian, followed him into the profession and ended up being his father’s first officer on Wardair flights to Hawaii. Brian landed one such flight in 1988, which his father called “an old pro landing,” so as they turned off the runway he got on the microphone and told the passengers, “Ladies and gentleman, I thought you should know that my son did that landing and I thought he did an excellent job, what do you think?”

Gartshore said a stewardess burst through the cockput door and said, “Tell the passengers your son isn’t some six year old sitting on his dad’s knee!”

Brian now flies the 787 Dreamliner for Air Canada to and from Asia.

Gartshore enjoyed recalling so many life stories, which was made easier by his logbooks that tracked the details of each flight. Gartshore also had help from the people who proofed his book the first time, mostly regarding technical details like the specific engines used on the 747.

“It’s a project that I think everybody should take, really, particularly if they had an interesting job,” he said.

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