His name was Dr. Jack Pickup — a title which conveniently summed up the man’s occupation. Equipped with a Waco Cabin biplane nicknamed “Big Red,” Pickup would spend the 1950s through ’70s serving as British Columbia’s best known “Flying Doctor.”
“Pickup worked in the remote Vancouver Island community Alert Bay,” said Bill Findlay, a volunteer pilot at the Canadian Museum of Flight.
“When he got an emergency call, Pickup would hop in his float plane, fly to wherever he was needed out in the bush, pick up the patient, fly them back to the hospital in Alert Bay to operate, and then fly them back home again.”
Pickup donated “Big Red” to the Canadian Museum of Flight in 1980 where it was placed on wheels and put through a 22-year restoration. Since then, the 1937 Waco has become the museum’s flagship aircraft.
“People love the colour. They always love to sit in it,” said museum Events Coordinator Carla Deminchuch.
In fact, it was the Waco itself that brought Deminchuk to the museum as a volunteer over fifteen years ago.
“I saw this big red plane fly overhead in Langley,” Deminchuck explained. “I thought it was the most beautiful plane I had ever seen, so right after I went to talk to the museum about how I could get involved.”
Though the Waco flew the skies for much of the 2000s, it has sat idle since 2013 due to mechanical issues. Just in time for Father’s Day, “Big Red” will finally be back-in-action for a celebratory re-launch.
“We chose the Waco for Father’s Day because like many of our fathers and grandfathers, ‘Big Red’ is loved for being special, hardworking, and one-of-a-kind,” Deminchuk said.
The plane was certainly seen it’s fair share of hard-work; Deminchuk noted that it was even sunk on multiple occasions during some of Dr. Pickup’s more challenging medical runs.
The Rumberg Group from National Bank Financial provided the funds to get “Big Red” airborne once again.
Findlay, who will be piloting the plane on Sunday (weather permitting), said “flying ‘Big Red’ is like driving a ‘57 Cadillac down a country road.”
The Father’s Day event Pops, Props, and Hops will be held at the Canadian Museum of Flight Sunday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dads get in free with one paid admission to experience museum tours, food trucks, a craft beer garden, and even the chance to win a complementary sight-seeing ride in “Big Red” herself.
“What makes us special is that we fly our own planes,” Deminchuk added, “we’re the only museum that does this in B.C.; we actually fly the planes beyond just making them look pretty.”
The museum is encouraging people in Langley to watch the skies this Sunday for a glimpse of their historic red Waco Cabin in mid-flight.
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