A piece of Langley history arrived at the Canadian Museum of Flight on Thursday afternoon.
A Boeing-Stearman biplane, built in 1940, was donated to the Langley-based museum by its owner, Dave Seller.
“This is Art Seller’s actual personal machine,” said museum general manager Mike Sattler.
Art Seller was a pivotal figure in the development of aviation in the Lower Mainland, and at the Langley Regional Airport in particular.
It was Seller with Skyway who created the first business at the Langley Airport, at the time not much more than a mowed grass runway.
Art Seller had been a Spitfire pilot during the Second World War, shot down a little over a week after D-Day and taken prisoner. A journal of his time in the prison camp showed that even in captivity he was planning for a future aviation business, including sketches of advertising designs.
When Seller returned to the West Coast after he was liberated, he started out with a couple of surplus Tiger Moths. Skyway Air Services was officially formed in the summer of 1947.
The first upgrade in equipment was to some Stearmans, sturdy biplanes used as trainers during the war.
Seller had already taken up crop dusting, and the Stearmans came specially modified for the job, with aluminum bodies instead of the usual wood and canvas.
One of their first jobs was spraying DDT everywhere to keep mosquitoes in check after the Fraser River floods of 1948.
Although Skyway upgraded its planes many times over the years, Art kept the sturdy Stearman as his personal plane.
“This machine is basically the genesis of the airport,” said Sattler.
David Sellar also learned to fly on the old biplane, first soloing in it at the age of 16.
He donated the plane in the presence of a number of former Skyway employees.
“I’m so proud to have worked with such a fine, dedicated group,” said David Seller.
Art Seller flew the Stearman almost up to his death in 1998.
Since then it has remained airworthy – it needs a little maintenance and an inspection to fly again, said Sattler.
“Thank you for taking care of something that’s not only in our heritage, but in our hearts,” said David Sattler.
The Skyway Stearman joins a number of other historic aircraft from around B.C. at the museum.
It is the second-oldest Skyway aircraft currently preserved in Langley – one of the original Tiger Moths hangs from the ceiling of the Farm Machinery Museum in Fort Langley.
Skyway still exists through its spin-off company, Conair Aviation, which operates out of Abbotsford.