Homebuilt “Firsts” In Canada


It depends on how you define your “firsts” but a celebration of one Canadian aviation milestone in Goderich, Ontario, has raised an issue of clarity among the relatives of some aviation pioneers in British Columbia. The town of Goderich is planning an event next August to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first flight of an “amateur built aircraft” in Canada. The good people of Goderich believe this to have happened in 1955 … but … folks in Vernon, B.C., would beg to differ. You see, by 1955, Vernon boys Jim Duddle and Eldon Seymour had been flying the plane they built from scratch for almost 20 years and Seymour’s grandson Pat wants the record on that point straight. The devil, as always, is in the details. Goderich aviator Keith Hopkinson apparently wanted to do things by the book, except the book didn’t exist. With help from EAA founder Paul Poberezny, Hopkinson successfully lobbied Transport Canada to create the Amateur Built aircraft category and his modified Stitts Playboy was the first registered under the new class. Out west, Duddle and Seymour didn’t even have pilot’s licenses, much less an aircraft registration. Using plans and an engine obtained by mail order, they built the plane in 1937 in the attic of a general store on the outskirts of town and test flew it from a nearby cow pasture. They flew the plane, called the City of Vernon, over the Rocky Mountains to Edmonton, Alberta, claiming to be the “first” to fly a homebuilt over the mountains. Seymour continued flying well into his 80s and died several years ago.