Two teenagers set their sights high
In 1933, a couple of Vernon teenagers began construction on an open cockpit airplane (CF-AOM). Two years later, the plane, named the City of Vernon, took its first flight.
Jim Duddle and Eldon Seymour were 18 and 17, respectively, when they started their project in the loft of the Kalamalka Lake Store (now the Rail Trail Café & Market). The boys purchased the plans from a magazine, and sourced materials from an American supplier since they could not locate a Canadian one.
With financial assistance from flight enthusiast Jack Taylor, and welding expertise from former airframe mechanic Ernie Buffum, the plane was constructed for a grand total of $1463.00. It took the boys 10 months, since they could only work on it during evenings and weekends.
The City of Vernon Takes off
The City of Vernon took off for the first time in June of 1935. The brave man who agreed to test it was a local flying instructor, Lowell Dunsmore, whose successful career had produced a number of pilots, including Charles Grey, the first for the RCMP. After one quick inspection, he hopped in and took it for a spin, finding that it handled beautifully.
After Dunsmore gave the plane his stamp of approval, Jim and Eldon passed a happy three years of unlicensed flying all over the province and across the Rocky Mountains. The plane was also used for search and rescue missions, photo reconnaissance, and timber cruising. It was Vernon’s first home-built aircraft.
Joyride through the skies
In 1941, the Canadian government suspended private flights, which put an end to James and Eldon’s joyride through the skies. But both boys maintained their love of flying, with Eldon going on to receive his pilot’s license and Jim joining the air force.
In later years, the City of Vernon was partially dismantled and sold to a collector in Spokane for $50.00.
To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!
Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator