The late Bill Thompson’s yellow N3N bi-plane made its last flight out of Pender Harbour on June 25, but its flying days are far from over.
The N3N has made hundreds of flights for Pender festivals, events, ceremonies or simply evening jaunts into the sky.
“It was very significant to Pender Harbour. There was quite a crowd out to see it go,” Bill’s widow Wilma Thompson said. “It was a pretty emotional thing for me because we’ve had it for 25 years.”
Originally built as a training plane by the U.S. Navy in Philadelphia in 1942, the Thompsons purchased it in 1990. Bill spent the next 12 years rebuilding and caring for the plane, but most of all, flying the plane.
“Well, let’s put it this way: it was almost a nightly flight, and it never went up without a passenger,” Wilma said. “My husband took over 300 people for a ride. That was free gratis and for nothing. That wasn’t for hire – that was for pleasure.
“He never ever went up alone,” Wilma continued. “He spent too many years himself -– before he got his pilot’s licence – as a youngster wishing he could go for a ride in an airplane. I had a list so long I never got to the end of it. Everybody wanted to go.”
The bi-plane was purchased by Buffalo Joe McBryan, president of Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife, NWT.
“I didn’t buy it for resale, and I didn’t buy it for any other reason except that I always wanted a bi-plane,” McBryan said.
He found out about the airplane from tourists going through his hangar. A woman told him about the bi-plane and said that it was up for sale. Within a few days, McBryan had committed to buy it.
“So that’s really it, it’s moving to Yellowknife and it will live here forever,” McBryan said. “A lot of people buy these airplanes and restore them as war birds – but I’m not interested in the war. I’m more of a peace-peace, make love not war type guy. So I won’t be making it into a war bird. It will be just used to fly around.”
The N3N is being moved to Pitt Meadows to be serviced before making its way up north. When he was told about the significance of the N3N, McBryan made a standing invitation to the Pender Harbour community.
“It’s got a good home and they’re all welcome to come up here and visit her,” he said. “If they come up, I’ll take them for a ride in her.”
KlausNW wrote:I was asked to do an Annual on this plane that "I" thought had similarities to a Stearman. I had no knowledge of the N3N at the time, so I stuck my nose in the books and the airplane and learned that it was not a relative of the Stearman. The engineers that developed the N3N had blimp resources and knowledge so as you may notice the aircraft is constructed of aluminum angle extrusions and gussets.
Most everything about the construction of the N3N is very unique and has been rarely duplicated over the following decades. After a couple Annuals "I" knew the difference and history surrounding the N3N. A very remarkable time in Aviation history.
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