Harold Brumwell carved model airplanes from scratch, not from a kit, many of which are on display at the BC Aviation Museum. (Michele Berod)

Fulfilling a lifelong dream of flight

97-year old will fly a plane for the first time

As a boy growing up in Peterborough, Ont., Harold Brumwell’s father took him once a year to a farmer’s field to watch the Leavens Bros. fly. For a 10-year old, the planes were quite the sight, and Brumwell wanted to fly ever since.

At one point, his father paid $10 for him to take a flight over the city, which was no small expense at the time.

“My life’s ambition was to fly,” said Brumwell. “Didn’t care what or how or where or when, but that was it.”

When the Second World War broke out, he tried to join the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot, only to be rejected due to a heart murmur. He installed radar stations during the war, but his love of flight continued. To celebrate his upcoming 97th birthday, Brumwell will finally get the chance to take the controls thanks to his former home care nurse and friend.

Michele Berod, a team designer at Nurse Next Door and a caregiver, met Brumwell about 10 years ago when he still lived in his Sidney apartment. Since then, Brumwell said she has become “a member of the family,” and has invited her to Christmas dinner with his family for several years.

Brumwell has since moved to the Lodge at Broadmead, but Berod still visits him regularly.

“When I told him what I was planning to do for his birthday, he got all teary,” said Berod.

Berod, Brumwell, and his daughter will all head to the Victoria Flying Club this Saturday, where a pilot from the Victoria Flying Club will take them for a flight around the city, and Brumwell can finally fly.

Over a cup of orange ice cream at the Lodge, Brumwell described his love of flight, even as he spent much of his military career on the ground. He never took flying lessons because they were expensive, so he kept his interest in flight alive by getting involved at the B.C. Aviation Museum, where many of his hand-carved model airplanes are now displayed. Though he’s carved many airplanes, his favourite was his first: a Canso aircraft made by measuring the real thing.

While working as a radar technician for No. 162 Squadron in Reykjavik, Canso aircraft flew regular patrols for U-boats, and he would take scrap wood from shipping crates and work on his model in the night by referring to the real aircraft and blueprints. The model took years to build in his spare time, and he is hoping to get it displayed in an aviation museum in Hamilton, Ont., where a full-size Canso is displayed.

For now, Brumwell is excited for his opportunity to finally take the controls.

“I’m so grateful and so happy to be able to include Michele as a family member. She’s done a wonderful job.”


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