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Canada’s oldest Ercoupe

Story by jack croft • photos by nick wolochatiuk – first published summer 1997

Ercoupe CF-JZH

Busy going nowhere. The classic lines of Canada’s oldest flying Ercoupe on a lazy, hazy summer afternoon in the Ottawa Valley. When outside air temperatures co-operate, open canopy flying offers natural air conditioning breezes and even more personal satisfaction.

Conditions were CAVOK when I met Trevor Lyons for lunch at the Ottawa Flying Club and a flight afterward in his classic 1941 415-C Ercoupe. CF-JZH is the oldest of its type still flying in Canada. On March 20, Trevor had celebrated the 56th anniversary of his aircraft with a cake and a special flight at Uplands airport. I was looking forward to meeting him because I also have some Ercoupe history. In 1968, I took my flight training in CF-RSJ (and a Cessna 150) at Beloeil, Quebec, south of Montréal. That Ercoupe is still flying from Windsor Junction, Nova Scotia, and is owned by John Macmillan. As the famous television advertisement says, “They just keep going and going and going …” This is true, but not without a lot of TLC. I am now part owner of a 1977 Piper Cherokee 140, designed by Fred Weick, the same man who created the Ercoupe in 1937. Both airplanes are sturdy, stable, reliable, safe and easy to fly and have a docile stall, all traits characteristic of Weick’s talent.

Trevor, who is just a little older than his 1941 Ercoupe, was bitten by the flying bug in 1947 in his native England after paying 10 shillings for a sightseeing trip in an Auster. “After that flight,” he declares in a rather pleasing British accent, “I got mad keen enthusiastic to fly and began taking lessons at Exeter, in Devon, when I was 15. At that time you didn’t need a medical, didn’t need a pilot’s licence and didn’t need to attend ground school. You just showed up and gave them your money at the end of the flight. After I had 5.25 hours flying time, with 3.25 hours dual instruction in a Tiger Moth, my father decided it would be more worthwhile to get my driver’s licence and a motorcycle so I would not be pestering him to drive me all over. However, I was still desperate to fly and tried to convince my father to buy me an ex-RAF warplane. I could’ve had a Tiger Moth for no more than the cost of a motorcycle or, to go slightly up-scale, a Chipmunk. He was not sold on the idea, and my first attempt at aircraft ownership failed.”

In 1989, Trevor finally attained his dream when he purchased JZH from Derwin Hunt and Les Staples in Ottawa. The little yellow 415-C Ercoupe (converted from a 415-B) was serial number 72 with 1,450 hours airframe time. As part of the sale, the owners agreed to a six-month or 25-hour warranty on the 1948 Continental 85-hp engine, which already had 900 hours on it. In only one month, all 25 hours were flown off. The engine ran another 900-plus hours with just 50 hours on condition. In 1995, it was zero-timed, and since then another 200 hours have been added. In the prewar years of production, the Ercoupe started off with the little C-65 Continental, then stepped up to the C-75, the C-85 and, finally, the C-90. By far the vast majority–about 4,300 model 415-Cs–flew with 75-hp engines.

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