HOPEWELL – The wings were shaky at first, but once it took off, Don Horne’s former airplane easily glided over the hanger and airstrip on its last flight in Pictou County.
Horne, a longtime flying enthusiast, gave up his hobby this weekend and donated his two-seater private plane to the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum in Halifax in honour of his late friend Reg Short.
“It’s such a beautiful airplane. I’d like to put it somewhere people will see it,” he said about why he chose to give it to the museum rather than sell it.
Although the 89-year-old is in good health and would love to continue flying, he was worried about his eyesight after falling on ice and detaching his retina recently.
It was a bittersweet day for Horne. His plane that he’s owned for 14 years was going to a new home where it could be admired, but he had to hand over his key.
For Horne, flying was a way to relax from a stressful job at Maritime Tel & Tel and following the loss of his wife to illness.
“The minute the wheels leave the ground, everything seems to disappear.”
He has been in love with airplanes since he was four years old.
In 1943, he tried to join the Air Force, but was turned away due to an injury in his leg. He turned to the military instead and served in England and northwestern Europe.
After he returned, he began to build a runway in Hopewell, now owned by Donny MacKenzie, and a plane with his brother-in-law.
Horne spent two years working on the airplane and ended up buying it from his brother-in-law.
Since then, he hasn’t been able to get away from the sky.
He has owned four planes, most of which he has sold.
“The beauty you would see from up there…” he said.
He noted that he has flown all over the Maritimes and Maine, despite what he told his neighbours.
He used to joke with his neighbours that he only flew to keep an eye on them, one of whom would stand outside with a red flag when he went over.
Brian Chappell, director for the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum, drove to Hopewell from Halifax to pick up the plane.
Chappell said the museum holds many military jets, but doesn’t have many private planes.
“It’s a good example of private flying,” Chappell said, noting that Horne’s plane would be similar to many factory-built planes used by non-commercial pilots.
He explained that planes like Horne’s are the type that can do loops and rolls like one would see in an airshow.
Chappell was co-pilot for the flight to Halifax with his son-in-law Neil Wollthers taking the main seat.
After Horne watched the plane take off the runway and fly back over one last time, he talked about the wind and the pilot’s skill.
When asked when it would hit him, he said, “tomorrow.”
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