Stinson Defies Gravity… Just

8 May 15 3 Comments

This video is from a few years back but it is new to me:

The aircraft is gorgeous, although it’s not a 105. The Canadian registration is for a Stinson 108-3 Voyager built in 1948.

The pilot that day reportedly commented on the video in a post in one of the Stinson forums.

Oh dear… Have to ‘fess up. Things do come back to haunt one, don’t they? This was me, Selina, in GYYF. Of course I have already received this video a few times in the last couple of days. I think it was 1999 or 2000.

What can I say? It was hot, I had 2 passengers and thought I knew more than I did about short field takeoffs. This little field is just outside of Victoria B.C. and once we were in the air we headed straight to Nanaimo’s LONG runway to land and assess damages. The only victims, other than my pride, were the gear fairings as I did a bit of landscaping on the way out.

The airfield was Quamichan Lake (Raven Field) Airport on Vancouver Island. The grass runway there runs almost north-south and is 549 metres (1,800 feet). It’s 130 feet above sea level.

What was I thinking? I sure didn’t use correct short field procedures and quickly ran out of room. I knew I was in trouble and also knew I was committed to the takeoff. As we lifted off my right seat passenger, a more experienced pilot (as was the second passenger in the back), was quick enough to yell at me to push the nose down and was ready to do so himself if I didn’t. That instinct to pull up is strong especially with the tops of the trees coming at you.

Just about the best learning experience I’ve every had… And probably the scariest.

Definitely one hell of a learning experience!

It seems likely that she posted it although her name might have been added later. Certainly, she’s the owner of the Stinson. I love that she’s not tried to make excuses but explains exactly what happened.

Selina Smith on

Here’s a normal take-off from the same airfield:

Apparently she never went back.

Coincidentally I met the owner of this little field this past weekend at a fly-in and we had a little reminisce about my “incident”. The field is still in use although I think they have removed a few more of the trees at the end. I don’t think I’ll be tackling it again although a little voice inside says perhaps I should go back without passengers and do it properly!

If she does, I hope someone videos it for comparison!


  • It is a near-instinctive reaction to try and pull up when approaching obstacles but, as this video shows, the result can be the opposite of what the pilot intended.
    During my very early days I was a student in a Piper Cub. The old J3 with 65 HP engine, fuel tank in front of the windscreen and the gauge a spoke on a float (cork probably) sticking out through the filler cap. All very basic. The aerodrome was Hilversum (EHHV), a grass square with trees at the East and North. We made a touch-and-got towards the trees and were starting to run out of room. The J3 was a bit underpowered and I realised that we were going to have a problem. The instructor (in the front) was very experienced. He had been an instructor on the tiger Moth with the RAF during WW2 and did not take over. He also had trained his pupils properly. I pushed the stick slightly forward, picked up a bit of extra speed, aimed for the lowest spot in the trees and had enough to pull safely over the obstacles. the only comment from my instructor, the late and legendary Paul Wesselius was something like: “you picked the right spot”.
    Many years later I was given the job to fly a group of fishermen from Lelystad (EHLE) in the Netherlands to Billund, Denmark, where they were exchanging crews. The vessel was moored there.
    The aircraft was a single-engined Fuji. A VFR charter flight.
    The 2 fishermen also brought luggage with them and some stores.They also put a large box of loaves of bread on board. That should not be too heavy I thought, bread contains a lot of air. I calculated that we would be a little bit over MTOW but nothing dramatic, I reckoned in the order of 10 or 15 %.
    At the time Lelystad had a paved NE-SW runway and a short cross grass strip. The arrangement was L-shaped. We took off towards the NW on the grass and soon I realised that we were in trouble as the aircraft felt very heavy, too heavy to lift off until we were getting close, very close to the fence.
    Already halfway in the take-off it became apparent that I was not going to be able to stop on the damp grass, my only chance was to keep going. And hope for the best !
    Nowadays there is vegetation including trees in the area but in the 1970’s it was all new land: Lelystad is well below MSL, at the bottom of what once was the Zuyderzee. So at least there were no obstacles.
    I had thousands of flying hours at the time and yes, I should have put everything on the scales but I thought I could estimate the weight with reasonable accuracy.
    What I could not just calculate by looking at it was the weight of a largish box of …… DEEP-FROZEN (!!!)loaves of bread.
    The weight must have been at least three times that of normal dry bread.
    We got “off the deck” with only yards to spare.
    So talking about learning a lesson ! That was one I will not forget, even though I do not fly any more !

  • This video certainly does cause one to feel some trepidation until one knows that the same field is used successfully and far more safely by many pilots flying Bonanzas , larger Cessnas RVs and even an Apache. It is not a “little” field and is well within the performance capabilities of a Stinson even loaded as this one was.

  • I use to fly Voyagers & Station wagon on my early days 1957 …Those Franklins 145 hp with J5 Champion plugs were amazing no drops on RPMS Ever on test …no cofs in route but NO POWER.Good turbulence fighters.At Uruapan UPN Mexico 5000′ field elevation or Morelia MLM,400 pounds Max payload….médium tanks…badly 80 min flight and At léast 3000 féretro run ….100 on climb if Lucky…regards

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