The Russ Beach era begins: 1972 to 1977


This is the fifth in a series of articles, “Looking back” at the history of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association in five-year increments.



Bill Peppler

COPA manager Bill Peppler at a convention in the 1970s. There are few photos of Peppler in the COPA archives as the manager was also COPA’s publisher and was usually on the other side of the camera during COPA events.

Photo courtesy COPA archives




In 1973, the Trident TR-1 Trigull-320 flew for the first time. The six-place amphibian was built in Richmond, B.C. by Trident Aircraft. By 1976, two prototypes had been built and 83 orders were on the books but production funding did not materialize.







Beech Skipper

In 1974, Beech Aircraft of Wichita, Kans. developed the Beechcraft PD285 Model 77, a two-seat trainer. The aircraft first flew in 1975 and went into production as the “Skipper.” Piper Aircraft countered with its own version of the low-wing, T-tailed trainer called the “Tomahawk.” Cessna’s answer was to re-engine the Cessna 150 and call it the Cessna 152.

Photo courtesy Beech Aircraft




The 1972 COPA Annual General Meeting and Convention was held at Gray Rocks Inn in St. Jovite, Que. in late September. COPA president Russ Beach presided over a meeting of directors where a wish list was drafted for presentation to the federal Department of Transport, then called the Ministry of Transport. The list included:

  1. Airport windsocks should be standardized in colour and location.
  2. Pilots flying aircraft equipped with two-way radios should be encouraged to transmit their location in the circuit at uncontrolled airports on the appropriate unicom frequency.
  3. The MoT should produce standard phraseology and radio telephone procedures for those broadcasting their flight intentions on unicom frequencies.
  4. All airport circuits should be flown at 1,000 ft above ground.
  5. Diagrams of airport runways should be shown on sectional aeronautical charts whenever possible.
  6. The MoT should attempt to have common airport traffic procedures in Canada with those in the U.S.
  7. Pilots flying aircraft with landing lights should turn them on when on final approach to make them more conspicuous.

At the end of 1972, Russ Beach was nominated as a regional vice-president of the International Council of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations.

The 1973 COPA Annual General Meeting and Convention was held in Niagara Falls, Ont. in the Sheraton Brock Hotel. At that meeting, Russ Beach was re-elected president, Jean Moreau was elected eastern vice-president and Varno Westersund was elected western vice-president. John Bogie accepted re-election as COPA secretary/treasurer but declared that it would be his last year (after 20 years on COPA’s executive committee). Other COPA directors in attendance included Neil Armstrong, Bill Atrill, Alan Frosst, Max Golsack, Howard Hall, Merv Hayward and Bob Moore.

Also in 1973, COPA’s directors approved the formation of the COPA Flight Safety Organization “to promote flight safety in the field of general aviation.” Funds were solicited from members and the first order of business for the organization was to create a monthly COPA Flight Safety Bulletin which continues to this day.

Throughout 1973 and 1974, COPA fought for the delay of the implementation of mandatory emergency locator transmitters for all Canadian aircraft on the basis that the ELT manufacturers did not have enough time to develop, test and produce the units for the Canadian specifications.

In 1978, the COPA Board of Directors launched an appeal to members to contribute to a trust fund that would be used to pay legal fees when COPA needed to take government agencies to court. Initially dubbed “Beach’s War Chest,” the fund was incorporated as the COPA Special Action Trust Fund. The fund’s mandate was expanded “for the purpose of establishing a program for the education of the general public, legislators and government departments and officials in Canada or its provinces or elsewhere with respect to matters relating to general aviation and to promote, protect and advance the interest of general aviation.”

The 1978 COPA Annual Meeting was held in the Airport Hyatt House in Vancouver, B.C. Russ Beach was re-elected president. John Bogie who had stepped down as secretary/treasurer in 1974, stepped in as eastern vice-president when no one else would take the job. Neil Armstrong was re-elected western vice-president and Jack Langmuir was re-elected secretary/treasurer. At that same meeting, Ken Gamble was appointed to COPA’s board of directors as a representative of the Experimental Aircraft Association Canadian Council.


Canadian General Aviation News

The February 1975 issue of COPA’s monthly newspaper, Canadian General Aviation News, carried the issues of the day. The headline contained the government’s explanation for the need for bilingual air traffic control in Quebec. In other news, Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame moved to new quarters in Edmonton, Alta. C. H. “punch” Dickens was the president. It was announced that the BAC Concorde would appear at the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto along with de Havilland’s new Dash 7. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association announced that shipments of new general aircraft in 1974 totaled 14,167. Of that 11,563 were single-engine aircraft.

In the same issue, Leavens Bros. advertised a line of Genave radios, Leggat Aircraft was selling Mooneys and Arctic Covers advertised cowl covers for a long list of aircraft models.

In the Classified Ads, a Globe Swift GC-1B was offered for sale with a zero time O-300 engine for $5,500.


Chris Heintz poses with the prototype CH2000, the certified version of one of his many light aircraft designs. In 1973, Chris Heintz moved his family and his Zenith homebuilt to Canada. He initially worked for de Havilland Aircraft in Toronto as a stress engineer on the Dash 7 commuter aircraft. In 1974 Heintz formed his own aircraft company under the name of Zenair Ltd. and started to manufacture kits for his two-place Zenith in his garage.

Before coming to Canada, had worked as an aircraft engineer in France. After serving in the Air Force, Heintz worked for Aerospatiale on the supersonic Concorde jetliner, and later became chief engineer at Avions Robin where he designed several fully-certified two and four-seat all-metal production aircraft.

Since 1974, Heintz has designed and developed more than 12 new aircraft models, which have been marketed as kit aircraft around the world. More than 800 Zenith aircraft are presently flying in 48 different countries.

AOPA Silver Tray Award winners

COPA’s top award, the AOPA Silver Tray was presented to the following between 1973 and 1978.

1973 – Canadian Armed Forces – for its “Defensive Flying” programs for general aviation.
1974 – Neil J. Armstrong – for his dedication to general aviation and COPA
1975 – Russ Beach – for his championing of causes on behalf of general aviation
1976 – Father John W. McGillivray – an ex-air force padre and dedicated light aircraft aviator
1978 – Max Karant – for his years of assistance helping COPA solve general aviation’s problems.


An Airman’s Grace By Father John MacGillivary

Lord of thunderhead and sky
Who placed in man the will to fly,
You taught his hand speed, skill and grace
To soar beyond man’s dwelling place.

You shared with him the eagle’s view,
The right to fly as eagles do,
The right to call the clouds his home
And grateful through your Heavens roam.

May we assembled here tonight
And all who love the thrill of flight,
Recall with twofold gratitude
Your gift of wings, your gift of food.

Father John MacGillivary (left) accepts COPA’s highest honour, the AOPA Silver Tray, in 1976 from COPA president Russ Beach. MacGillivary was an active general aviation pilot and COPA supporter. He wrote “An Airman’s Grace” delivered at COPA Convention banquets. He was.

Photo courtesy COPA archives