Farewell to Don Nikkel
Received from Bill Findlay:
There was a very good turnout of locals to give Don a good send off. We took three aircraft out of the Museum and then set up tables and some chairs, with good catering by the Hangar Cafe people. There was a mic setup and Dan Holliday emceed the event. The pilots briefed at 1350 and then started engines at 1415 – George Miller, Guy Miller, George Kirbyson, and me. I had Ray Fessenden in my back seat – his first ever formation flight.
After T/O on Rwy 01, we joined up in Diamond over Fort Langley and then returned (Rwy 19) in Finger Left with George K. doing the Missing Man pull in his Pitts. I was on the right wing and, three seconds after George “popped”, I broke to the right and stayed low. George K. and I then carried out a quick Knife Edge/Banana single ship pass with break to landing. During this time, the Millers were on a downwind to the east and timed their low level 360 with smoke just as I was about to land. They did the 360 and broke to land on 19. I was in the air for maybe eleven minutes. As George Miller said afterwards, “It’s so nice to fly with guys who know what they’re doing and when to do it.”
I think that we put on a really good show for the large crowd standing outside on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Back inside the hangar, we (the pilots) were called up front to be introduced to those gathered there. Several people spoke at the open mike time. I eventually stepped up to the mic to give a short talk on how much the Museum’s staff and volunteers appreciated our association with Don Nikkel over the last twenty years or so. I commented on Don’s involvement with every operating engine that the Museum has and how he had donated his skills working on engines and cylinders on every one of our flying aircraft.
Don was involved with aviation for 60+ years. He learnt to fly as a teenager and then worked as an aircraft mechanic for the rest of his life. He passed away Friday, November 13, 2015.
He joined the RCAF in the 1950s and worked on many of their big aircraft equipped with powerful piston engines. Later, he went to work for Canadian Pacific Airlines, at first working on piston-powered transports and then on the first generation of jet transports. He then joined Valley Aero in Langley and put his experience to work in the general aviation scene. Do you have a problem with a balky magneto or a leaky carburettor? Just ask Don. Need the cylinders on your Continental O-200 refurbished? Don is the man.
Don and his wife flew light aircraft extensively throughout North America adding to his knowledge of the operational side of aircraft maintenance.
Don was a true friend of the Canadian Museum of Flight, frequently helping to solve problems with some vintage engine that few people had experience with. Occasionally, he would let everyone know in no uncertain terms what he thought of some of the old engines, but he never failed to do his best and get the engine returned to service. The Museum will miss his talents – and his friendly wave and blast of the horn as he drove the fuel tanker past our gate.