Ed Batchelor

 Ed Batchelor - A Real High-Flier
By Wendy Long
 The Vancouver Sun, January 6, 1984
“Those hippies who take drugs don’t know what a good high is.”
Ed Batchelor shook his head and gazed at the photos of fighter planes adorning his Langley office. A man who has faced and skirted death, he finds it difficult to understand people who need chemicals to appreciate life. He’d rather get high the Batchelor way — from the cockpit of an aircraft flying at 2,000 metres. – “I never ceased to enjoy flying an airplane,” he said. “It was something I always wanted to do. It’s my life.”
Batchelor was honored recently at a reception sponsored by the Canadian Museum of Flight and Transportation. In his 50 years as an aviator and instructor, the 67-year-old Batchelor accumulated more than 25,000 hours of flying time, much of that as an instructor for Skyway Air Services in Langley.
His flying career began in Kent when he entered the Royal Air Force the day before his 17th birthday. Even as a youngster he knew his career was in the sky. “It was something all kids my age dreamed about,” he said. “It was a matter of the times. I grew up when we had real heroes, like Lindbergh. I was 11 years old when he crossed the Atlantic. I’ll never forget it.”
He’ll never forget his early days in the RAF, either. His training and discipline are indelibly stamped in his memory; up at 6 a.m. for a half-day of academic studies, then a half-day of practical work. Interspersed with studies was a physical fitness regime that Batchelor says would make today’s convenience-born youngsters quail.
His face may be wrinkled, his reflexes slower, but Batchelor still retains the proud presence of a military man who has lived and worked among heroes. “My greatest fear was being chicken,” he said.
“But it never happened. I always knew what to do when the chips were down. Before battle you are frightened, anticipating. But during the event you are too damn busy trying to preserve yourself.”
In 1937 he was posted to Egypt, then later returned to Britain where he flew bombers out of Scotland when the Second World War began. In 1940 he was sent to Moose Jaw, Sask., as an instructor for the Commonwealth air training program.
“It was 20 below when we arrived and we were all dressed like this,” he laughed, noting his plaid shirt and thin leather jacket. “Living there was a good experience. Few of us had ever been on skates before. Do you know how it looked to see even the tiniest local youngsters skate by a group of military men who could hardly stand up?”
After two years in Moose Jaw Batchelor was recalled to England and worked with the anti U-boat forces in the Bay of Biscay. Later he was sent to Africa, then Ceylon and Burma.
When the war was over he was responsible for “taking the high-brows to Singapore for the surrender.” One of his passengers was Lord Louis Mountbatten. “He was a typical heroic figure and an excellent commander,” said Batchelor.
“He looked after his men so well. At our stops the first thing he would say to our hosts was: ‘Take care of my men.’ ”
An RAF Short Sunderland just before liftoff. Ed flew these aircraft over
the Atlantic and to the Seychelle Islands and to Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
When he returned to England Batchelor was like many young servicemen of the day – without a job. Canada seemed a land of opportunity, coupled with an impressive landscape he had grown to love. With a little help from a squadron friend he landed a spot for himself, his wife and child on a boat bound for Canada crowded with “war brides and screaming kids.”
They eventually came to BC where Batchelor found a job on a Langley farm. In 1949 he met Art Seller, who was just forming Skyway Air Services and needed a flying instructor and engineer. Batchelor got the job and since then he has instructed more people than he can attempt to count.
“He has a professional attitude and a sincere devotion,” said Les Kerr, president of Conair Aviation Ltd. of Abbotsford. Kerr earned his commercial pilot’s licence as a student of Batchelor’s in 1952. “He is a born teacher. Each student is important to him. He always gives his utmost.”
Not all Batchelor’s students are as eloquent. One student’s token of appreciation is displayed proudly in Batchelor’s Skyway office – a small loving cup inscribed with World’s Greatest Fink.
Prospective pilots come from all walks of life, he said. And it is often the slow learners who make the best pilots. There have been some near accidents, like the day a student froze at the controls and “it took a lot of force to shift him.”
Then there was the time Batchelor was flying an old Tiger Moth from Salmo to Langley. He thought he had checked the plane thoroughly before flight. Just over Chilliwack he opened the cockpit canopy to get a better view, only to find several of the stops anchoring the canopy were missing. “The damn thing came off with a thud and stuck to the tail, jamming the elevators up,” said Batchelor.
The plane reared into a series of loops that dived progressively nearer the ground. After much juggling of controls and several more revolutions, the dizzy Batchelor managed to land the craft with an uncomfortable thud on the runway.
“I got out, sat down and lit a cigarette. Art came out, and do you know what he had the nerve to say? ‘Batchie, that is the poorest landing I have ever seen.’ It was a lesson well-learned,
though. You can never be too careful with pre-flight checks.”
Retired from teaching, Batchelor is now a flight examiner. Of his three children, one son has become a first officer with Pacific Western Airlines – a position that makes Dad somewhat envious. “I would have liked to have flown a jet,” he said. “I would also like to write a book. In fact, I wish I had it finished. I detest writing.”
Batchelor likes to follow the credo of 19th century writer and social reformer John Ruskin, who suggests each day a person should do something he or she is apprehensive about. Despite some minor accidents and tense situations, he still views flying as life’s greatest high.
“You meet so many fine people,” he said. “And when you’re flying at 8,000 feet and you can see mountains forever you can’t help but say: ‘God, this is a fabulous country.’ ”