Werner Griesbeck

 Werner Griesbeck – Eulogy

Baker, Flight Instructor, Air traffic Controller, Antique Aircraft Restorer, Hot Rod Builder, a man of many talents, willing to share his knowledge and time with anyone who can show an interest.
Born in Bavaria in southern Germany in 1943, He moved to Canada with his parents in the early 50’s, eventually arriving in Mission, BC where his father started a bakery. It all ended November 12, 2023, when at 9:45 pm he surrendered to his cancers after years of fighting.
In the early days, he worked for his father in the bakery, pulling the early shift, 3 am until whenever, earning the money that went to flying lessons in 1964 at Abbotsford.
He worked as a flying instructor from 1966 to 1970 that included a stint running a remote school in Powell River. Later in 1970, he joined Transport Canada and worked in ATC initially in Abbotsford, then in Langley and then back to Abbotsford until he retired in 2000.
He and Wendy built a log home in Aldergrove and later added a small shop. When his neighbour needed a bigger shop for his trucks, Werner negotiated a deal to get the original smaller one. This he added on the back of the original, lifting it over the fence with a crane, thus increasing his shop space by more than 125%. Now he had the front for a paint shop and the back for covering and each could stay clean.
His passion for flying included the mechanical side completing restorations of at least 5 J-3 Cubs as well as the Porterfield in -81 and the Fairchild in -91. He and Dan Holliday together built a Marquart Charger and he assisted on the construction on Dan’s Piper. He played a major role in the completion of Jim Briton’s Beech Staggerwing. He somehow found time to help me with my Stinson, both in painting and in an engine change as well as many annuals. He obtained his airframe license in the 1980s allowing him then to do annuals and sign out his own work.
He gave many area pilots their tailwheel checkouts, including yours truly, insisting on only three-point landings and laughing madly when things went a bit sideways.
He taught me and many others how to hand start an airplane and for those who know how that is done, part of the call out by the pilot is the status of the mag switches; most of us will call out ‘switches off’ and the person propping will pull it through a few blades Werner used a different terminology and I quote, “switches say off”. There was a good reason for this as one day, he was starting a Cub, heard the call – switches off and pulled a blade through. The engine started and a blade struck him on the head. This could have been fatal and of course while it was painful and not a little embarrassing for a high time instructor; but what was even more embarrassing was the resulting and inevitable nickname – piggy bank – from the slot in his head.
He was a director of the Canadian Museum of Flight here in Langley and for a period applied his expertise in both maintenance and flying to the Waco Cabin, Fleet Finch and Tiger Moth. When the Mooney Mite was sold, he delivered that to the new owner in Washington State.
The Arlington Airshow benefited from his expertise as a judge in the antique and classic classes.
His skills were acknowledged by many all over the Pacific Northwest. It was impossible to go anywhere with him and not meet some of his many friends and associates. Most recently at Paine Field where we ran into a fellow Fairchild 24 restorer, air race pilot John Penney who incidentally flies a MIG 29 Fulcrum for Paul Allen in his spare time, another who had traded his Vampire for a Tudor and of course John Sessions, the owner of the Historic Flight Museum, who had questions on how to sort out his Staggerwing.
The Abbotsford Airshow also saw him participate in many fly pasts, either in one of his own classics or the museum’s biplanes.
He was an early supporter of the EAA’s Young Eagle program and helped organize first flights for some 700 (?) kids here at Langley. He personally flew over 100 kids.
Werner passed in November, 2023. He is survived by his wife Wendy, two sons, Mike and Rob, grandchildren and countless friends and acquaintances here in BC, the west coast, across Canada and the US.
Written by Mike Davenport.
Two of the aircraft that Werner owned – a Porterfield (foreground) and a Fairchild 24. 
(Thanks to Mike Davenport)
The Recreational Aircraft Association Canada Issue 4, 2018
NC19189 passed through the hands of some 18 owners until it arrived in Schellville, CA. Brian and Beverly Esler purchased it with the intent of doing a full restoration but instead sold the project to Werner Griesbeck of Aldergrove, BC. This involved a complex deal that included a freshly restored Aeronca L-3. At this point in its long career, NC19189 had just 2223 hours on the airframe. Werner began a restoration that would take the next 4 years.
Just getting the project home involved a round trip of some 1860 miles and several days. After months of sorting out past ownerships and getting the appropriate bills of sale, he was able to get the aircraft registered in Canada as CF-BWW. His experience in wood and fabric work has stood him well, having previously done a number of restorations. These included several J-3 Cubs including a “Flitfire” replica, the Aeronca L-3, a Champ and of course his other current aircraft, the 1941 Porterfield.
After getting the parts home and sorted, he removed the wooden fuselage formers and then sandblasted and epoxied the fuselage. Once that chore was done, he reinstalled the wood formers that give the Fairchild its distinctive shape. The wing, built by Ruth Spenser of Anderson, California in 1979 had the original spars but she made all new ribs and installed new cables and hardware. This work was so well done that little more than minor touchup was required. The original Grimes landing light was overhauled and reinstalled. Both 20-gallon fuel tanks were repaired and reinstalled. Both the stabilizer and fin required extensive repairs. Werner rebuilt both giving each a new rear spar and new top and bottom plywood skins. The left door frame was built from scratch using the N.O.S. (new old stock) right door as a guide.
The Fairchild 24 has a unique quality in that the side windows can be rolled up and down. This helps improve picture taking and also lends a decidedly cool factor when taxing in at a fly-in. To facilitate this, new “Model A Ford” window winders were installed. The door panels are upholstered using the same material as the seats.
The instrument panel contains as many overhauled vintage instruments as could be found including an airspeed indicator complete with the Fairchild logo. A modern radio was installed in one of the instrument openings. The transponder is hidden in a special side pocket that opens for use but can be closed for that 1930’s look when the aircraft is on display. A 406 ELT completes the package.
A new stainless-steel firewall had to be fabricated to replace the original as it was unlikely to get Canadian approval seeing as how it was made of a sandwich of aluminum and asbestos! He then went completely through the inverted 6-cylinder Ranger 6-440-C2 even though it had less than 50 hours since a military overhaul. All new main bearings and thorough check of all the other bits and pieces that make up the 175 hp engine was done before installation. A refurbished 3-gallon oil tank ensures a sufficient supply of lubricant. A new wood Sensenich propeller and a polished aluminum spinner completed the firewall forward installation.
LeBaron Bonney of Amesbury, MA provided the appropriate vintage material for not only the seats and doors but also the headliner. The interior was gutted and replaced with this immaculate blue and grey fabric reminiscent of the era. Each seatback contains a leather trimmed map pocket.
Flying again for the first time since July 23, 1979 on July 30, 1991, almost exactly 12 years to the day; this took place at his home airport of Langley BC.
To date he has taken it to Oshkosh and on many trips to fly-ins and airshows in British Columbia. As well he has been up and down the west coast to California, Washington and Oregon accumulating another 700 hours in the process. As most who own restored antiques or classics know, the work is never done and if one has some of the attributes of OCD, it can always be just a little bit better. BWW is no exception and is in a constant state of renewal with nothing exempt from the master’s critical eye. This is confirmed by the fact that Werner has received a wall full of awards for his workmanship during the past 23 years.