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An Amateur-Built Jet Certified in Canada?

From Bits & Pieces Newsletter, December Issue

  • Octopussy
    James Bond’s BD-5J

Last month we asked whether any readers had ever taken advantage of the Canadian regulation that permits jet-powered amateur-built aircraft. James Patterson, EAA Lifetime 83256, who is a meteorologist in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, e-mailed us about the diminutive Bede BD-5J, made popular in the early 1980s in the James Bond film Octopussy. (Watch a video about that.) The aircraft, which can have either conventional or jet engines, was designed in the 1970s by Jim Bede. It is believed that there are around 30 BD-5Js in flying condition around the world out of around 150 built. Guido Gehrmann, a Flying Bulls pilot, died in an accident in Austria in 2013 while trying an emergency landing in his BD-5J due to engine failure.

Subject: Scott Manning’s BD-5J C-GBDV

Sirs:

You were wondering if anyone had built a jet-powered aircraft in Canada. I started this BD-5 in Alert, Nunavut, back in 1973 through 1975, then Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, from 1975 to 1978. I then gave this aircraft to two BD-5 builders in Saskatoon, Doug Dack and Gord Tones. It then passed through several hands before Scott Manning picked it up. I am not sure how he was able to persuade Transport Canada to allow him to finish it as a BD-5J, but he did. He flew it at various air shows and was featured on a Daily Planet episode. Eventually he was killed while practising a flight routine for an air show at Carp on June 16, 2006. While doing a low pass, he was showing off the quick retraction of the BD-5’s landing gear when one of his flaps retracted, causing the jet to flip upside down. As he was too low to recover, he was killed instantly. You can read the accident report here.

As far as I know, he never knew where this BD-5 had been started, which was Alert, the world’s most northern permanent inhabited station. It caused quite a stir with Transport Canada’s Winnipeg inspection branch when I dropped in to advise them of my plans, showing photos of my construction. Alert was in their mandated inspection area, and (they) would have had to fly up to Alert for all pre-cover inspections. As I was able to show them detailed photos of my progress, they agreed that I could take photos of everything I did and that would be enough for them. That never happened, so not sure if it would have been allowed after the fact.

I had even purchased the Zenoah FAA-certified 700-cc two-stroke liquid-cooled engine, but like many other Bede customers, I never got the engine. While Doug and Gord had my BD-5, they added a 5.5-inch extension behind the seat bulkhead to allow room for the Honda engine they planned to use. Not sure how that affected the change to the jet version that Scott did. It would be interesting to find out what he had to do to satisfy Transport Canada’s requirements to finish it as a jet.

I got my pilot’s certificate in September 1974 with Pulse Aviation in Saskatoon. I paid $1,600 for a VFR night rating and completed my training and got my certificate in one month. Unfortunately, I had a grand mal (epileptic) seizure November 23, 2006, which turned out to be hereditary with no other cause or lasting effects. This incident resulted in my pilot medical being suspended until I am able to provide medical documents that it had no lasting effect and will never occur again. I am still working on that, but as flying is so expensive in the Arctic, I am in no hurry. I did build the first ultralights back in March and May of 1980, both Atlas XC, and helped on the third.

I still have my weight-shifter and it is properly licensed as C-INDY; but until medical (is) resolved, I will not be doing any future piloting.

I hope you have fun tracking down the history of Scott’s BD-5J.

We also received this from MD-RA Inspector Bill Tee (who incidentally did the pre-close inspection on my RV-9A and worked on the Avro Arrow). – Editor

A number of years ago I inspected a BD-5 jet at Kitchener-Waterloo airport built by a builder residing in Etobicoke, Ontario. He flew it for two years before killing himself in it at Ottawa. Rocket engines are not permitted for amateur-built aircraft in Canada.

Regards,

Bill Tee

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