This article is from the February 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 2016 feb 1941 PT 17 Boeing Stearman

 

You’re not going to get any inflight drink service. And you certainly won’t be getting up to wander about the plane after take off. What you will get is the ride of a lifetime that also might help save the life of a child in need.

By Glenna Turnbull

Faith Hope and Charity Barnstorming Co. (FHCB) is the brainchild of Joe and Shelley Melatini. By of-fering flights in their 1941 Boeing Stearman, they’re letting people have a rare glimpse into aviation his-tory and donating 100% of the funds to the B.C. Children’s Hospital.

For Joe, the idea of creating a one-of-a-kind fundraiser using this unique method was the easy part – it was finding the plane and trying to get it home again that proved difficult. “I was looking for a way to give back,” said Joe, “and I thought flying might be the answer.”

He began his search for the perfect aircraft for the job and found it a few years later in rural Quebec. “As soon as I saw the pictures, I knew that was the one,” said Joe. The only problem was how to get it home when it could only fly for two hours at a time. He needed to track down another pilot as crazy as he was to even consider the task of flying across the country in an open cockpit plane.

They left St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on April 27, 2013 and arrived in Grand Forks 11 days later after more than 24 hours of flying time with no flight plan and at times, literally flying by the seat of their pants through whiteouts, fog and weather that at times chilled them right to the bone.

Joe’s first flights for charity happened at the 2013 Abbotsford Airshow, where he managed to collect $1500 in donations for the hospital. Now about to embark on his fourth season operating FHCB, he has surpassed $20,000 in donations and is well on his way to reaching his goal of $100,000.

“We operate primarily in spring, summer and fall due to the open cockpit,” said Joe, as he knows all too well what it’s like to be up there when it’s cold. The plane is based in Grand Forks and flights are al-ways weather dependent. A flight typically last 30 to 35 minutes and includes flying over Christina Lake, Norfolk, Greenwood and Midway as well as passing a mountain range aptly named Faith, Hope and Charity.

Contrary to what most people expect, the passenger actually sits at the front of the plane with the pilot behind them, which gives the rider an unobstructed view. When asked if it’s like driving in a convertible, Joe laughed. “It’s way more exciting than a convertible! It’s very different from an enclosed cabin. You have goggles on and warm clothes and you do have a small windshield but it doesn’t do a whole lot.”

Once you’re up in the air, you get to experience the thrill of old school aviation – the wind in your face, the smells, the sounds, the uninterrupted views and the thrill and freedom of flying. For those who want an extra thrill, Joe is happy to do barrel rolls and loops with this fully acrobatic plane. But for those who prefer to just fly in a straight line, he’s happy to oblige and leave the stunts for the next passenger. He has observed, however, that “the female species seem to be more willing to take chances.” Hmmmm.

To date, his passengers have spanned a wide array of ages – from teenagers right through to those in their 90s. “I took a lady up who was 97 in my friend’s plane,” he said. “She was an ex-RAF radar operator and she wanted to do a loop!”

Based out of Grand Forks, Joe is happy to take anyone up that will make an appropriate donation, for which they’ll receive a full tax receipt. To date, he doesn’t have any sponsors and is still footing the bill for all the gas and oil costs. And while he admits, these costs are adding up and at some point, he will need a sponsor, he remains adamant to donate it all, “because I want 100% of the donations to go to the kids.”

So why the B.C. Children’s Hospital as his cause of choice? For Joe, the answer was simple: “I love kids and they should never have to suffer. The B.C. Children’s Hospital is such a good hospital and I think it’s one of the best charities around.”

“You can’t own an airplane like this and just muck about. You have to give it a duty,” he said, and for him, that duty is raising money to help children.

As for the name of his company, Joe noted that Faith, Hope and Charity were the names given to the R.A.F. Gloster Gladiators on the island of Malta during the early days of WWII. “There were only three RAF pilots to fly them at the time. Faith Hope and Charity, although always outnumbered, made a dif-ference...Today most of us have odds stacked against us too,” said Joe, “and it is most important to overcome these odds, which much of the time is easier said than done.”

And for Joe, the best way to help kids overcome these odds is by supporting the hospital that can help them do so. “So this is how we give back, however small it may be, the challenge must be met.”

To find out more about Faith Hope and Charity Barnstorming Co. or to set up your own private flight in this rare bird of a plane, you can email Joe and Shelley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., write to them at P.O. Box 877 Nelson, BC V1L 6A5, or call 250-825-0070.