The well-crafted article on the Fieseler Storch by Howard Cook appearing on our website recently brought a pictorial response from an air show legend named Murray Kot, the only Canadian to have owned and operated the quirky German liaison aircraft in this country. And the name brought back quite a few old memories of Ottawa’s great West Carleton Air Show days in the late 1980s at the Carp airport.
Back, then we were all just getting to know the air show business and it was our good fortune to run into a bigger-than-life character like Murray, an airline pilot who simply couldn’t get his fill of flying by hauling a couple hundred butts to Acapulco. Murray loved to party almost as much as he loved to fly and the soirées surrounding the West Carleton Air Show are still epic in memory - mostly for the larger-than-life and big-hearted Kot who charmed everyone, forgot no one and who single handedly set the tone for the years of good time air shows that would ensue.
Murray’s specialty on the air show circuit was “Losing”. No chest-pounding, flame throwing fighter demo, no vertebra-cracking snap rolls, no faux-ballet-of-the-air, no zone-5 jet thunder, no patriotic yank at the heartstrings - just a weird, hard to fly German aircraft trying to keep up to the girl in the bikini pedaling a mustang bike with handlebar streamers. Murray understood that the real appeal of the Fieseler Storch for the average air show spectator (outside of history geeks) was its amazing ability to hang in the air at speeds that your Granny would find stultifying. Throw the slats and boards out and Murray’s Storch could fly so slow he got bird strikes on the trailing edges of his wings. And if you are that slow, you never win... especially when you try to lose. So Murray would send out the tree-huggers on ten speeds, a farmer on horseback, beach bunnies with Banana-seat bikes, joggers and the odd bass boat to race against his warbird. Where ever he showed up, there was always an air show volunteer who would jump at the chance to pedal madly down a runway with a 2,500 lb. airplane hovering over their left shoulder.
Calling a race between a spandexed jogger and a Luftwaffe warbird was an airshow announcer’s dream and Murray hammed it up for the crowd like nobody’s business. Every air show worth the price of admission had a comedy act - the drunken flying farmer, the guy who never flew before, the airplane that started falling apart in the air. And Murray rivaled even the legendry Pietsch family in this arena. But all the humour and aerial goofiness belied Kot’s exceptional flying skills. The Storch was no easy-to-fly, forgiving aircraft (see Howard Cook’s story - The Lovely Stork - on this website) and to fly it at extremely slow, even reverse, ground speeds required a deft hand and a feel for the aircraft born of thousands of hours of flying experience.
Kot’s flying career is staggering in its length and its variety - Murray having flown everything from a Boeing 747 to a Piper Cub. The list of commercial type ratings still held in Canada is long - DC-3, DC-4, DC-8, DC-10, B707, B737-2-3-400, B-747-1,-2,-300, B747-400-400F, Convair 440, A-310, Lear-60, -35 and HS25. But it is his accumulated hours that are mind-boggling - now over 20,000 and climbing - the equivalent of being in the air for two years and three months and never coming down. And during all that time, Murray rates the Storch as one of the most challenging and fun aircraft to fly.
Outside of his prodigious commercial flight career, Murray had a small vintage aircraft enterprise called Flying Past that specialized in the restoration, maintenance and demonstration of classic aeroplanes like the Fieseler Storch. Flying Past was based from Kot’s private airstrip in Orangeville, Ontario northwest of Toronto. The Storch was his primary aircraft and the one he demonstrated at Ontario and North East U.S. air shows. The aircraft was painted in the markings of JG-54 Grunherz (Green Hearts) Luftwaffe squadron based on the Russian front in 1942. Back in the mid-to-late 1980s when Murray was flying his Storch, it was the only example in flying operation in North America and only one of four flying airframes in the world. His Storch was built in France as a Morane-Saulnier MS-502.
The Storch arrived in Canada from France aboard a Canadian Forces C-130 Hercules and it was purchased by Kot and Ed Ruth. At the time Kot was a DC-10 Captain with Wardair and Ruth, an AME and flight engineer on Wardair’s 747s. One look at the condition of the Storch (Kot’s second) and Ruth told Murray they had to rebuild - “the right way, no time limits, and no cheaping out on materials. First we fix, then we fly.” - a tall order for a pilot rarin’ to go and excited to finally be living his dream - owning a bona fide Second World War warbird. The original airframe was powered by a Jacobs radial engine, but the rebuild included the installation of an Argus inverted V-8, the engine type used by the Luftwaffe and which gave the Storch its needle-nosed, insect-like appearance. The task of rebuilding the engine was enormous in iteslf and was accomplished by John Donaldson.
Murray sold the Storch in the early 1990s and remembers it fondly as do air show spectators back in the day. Today Kot is still as enthusiastic about aviation and is one of the true legends of the air show and vintage aircraft world here in Canada. I know a few fighter pilots from the Mississippi Air National Guard who still talk about him and his wild ways twenty years after the party. Now that’s a proper pilot legacy!
The original paint scheme was the Green Hearts standard summer camouflage as seen here and as demonstrated at the West Carleton Air Show back in 1987. Murray would eventually repaint the aircraft with the more appealing and bizarre “winter” camouflage of the Russian Front in 1942. Photo via Murray Kot.
The Storch could climb like a homesick angel and come down like Lucifer. It was hard on the landing gear, but Kot could pretty well descend vertically with the right headwind and stop in 50 feet. Take-offs of under 150 feet were standard in light wind conditions. Photo: Den Pascoe via Murray Kot.
This nice shot of C-FIWG by aviation photographer Den Pascoe reveals the inverted V-8 Argus engine, the under-chin oil cooler. The super wide stance of the Storch’s landing gear allows for much better ground control over rough fields. Photo by Den Pascoe via Murray Kot
Though the Storch is long gone (at last report in private hands in Greece), Murray Kot continued to acquire and fly aircraft of all types. Here Murray flies over farmland in Ontario in an OV-2 Sky Master, roughly the Vietnam War equivalent to the Storch in terms of observation and liaison duties, but far different from it in flying capabilities. The twin-engined aircraft is now in North Bay, Ontario. Photo: Eric Dumigan.
Kot has flown many types of aircraft in those 20,000 hours in the air. One of the best ways to add aircraft types to your life list is to own them, and Murray has owned and operated quite a few. Here he climbs out in a North American Yale, a Harvard look-alike but with fixed gear and a few other differences. Murray operated the rare beauty from his backyard grass strip called Kot Field in Orangeville, Ontario. Photo: Eric Dumigan
Murray’s Yale carried the title The Spirit of Camp Borden, where undoubtedly he got his initial flying training with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He no longer owns the Yale, but it still flies with another southern Ontario group in Dunnville. It now wears the proud name The Spirit of Dunnville. Dunnville was the location of N0. 6 Service Flying Trainig School during the Second World War. Photo: Eric Dumigan
Murray’s Yale wasn’t always in such immaculate condition. Here’s what the Spirit of Camp Borden/Dunnville looked like under the apple trees of Ernie Symonds orchard back in the 1960s. Photo via Murray Kot
Murray’s words attached to this picture when he sent it say it all. “This is my good old Stearman.” I’m detecting a little affection in those words. Photo by Michael Fast
“Kot Field” (CPV2) in Orangeville, Ontario is described fondly by Murray as “2,300 feet of duck crap and grass.” This idyllic setting is the perfect canvas upon which Murray works his art - rebuilding, maintaining and flying vintage aircraft. The passion is obvious. Photo via Murray Kot
From 747 to J-3 Cub, Murray has flown the gamut. Murray lists the Cub as the second finest aircraft ever built. Kot recently sold the 65 hp powered Piper to a buyer in Washington State. It took him two weeks to ferry the aircraft to its new owner and by all accounts it was a “hoot”. That being said, Murray admits the J-3 was not enough airplane for a transit of the Rocky Mountains. Photo via Murray Kot
During the ferry flight from Ontario to Washington State, this qualified as the easy part. Here Murray drills a hole in the Wyoming sky westward to the granite heights of the Rocky Mountains. Upon entering the high mountain passes of the Rockies, Kot had a few sphincter-tightening moments, but arrived safely two weeks after leaving Orangeville. Photo via Murray Kot