by Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – Motorists travelling south of town on Highway 2 have a new land marker in their peripheral vision: a full size airplane elevated 20 feet off the ground. The plane not only provides an interesting addition to the landscape in front of Syd and Nettie Spiker’s property in Sturgeon County; it serves as a fully functioning weathervane. But there is more to the plane than merely marking the entrance to the Spiker home or marking the direction the wind is blowing. The plane is a tribute to the builder, Mike Schiller, a friend Syd Spiker knew for more than 50 years, a man who passed away from cancer last year.
“Mike was a very talented man, and everything he built was to precision,” Spiker recalled of his late friend. “He was a true craftsman.” Schiller’s plane was a four-passenger unit with a wingspan in excess of 30 feet. Spiker said the plane was designed with retractable landing gear and two entrance doors, the latter a feature uncommon in smaller planes.
But while the plane was precise in every detail, Schiller never finished the project and never flew the plane, a situation that puzzled Spiker. “I never found out for sure why, but what was done so far is a masterpiece,” Spiker said, adding his friend had built many things over his life, including one of the first 4-wheel drive tractors in the province, and a 40-foot plus motorhome that was built from the ground up. “Mike built and designed all the molds for the plane. I’ve owned several planes and I must say this is an amazing work of art for a home built.”
Spiker said he would often take people to see the craftsmanship when the plane was being built in Schiller’s Bruderheim shop. He so admired the work that when Mr. Schiller passed away, he bought the plane from his widow, originally intending to use the plane as a large lawn ornament on his property, but ultimately deciding to elevate it on a pole to be used a weathervane. “I think that’s where it should be,” Spiker said. “I’ve had to go up several times and put spoilers on it. It was built to fly and it wants to fly. It gets going there pretty good in the wind, especially from the north.”
The current plane’s owner thinks his friend would be pleased with where his plane wound up. “I think he’d be happy,” Spiker said. “I’m going to make a plaque someday and mount it right on there for him.”
Top: A four-passenger plane now serves as a weathervane on the Spiker’s Sturgeon County property south of Morinville. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
Middle left: The late Mike Schiller poses with his work. – Submitted Photo
Above: The plane is hoisted onto its pole in Spiker’s driveway. – Submitted Photo