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* Crash site images courtesy Eldon Bauer Collection and are by Insurance Agent Mac MacCubbin unless otherwise noted
Eldon Bauer called last week. He painted Bessy’s cheery lemon yellow Delta Air Force scheme, red nose, lightning flash, and all. Gave old 321 personality.
In 2007-2008, Eldon was doing inspections on the world’s only civilian Hercs, of N.W. Territories First Nations Airline.
Eldon lives in Kelowna now, and he and Diane were in town for the Pacific Air Maintenance Engineers conference at the River Rock. We’d tour the booths and do dinner.
I enjoy the ‘Chinka Ching’ of casinos. Reminds me of Hull Fair’s hometown razzle-dazzle and Brit seaside amusement arcades. Sigh…
The machines clamour, sawdust smells, and sand is scrubby underfoot. My early flying skills honed on the Real Aeroplane roundabout’s hanging ‘cockpits.’ You ‘flew’ about with a huge for’d rudder, which stalled if aimed too high.
Sadly by time we arrived, the displays were bare, the reps fast away after a busy week. But hey! Mary found our good friend Russ Popel, founder of Victoria Air Maintenance. New owners, Mike Ingram and Colin Montieth, are finishing up Bob Jens’ fabulous Mosquito restoration project.
Nowadays, Russ himself is happy with his Forde Lake Air Service, flying Beavers off lakes around Wawa, Ont.
BMK THIS IS JME
Eldon and I shot the breeze before dinner. Remember Labrador? Where thereby hung a tail… so here you go.
In 1970, Don Crowe’s Haida Helicopters were working a power line project at Grace Lake Labrador, about 100 miles SW of their base at Churchill Falls.
In May Eldon had just bought a 265 HP Taylorcraft T-20 floatplane, CF JME, at Gander. This was quite a ferry flight to Grace Lake before ELT’s! Six hundred miles across uninhabited bush. An experienced bush flyer, he relied on flight notes, HF radios, and bush smarts, and loaded up with survival gear, spare gas, and such. He planned to land and top the tanks after about three hours.
After a couple of hours, he was past the Gulf of St. Lawrence and crossing the Quebec tundra at 5,000 feet toward Labrador. Just over the border, he came on Lac Des Marets, the only unfrozen lake in sight, and eased down onto the step. When, bang! A float brace let go and the T-Craft settled slowly to the right.
Disaster! Swiftly pouring on the coals, he drove the little plane firmly against the shore. He could be there for some time. SAR in that area would be a drawn out affair.
He set to work right away, secured his plane, built a shelter, readied a smoke fire, tromped SOS in the snow, and cleared trees for a heli-pad, 30 blows per tree!
His small 5 Watt HF had little range, and 150 miles from camp, so he didn’t waste batteries transmitting willy-nilly, just listened. He listened for six days.
The resulting five-day search entailed 14 aircraft, and 20 surface vessels scouring the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On his sixth day came the ‘whump whump’ of a chopper, snatching up his trusty HF, he called…
"BMK this is JME! Bout time you showed up! Head north at 2,000 feet and look at your 2 o’clock!"
It was Haida’s brand new Bell 205, CF BMK, the first in Canada, with a crew of three, out to find their man. It was gloriously big and tough. After backslapping and all, they loaded up him and his precious tools; his T-craft would be fixed later.
As Eldon climbed in the left front seat, they called off the search to the RCAF Search Orion overhead.
Climbing through a chilly 5,000 feet, Eldon turned on the heater. Boom! A fire-warning light! Wha! He punched ‘Janitrol to vent’ to suck it out, but flame and smoke streamed behind, with fire soon silhouetting the guys in the back seat!
They pushed collective for rapid auto rotation to a lake below, but at 500 feet the entire tail boom simply burned off and fell away. The chopper did a loop, and fluttered down, luckily hitting the trees on a down slope as the nose swung up, the great 12-foot blades chomping the frozen trees like a mower.
They then tumbled through a quarter mile of woods to end upside down in three-foot snow. The doors jammed, but the bubble front screen popped, and Eldon was first out the front yelling, the others to follow.
The chopper then exploded and burnt to a molten heap. Later, Eldon found he’d taken eight-foot strides through the deep snow getting away! Such was the adrenalin!
A couple of the crew were in shock, and erecting their luxury ‘Haida Heli’ bush shelter was top priority. They found an axe head and two tins of freshly caramelled fruit cocktail in the wreck. The HF radio was miraculously thrown clear! …With an ‘iffy’ week-old charge.
ONLY ONE SHOT LEFT
Pilot Guy Causse had a map in his pocket, so they figured out their Lat and Long position, about 15 miles from Lac Des Marets. The radio was left off till they heard an aircraft, and would call only if it talked first; as they had only one transmission left.
After two days they heard a chopper, switched on and heard…"BMG calling BMK!" That woke them up. "BMK is at so and so Lat and Long. You’re 45 hours late!" they called.
The ordeal was over. It was John Laurie in Haida’s Allouette 2, from Lac Ion, who could only take two at a time.
Eldon went back in a week later with an inspector to see the wreck, and check on his T-craft. It was three months before Eldon got a ride to his plane with new float rigging cables. They fixed her up, and flew her out. Quite the story.
Eldon’s wife Diane is writing a book about their bush flying and missionary flights in Zaire - now the Congo, and elsewhere. This story is just a small slice of their life experiences.
PILOT BURGERS & FRIES
When we sprog wannabee RAF pilots arrived in Canada circa 1953, we discovered those amazing iconic ‘diners,’ scrumptious hamburgers, hot dogs, ham and eggs with free Ketchup, all day!
After traditional Brit delicacies of Black pudding, kippers or tripe, this was paradise. We temporary Canadians scoffed the lot. Anyplace, anytime. Blood pressure and cholesterol did not yet exist.
In recent years ‘the diner’ crept away to hide. I was sore dismayed when my local diner, the ‘deluxe Moderne Burger’ burnt down.
But Lo! To my delight last month it rose like Phoenix, restored to double its former glory, and serving burgers and fries like nothing happened. So I ‘popped in’ for a cheeseburger and enough fries to last me a week.
Ah… Memories of Calgary Cadet’s Mess! Of course I ate too much, so passed on the ice cream. But sigh, it was worth it.
So thanks to proprietor Peter Kokinis, his ‘boss’ wife Kathy, and partner Dean, for preserving a Canadiana feeding place. You can find it on West Broadway at Larch in Vancouver.
Of course, The Mary, reading over my shoulder, has me on a short leash anywhere near the place. Double sigh.
THOSE SPEEDY HARVARDS
Sad to report, but Langley Harvard 4 owner Vic Bentley emailed to tell me that the ‘Fastest Harvard in the World’, RCAF 3767 was destroyed in a fire before it ever left the Air force. Sigh.
Says so in Fletcher & McPhail’s definitive book, HARVARD, which of course I have. What a shame. Someone out there could have acted all superior about it. "By the way, did you know… etc etc" but it’s not apparently to be. However, I’ve been re-scouring my logbook, and it’s possible that it may have been MK 2 #3771, or 2879, or 2850, or just maybe…
So that’s all folks.
Tony Swain & The Mary, a couple of old Copaguys.