February 5, 2008

OK gang, fasten your seatbelts, this could be a rough ride. No, not really, just a few little flying adventures by those who sent in things they remember. I thought with our Gander connections that we might have some thoughts about planes and our experience/knowledge with them. So here goes, more comments on the topic are always welcome by clicking here on this address:

Faye@villagereporter.com

Ken Barnes remembers a few flight stories:

1. My first plane ride is clearly etched in my memory, I was about 5 years old, and went from Gander to St Johns to visit relatives. I remember walking uphill, in the old DC 3. This aircraft is probably the most famous workhorse ever, and still flies in the Caribbean and south. But it was a twin engine, very noisy, and it was strange to walk uphill to get a seat. But it was a great and memorable flight.

DC3  in Gander

2. I had a summer job working for Air Canada loading and unloading planes. This was the time they had the Viscount and Vanguard, a propeller plane that was cross Atlantic. I don't think they were anyone's favorite, but I remember there was a problem with the engine on one Vanguard, which had to be repaired at Gander and tested. We went out to the middle of one runway and I was standing in the middle of the cabin. The pilot revved the engines and at full power you could not physically keep your feet on the floor. You vibrated into the air. The engine was declared fine and the plane took off with no incident. Marvellous those prop planes were.

3. One summer Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, came through Gander on the way to Ottawa I believe, as the Russians attempted to capitalize on beating the Americans into space. I was in the background in my white Air Canada coveralls as Yuri was greeted by a procession of local dignitaries, when he exited the Russian aircraft. But it was a short line, when concluded, Yuri started into the Terminal. I simply stepped forward with no one around, stuck out my hand, and gave a firm handshake, which he accepted. He stopped and smiled and I said “Congratulations Yuri Gagarin!” He completed the handshake and carried on. I remember being struck by how short he was, and if you read the Wikipedia link below, you can see he was 5'2".

Ken Barnes, Class of 1960

 

Folks: I was asking some classmates what this plane was and why it would be in Chatham N.B. and got this fine explanation from Bob Pelley.

- Faye Lewis Raynard, Class of 1959

Faye, This is a Harvard (also called the AT-6 Texan in the USA) made by North American was a twin-seat trainer with a completely enclosed glass canopy, a tall body and low-set rectangular wings. The Harvard was the most famous WWII trainer and continued in service for a long time after the war. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan made extensive use of the Harvard for intermediate training from 1940 onwards. During the war the prairie skies were filled with them, thereby spawning the local epithet "The Yellow Horde". The total production of the trainer family was an awesome 21,342.

Many are still in service in a variety of uses.

Technical Details: The standard crew in the Harvard was two, student in the front, instructor in the rear seat. It was powered by a 440kW Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 engine. It's top speed was 208 mph (335km/h), with a ceiling of 24280 ft (7400 m) and a range of 745 mi (1200 km). It could be armed with two 0.50 inch machine guns for target practice. Later models also mounted dummy bombs for Army cooperation drills.

 

Oh yes, I once saw about 9-10 all lined up on a taxiway somewhere near Hwy 1 in NB. Had I $300-$400,000 loose change in my pocket at the time, I would have bought one because I had already seem some in Gander as a kid and had read about them, especially during the battle of  Midway.

You can see one on my website (military paintings - navy) flying over the HMCS Magnificent:http://pelleyamdq.site.voila.fr/

- Bob Pelley, Class of 1962

Wow! This guy's good. I think some folks used these for spraying spruce budworms in NB.

- Bob McKinnon, Class of 1961 St. Joseph’s School.

 

- During early WWII, Canada bought apprx 700 AT-6 Texans from the US which were flown to airports next to the US-Cda border and were then towed  and/or pushed across the border (note that the US was neutral at the time.)

- During the 2nd WW, they were used at 14 Cdn training schools  (for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan)

- The Harvard was Cda's primary advanced trainer until it was replaced by the Chipmunk in 1948

- Beginning in January, 1940 the HARVARD MkIIB version was built under license by NOORDYN of Montreal, Canada for the Royal Canadian Air Force, the RAF and the USAAF. Ultimately 2,557 Harvards were built here.

- Some 11,000 Canadians plus another 8,000 from allied countries received pilot training on the Harvard aircraft in Canada during the war years.

With that history of contact with the Harvard/Texan, hopefully one or two Canadians would have figured out how to get it in the air and back down again in one piece.

- Bob Pelley, Class of 1962

 

Bob: It still amazes me how you or anyone would know what this plane is. From a propeller and a bunch of nuts and bolts, never mind the nut holding onto the would-be prop. I found it odd that they would have an old plane at Chatham Air Force base, because all I can remember there at the time (1952) were f-86 Sabre jets, some T-33s (I think) and occasional cargo plane, but mostly the jet training planes. Seems like they would have a crash a month. I also remember one guy being sucked into the front of a Sabre jet while we were in Chatham.  No need to elaborate further. This plane pictured must have been one that showed up for an air show at the base.

- Faye Lewis Raynard, Class of 1959.

 

PAA Stratocruiser in Gander  1953

As a member of a military mobile communications team, most of my flying time was spent in the back of an old Hercules aircraft and most of the flights were uneventful. However, I do recall two or three experiences that I would rather not repeat.

My first flight into the Canadian military’s most northerly base, Alert, was a nail biter. Under the best of conditions up there, the pilots have a difficult time getting their bearings. The landscape is just one blanket of white and distance is hard to establish because there is no horizon to give you some perspective.

As we approached the very primitive landing strip, a major snow squall developed with white out conditions prevailing. It took several approaches before we could touch down. The military pilots in those days were exceptionally good but the older ones had no confidence in turning onto automatic and letting the electronics do the work. They preferred to fly visual and this could be scary at times.
     Another time, my family and I traveled overseas together when I was transferred to the Netherlands. I'll never forget the look on Flo`s face when she saw the aircraft we would be flying on. It was an old prop job and Flo remarked that it looked like something our son Terry put together with his mechano set. It took us 10 hours to get to Dusseldorf and the aircraft was buffeted from pillar to post by turbulence all the way over. There were times when we thought the plane was going to drop right out of the sky. Our youngest daughter was violently sick from the flight and we had to look ahead to a 6-hour bus trip from Dusseldorf to Nutt in Holland. We arrived in Nutt to find that our permanent accommodation was not ready and wouldn't be ready for a couple of days so we were lodged in a local inn. This turned out to be a blessing because the proprietor, seeing the condition our daughter was in, took immediate steps to get a doctor to come to the inn and take care of her. She was laid up for a couple of days. You can imagine her anxiety about getting on the aircraft to come back. Fortunately, we returned in a jet and the trip took only 6 hours.

- Dave Gilhen, RCAF Gander 1955-57

TWA Super Constellation 1953

Flying is not something I did over there in Gander. But we did fly over in 1951 from N.S.—Mom and us kids. Dad was already there. It was a pretty rough flight in one of those Dakota DC3's  that Trans Canada Airlines used. We kept hitting air pockets and bobbing up and down. I ended up using one of those paper bags they provided. I guess you always remember the traumatic things in your life. But it may be a good topic because many GA grads went on to work in aviation and started in Gander.

-          Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s Class of 1961

 

VO-ADE- first airplane to land in Gander-pilot Doug Fraser

As Gander celebrates 50 years in the ‘new town’ I wonder how many of you still have those fond memories of the old town and its disappearance from the landscape. If just one of those buildings could have been saved and restored to preserve a piece of that ‘old town’ memory, what place would you choose, and why? Send your comments to me: faye@villagereporter.com and we’ll get them posted here? Perhaps you have a picture or two that you could share?? Thanks, Faye