Monday, January 31, 2005

 

Peter's German Hunters Taste Success!

Peter Kalden is a friend of mine, and a well-respected Manitoba Outfitter. He owns Davis Point Lodge And Outfitting in the St. Martin area of Manitoba. I came to know him as he contracted the company I was working for, Northway Aviation, to do the flying for his non-resident Moose Hunts. The flying was conducted from a base on the Icelandic River in Riverton, Manitoba.

Peter was allocated a stretch of river on the Berens River near Long Lake, roughly 25-30 miles northwest of Little Grand Rapids. Peter had a beautiful stretch of river running east-west, with beautiful moose habitat on all sides. There was also an old trapper's cabin along this stretch of river, but it had seen many years of decay and unuse.

Peter is of German extraction, and had connections overseas to offer guided non-resident hunting packages. This fall in particular he had a group of German citizens coming to hunt.

We met on the docks early the morning of Peter's hunting party's departure date. We usually needed the Otter, Beaver, and Cessna 185 to transport a large party of hunters and guides. Hunters are a breed unto themselves. I am sure they bring everything they personally own out into the bush, as well as items they have pilfered from their neighbours the previous evening. We always found a lot of humour in what the hunters would bring.

We finally managed to load the party into the 3 airplanes, and cranked off down the river to takeoff and transport them out to the Berens River. The trip took about an hour, and we dropped the party off on a small rocky knoll on the edge of the river. Basically, the trip into the bush was quite uneventful, except when Peter slipped into the water while trying to help me secure the Otter to the shoreline. I tried to suppress the smile trying to escape my lips. This was late September, and the water was very cold. I didn't understand the words or the language that came hurtling out of Peter's mouth as he quickly exited the water, but then again, I probably wouldn't have wanted to anyway. Peter's German guests really seemed to be impressed with the stretch of river, as when they exited the airplane, each guest would stop, look up to the sky, sniff the air, thump their chest with both fists, and say "CANADA"!!

I bid the party adios and headed back to Base. They had a mobile telephone and would call daily to let us know of any success they had, and also to let us know they were OK.

Within a few days, Peter called to say they were having great success and they had meat to pick up if we were in the area, but it was a cold Fall, so when the meat was picked up wasn't critical, as they had it covered and hanging. It just so happened we had aircraft in the area, so we picked up their meat, which happened to be 4 Moose. These guys had tremendous luck, or great guiding. (We told the guides it must have been luck, jokingly. Peter had good guides: his son Alex, along with Brent, and Jerry.) We transported the meat back to our Base, and made arrangements for Peter's wife to pick up the moose meat, as the hunting party was staying in the bush for another few days to fish and relax.

We picked up Peter's group of hunters a couple of days later. I was amused and astonished to learn that the German hunters had insisted on staying in the old trapper's cabin, even though it leaked, was full of mice, and was rotting. They said they were really experiencing the "Canadian bush", and it seemed to be a badge of honour to them to have slept in a "real, honest-to-goodness, aboriginal's trapper's cabin". It made me ponder momentarily that most Canadians don't realize the value of the diverse and basically unspoiled, priceless geography that we own. I'm sure there are many countries in Europe where the natural, unspoiled wilderness is virtually nil. I'm sure this trip was the trip of a lifetime, what with the breathless beauty of the wilderness, the trapper's cabin, the tremendous moose hunting, and last, but not least, the chuckle everybody had when Peter fell in the water. Anyways, we made it back to our Base, unloaded, and bid the hunters "auf wiedersehen". I am sure this was a trip they were going to remember due to the numbers of pictures they had taken over the past number of days, and I was happy to have been a part of their "Great Canadian Adventure"!


Old CF-UKN on "the step" transporting Peter and his crew of moose hunters out to the Berens River.... Posted by Hello


A beautiful fall day on the Icelandic River, Manitoba. As you can see, 4 beautiful specimens....( I mean the moose racks, silly.....) Canada is sure blessed with an abundance of natural resources!! Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 30, 2005

 

Educate The Kids, Change The World!

As more Iraq election news comes in, my optimism grows. Check out some Iraq election day photos and comments from Beef Always Wins, and also from Iraq The Model. Also, help the Iraqi kids, and give them a bright future!

 

Wild Rice! - (also called " Mahnoomin, Folle Avoine, Canadian Rice, Water Oats, Blackbird Oats, and Marsh Oats")

FALL! 2003! I loved the fall. Cool mornings, usually sunny skies, shorter days, moose-hunting season, beautiful colours in the bush, and, oh yeah, "Wild Rice"!

I blasted off from Silver Falls on the Winnipeg River in Manitoba. I was making a short flight of about 6-7 minutes duration to a "Wild Rice"-producing lake northeast of our base. As soon as I was airborne I could see fog in the distance and through "Murphy's Law" I knew that the lake I was going to would be covered. I decided to continue on as it was only a short distance. If I couldn't see the lake, I would return to base.

I arrived at the lake, which we call "Round Lake", and started to orbit. The fog was covering the lake, but I was starting to be able to see holes in the fog and occasionally the lake surface below. "Holy Crap", I muttered, as through one hole I watched the rice-picker skim by on the surface. I figured I would circle down and see if I could get down through a hole and land.

Round Lake is normally a well-producing wild rice lake, usually yielding about 70,000 lbs. of green rice yearly. It is very shallow with a loon-shit bottom, and is tricky to operate into and out of if the wind is wrong. One can only land and power taxi in two opposite directions, as water-rudders are useless due to the thickness of the rice and the fact that you are dragging bottom to get to the dock. Once at the dock, rice is loaded aboard the aircraft, and one has to be vigilant in calculating the load aboard, as the floats do not displace fully due to the fact you are sitting on bottom. One then warms up beside the dock, and opens the throttle, and takes off. Overcoming what displacement there is to "get on the step" is made easy as the aircraft basically becomes airborne right out of the mud. A lot of fun when the wind is correct, a royal pain in the ass when the wind is wrong.

I watched the picker go by again, and timed my descent. I will get underneath the low cloud cover (basically the fog as it was lifting), and circle to land. If it is still too low, I will climb back up and go back to base. Today I was flying Otter C-GHYB, with a 1000 HP Pezetel engine and DC-3 prop. I made it underneath the cloud cover and banked to land in the tracks in the rice and mud that we had made earlier in the week. I powered to the dock and was met by my friend Lindsay. His brother Barry was on the picker and I figure his heart beat erratically for a minute or two as I came through the cloud hole. This was not anything unsafe, just startling for him, I'm sure, to suddenly see an airplane, and not to have heard it due to the rice-picker noise.

Wild rice is an annual aquatic grass, and the only cereal grain that is native to North America, and has been a staple for the aboriginal people for at least a thousand years. It is very high in protein and carbohydrates, and very low in fat. It is also high in potassium and phosphorous content, and full of thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin (B vitamins).

The native people used to harvest wild rice
by canoe, knocking the long stems so that the ripe seeds would fall into the bottom of the canoes. Once an amount was gathered, it would be cooked over an open fire until hard. Then, it would be spread on a hide on the ground, and stepped on to dislodge the chaff from the kernel. Then it was thrown upwards in the air, with the chaff being blown away, and the kernel returning to the hide. Today, wild rice is cooked in large rotary grain-roasters, then agitated and screened according to size, with the chaff being separated, a very interesting process. As for the harvest of wild rice today, it is usally done with a twin-pontooned airboat powered by an automotive or aircraft engine turning a prop, with a large "header" in the front to gather the rice.

Barry pulled the airboat onto the landing and I greeted him. Then, he, Lindsay, and I loaded up old HYB with a load of wild rice. I bid them adieu, warmed up my horse, opened the throttle, and whistled into the sky. I repeated this scenario a few more times that day, and cleaned up the rice they had on hand at the lake. They would "pick" the lake again in a few more days, and we would go haul some more rice. A lot of fun when weather conditions are right, and just another day in my life.


Taxiing in and parking in the "grain" field... Posted by Hello


ABOVE: Getting to the dock can be tricky. MIDDLE: C-GHYB and her picking partner.... BELOW: The boys at work after dumping the "header" of rice... Posted by Hello

 

Congratulations Iraqi Citizens!!

72% eligible-voter turnout, and nowhere near the violence predicted. I hope this sends a message to all factions in Iraq. The people have spoken and this should be the first step on the road to recovery. Here is hoping!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

 

Iraq Election

I sit at the computer and my mind wanders to the people of Iraq and realize it is 3:22 AM, Jan. 30, in Iraq, and the Iraqi election will begin at 7:00 AM Iraq time, 10:00 PM CST in Manitoba, Jan.29. I sure hope it goes as well as can be expected under the circumstances, the law-abiding peaceful citizens of Iraq need a break. I won't get into a pro and con discussion of going to war, but the reality is the "Coalition" is there now, and everything must be done to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis, especially the children. Show them there is a better way of life, where a kid can be a kid, and not be indoctrinated with hate. Anyways, here is hoping.

One other thing, I wish the mainstream media would air on their networks the tremendous amount of "good"; ie- rebuilding and reconstruction, food aid, medicine, water, expertise, etc., that the Americans and their partners have done. All we ever see is doom and gloom, which should be reported, but show the flip-side as well. You can't tell me that with all the soldiers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, there isn't "good" being done. Abu Ghraib was a travesty, but is the exception, and the perpetrators will be dealt with. There are tremendous moral and dedicated people in Iraq, with honest intentions of improving quality of life for the locals. Click this LINK to find other links and different opinions of the Iraq and the Middle East situation.

In closing, I choose to be optomistic about the election. There will be violence but hopefully the voice of the people will be heard. My prayers, and many others', I'm sure, are with the Iraqi people.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

 

New Update On Hatred!!!

Filth being spewed by supposed people of influence. Terrible and ridiculous! This is what we are up against! Experience the simmering and embedded hatred, right HERE!!!!! The "verbal sewage" coming from the Mullahs makes me ill, as I'm sure it will make you ill also as you read the transcripts of their speeches. So-called religious leaders are saying that the tsunami was punishment for sex tourism, give me a break! So many children killed and families disrupted, a total tragedy, and some religious (so-called) leaders blaming the victims! Check out how women can be treated with the full support of the DESPOTS in power in some of the backward Middle East countries right HERE!!!!! These people are a blight on all humanity! Cheers to the people in countries with a sense of humanity who have stepped up to the forefront and have helped the tsunami victims!!

 

Highwaymen At The Border!!

January is a brutal month for weather in Manitoba, so what better of an idea than to head south for a couple of days, even if where you are going is still cold, but not as cold? "Hell of an idea", I thought, when Edward phoned and asked me if I would like to make a road trip. We decided to head south Jan.7 and return on the 8th or 9th. We also dragged our friend Doug along for comic relief.

Edward is a friend I have known for about 20 years and is also the owner of Blue Water Aviation Services Ltd., in Pine Falls, Manitoba, which is the company I am employed with. Doug is a friend I have known for about 10 years and worked alongside. Both Doug and Ed fly also, so we figured our episode down south would be entitled "Dumb Bush Pilots in the City". (Still, not quite as hilarious or dangerous as "Dumb City Boys in the Bush", which we experience with some tourists regularly.)

We hit the road and headed for Minneapolis, Minnesota. We were going to the All-Canada Show where Canadian fishing and hunting lodge operators can showcase their operations to prospective customers. We figured we would meet up with some old friends and customers and say "hello".

We hit the border and cruised through U.S. Customs with ease. We were handled by a very polite female and quickly sent on our way. We hit the Interstate and made Minneapolis in good time, the whole trip taking us roughly 8 hours.

Anyways, we made our appearance at the All-Canada Show and had a good time, even though the beer, Canadian Labatt Blue was $5 US a bottle, which surprisingly did not deter our consumption! We saw a number of friends; Wayne from Thunderbird Lodge and Outposts, Donna and Ernie from Huron Air and Trophy Fish Outposts, John and Shad from Dogskin Lake Lodge and Outposts, Shawn from Jackson's Lodge and Outposts, Robert and Michelle from Munroe Lake Lodge, and Dick and Ryan from Cobham River Lodge. All in all we enjoyed ourselves and drank some whiskys and beers.

We decided to head north on Saturday afternoon. We said our good-byes and headed north on the Interstate. We made a few stops along the way, the last stop being in a small town before the border crossing at Emerson, Manitoba. Being "Bush Pilots" of stout hearts and strong minds, we wandered over to the "liquor commision". We had been in the US for over 24 hours, so the least we expected was to be able to take a bottle of whisky each back to "Friendly Manitoba". I chose a 1.75 liter (66 ouncer) bottle of MacAdams Canadian Rye Whisky, and Edward chose a 1.75 liter bottle of Canadian Club Whisky. I paid $12.50 US for mine, and Edward paid slightly more for his. We thought we were getting away cheap. HA!!! It wasn't until later we found out that you are only allowed to import $50 worth of goods back into Manitoba if absent for less than 48 hours, and alcohol and tobacco are excluded. Oh well, we'll just pay the duty on the bottles, no big deal.

We hit the border and declared our contraband. We were told to bring our receipts into the Customs building. Our vehicle was searched and a mess was made inside the vehicle. The contents of my personal day-pack were strewn all over the vehicle: i.e.- camera, toothbrush, socks, chequebook, etc.. The hood on the vehicle was raised and the engine was searched for who-knows-what. I was starting to get a little pissed. I realize the Border Guards were just doing their jobs, but it was still all very annoying.

Anyhow, to finish the tale, nothing was found in the vehicle (except the whisky) and we went to ante up the extra charge for the bottles we had. My jaw dropped when they told me to pay $37.44 CAN. I wasn't going to argue, so I paid it, grabbed my receipt, and Edward paid the same. We pissed and moaned about the extra charges for a few moments, and then had a good chuckle about our "cheap" whisky.

What gets me about the whole affair is; how can Americans import Canadian-Made whisky into the U.S., pay the duty and taxes, and then sell it to me for $16.03 CAN. when I can't buy it in Canada for that price? Somebody is getting rich. Look at the following document, maximize it to full-screen, and weep. $24.64 Provincial liquor mark-up fee, plus duty, GST, and PST!!! So, the $16 CAN Canadian-Made whisky purchased in the U.S. cost me $53 CAN by the time I got home. I tell you, it still tasted the same, but I still shake my head at the mark-up.

Yes, there are highwaymen at the border, and the government has their hands in your pocket like you wouldn't believe. (Ever wonder what Alberta oil should really cost us??????)


How can a Canadian-made product cost me 3 and 1/3 times as much in Canada as compared to being purchased in the U.S.? I don't understand this tax grab, it is violently excessive to me. By the way, gas was $.55 a liter CAN in the U.S. after the conversion. Go figure..... Posted by Hello

 

BTU Gets A Nose Job!

Hello, good to be back. I have been in Dauphin, Manitoba. I am doing a Game Survey for moose and elk with Manitoba Natural Resources, and will be posting some info on the survey in the near future. I didn't have access to a computer while I was gone, and when I returned I received some nice pictures by e-mail, and they form the basis of my story for today.

The Otter I fly today is registered C-GBTU. It is a very solid machine and a workhorse. It is Serial # 209, and was delivered to the Indian Air Force on Nov. 27, 1957. The original registration was IM-1711. It gained a few thousand hours over many years, and then "languished in anguish" for another number of years. With a tremendous increase in worth over the past 25 years, Otters were sought out in countries they were originally delivered to for purchase and refurbishment. This is how I came to know the good ship C-GBTU.

C-GBTU was purchased from the Indian Air Force in the mid-90's and overhauled in Pine Falls, (actually up-river in Silver Falls) Manitoba. The work was accomplished by Winnipeg River Aircraft and Art and Don Gaffray. The old 600 HP Pratt and Whitney 1340 CI engine was removed and a 1000HP Pezetel 1820 CI engine was installed. The Pezetel engine gave yeoman service, but time and technology march on and the decision was made to convert C-GBTU to a turbine Otter, with the engine of choice being a Walter turbine.

During the last 3 months, old C-GBTU has had her paint and her modesty stripped away but in the end it will be well worth the humility she will have suffered. She has received new paint which looks marvelous, and the 1000 HP radial has been removed, and the new turbine is being installed. She is also getting a complete new instrument panel, and has also had a Baron STOL Kit installed.

In closing, some old-timers and aviation purists will say that airplanes such as Otters and Beavers should be left as is, but conversions and upgrades such as these will keep these fine DeHavillands operating for another 50 years.

For more pictures and the full story on good old C-GBTU and her conversion, click HERE!!!


C-GBTU tethered to the dock in Thompson, Manitoba, sporting her 11' (132") 4-bladed prop and Pezetel engine. She was soon to get a nose job... Posted by Hello


C-GBTU scoffs at the surf at Munroe Lake Lodge, Manitoba, Sept. 2003... Posted by Hello


With tools, finesse, and Kenny's unerring eye, C-GBTU's proboscis was sculpted from a pug-like appearance to a narrow thing of beauty.... Posted by Hello


New paint makes C-GBTU a proud ship... Posted by Hello


The "new" look of the instrument panel.... Posted by Hello


A turbine engine is just a "stove pipe and a fan"...... Posted by Hello


Once the prop is installed, and a few more items completed, C-GBTU will soldier on in the Canadian skies for many more years to come..... Posted by Hello


C-GBTU outside and ready to face the world, the elements, and any load or trip thrown her way. The humility of the surgery is gone, and she is going back to work with an attitude, albeit a good attitude..... Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 13, 2005

 

Landed In God's Catcher's Mitt

It was open-water season of 1987. I was flying a Beaver on Edo 4580 floats for Little Grand Rapids Air Service. I was flying old C-GJJG south from a fishing camp north of Pauingassi, Manitoba, returning to Base. I had heard some murmurings on the radio about an aircraft being in trouble, but I had no concrete details. Then I received some information that made all the plaque in my arteries come loose.

"It is Rollie", Oliver said, "and he is down alongside the Berens River!" My heart leapt into my mouth, and I had to re-swallow it as one would a goldfish! Rollie flew for a local air carrier, and Oliver flew a twin-engined aircraft for Southeast Resource Development Council, which is a group of 9 Native communities east of Lake Winnipeg. He was actually in the area of the downed aircraft and said he would go take a look. He was also Rollie's brother! The reason anxiety was turning me into a noodle? My wife and 2 small daughters were onboard the aircraft that crashed!

Oliver made it to the crash-site and circled, and said he could see everyone on a rock away from the airplane, and that the aircraft was still upright. I found this amazing as one who knows the area well. Oliver also said a helicopter was on the way from Berens River. Of course I wanted to go to the scene myself, but obviously the helicopter was the prudent choice.

I landed back at Base and phoned the air carrier's office in Berens River to check the status of the passengers. The helicopter had made one trip, and was now returning with the second load. The passengers were flown to Berens River as it was the closest community and had a Nursing Station and airstrip. The passengers would be observed, and flown to Little Grand Rapids the next day. I finally talked to my wife, and she assured me she and my kids were OK. Relief, with a capital R!!! She had held our infant tight, and our 2 year old had bumped through the forced landing quite well. Her Cabbage Patch doll, Bernice, had lost it's hat in the crash. My daughter Kelly was quite upset. She mentioned it on the chopper ride out and on the next trip the chopper pilot retrieved it! (They evacuated the women and children first, of course.)

My wife and kids arrived in Little Grand Rapids the next day, and man, was I happy to see them! Life is so fragile.

It was learned that the engine on the aircraft, a Cessna 206, had seized. Rollie had made it to an opening beside the river and set it down upright. The nose gear, prop, and wings were damaged. The reason there wasn't more damage or injury was because the airplane had a belly-pod!! The aircraft skidded across the swamp and stayed upright, but the belly-pod was obliterated! The passengers had quickly evacuated, but one fellow seemed to be in distress. It was discovered he had survived the crash OK, but was still feeling the effects of all the 5 Star Whisky he had consumed the night previous. What a way to sober up!

This was a number of years ago, folks, and I'll give you an update. I am still married to the same woman, Lucille. Kelly, the 2 year old in the story, is a second-year university student. Kody, the infant, is in Grade 12, and President of Student Council. We have 3 other children, and continue on with every-day life. Sometimes, my mind wanders back close to 2 decades, and I shudder at what might have been, and I am thankful for what I have, and how it turned out.


Top, an aerial view of where the crash occurred. Beautiful moose country!!! Bottom, the Cessna 206 upright and damaged. The belly-pod saved the aircraft and passengers from more severe damage or injury. The aircraft was later helicoptered out. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

 

Unforgiving Lake Winnipeg

I was flying south along the east shoreline of Lake Winnipeg, and I liked to stay low, as there is a spot south of Catfish Creek where I have seen the remains of moose killed by wolves more than once. Sure enough, there was a kill on the shoreline, and blood and hide strewn around in the snow beside the kill. "Amazing", I thought. Nature at work. The wolves had gorged and left, but would be back to eat more. The birds were at work at the kill now, and in a few days, there would be nothing left. Nature is very efficient. Oh well, I better get back to Base, I have one more trip to do today.

I was flying an Otter on wheel-skis for Northway Aviation Ltd. during the late 1990s. We ran a scheduled service and hauled freight during the winter to communities in the Lake Winnipeg area. I loved flying the Otter, old CF-UKN, serial# 456. She wasn't built for speed, but she was made to haul. Anyway, I had just seen the moose killed by wolves and was heading back to Base. I was north of the community of Bloodvein River when the radio crackled:

"UKN, Northway."
"Hello", I replied.
"Check out the crossing, we heard there was a truck stuck."
"Will do, and I'll let you know what I see," I told dispatch.

The "crossing" was where the Winter Road to communities north crossed Lake Winnipeg, just north of Pine Dock, Manitoba. There is a lot of current at this part of the lake, as it is narrow. The ice is always moving, creaking, and groaning. Then, when it gets really cold, the ice expands, cracks, lifts, moves, shifts, shimmies, and does all sorts of crazy things. Yes, I did say expands. Water doesn't always follow the laws of physics. The Manitoba Highways Department do their best to keep the crossing open and in good shape, and this means sometimes closing the road for maintenance, and bridging cracks. Recently, I knew that a crack had been bridged.

I was about 5 miles north of the crossing, and I could see something was wrong. There was a large truck at the crack, and it's tractor and trailer were at funny angles. I circled the area and realized there were people on scene to help, and that the truck driver had made it out of the truck OK. At the time the truck dropped through the ice, I'm sure the driver experienced what we in the aviation industry refer to as the "pucker factor". An instinctive and automatic tightening of the sphincter muscles so as not to soil oneself. Trucking probably was much like flying anyways. Interesting, but with stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of sudden terror. I circled for a few more minutes, and saw the truck belonged to Reimer Express Lines. Reimer is a Manitoba company, and extremely reputable in North America.

I returned to Base, picked up another load of freight, and headed north. On my return a couple of hours later, I went to take a look at the "crossing" again. The truck was still there, of course, as it would take a day or two of jacking, lifting, and pulling to free it from the icy tentacles of Lake Winnipeg. As I circled I had a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding area. My thoughts returned to the moose killed by the wolves and I marveled at the beauty and the harshness of the environment, and as the crew worked to free the truck, I realized just how small "man" is when it comes to dealing with nature. "Miniscule", I figured. My mind returned from inner thoughts, and I realized the sun would be setting soon, so I rolled the old girl to a heading of south, and returned to Base. I put my airplane away for the night, and inhaled some "brews" with the rest of "the boys". Just another day in the life of a Bush Pilot from Manitoba!!!


UKN was a fine piece of "Canadian-built Iron". She was built for the harsh environment of the bush. She also had a nose for trouble, and whether it be a downed moose, airplane, truck, or cabin on fire in the bush, she was there..... Posted by Hello


Nerves of steel and a steady hand are needed when driving Manitoba's winter roads. The "Pucker Factor" also helps..... Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 06, 2005

 

God Bless America!!!!

I think the "Tsunami Disaster" should really open up some people's eyes about the American people. The "only" people on earth you can "always" count on in time of crisis. What other country on earth would have two former Presidents, one 80 years old, and one recovering from heart surgery, spearheading a relief effort? American servicemen delivering medicine and water to the stricken, always being the first to help. The U.S. Government has pledged $350,000,000 so far, with more to come, I am sure, and the American people have already donated another $120,000,000 out of their own pockets!! I hope the people and countries that are always maligning the Americans do as much. The American flag and what it represents always has and always will be the standard all countries should strive towards. I have more to say on this issue, but Howard Schnauber says it MUCH better than a humble sap like myself ever could, right HERE! God Bless America!!!

 

Belly-Slide Into Berens River!!! (Or,The Belly-Pod Saves The Day!!)

Wally called me on the "Alexander Graham Bell". "I want to go to the Fish Station at Berens River, on Monday morning", he said. It was Friday. "OK", I told him, "see you Monday". That meant a trip with the Cessna 185, C-FZZP, on wheel-skis. Right on!

Wally worked for Public Works, Canada and looked after the repair work that was done to the many docks at the fish stations and communities around Lake Winnipeg. The Berens River Fish Station dock needed some work and Wally wanted to have a look at it.

Monday came, and Wally and I fired off for Berens River from Northway Aviation's Base at Arnes, Manitoba. I was a little uneasy that morning because I was highly experienced on skis and knew the risks of landing on Lake Winnipeg with skis or floats on a GOOD day. The winds were light, but it was a 200' ceiling, with good visibility and heavy overcast. The problem in these conditions is you cannot discern your landing surface, as you have no depth perception due to the low-light conditions, and snow-drifts cannot be seen.

The 45 min. flight to Berens River was uneventful, but I was still uneasy about the landing. The fish station is a mile offshore on an island, with no shelter from any direction. The surface of the "Big Lake" in winter can resemble the "Lunar Surface". Anyways, we arrived and I surveyed the area. Just as I thought, the surface looked totally flat and white, but I knew it wasn't. My old "bush" training took over, and I circled to wait and see where the Ski-Doos were traveling. The Native people are smart, they will make their trails along a shoreline in a little bit of shelter, or between the drifts where it is relatively flat. They don't travel over rough ground and drifts if they can avoid it. I saw where the snowmachines were traveling, and a trail went right by the fish station. I flew low to survey it, and from what I could see, it looked quite adequate. I flew an approach with power and full flaps, and touched down gingerly on the ski-doo trail. The speed of the aircraft bled off, and the weight settled on the skis. "Another great landing by the famed aviator", I thought to myself. Crap! There's that misplaced arrogance again. I looked at Wally, and he grinned at me. I looked back out the front window, as we were just sliding to a stop. There was a slight rise in the trail, and as we went over it I heard "CRACK". Shit! I reacted instantly and pulled the mixture control. The prop started slowing down as the aircraft laid to the left, and the left gear leg bent forward toward the prop. The wing bending, and the horizontal stabilizer ripping off went through my mind in a fraction of a second, and then it was over. I looked up at Wally on an angle and said "Out"! We exited the airplane, and I ran to see the damage. The left gear leg had failed forward, but stopped before it hit the prop, and the wing was just grazing the snow, as was the horizontal stabilizer. What the??? The "Gods" are smiling on me. The aircraft was saved more serious damage by .......the "belly pod"! The pod on the Cessna 185 is very deep and can accommodate all sorts of gear or freight. It is very sturdy, made from Fiberglas, and in this case supported the aircraft in the snow without being damaged itself. Neither one of us was hurt, so Wally caught a ski-doo ride to the fish station, and I phoned our Maintenance Department.

A plan was soon made that a pilot/engineer would fly an airplane up to the runway at Berens, come down to the lake and look at ZZP, and then wait for Wally and fly he and I back to our Base at Arnes. This was what we did, but before we left, we got a friend of ours, Farin, to look after the downed airplane overnight due to the gas sniffers.

Morning came early, and we took a truck and headed up the
"Winter Road" to Berens River. A loader had plowed a narrow road out to the airplane for us so we could get the truck close. Les("The Cable Guy"), Wes("Dash Riprock"), Sveinn("The Swede"), and I went to work. We drained the fuel, detached the ski cables, and physically lifted the airplane to support it on a 4X4. The gear box was destroyed, but we replaced the bolt and cabled the gear leg rearward to the rear float attachment fitting, and forward to the engine-mount firewall attachment point. Then we Herc-strapped the two gear legs inward toward each other to tension the whole dog's breakfast. Finally we were done. For some reason, nobody wanted to fly out with me. It was 45 min. as opposed to 3 hrs. by truck. Chickenshits! No, actually, I didn't need the extra weight anyways, plus I think they may have had "Road Rockets" to swill on the drive back. Anyways, I took off on the loader trail and made it back to base. Jim, the owner, was actually quite happy to see his airplane and find that if not for the "pod", the damage would have been significantly worse.

The airplane was hangared and taken out of service. During the repair phase, we learned that the box that held the gear leg (the gear leg itself hadn't failed) had been cracked 2/3rds of the way through on one side previously, as there was discolouration and wear. A clean break is always shiny. The aircraft was fitted with a P Ponk modification to eliminate the gear problem in the future, as ZZP flew floats and skis year-round, and it takes a toll on the gear. The aircraft was soon returned to service to finish the ski season. She received new paint and interior in the years to come, and soldiers on today slicing the blue sky over the Pre-Cambrian Shield country of beautiful Manitoba.


For some reason, the horizon and wings don't match.... Posted by Hello


TOP- No matter where you go on earth, there is always some "Ham" in the photo....
BOTTOM- "The Swede", thoroughly impressed with the whole situation.... Posted by Hello


The "boys" at work. With a little grunting and imagination, old ZZP was flown home... Posted by Hello


Above, my buddies "Handy Randy" and "McLeod", with old C-FZZP, still sporting "The Pod", in her new livery! Below, C-FZZP with her "kinfolk"..... Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 02, 2005

 

Hector's Tackle Wins The Game!!!

My brother Corey, (you know him as "Santa", or "Gene, Recessive"), is a helicopter pilot, and also prides himself on being somewhat of a story-teller. He is younger than I, and he spent time during my "early years" in Aviation as our Base Manager at a combined Float-Ski Base in Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba. He developed a love for aviation, and soon after received his Helicopter Pilot Licence from Provincial Helicopters, Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. He then gained employment with a company, and started to gather flying hours. One of the initiations of most "green" helicopter pilots in Manitoba is to be sent to a northern community to fly the "breakup", or "freeze-up", depending on the time of year. His story takes place in the 1990's, at a community in the northern reaches of the province. I will let Corey relate what happened. It is hilarious, and here it is!!!


Okay, just to change the pattern of the last few weeks I thought I'd share a story of something that happened to me when I first started in helicopters. Everything is completely factual, with names and locations changed or ommitted to protect the innocent (I.E. Guilty!):

I was flying in my first season after getting my licence. The machine was a turbocharged piston that actually was a good performer when it wasn't overloaded (which pretty much meant when I was alone). I had just dropped off some native trappers at a fishing camp and had to take a guy and his wife back to the community we were working out of. This was all taking place during "freeze-up", when many of the northern communities of central Canada rely on helicopters for almost all transportation.

After I unloaded the guys I brought in, the people I was to bring back to town showed up with all their stuff. I stood there using four-letter words as I surveyed the pile of guns, beavers, ducks, geese, moose meat and fish that I was somehow supposed to take-off with and fly 50 miles to town. Finally, muttering under my breath, I started loading the machine...luckily(?) I had utility baskets on the side of the machine to handle the bulky articles. I quickly noticed the pile didn't seem to be diminishing as the baskets filled up... then I found out why... every time I turned my head to load the machine, someone threw more birds on the pile! When I caught them at that I swore loudly at everybody for about five minutes... the placid calm that they exhibited at my, very vituperative, onslaught told me they'd heard it all before.

So, I was finally loaded up and ready to go. In a move that preceded air-bags in cars by several years, I had securely packed ducks and geese around the front seat occupants to protect them in the event of a hard-landing. With all secure I went to full-throttle... this apparently was a signal for everyone in the camp to gather in front of the helicopter grinning toothily (some of them anyway). Brimming with confidence I calculated how many "extra" RPM's I might need to clear the trees in front of me (at this point I had such a death-grip on the cyclic I could barely squeeze the trigger due to cramping), inhaling deeply I pulled pitch, rotated and "went for it" (a very exciting if not-recommended departure procedure... however, very necessary in this "situation"). As I climbed, all the people ran under the helicopter spinning and smiling like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. "Oh well" I muttered, "it'll be a soft landing if the engine quits". As the trees approached I started to worry a bit, as it appeared the tips of the blades were barely going to clear... confirmed seconds later as the fuselage passed through two tallish trees like Lui Passaglia kicking a field goal. Suddenly the low-rotor horn sounded, "right on schedule" I thought as I lowered the collective slightly to recover RPM. As I "milked" the collective, at tree-top level, with all those people still running beneath me, I felt a bit like Wile E. Coyote, cranking that hand railway cart as he chased the roadrunner. Finally, the trees gave way to lake and I could dive, get some airspeed and silence the horn as the RPM came back into the green. I leaned back and smiled with pleasure at another successful take-off.

So, after an uneventful flight :wacko:, I landed to disgorge my passengers. It wasn't until I walked around the front of the machine that I discovered (by tripping on it) a steel wire, roughly the size and consistency of very thick guitar string, hanging off the pitot tube. It was wrapped very tightly around the tube, and then trailed over the toe of the left skid and thence down the left side of the aircraft for about 40 feet. Since this put the wire well past the tailrotor... which was on the same side... I had a moment of pride that I always flew in trim :blink:.

At this point was where my finely honed "pilot instincts" took over. I ignored the wire while the people were still there... I looked around furtively when they were gone and disposed of the evidence... and began to plot the cover-up. If you're wondering where the wire came from... so was I. After some surreptitious investigation (the band constable came over and told me there was no communication with the camp I was just at over the HF radio), I brilliantly deducted that I now owned an HF antenna.

Unfortunately, I had to go back to the camp to pick up the people I had dropped off that fateful day... or it would have been ok with me to fade from the memory of people around there. As I landed at the camp I was rehearsing the explanation and apology in my mind to make sure it all came out right at the camp. As everyone gathered around I did my best to put on a brave face (and decided to play dumb). The head of the camp (who had been my passenger a few days before) walked up to me. The dialogue went something like this (names ommitted... and you have to do his voice in a northern aboriginal accent):

Him: "Uhh... you make a lot of work for me!"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Him: "You see those two trees?"
Me: "Yes, I flew between them when I left here the other day."
Him: ".....We know.... Our trapline radio antenna was between those two trees..."
Me: "Oh? Did I hit it?"
Him: (looking me straight in the eye) "Uhh... You hit it alright.... and the radio was yanked from the tent and went bouncing through the camp... and we all try to catch it but it gets away... and then Hector", at this point he points with his thumb at a young man who has bandages all over his face and an arm in a sling, "tackled it and you dragged him through the camp and then over all the logs and stumps between here and the lake.... it's a good thing he got wedged under a fallen tree or you would have taken him water-skiing!!!"
Me: "(speechless)"
Him: "Anyway, are we ready to go?"

In retrospect, that take-off was even more of an accomplishment than I'd thought!

CT

P.S. This story was intended to amuse people with the details of one man's folly. I don't condone any of the actions that took place here... with the exception of Hector tackling the radio... that was a good move... or I might have landed with it.

P.P.S. I would like to invite others to share their stories. I have heard so many over so many pints... it's good to get them recorded for posterity... I may have already broken the rule with my story, but "brevity being the sole of wit", a short rendition of what happened and how it wasn't your fault would be welcome.

Cheers,

CT


What a great tale! Having flown extensively in the north and having dealt with the people, as I read the story I get a vivid video in my mind's eye of how it all took place. The north and the bush is an amazing place, with lots of stories and memories. Thanks for this memory!!

Steve


Engine screaming, "Wile E. Coyote" pumped the railway car. In the distance behind the helicopter, "Hector" was not letting go.....! Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 01, 2005

 

Sasaginnigak on Wheels

Wes called on the Mobile phone: "Are the rest of the materials there yet?" "No", we told him, "but hopefully by the end of the week." "OK", Wes told us, "but the ice is deteriorating".

Wes was the Camp Manager at Sasaginnigak Lodge. He had been building a new cabin at the camp, and was short materials. He needed the materials to finish the cabin, which was already booked mid-May. It was now late April, 1995.

I was flying for Northway Aviation Ltd. at Drunken Point, Manitoba. Northway owned Sasaginnigak Lodge, in the heart of Atikaki Wilderness Park, and had been flying in building materials for the cabin. It was almost complete, with just interior finishing materials being needed. The problem was, we didn't have them, and we had had a heat wave, and the ice was rotting. Any more delays and the ice would be too unstable to land on, and the cabin wouldn't get finished, and some treasured guests might get annoyed. Then we received a call stating the material would arrive the following day. Thank God!

The materials arrived the next day, and we started to load the Cessna 185 on wheel-skis, and guess what? Murphy's Law! Some of the bundles were too long. Time to figure out a different plan. Using the Beaver would be too risky, due to the weight of the aircraft, and we needed it at first open water. Ah-hah! The Cessna 207, old C-FBHP! We called it the "bowling alley", as when you were hauling freight with no seats installed, on the return empty leg if you looked back into the empty cavernous area of the airplane, it looked like a bowling alley! A large cabin area, a nose-baggage compartment, over-sized, wide-stance gear. Perfect! I checked the weather and it was supposed to freeze hard for the next two nights. Our last window of opportunity. We loaded the "207", and there was only room left for the pilot, me! I would leave early in the morning.

I took off early the next morning. It was about -15*C, clear sky, and no wind. Down I went. I buzzed all the wolves and coyotes out on Lake Winnipeg that were eating the rough fish the fishermen leave behind on the ice when they lift their nets. I hit the east shore and looked for moose all the way to Sasaginnigak, seeing a few. Arriving at "Sas", I surveyed the ice. There were some holes, and rough spots, but if I landed far enough out, I figured I would be OK. The freeze overnight had really helped to "knit" the ice together. The ice was just starting to turn dark, but would hold the airplane, as long as I avoided the holes.

I made a long approach with full flap, landed, and kept the weight off of the nose. The tin can rolled to a stop, and I shut down and got out. Man, is it nice out here in the bush. Wes and Gord came to greet me by Ski-Doo, and we unloaded. They would have to make a couple of runs back and forth, and I went to see what they had done in the cabin. Excellent workmanship. I returned to the plane, and I gave Wes and Gord their mail and tobacco. I bid them farewell, took off on the ice, and returned to Base.

The ice rotted and melted, the cabin was finished, we switched to floats, and started hauling guests out to fish. The cabin was a big hit, and has since been booked heavily every year. One day in April put it all together, and for me, just another day flying in the bush!


Always check for holes before landing.... Posted by Hello


If you land at "last ice", avoid the holes and run-off gullies... Posted by Hello


C-FBHP delivers the materials, the cabin is finished, and U.S.-Canadian continental conflict is avoided.... Posted by Hello


The beauty of the cabins at "Sas" and the unequalled quality of Wes Klassen's work is apparent in this photo..... Posted by Hello