“My book is totally non-fictional and every story is exactly the way I experienced them”

March 2023

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Queens Cove, NL, in 1945 and completed my high school education in St John’s. After graduation, one of my jobs in the mid-1960s was working on the Churchill Falls hydro development project in Labrador doing survey work. Some of my duties involved being flown back and forth to lakes in Eastern Provincial Airways (EPA) bush planes to do hydrometric work on the lakes. The many trips I made in bush planes, and getting to know the pilots flying them, really aroused my interest in flying. I decided to do a career change and went to the Moncton Flying Club in New Brunswick and acquired a commercial pilot licence.

 I love the image of you, ferrying a plane from Texas to Montreal without an onboard radio, swooping down to read highway signs so you could identify your geographic location. Are there incidents in your book that, looking back, you can’t believe you resolved, or got away with?
There are many incidents in my book that stand out. However, the one that I would consider to have had the most potential for danger was when the engine in a single-engine float-plane that I was flying, became completely detached from the plane on the takeoff run, from a lake in the wilderness of Northern Ontario. The fact that I was just barely airborne off the water when the engine let go saved me and the two passengers on board, because of my lack of altitude. Another 20-30 seconds, we would have been high enough off the lake that the aircraft would have fallen like a rock and the results would have been much different.

 Would you encourage someone to become a pilot today?
[That] is evident in the fact that my son, Chad, is a water bomber pilot.

Do you like to fly commercially?
If you mean flying as a pilot on a passenger plane on regular scheduled routings, I never had any interest in doing it, mainly because of the routine lifestyle that goes with it. Whereas, flying bush planes and water bombers, when you left to go to work in the morning, you would never know where you would be sleeping that night or when you would get home again, which suited my adventurous personality. As far as flying as a passenger, I am always comfortable that the crew is quite capable of doing their job. While sitting in a passenger seat, it is definitely more relaxing than being in the cockpit and having the responsibility of safely flying the aircraft.

Do you have a story, like the Mafia guys coming up from Chicago to play poker, that people find hard to believe? Do you have a favourite story?
My book is totally non-fictional and every story/incident referred to in the book is exactly the way I experienced them. One of my favourite stories is a flight from Gander to St Anthony that ended up being quite humourous. It was a charter flight to transport a lady and her young adult son who wanted to visit St Anthony and the L’Anse aux Meadows site for a couple of days. (Hint: it was a slightly turbulent event, and the plane had no … facilities.)

(The Life of a Pilot: Bush Planes and Water Bombers is published by Flanker Press, $19.95)

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