Top News

Flying for the mission

Tom Green spent many years as a Grenfell Mission pilot. He holds many fond memories from his 20 years with the mission and decided to share them with the Northern Pen.
Tom Green spent many years as a Grenfell Mission pilot. He holds many fond memories from his 20 years with the mission and decided to share them with the Northern Pen.

I am attempting to write a few short words about how it was when I was flying for the mission. I flew for the Mission 20 years, and then took the Operations Manager position for the Mission for another 16 years. There have been quite a few pilots who have flown for the Mission over the years, I was only one.

I arrived in St. Anthony in the spring of May 20 of 1966 after driving up the old gravel highway from Deer Lake. The road was washed out at Double Brook. Dick Simms and his crew were there, trying to repair it enough for traffic to pass.
We got settled away in our house and by the end of May I began flying for the mission. I had been flying for a few days before with pilot Ron Penney, who was from St. Anthony, to get used to the areas and places. I came to replace another pilot Edward Penwell who was transferring to helicopters with Eastern Provincial Airways (EPA). (He later died from a crash after he was transferred to Halifax to the burn unit.) EPA was the company who we were all working for and held the contract with the Provincial Government.
Flying for the mission took me to a variety of places, from St. John’s to Goose Bay, Churchill Falls, Harrington Hr. on the Quebec coast, Deer Lake, Gander, Nain, and just about everyplace on the Labrador coast and then some.
I was flying a DeHavilland single Otter CF-MIT. It was a single engine Otter and it held 10 passengers and had a top speed of about 110 -115 knots.
This airplane was bought new from the DeHavilland company in Downsview, Ontario, new for the Mission contract. It was a good airplane and serviced the Mission very well over the years with no engine failures or major trouble. The airplane was replaced by the Turbo Beaver CF-UKK on June 24, 1967.
After it left the service of the mission, MIT experienced an engine failure and landed on a bog at the headwaters of the St. Paul’s River in Labrador (an area NNW of Forteau, Labrador).
The airframe was twisted in the landing and it was repaired enough to be flown out west to the Calgary area to a company who owned a jig to straighten out the air frame. It was repaired and sold to another company in Ontario. They were in the general charter work and flew a charter with ten people on board along a hydro line and were in bad weather when it hit the hydro lines, crashed and burnt killing everyone on board. The airplane was a complete write off. Such a sad ending for an airplane that did so much good for so many people over the years!
Flying MIT along the coast of Newfoundland down the French shore towards Harbour Deep, it wasn’t uncommon to see a house being towed from either Williamsport or Hooping Hr. into Bide Arm, St. Anthony or other places during the resettlement period. Trap boats and long liners would tow them usually. A pretty sight, some of these houses are still in St. Anthony and Bide Arm.
I was also the first person who met quite a few new staff, as I used to fly quite a bit back and forth to Gander. Gander was the airport where the overseas flights operated through, and of course quite a few of the staff were from overseas in places such as England, Ireland or Scotland.

Flying in fog
I can recall one flight in particular when I was crossing the Strait Of Belle Isle from Forteau to Flowers Cove area in dense fog...I was down low on the water, a few feet above it, and with flaps down to slow me down, what if there was an ice berg ahead; or maybe a ship?
Suddenly, there appeared out of the fog a huge red ship, and I was headed right for it... I put full power on and climbed up through the fog between the masts of the bulk a carrier. It was a ship that I have seen many times and it used to carry iron ore from Seven Islands to over seas ports.
From that point, and later on after missing an iceberg doing the same thing, I always flew over the fog in the Straits, even though I wasn’t supposed to! But I’m still alive and so are the patients I carried.

Travelling the coast
All of the coastal major communities along the Island and Labrador coasts had a nursing station. Mostly a nurse from England who had midwifery, in case a baby was born, staffed these. There were one, sometimes two nurses, and the stations always had a maintenance man. He used to operate the cars, ski-doo, clear the snow, and go to the plane when it came in and variety of other duties.
All the nursing stations were equipped with a radio which they could talk to the hospital where ever it was needed, but every morning all the stations would do what they called a SKED. One at 0800, 1200, and 1700. The radio operator in St. Anthony, usually a WOP (without pay) workers – usually young people who volunteered with the mission – would operate the radio and the sked. Staff would discuss different kinds of things with doctors and other staff whenever it was necessary.
One winter day Dr. Thomas told me to drop off the Catholic bishop at Harbour De Vieux, which was the winter settlement for the Fishot Islands. It was a bitterly cold morning with hardly a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was hovering around 25 to 30 below zero.
The bishop came down to the airplane, which was based on the ice, at the head of the mission wharf. He was dressed for St. John’s with a long black raglan on, a pair of black shoes, with a quiff hat and a pair of leather gloves! Just great clothes for a cold winters morning, with freezing temperatures.
We took off and headed across the bay towards Harbour De Vieux, I gave the bishop my leather shucks to wear across the bay to keep him warm. We landed in a very small pond in back of the settlement and waited for the ski-doo to arrive to pick him up. Along  came two ski-doos, with a  big coach box in tow behind one of the machines. This coach box was fitted with blankets and quilts to carry the bishop to the community. The bishop thanked me and blessed me! The staunch protestant am.
I was left at the pond by myself with just the sound of the ski-doos headed for the community a mile or so towards the coast. That was the last I ever saw of the bishop, and I always wondered how he made out on his trip!
One day, I had a call to go to Harbour Deep in the early winter to bring back a man who was very sick. Normally; we would land on the ice of the harbour, but Nath Cassell, the IGA maintenance man, told me the ice wasn’t thick enough and to land in a pond at the top of the hill as the ice was ok there.
Off I went with a nurse escort and flew over the settlement to the pond, following the trail towards the pond. I could see a bunch of men hauling by hand the stretcher up the hill.
Harbour Deep was a community built at the bottom of a very long inlet with high hills surrounding it. There was a river emptying into it at the bottom. One had to be careful of taking off in an airplane in Harbour Deep as you could get pulled down sometimes by the down drafts that were not uncommon in the area.
The winter pond up on the top of the hill was where we landed while waiting for the ice to firm up in the harbour. But it was a devil of a place to get to when the going wasn’t good on ski-doo. Like the day I went to get this patient, he had to be hauled up to the pond by man power.
They eventually arrived at the airplane which was parked on a bunch of tree tops so we could get started again on skis (sometimes the plane on skis would stick to the snow and it was very hard to get moving again, once you were moving it was ok!). I eventually took off and flew back to St. Anthony with the patient. The man recovered and returned to Hr Deep some time later.

Roddickton
Another time in the Summer, I had a call from the hospital to go to Roddickton to get a very sick child and it was very urgent if I could go! The winds on that day were hitting over 60 MPH and I wonder whether I should even try.
This was the newer airplane, a Turbo Beaver C-FUKK which unlike the Otter was faster, but held only 8 passengers. But the Turbo Beaver had a fully reversal propeller that helped in getting around and manoeuvring around wharfs.
I told the maintenance man, Don Decker, on the telephone that I would come and have a look, and see if I could get their patient. The trouble was trying to get to the floating dock! I told him I would bring the airplane in to the dock and hold it with the prop and not shut down, and for him to put one rope on the airplane and hold it while a few other men got the stretcher on board. I had to put the airplane in on my blind side, that is on the right side or the passenger’s side.
I landed at Roddickton, and sailed, using the prop got the airplane to the dock, I had to more or less keep the airplane into the wind, where a bunch of men put the child on board.
They tied the stretcher down, and I slowly got the airplane out to a take off position, by backing up and sailing. The wind was too high to try and turn out of wind, which may have flipped the airplane over. The airplane went about a length and half of itself and took to the air in the very strong winds. We were about 15 minutes coming back to St. Anthony with the strong tail wind, where we were met by an ambulance who took the patient.
Later on, a card arrived in the mail and it was a note from the parents and grandparents of the little child I carried, it was very flattering.
So was a few days life in the Mission airplane pilot...Tom Green.

 

By Tom Green
Special to the Northern Pen

I arrived in St. Anthony in the spring of May 20 of 1966 after driving up the old gravel highway from Deer Lake. The road was washed out at Double Brook. Dick Simms and his crew were there, trying to repair it enough for traffic to pass.
We got settled away in our house and by the end of May I began flying for the mission. I had been flying for a few days before with pilot Ron Penney, who was from St. Anthony, to get used to the areas and places. I came to replace another pilot Edward Penwell who was transferring to helicopters with Eastern Provincial Airways (EPA). (He later died from a crash after he was transferred to Halifax to the burn unit.) EPA was the company who we were all working for and held the contract with the Provincial Government.
Flying for the mission took me to a variety of places, from St. John’s to Goose Bay, Churchill Falls, Harrington Hr. on the Quebec coast, Deer Lake, Gander, Nain, and just about everyplace on the Labrador coast and then some.
I was flying a DeHavilland single Otter CF-MIT. It was a single engine Otter and it held 10 passengers and had a top speed of about 110 -115 knots.
This airplane was bought new from the DeHavilland company in Downsview, Ontario, new for the Mission contract. It was a good airplane and serviced the Mission very well over the years with no engine failures or major trouble. The airplane was replaced by the Turbo Beaver CF-UKK on June 24, 1967.
After it left the service of the mission, MIT experienced an engine failure and landed on a bog at the headwaters of the St. Paul’s River in Labrador (an area NNW of Forteau, Labrador).
The airframe was twisted in the landing and it was repaired enough to be flown out west to the Calgary area to a company who owned a jig to straighten out the air frame. It was repaired and sold to another company in Ontario. They were in the general charter work and flew a charter with ten people on board along a hydro line and were in bad weather when it hit the hydro lines, crashed and burnt killing everyone on board. The airplane was a complete write off. Such a sad ending for an airplane that did so much good for so many people over the years!
Flying MIT along the coast of Newfoundland down the French shore towards Harbour Deep, it wasn’t uncommon to see a house being towed from either Williamsport or Hooping Hr. into Bide Arm, St. Anthony or other places during the resettlement period. Trap boats and long liners would tow them usually. A pretty sight, some of these houses are still in St. Anthony and Bide Arm.
I was also the first person who met quite a few new staff, as I used to fly quite a bit back and forth to Gander. Gander was the airport where the overseas flights operated through, and of course quite a few of the staff were from overseas in places such as England, Ireland or Scotland.

Flying in fog
I can recall one flight in particular when I was crossing the Strait Of Belle Isle from Forteau to Flowers Cove area in dense fog...I was down low on the water, a few feet above it, and with flaps down to slow me down, what if there was an ice berg ahead; or maybe a ship?
Suddenly, there appeared out of the fog a huge red ship, and I was headed right for it... I put full power on and climbed up through the fog between the masts of the bulk a carrier. It was a ship that I have seen many times and it used to carry iron ore from Seven Islands to over seas ports.
From that point, and later on after missing an iceberg doing the same thing, I always flew over the fog in the Straits, even though I wasn’t supposed to! But I’m still alive and so are the patients I carried.

Travelling the coast
All of the coastal major communities along the Island and Labrador coasts had a nursing station. Mostly a nurse from England who had midwifery, in case a baby was born, staffed these. There were one, sometimes two nurses, and the stations always had a maintenance man. He used to operate the cars, ski-doo, clear the snow, and go to the plane when it came in and variety of other duties.
All the nursing stations were equipped with a radio which they could talk to the hospital where ever it was needed, but every morning all the stations would do what they called a SKED. One at 0800, 1200, and 1700. The radio operator in St. Anthony, usually a WOP (without pay) workers – usually young people who volunteered with the mission – would operate the radio and the sked. Staff would discuss different kinds of things with doctors and other staff whenever it was necessary.
One winter day Dr. Thomas told me to drop off the Catholic bishop at Harbour De Vieux, which was the winter settlement for the Fishot Islands. It was a bitterly cold morning with hardly a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was hovering around 25 to 30 below zero.
The bishop came down to the airplane, which was based on the ice, at the head of the mission wharf. He was dressed for St. John’s with a long black raglan on, a pair of black shoes, with a quiff hat and a pair of leather gloves! Just great clothes for a cold winters morning, with freezing temperatures.
We took off and headed across the bay towards Harbour De Vieux, I gave the bishop my leather shucks to wear across the bay to keep him warm. We landed in a very small pond in back of the settlement and waited for the ski-doo to arrive to pick him up. Along  came two ski-doos, with a  big coach box in tow behind one of the machines. This coach box was fitted with blankets and quilts to carry the bishop to the community. The bishop thanked me and blessed me! The staunch protestant am.
I was left at the pond by myself with just the sound of the ski-doos headed for the community a mile or so towards the coast. That was the last I ever saw of the bishop, and I always wondered how he made out on his trip!
One day, I had a call to go to Harbour Deep in the early winter to bring back a man who was very sick. Normally; we would land on the ice of the harbour, but Nath Cassell, the IGA maintenance man, told me the ice wasn’t thick enough and to land in a pond at the top of the hill as the ice was ok there.
Off I went with a nurse escort and flew over the settlement to the pond, following the trail towards the pond. I could see a bunch of men hauling by hand the stretcher up the hill.
Harbour Deep was a community built at the bottom of a very long inlet with high hills surrounding it. There was a river emptying into it at the bottom. One had to be careful of taking off in an airplane in Harbour Deep as you could get pulled down sometimes by the down drafts that were not uncommon in the area.
The winter pond up on the top of the hill was where we landed while waiting for the ice to firm up in the harbour. But it was a devil of a place to get to when the going wasn’t good on ski-doo. Like the day I went to get this patient, he had to be hauled up to the pond by man power.
They eventually arrived at the airplane which was parked on a bunch of tree tops so we could get started again on skis (sometimes the plane on skis would stick to the snow and it was very hard to get moving again, once you were moving it was ok!). I eventually took off and flew back to St. Anthony with the patient. The man recovered and returned to Hr Deep some time later.

Roddickton
Another time in the Summer, I had a call from the hospital to go to Roddickton to get a very sick child and it was very urgent if I could go! The winds on that day were hitting over 60 MPH and I wonder whether I should even try.
This was the newer airplane, a Turbo Beaver C-FUKK which unlike the Otter was faster, but held only 8 passengers. But the Turbo Beaver had a fully reversal propeller that helped in getting around and manoeuvring around wharfs.
I told the maintenance man, Don Decker, on the telephone that I would come and have a look, and see if I could get their patient. The trouble was trying to get to the floating dock! I told him I would bring the airplane in to the dock and hold it with the prop and not shut down, and for him to put one rope on the airplane and hold it while a few other men got the stretcher on board. I had to put the airplane in on my blind side, that is on the right side or the passenger’s side.
I landed at Roddickton, and sailed, using the prop got the airplane to the dock, I had to more or less keep the airplane into the wind, where a bunch of men put the child on board.
They tied the stretcher down, and I slowly got the airplane out to a take off position, by backing up and sailing. The wind was too high to try and turn out of wind, which may have flipped the airplane over. The airplane went about a length and half of itself and took to the air in the very strong winds. We were about 15 minutes coming back to St. Anthony with the strong tail wind, where we were met by an ambulance who took the patient.
Later on, a card arrived in the mail and it was a note from the parents and grandparents of the little child I carried, it was very flattering.
So was a few days life in the Mission airplane pilot...Tom Green.

 

By Tom Green
Special to the Northern Pen

Recent Stories