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PLANE TALK


STRANGE THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN MY AVIATION CAREER — PART ONE


BY ROGER BEEBE


THIS ARTICLE WILL LOOK AT THE LIGHTER SIDE OF MY 55-YEAR CAREER IN AVIATION. HOPEFULLY SOME OF THESE ARTICLES OFFER TEACHABLE MOMENTS AND OTHERS MIGHT GIVE YOU A CHUCKLE. IF YOU NOTICE A REPEAT OF A FEW ANECDOTES FROM PREVIOUS ARTICLES, PLEASE JUST SKIP OVER OR SPEED READ. MAY THE PEOPLE WHO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES IN THESE STORIES ALSO SMILE AS THEY RECALL BEING INVOLVED IN SOME WAY OR PERHAPS WERE A PRINCIPAL PLAYER.


My next article, part two, will include the strange events that occurred during my employment with Transport Canada.


BEFORE RCAF I was raised in Big River, a small town located in central Saskatchewan, Canada, in the forested region. My first exposure to aircraft was watching Al Greening’s Norseman landing on Cowan Lake, hauling fish into the town of Big River for Waite’s Fisheries. One Norseman crashed on takeoff and the remains were in the Cowan Lake marsh for many years. It was one of my favorite places to visit as a young lad when I was across the lake from our home hunting squirrels. I was fascinated by the engine rusting away in the reeds. The next aviation events for me


were when a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) DC-3 landed at Big River and then the frequent roar of F-86 Sabres, CF-100s and later CF-104s passing over our town on navigation runs from Cold Lake, Alberta, RCAF Station. The landmark for the pilots was a 150-foot-tall burner that burned the waste wood from the large sawmill. Today they chip and recycle the wood into useful products rather than burning it, but


then it made a wonderful navigation checkpoint for the pilots. I joined the North Saskatchewan Light Infantry Cadet Corps, which later led to being sent to the Vernon, British Columbia, army camp for summer training. I spent three summers there. While in Vernon we would be taken to Kelowna, B.C., in army trucks to watch the Kelowna fair airshow. In those days, the RCAF demonstration team was called the Golden Hawks and flew F-86 Sabres. There were few regulatory rules in those days so they flew low and fast over the stands. This was exciting for me and further increased my interest in aviation. I was already building model aircraft, some of which were carved from wood. I must admit though, the wooden ones only crudely resembled aircraft. These events led me to join the RCAF.


RCAF How I signed up with the RCAF is a humorous story. Initially, I tried to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The industries in our small town were fishing, farming and bush work. The other employment options were to leave town through joining the RCMP, financial institutions, military or


similar places of employment. Since I was from a family with some military background and my summers were with the cadets, police work seemed like a good fit. I was disqualified as an RCMP recruit because my vision was not 20/20 so I applied to the army officer candidate program. I did not even consider attending university as my grade 12 marks were mediocre. I had discovered beer and girls. So, I received my travel orders from


the army and off I went to the army office in Regina, Saskatchewan. I saw that I had a travel warrant for Sunday and needed to report on Tuesday so I took Monday to job search in Regina with no luck. On Tuesday, I reported in and received a cold reception. The army was totally angry with me, saying that I had been expected the previous day. Having not made an appearance on Monday, they had the MPs and RCMP out looking for me. I said that it wasn’t my fault and showed them my orders. The lieutenant still blamed me, so I told him to shove the army. I stayed in Regina and farmed for the summer just south of the city and once again I thought about getting a trade. One day while in town I saw an RCAF recruiting office and walked in. They offered me a chance to be a pilot but when I told them about my


16 DOMmagazine.com | mar 2018


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