1944 Grumman G-21A Goose, c/n B-101, CF-VFU, FIFT. Dockside somewhere up Knight Inlet, B.C., Canada in spring 1969.

[1959 Kodak Retina IIIS (Type 027) rangefinder 35-mm roll film camera, s/n 86125, with Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50-mm f/1.9 Synchro Compur lens, s/n 6841319; Kodak Plus-X Pan (ISO 125/22°) 36-exposure black & white negative film]

© Copyright photograph by Uwe Kündrunar Scharnberg, 1969 / Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, March 2011

“The whole history of the Canadian North can be divided into two periods—before and after the aeroplane.”
Hugh L. Keenleyside, Deputy Canadian Minister of Mines and Resources, October 1949

Friday, June 10, 2011

Royal Canadian Air Cadets, 1975–1979

The sole surviving shoulder patch from my “battle dress”-style (short waist coat) blue-grey wool uniform, the 1941–1976 issue. Officially the colour was known as Azure Blue.

The “battle dress”-style blue-grey wool uniform was changed to a CAF rifle green safari-style uniform. The style and weight were more suited to the indoors of the cadet halls and the summer training climate and temperatures. The first of these were issued to squadrons starting in 1978. Although the old blue-grey wool uniforms were hot in the summer, but warm in the winter, I did not like the change from the traditional WW II-era RCAF style to one that made the male cadets look like little wussies and sissies, and it was not flattering to the females either. The current blue Air Cadet uniform is a great improvement on the green style and a big step in the right direction. Our head gear was the “Wedge Cap”, or “Wedgie” as we named them, worn with a slight tilt to the right side, one inch above the right ear, and centred forward and aft on the head, the front one inch above the eye brow. It was designed with pull-down ear flaps and neck protection, useful in the cold Canadian winters on windy and icy parade squares.

About one month before my thirteenth birthday, I joined the local RCAirC (Royal Canadian Air Cadets) unit, 744 Cowichan Squadron, enlisting for four years, sometime September 1975 to the early autumn of 1979 just after the start of Grade 11, with the aim of receiving and achieving flight training through their glider and small aircraft familiarization programs. My parents were not too thrilled about the uniform and the military aspects of this, as father had experienced mandatory enlistment in the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) during the wartime Nazi years, from age 12 in March 1941 to the end of hostilities in early May 1945, but nonetheless allowed me, and a year later my brother, to enlist.

Since childhood I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming either a bushplane or a commercial pilot. Flying was it. I did not care much for the military discipline, although I always followed commands. But I only attained the rank of Corporal.

In those years the squadron was based in the old St. Ann Rectory, a former Catholic convent and girls residence school for many Cowichan natives for 100 years, built by the Sisters of St. Ann in 1864, next to the Stinesen’s farm and the little white St. Ann’s Church, Quamichan, 1775 Tzouhalem Rd., almost at the foot of and in the shadows of Mt. Tzouhalem and its white cross overlooking Cowichan Bay. My Blackfoot First Nations uncle, John McHugh, (Siksika Nation in Gleichen, Alberta) is buried at St. Ann’s Church. He took his own life with a hand gun in the early 1970s. He had experienced the horrors of a residential school. Today St. Ann Rectory is known as Providence Farm (where for a time, or maybe still, the annual Island Music Festival annually takes place).

A girl I knew and liked since Grade One, Jennifer Brain (now Lally), joined during my last year of enlistment. A few other cadets I remember are a Stinesen daughter, Simone Desautels and her brother, Peter Norie, Fiona Barr and her brother, Greg Anderson, Sabina Braun, Richard Leduc, Ken Dzuba, and Stuart Lumgair.

Nanaimo Airport (YCD), Cassidy (near Nanaimo), Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada was where the weekend familiarization flights took place on a few weekends in late spring, summer, and autumn, typically from late March to early November, weather-permitting. This included flying as a passenger in the rear seat of the tandem two-seat Cessna L-19A-CE Bird Dog or Bellanca 8GCBC Scout tow plane and in the front seat of one of the tandem two-seat Schweizer SGU 2-22C, Schweizer SGU 2-22E, or Schweizer SGS 2-33A gliders, participation in the ground operations which included positioning the gliders for take-off and retrieving them after landing, signalling between the tow plane and the glider, holding up and running with the right wing tip until the glider picked up sufficient take-off speed, and retrieving tow ropes dropped by the tow plane prior to it landing, from the grass strip between Runway 16/34 and the parallel tarmac, hooking the tow rope to the tow plane and the glider, and lollipop duty, holding up a big round orange day-glo aluminum sign to stop taxiing aircraft until the tow plane or the glider had passed and landed, at the edge of Taxiway Able, Runway 34, or Taxiway Bravo, Runway 16, depending on the wind direction indicated by the orange wind sock situated on the grass strip. On one occasion I was in the enviable position of stopping a just-arrived Douglas DC-3 from entering the taxiway and crossing the incoming glider’s landing path. I can still see the pilot and co-pilot looking down at me, and the passengers peering from the cabin windows. The Air Cadet League provided administrative and recreational support at these events. This reduced the workload of the CAF flying and training staff and the Air Cadet squadron commanders. 

I attended two or three extended field trips to NAS (Naval Air Station) Whidbey Island, near Oak Harbor, Washington, USA including a tour of the Boeing 747 factory at Paine Field (PAE), Everett, Washington. There was also an excursion to the South Terminal at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Sea Island, Richmond, B.C. which included a tour of some hangars and clambering inside the sickly green Grumman G-73 Mallard amphibious flying boat, CF-HUB, or was it the Grumman G-73 Mallard, CF-HPU ?, seemingly a little lost and forlorn, parked out on the weed-plagued tarmac.

In the summer of 1978, I attended the Basic Training camp at CFB Penhold near Red Deer, Alberta. We flew Victoria–Vancouver–Edmonton with a Pacific Western Airlines Boeing 737-275 and then bumped our way to the base, on hard, vinyl benches in a dark green Canadian Armed Forces Bluebird bus. I neglected to use an airport washroom when an officer gave us the opportunity, thinking I was not in need until the base. I sat suffering in silence and anguish with a full bladder and urine erection, luckily on a last row bench at a window, covering up with my blue grey wool jacket. We were underway for a little over two hours.

I remember flying with the 1975 Boeing 737-275(A), c/n 20959/395, C-GCPW, “741”, PWA, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; powered by two 14,500-lbs thrust Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9A(HK3) low-bypass turbofan engines; crew of two (pilot and co-pilot), seating configuration Y117 (economy-class), short- to medium-range, narrow-body airliner; built by The Boeing Company, Seattle, Washington, USA at Renton, Washington; first flight on January 22, 1975; delivered on February 24, 1975; N126AW, “126”, America West Airlines, Phoenix, Arizona on June 20, 1983; C-GCPW, Canadian Airlines International, Calgary, Alberta on November 12, 1987; C-GCPW, America West Airlines, Phoenix, Arizona on May 10, 1989, leased; C-GCPW, Canadian Airlines International, Calgary, Alberta on January 6, 1998; C-GCPW, “541”, Air Canada, Montréal, Québec on March 8, 2001, merged; full Air Canada colour scheme; last regular flight in October 2001; ferried from Calgary International Airport (YYC), Calgary, Alberta to Opa-locka Airport (OPF), Miami-Dade County, Florida on April 10, 2003; broken up by BlueSide Metals at Opa-locka Airport (OPF), Miami-Dade County, Florida; scrapped.

My summer training highlight was flying in a de Havilland Canada CC-138 Twin Otter through a series of loops and hammerhead stalls high over the Alberta prairie, the blue skies sparsely battened with a few high-altitude puffs of straggling cloud. With the G forces through the manoeuvres our wedgies floated from our heads to slide a moment along the cabin ceiling.

As best as I can recall, it was the 1971 de Havilland Canada CC-138 Twin Otter (military version of -300 Series), c/n 309, 13807/807, CAF; powered by two 680-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-27 turboprop engines with constant-speed, full-feathering reversible-pitch, three-blade Hartzell propellers; crew of two (pilot and co-pilot), 18 passengers, STOL (short take-off and landing) SAR (search and rescue)/Arctic utility transport; built by de Havilland Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada at Downsview, Ontario; taken on strength on September 17, 1971; No. 440 Squadron, CFB Namao, Edmonton, Alberta; struck off on May 5, 1987; she was used by crew from reserve unit No. 418 Squadron at time of the crash on June 14, 1986, searching for a civilian SAR aircraft that had gone down looking for an overdue light plane; the aircraft was destroyed flying into the side of a mountain, killing all on board: pilot Captain Ted Kates, co-pilot Captain Wayne Plumtree, and six observers; according to the official accident report, the crash was caused by a freak optical illusion; the colour of the rocks in the mountain combined with the sun angle at the time of the crash made a large ledge impossible to see; the crash location is 74 kilometres (46.3 miles) west of Calgary, Alberta.

I was a day dreamer, having difficulty focusing on math and theory knowledge and the skills necessary to be able to learn all the technical stuff. I could not grasp the navigation calculation formulas. I scored poor marks on the mathematical and navigational problems and questions of the flying ground school lessons and exam. I failed the exams as a prerequisite for applying to glider school training and beyond.

At about the same time I did not pass the exacting medical physicals. I notoriously fainted during the doctor appointments and anytime there was any talk of medical-related subjects and issues.

I quit Air Cadets a week after washing out, my long-held dreams of flying dashed. I was in a blue funk.

In time I applied my focus in a new direction. Camphill was to be just over the horizon.

© Copyright scanned image by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, June 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment