Trevor Trowel has sent us this story about Captain Doug Holland - The Way We Were
This little anecdote tells about an incident that probably most people might think of as petty or inconsequential, and that may be true, but I remember the flight and the people on the plane and I’ll tell you about it to let you know the type of people who made the airline into a world class organization.
Graeme Shelford sends this memory of his first flight -
As a South African-born Canadian, my first flight is probably a bit different from most people. In 1948 my family had moved from South Africa to Nyasaland (now Malawi).
There were no schools in Nyasaland so I was enrolled in a Southern Rhodesian boarding school. To get there involved driving 85 miles to Chileka airport, flying 200 miles to Salisbury (now Harare), taking an overnight train 270 miles to Umtali (now Mutare), and finally completing the last 10 miles by bus into the Vumba Mountains.
The first time I did this, at the age of 8, I was accompanied by my mother and sister. Although there were three vehicles on the tea estate that we lived on, none would start. The mechanics worked on the most promising one, a Ford V8 Pilot.
It finally roared into life three hours before our flight, with a normal three-hour drive ahead of us on rough roads. We piled in and set off in a cloud of dust on the dirt roads. As we progressed, the car started missing, getting worse with each mile covered. Finally, in the town of Limbe, it was down to a couple of cylinders, so my mother pulled up at a taxi stand and we piled all our luggage and ourselves into the taxi.
My mother told the driver there was a huge bonus in it for him if he got us to the airport in time. This switch to a taxi probably saved our lives as he was aware of a washed-out bridge just after a blind corner, and my mother, driving fast to make up lost time, could have sloughed right into the abyss.
As we had lost quite a bit of time over the car trouble, my mother had called ahead from Limbe to warn the airline (CAA, Central African Airways) that we were running late. In those days you paid for a seat you had booked, whether you occupied it or not, and fares were not cheap, so we really needed to make it.
We did, they had held back the flight for 45 minutes for us, but it was not on a Vickers Viking as expected. They explained that the recent rains had left the landing field too soft for a Viking, so we were on a DeHavilland Dragon Rapide biplane instead. The flight would take over two hours instead of the 1 hour and 45 minutes scheduled on the Viking.
The flight was extremely rough, flying at about 5,000 feet over the African bush, and I was violently airsick. As we approached a scheduled stop at Tete in Mozambique, the pilot turned around and asked the passengers (all four of us, my family plus one other) if any of us wanted to stop at Tete. To my relief, the answer was no, so we continued to Salisbury, non-stop.
Apparently missing a scheduled stop was no big deal in those days. But delaying the flight for us made the front page as news in the Central African Times, the first time my name appeared in a news story and something I was able to show off with pride to my schoolmates.
Ken Collie sends us this memory which he called Churchill Duties -
Transair closed the Churchill maintenance in about 1972 but still had regular flights in and out of Churchill Airport (YYQ) using the NAMC YS-11.
No one would volunteer to be based there, so the compromise was that 6 of us would rotate for one week at a time. Half of these managed to be on holidays or sick or visiting their mother-in-law on their assigned rotation so three of us did most of the work.
On one occasion, my wife drove me to the airport to catch my flight to Churchill. My three year old son rode along with us. As I made my way to the departure lounge my wife and son made their way back to the car. Shayne was not happy and the entire airport knew that he wanted to go with Daddy.
One of the pilots we knew asked my wife what the problem was. On learning the reason for the outburst he asked if it would be 'OK' for him to escort Shayne to Churchill on Wednesday to stay with me there till my return on Friday. Security was quite lax in those remote locations and I could take Shayne to work with me and all would be fine. She phoned me and advised me of the plans. I was OK with it and so 'Captain A.' (I believe the 'A’ is Anderson, I do not remember his first name) delivered the young boy to me.
He enjoyed watching the action on the ramp from the windows that afternoon and we had a great time at the hotel. The hotel manager even made a supper of baked Arctic Char for the occasion.
Thursday I managed to find safety ear muffs small enough for his head and he accompanied me on the ramp as I serviced and dispatched the flights. Like I said, security was lax!!
He rode beside me on the tug as I positioned the power unit at the plane’s left side with the cord extended to its limit. Shayne was instructed to stay on the tug while I dispatched the plane. I signaled ‘power is on’, Captain A. acknowledged, I signaled ‘start #2', they did. I signaled ‘start #1'. They did. I signaled ‘can I remove power?’ I got a thumbs up and pulled the cord, then I pulled the tug forward to a safe distance.
I stepped down and signaled ‘thumbs up’ giving the clearance to taxi out. That is when both Captain A. and his Co-pilot “lost it”, they both burst out laughing and gesticulated, pointing at me or behind me. I looked back and saw nothing. So with a wave, I drove away and back to the hangar to await their return in a couple hours.
When they returned they both rushed over as soon as they could, Captain A. picked Shayne up and declared; “You are definitely going to be an Aircraft Maintenance Technician (A.M.E.).
Then they laughingly explained that as I was dispatching them, Shayne stood on the seat of the tug mimicking every move I made accurately, till the “all clear” thumbs up signal, at which time he studied my signal and looked at his hand, experimented with a couple options then very seriously raised his middle finger as high as he could get it. That’s when they lost it!
And yes, Shayne is now an A.M.E. and with Air Canada.
This photo is of the YS-11, but not in Churchill.