A pictorial account for the BUFFS Centennial August 2011 Part 1 : Transport, Supply, Reconnaissance This is a brief pictorial account of the history of fixed wing flying in the roles of transport, supply, reconnaissance, patrol and inventory with the British Columbia Forest Service. The Early Years By now, many of us have heard about or seen the results of the C Forest Branch’s first foray Into the world of aircraft. A contract was Initiated by the Department of Lands with the Hoffa Motor Boat Company for the construction of a single engine two seat flying boat, to be used primarily for trolling.
The H-2 biplane was constructed during the summer of 1 918 and test flights conducted toward the end of August and early September. On September 4th, on one of the early tests over Vancouver, the aircraft experienced engine problems and the pilot elected to head for the waters of Coal Harbor. It never made it. The aircraft stalled (quit flying) and spiraled onto the roof of a Figure 1 : Hoffa H-2 crash Vancouver Seep. 1918 house In West Vancouver. The H-2 was destroyed but the young pilot luckily sustained only minor Injuries. This ended the thought of Forest Service aircraft ownership for almost 80 years.
In September of 1919, the first aerial discovery of a forest fire in B. C. Took place over Duncan. The pilot off Curtiss JNI-4 (possibly during an alarm mail flight) spotted the fire and landed at Duncan to report It to the Forest Branch, who then took suppression action. The end of WWW saw a surplus of aircraft and support equipment in both Europe and North America. After the war, governments and agencies recognized the value of aircraft in Figure 2: Curtiss JNI-4 first forest fire discovery 1919 supplies. The Canadian government formed the Dominion Air Board to oversee the growing civil aviation in Canada.
Half a dozen air stations were established across the country in 1920 including Vancouver, located at Jericho Beach. The Vancouver Air Station soon acquired 2 types of flying boats. 2 The Curtiss HAS-AL was a single engine four place biplane with a payload of up to 700 pounds and a top speed of 70 MPH. The Flowstone F. 3 was a large twin engine flying boat capable of speeds over 85 MPH and a payload up to 12 people with gear. These aircraft were not used operationally in 1920 but the HAS-AL was tested and evaluated by the Forest Branch and Air Station in the fall.
The 1921 fire season saw both types used in arioso roles by the Forest Branch including patrols, fire suppression and forest reconnaissance, inventory and photography. One HAS-AL was also based in Sampson during that summer. 1922 proved to be a serious fire season on B. C. ‘s coast. The F. 3 proved it’s worth transporting men and equipment to fires. Near the end of July the F. 3 transported men, equipment and camp supplies too fire near Battle Lake on Vancouver Island. The use of the F. 3 saved days of ground travel and undoubtedly prevented the fire from becoming a major event.
By 1923, the Forest Branch had become somewhat disenchanted with both types of aircraft as they were becoming obsolete. Aircraft performance was not up to requirements especially in the mountains, and aircraft maintenance costs were high. In 1924 the Branch used the aircraft on a casual basis and only flew two dozen hours. By 1926 the regular use of aircraft for forestry work was severely curtailed. Figure 3: HAS-AL at Alert say late 1920. BC Archives AN-07649
In 1942 they noted “there will be room for air transport in the post-war organization of the Forest Branch”. During this period lookout trained in the identification of hostile aircraft assisted the military as part of the “Aircraft Detection Corps”. In return the military provided reconnaissance and transport flying when available. In 1943 and ’44 local aircraft were chartered for specific projects. In 1945 the Branch contracted 2 float aircraft based in the Fort George District. One plane was smaller, suitable for reconnaissance work and the able to move men and equipment to remote fires.
These aircraft also flew in the Nelson and Sampson Districts that season. The success of these aircraft lead to the addition of a second contract in 1946. Two Cessna Crane aircraft on wheels were based in Sampson and Nelson as well as the float aircraft in Fort George. This new contract was with Central B. C. Airways Ltd. Which went on to become Pacific Western Airlines in 1953. This started a lengthy association with this company into the sass’s. Figure 8: Fairchild 82 Nelson River 1944 AN-08394 Parachute tests were conducted with the Crane in Sampson in 1946 using U. S. Surplus 6′ cargo chutes.
Figure 9: Cessna Crane 5 After the war, in response to the demands of Canadian bush operators, Devaluing Aircraft of Canada Ltd. Signed and developed the DC 2 Beaver. The prototype aircraft registered as CB-FEB. serial # 1 first flew in August 1947 and was acquired by Central B. C. Airways in early 1948. It wasn’t long before FEB. was part of the B. C. Forest Service’s contract fleet. Nearly 1700 Beavers were built between 1947 and 1968 and were registered in over 60 countries. There are many Beavers operating commercially and privately DC 2 the most popular bush aircraft in history.
Figure 10: Beaver CB-FEB. near New Denver 1950 CB-FEB. is now preserved and on display at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Rocklike / Ottawa. Over the next decade, the use of aircraft increased and became nearly routine. Workhorse types such as the Mourned Norman and Junkers JUJU/34 were used extensively, more often than not on floats. They transported and supported crews and supplies not only on fires but on projects such as lookout construction, saving a tremendous amount of time and money. One project saw the freely drop of packaged lumber to a drop site with the Junkers WWW aircraft.
Figure 1 1: Central BC Airways Junkers W 34 transport Figure 12: Freely lumber drop Junkers 34 1949 AN-09884 6 By 1954 the Forest Service had a interact with Pacific Western Airlines for 6 float aircraft including: 4 Beavers, 1 Junkers 34 and 1 Fairchild 71 . They were based at Vancouver, Lakes, Prince George, Sampson and Nelson. All aircraft had a minimum 1000 pound payload and were paradox equipped. These were on top of the many charter operators and aircraft available throughout the province by the mid ass’s.
Several other Forest Service Divisions used the contract and charter aircraft including Surveys and Inventory Division. Figure 13: Pacific Western Airlines Norman 1956 In the late spring of 1955 disaster struck. A Pacific Western Cessna 180 floodplain (similar to the one pictured at right) departed Ocean Falls with the pilot and 3 survey creamers with the Forest Surveys and Inventory Division. Their eventual destination was Keenan where the survey crew camp was located. The aircraft never arrived. A search was military and 8 PAW aircraft.
The aerial search officially ended on June 22nd. Forest Service survey vessels searched for another week or more, but the aircraft and occupants were never found. Figure 14: Cessna 180 floodplain Figure 1 5: Pacific Western Airlines Scans and Norman were part of the aerial reach 7 To illustrate the tremendous growth in the post war aviation industry in B. C. , by the spring of 1959 the Pacific Western Airlines fleet consisted of: 6 DC g’s, 2 C ass’s, 2 DC g’s, 12 Norman, 23 Beavers, 2 Mallards, 8 Cessna ass’s and 10 Bell 47 helicopters. Ass’s and on Other aircraft types that emerged in the sass’s and early ass’s included the Fairchild Husky F II and the Devaluing DC 3 Otter, both of which also operated as water bombers. By 1965 the Forest Service contract fleet (in addition to retainers, birdsong and helicopters) consisted of 3 Beavers based at Vancouver, Sampson and Nelson, and 1 Otter based at Prince George. Their primary role was transporting fire fighters, work parties and supplies to inaccessible areas. On occasion they would serve in the roles of air patrol and reconnaissance.
Figure 16: Fairchild Husky F II 6 Piper Super Cub PA ass’s were also on contract to the Province. These 2 seat aircraft started flying for the Forest Service in 1960. In 1965 two were based at Dawson Creek, two at Smithies, one at Williams Lake and one at Keelson. They were considered “flying lookouts” whose sole purpose was fire detection. They flew fixed patrol routes coverage. Figure 17: Devaluing DC 3 otter Figure 18: A Skyway Air Services Super Cub – illustrating oversized tires for use in soft, rough field operations 8 Again, in response to demands of operators and customers, Devaluing Aircraft developed the DDCD Twin Otter.
This twin engine turboprop aircraft was generally a replacement for the single Otter and provided greater reliability, payload and retained the short take off and landing (STOOL) capabilities. The Twin Otter’s first flight was in May 1965. It went on to become a success internationally and has been a workhorse in B. C. For over 40 years in wheel, float and ski infatuation. We would be remiss in not mentioning the Grumman line of Figure 19: Air west DDCD -rate otter amphibious aircraft. The Grumman Widgeon, Goose and Mallard undoubtedly played an important part in this era in the history of B.
C. F. S. Transport flying, especially on the coast. Figure 20: Grumman Widgeon – Harrison Airways Figure 21: Grumman Goose – BC Airlines 1968 Sandpit Figure 22: Grumman Mallard – Pacific Western Airlines 9 1967 proved to be the heaviest flying year in history to that point. Transport and reconnaissance flying in the province reached nearly 9000 hours with contract and harder aircraft, and accounted for over 40% of the overall flying that summer. Numbers and types of provincial contracted aircraft remained fairly static through and equipment was still in it’s infancy through this period.
The sass’s saw increased use of agricultural aircraft in aerial spray, fertilization and grass seeding projects on the coast and in the southern interior. The Cessna 188 Goanna operated by Contain Aviation was a popular resource on these projects. Figure 23: Early ass’s shot of Contain C 188 – possible tests of aerial drops of seedlings in plastic bullets Figure 24: Contain Goanna – spray calibration with Radiomen dye The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre was formed in June of 1982 with British Columbia as one of the founding members. Cuff’s mandate included “a cost effective sharing of resources”.
The 1985 fire season was one of the worst in decades with over 3600 fires consuming 235,000 hectares. At peak periods there were over 8,000 firefighters employed. CIFS was to become a major benefit during this season. Aside from some aerial detection aircraft, there were no support or transport aircraft on long term contracts during this period. Several aircraft were placed on short term agreements, usually for 30 day periods. Douglas DC as and Figure 25: DC 3 operated by North Caribou Air 10 several Beech 200 King Airs were put on these agreements to guarantee their availability.
The North Caribou Air Docs were kept very busy transporting firefighters and fire equipment especially in the southeast of the province. The King Airs were used primarily for transport of personnel, however one operated by Contain provided infrared mapping services on the larger fires in the south of the through the National Safety Council of Australia. Air patrols flew over 10,600 hours in 1985. Figure 26: Contain King Air infrared aircraft at Scrapbook 1985 ” Ram” fire in the background The B. C. F. S. Continued to use short term agreements for transport aircraft when needed through the late sass’s and early sass’s. Ass’s and on The development of provincial sustained action (Unit) crews in the late sass’s and early ass’s lead to the need to transport these crews quickly, often from one end of the province to the other. In 1992 the province entered into a long term seasonal contract with Transcriptional Airlines for the services of a Contain 580. This also allowed for long distance pre-positioning of Initial Attack crews. Figure 27: TAP CIVIC safety Features card 1992 Figure 28: Trans-provincial C.V. 580 at Keelson 1992 11 In early 1993 Trans-provincial was purchased by Harbor Air and the B.
C. F. S. Contract was continued with Keelson Flightiest Ltd. Flightiest (KEF) continued with the long term agreement through the busy 1994 fire season. They provided a “comb'” aircraft capable of carrying personnel and equipment together in the cabin area. In 1995, Contain Aviation supplied a contracted Devaluing Dash 7 leased from Trans Capital Airlines Figure 29: Flightiest C.V. 580 Sampson with fire crews 1994 from Ontario. The aircraft proved to e a success and led to negotiations with Contain over the winter of 1995 196.
Figure 30: Contain/Trans Capital Dash 7 Bootstrap 1995 Figure 31 : Dash 7 C-EGGS demoralizing fire crews at Sampson ownership of aircraft? After 78 years, in January of 1996, the Forest Service Protection Branch entered into a Joint Venture partnership agreement with Contain Aviation for the ownership of a 4 engine DC Dash “comb'” transport aircraft. 12 The aircraft could seat up to 44 passengers and had an area dedicated for firefighting equipment or other cargo. The aircraft (registered as C-FIJI) was ideal for crew deployments within B. C. And to other adjacent agencies.
The aircraft operated through the 2001 fire season, at which time Contain chose to limit their operations to fixed wing firebombing aircraft. The aircraft and parts were sold to Trans Capital in 2002. It went on to serve with the United Nations overseas. Figure 33: Dash 7 Captain outlining ramp procedures to fire crews prior to departing from Castle. Figure 32: Unveiling of Joint Venture Dash 7 spring of 1996 Contain President Barry Marksmen and Protection Branch Director Jim Dunlop in attendance. Figure 34: Interior of ‘vowel showing dedicated cargo area.