Spring time in Northern Saskatchewan. Unless you are a fly-in-fishing sort of person you most likely know very little about this Canadian Province. It is known as one of the prairie provinces based on the 30% that is actually prairie. It has the Trans Canada highway running laser like through its southern flatness, and that’s what most people see of Saskatchewan. The North is completely different. There is more water than land and the conifers, while not good for much more than pulp, cover 90% of the growing surface. Bogs and low rocky slopes make up the rest.
I had been hired by Athabaska Airways, a pioneering aviation company based In Prince Albert, the first to introduce helicopters to Saskatchewan. The Glass family ran the business and the old man, Floyd was a legendary bush pilot who liked my background.
“So you left a successful family business to become a helicopter pilot?” Floyd had asked.
“Yes sir” I said, “Any jobs better than working for your Father.”
That got a big laugh out of Floyd and his son Bob. The interview was done and I was hired to fly one of the six Sikorsky S-55T’s that they had on fire contracts in the province. Five fire fighters and one pilot flying on what we call Helitac now. A 100 day contract flying a helicopter I had never seen before. I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with the helicopter. A few years back I had flown several hundred hours in the radial engined version of this Sikorsky. The turbine S-55T should have been an easier assignment. That wasn’t the way it went. There would be many times that summer I would find myself wishing for the reliable roar of those old radials. Twisting throttles and losing my hearing wasn’t pleasant, but if I had known that engine failures three and four were in the near future I might have gone back to work for my Dad.
More to come.