Category Archives: Viking Helicopters

A blast from the past: The old schoolhouse

Viking Helicopters Ltd. – 1969’s first office / component overhaul shop / gunk tank / Shirley’s accounting department, outside of Orleans as it appears on google earth today. The gunk tank was straight through the door, against the far wall. If I remember right, Wulf’s component overhaul room was on the right. I’m sure someone will come along to correct me if I’m wrong.

Wulf’s operation was the first to move to the Bell’s Corner’s building while some of us were still putting a fresh coat of paint on the inside of the new facility (a former cabinet shop).

In 1969 there was a fenced-off apple orchard on the left. It appears as though it may still be there.

The old schoolhouse, St. Joseph Boulevard, Orleans, as it currently stands.

The old schoolhouse, St. Joseph Boulevard, Orleans, as it currently stands. It has come full circle, and is once again a schoolhouse. Thanks to Sue for the update.

And another blast from the past: Viking’s first hangar in 1969. We called it the old barn. It too has survived to this day. It was colder than blazes in that place in the spring of that year, and not so bad on a warm day.

Viking's first hangar. We called it the old barn. You can see why we were all so happy to relocate to Bell's Corners.

Viking’s first hangar. We called it the old barn, because, you guessed it. You can see why we were all so happy to relocate to Bell’s Corners. Again, thanks to Sue.

 

January 1979 in northern Quebec

An unremarkable two-month winter contract at Storm Lake in January of 1979 turned into a disaster for the drilling company. The weather held, sunshine and blue sky prevailed, and everyone was happy, until

  • the temperature went down to -55F (-48C) and stayed there for the duration of the job.
  • freezing water lines couldn’t be prevented.
  • the DC-3 supplying the camp went through the ice.

There was plenty of lift in the cold, dense air, however, and camp food was excellent.

Needless to say, we were all happy to see the end of that one.

Marathon and Pukaskwa National Park

Viking Helicopters ended up on the ground floor during the study and early development of the proposed Federal park on the north shore of Lake Superior, south of Marathon. The park’s development offices were located in the small town. At the time, our base in Thunder Bay was an ideal location, and we all spent many hours ferrying back and forth.

Snack time in the north shore hills.

When the weather was good, it was very, very good. Snack time in the north shore hills of Lake Superior – 1976. Last I heard, the gentleman on the left, Greg, now has his own guiding company in Saskatchewan.

Initially, we started with a Bell 47, and later progressed to a Hughes 500 once we managed to convince park management that the 5-place helicopter was a cheaper and speedier option. Always, it seemed as though it took forever for customers to finally do the numbers on their own and accept the larger and faster turbine helicopters. We went through the exact same cost-benefit exercises with Ontario Hydro and the OMNR.

Plenty of fog when the wind would blow out of the south or south-west would sometimes weather us in for days at a time. If you’ve ever been weathered in at Marathon, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

The area was finally established as a national park in 1978.Here’s the Parks Canada link to Pukaskwa National Park.

August 1975 – fire and sweat

By mid-July the LGL survey ended up in Rae Straight, and from there, terminated. I ended up ferrying south and picking up some itinerant work with the OMNR and again with Ontario Hydro in Manitouwadge. Hydro was using some brush-cutting equipment to clean up a line into the town, and I was transporting the crews out each day to do the work.

It wasn’t long before the hot, dry weather that summer transpired to contribute plenty of smoke and fire in the area surrounding Manitouwadge. Since I was right there, Hydro eventually relented and shut down their job. I was released to do the fire flying on Terrace Bay 21. It wasn’t long before Terrace 22 ignited and the show started all over again.

Those fires ended up being quite a social event in the hotel. Some debauchery went on in the hotel’s broom closets with some of the locals and imports when we ended up partaking of the facilities. How the crews beat us to the best seats in the house every night continued to be a complete mystery for quite a while.

I can recall spending the occasional night in a local basement, on the lookout for hiding from an axe-wielding individual suspicious of something or other. I do recall that the mostly innocent second party to the crime was a blonde with a huge rack. She wasn’t shy about showing it off by draping it in a white sweater, and I made it my personal business to carve out a landing spot where the sweat likes to pool.

I still shake my head at that little indiscretion and consider myself lucky – both for the rackage and the escape from sure and certain perdition had I sneezed.