New digs

The barn at Orleans, 1969

Here’s our first hanger, the old barn just west of the old schoolhouse – 1969

1969 was a successful first operational year for Viking Helicopters and the company was growing fast. The old schoolhouse and the barn were quickly outgrown, and new buildings were needed to house the fast-expanding company. To get more room, that winter Larry bought a former cabinet factory on the outskirts of Bells Corners, to the west of Ottawa.

Garry Nixon on the left and Gerry O'Neil, far right.

Garry Nixon on the left and Gerry O’Neil, far right.

A bunch of us spent quite a bit of time getting it ready for the long anticipated move from the now cramped quarters of the old school house and the barn in Orleans. Working nights and weekends, we put a fresh coat of paint on the interior, and built benches and cupboards. That seemed to dress the place up quite a bit.

Of note at the time: There were no peeler bars and the associated fine dancers nearby, a sad fact that probably increased our work ethic at the new Bells Corners facility.

Wulf had earlier moved over to the new facility to continue working his magic. He was the company’s component overhaul specialist, at the time working on 47 transmissions, gearboxes and swashplates. Like the rest of us, he later graduated to the Hughes 500 and its components.

At the time, it seemed as though we would never fill up this new place, but several years later, we all moved west once again, almost to Carleton Place, and into the grand old stone house, which was used as the office building. The hangars were nearby.

The Bells Corners painting crew, 1969

The indomitable Wulf, our component overhaul expert, Stuart Johns, Beaver, a young Mark Camphaug, Larry Camphaug, Bill Clifford, Richard Thompson – Bells Corners, December 1969. Larry was very proud of his new Bells Corners facility, as we all were.

After a number of years the stone house caught fire and the contents were destroyed. A couple of the “overnighters” narrowly escaped that night.

Many years later, the character of the company changed substantially with an influx of management types that didn’t appear to understand the concept of actual management. While some tried hard, they were mostly shunted aside by others who had little invested in the business.

A harsh judgement on my part? Perhaps. But all too true also.

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