Tag Archives: 47

Hunting season

My summer of 1972 was spent in northern Québec. In the fall I picked up CF-YWY in Thunder Bay for a moose hunt. It was going to be held at a fly-in hunt camp on St. Ignace Island, west of Rossport. Orville Wieben of Superior Airways had gotten his moose in a row and had obtained a somewhat lengthy approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources for the 14-day hunt.

Wieben’s hunt on St. Ignace Island had been advertised as a helicopter moose hunt. It had been sold to wealthy American hunters at sports shows south of the border. Canadians need not apply. The majority of the hunters who showed up were from Detroit and Chicago. They had paid big bucks to be flown by fixed-wing out to the island and the main hunt camp. Set up around the hunt camp were a number of blinds to accommodate the hunting parties. Each of the blinds had a landing pad for the helicopter.

In the morning I would fly the parties out to the blinds. Later in the day, around noon or 1 p.m. I’d fly a high circuit to check on the sites. If a hunter had acquired a moose, he would put out a flag to let me know, and I would land, load up the cargo racks and then fly back to the base camp, making however many trips were needed. Late in the afternoon I returned to the blinds to retrieve the hunters and anything they might have shot in the p.m.

I saw plenty of moose on those airborne trips back and forth to the blinds, but whether the hunters were sleeping or not paying attention, I have no idea. In some cases there was the occasional moose right next to a blind, just waiting to be taken, but I never said a word. Nor did I point out any of the animals. The hunters had paid all that money, and they sat comfortably in a blind, never leaving, waiting for something to cross in front of them. I couldn’t believe it.

The local press was playing up the fact that the hunt was being done by helicopter. Although we had a game warden come on-site several times, as is typical of the press, no one bothered to print the facts. Rumours of massive moose kills from the air circulated freely in the local towns. Fortunately, I was on an island. I think if I wasn’t I’d have been shot down by the locals and burned at the moose stake.

Rumours ran rampant that we had been shooting moose like ducks in a barrel, entirely inconsistent with the actual results of the hunt. At the conclusion of it all, after 14 days, among 47 hunters, seven moose were bagged and tagged. None had been shot from the air. That didn’t stop local speculation in Nipigon, Rossport and Thunder Bay concerning the legality of the hunt, however.

In 1998 roughly 15 per cent of St. Ignace Island was consumed by a forest fire that was allowed to burn unchecked.

The toll helicopter flying took on relationships was horrendous back then, and it probably still is to this day. I managed to get to a phone once while I was on this job, so of course I called my girlfriend. I was pretty serious about our relationship, and thought perhaps that I might like to eventually settle down with her. That wasn’t to be when she told me during that call that she had had enough and was going her separate way.

I always thought she made the right decision.

The fall months in Canada outside of the major metropolitan areas can be considered to be prime hunting season. Waterfowl and four-footed animals make up the bulk of what hunters go in search of when things are going well. From time to time, a case of mistaken identity will occur and someone will get shot.

That’s what happened in the fall of 1972 near Minnitaki in northwestern Ontario. I got a call around noon that someone in a hunting party had been injured by friendly fire. I made arrangements with one of the clinics to provide a doctor, and we flew out to the site, retrieved the man and flew him to the local hospital. I later learned that he would be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life.

I’ve not been a fan of hunting since then, although I did target shoot for many years.

A short exploration job

Lake Superior sits in the background

Lake Superior is visible in the background on a day when the weather cooperated.

I took CF-ETQ to Wawa for a Falconbridge Nickel contract in the spring of 1970. It was a good job, but the weather didn’t cooperate, and we spent a lot of time weathered in at the campsite on Eagle Lake. More often than not it was the fog that rolled in off of Lake Superior that kept us on the ground. That didn’t make Lloyd, the young field geologist in charge, happy, but there was nothing we could do except wait it out.

There were problems with the helicopter too. An oil line blew, and a generator had to be replaced. By that time it wasn’t a major problem for me, since I had spent quite a bit of time apprenticing on the model 47s. Viking sent out the parts, and I did the replacement.

The job lasted a month. We were all happy to see the end of it and thus the end of the weather that had kept us on the ground a lot of the time.
Some years later after I had moved to Thunder Bay, I ran into Lloyd, the field geologist on the Eagle Lake job. He was more than happy to tell me about his lucky strike and the fact that it had made him wealthy. He didn’t quite put it that way, of course, but that was the gist of the conversation. I wanted to ask if Falconbridge had a profit-sharing plan – which I’m sure it did – but instead I asked if he was still with the company, and he said yes, he was.

Whether the Eagle Lake job had come in for the company and for Lloyd, or another site had worked its magic for him, I have no idea. Lloyd had obviously connected somewhere and hit the big time. I ran into him a number of times over the years I spent in Thunder Bay. Each time he was still with Falconbridge, and with his fortune made at a young age, each time I noticed that he was still extremely happy.

Pete Peterson: A Flying Story

Pete Peterson has been a part of the Canadian helicopter scene for many years, but did you know that he began his aviation career as a young teenager, eventually flying Corsairs off carriers in the second World War as a U.S. Marine? His military flying career took him to Saipan, the Philippines, and China, where he flew patrols from Peking (now Beijing) along the Great Wall in support of General Chang Kai-Shek.

Post-war, he married a Canadian girl, but as an active reservist, Pete was called to serve again in Korea. This time he was off to helicopter training in the Kaman, Bell 47 and Piasaki. Once that was complete, the First Marine Division put him in a tent camp on the south end of the DMZ and gave him a Sikorsky S-55 with which he performed casualty evacs to a Navy hospital ship, troop supply and other missions.

In 1955, newly-discharged from the Marines and with 500 hours of helicopter flight time, Pete found a job with the helicopter division of Spartan Air Services in Ottawa, and thus began Pete’s new life in Canada and his devotion to commercial helicopter operations in this country. In his book, A Flying Story, now available for download, he writes about

  • his first commercial job towing a bird in New Brunswick, quite a feat considering the underpowered nature of the 47 at the time;
  • being in the Arctic barrenlands in summer and winter;
  • flying on forest fires in the early ’60s for the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests with a Bell 47D complete with untrained fire personnel recruited from beer parlors and logging camps;
  • tagging moose with the tagger stretched out on the Bell 47 float rack;
  • working on the Mid-Canada Line with the Vertol H-21, among many other experiences.

Along the way we get engine failures, engineering advancements and an amazing story of early helicopter use in Canada, all accompanied by a ton of photographs. Ed Godlewski, Tom Murray, Phil Istance, Larry Camphaug and many, many others are mentioned throughout the book for their tireless devotion and endless contributions to helicopter aviation in Canada.

Pete also fills us in about the beginning of his company, Helair Ltd. and its location at his home on the shores of Lake of the Woods, west of Kenora. The Helair operation eventually ended up moving to north of Kenora, where he built a hanger and an operation that at the time would have been the envy of any operator in the country.

If you haven’t already heard about it, you can learn the story of how he and Larry Camphaug came up with the name for the company they started near Ottawa. From a simple beginning in an old school house close by Orleans to being a provider of helicopters across Canada and around the world, Viking Helicopters Ltd. became one of Canada’s largest helicopter companies in the ’70s. A Flying Story details many of the prominent events in the company’s history.

Pete’s last flight was at age 75, but I’ll let him tell you about that adventure.

Pete Peterson: A Flying Story, 183 pages. In .pdf format. With plenty of pictures accompanying the publication.


Review written by website author.

Click on the link and the download will begin immediately. It’s a lengthy download, 45mb in size. Depending on your connection speed, it could take up to five minutes.

Note: If you don’t have a .pdf viewer already installed, I recommend the free Foxit .pdf viewer. Of course, the old standby Adobe Reader is also available, as well as many others.

Checking my log book…

Thanks to Bill McKeever there are some new pictures here. During our email exchange he reminded me of something that I had completely forgotten over the intervening decades, so I took a look at my log book.

Back in early February of 1976 Bill was doing a job near Chapleau with CF-HEL, Helair Limited’s Bell 47 flagship. The Lycoming engine had started making metal and was declared unserviceable. Consequently Bill needed his survey crews retrieved from the bush.

GGNY in the Arctic west of Baker Lake

C-GGNY in its original C18 colours. It later became a favourite of mine in the yellow and black paint scheme. It was converted, with a beefed-up transmission and C20 engine.

After ferrying the 2:40 from Thunder Bay to Chapleau, I turned GGNY over to Bill to go out and pick up his crews. I don’t recall the circumstances now, but in the email he mentioned that he had a total of five hours of brand-new flight time on the 500 – which was coincidentally just enough required for his type endorsement.

Well, I sort of figured that Bill should fly GGNY to pick up the crews, since he knew where they were, so I generously offered to let him build up his time in the 500. Good of me, wouldn’t you say?

The weather wasn’t the greatest, but Bill was familiar with the area and knew where his crews were, so I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. He torched up and did the deed, allowing his training, experience and recent endorsement to kick in and he retrieved his crews without incident.

Two days later, after spoiling Bill by letting him fly GGNY to spot his crews, I ferried back to Thunder Bay via an overnight in Wawa. I don’t recall what aircraft replaced HEL.

I have my own story to tell about my first job following the coveted turbine endorsement.

The early days of Helair Ltd.

The Helair faciltiy, Kenora Ontario - April 1973

The Helair Ltd. hanger, Kenora - April 1973

In 1965, Helair Ltd. was located out of Pete Peterson’s home on Keewatin Beach Road, just west of Kenora. When the then Department of Transport came by to inspect his operation, they never blinked an eye, and in fact gave their approval. How times change.

Department of Lands & ForestsIn 1967 I had a job as a radio operator with the old Department of Lands & Forests. That same year, Helair had been awarded the L&F contract out of Sioux Lookout to provide services for the surrounding districts. Ron Kincaid, my boss, requested the aircraft for a trip down to Gold Rock, and he offered to take me along on the flight. If I recall, the flight was in CF-HEL, the company’s flagship Bell 47G-4a.

I was hooked from the beginning. I’m not sure if I should thank Ron or not for taking me along on that flight. Then, during the winter of 1967, Pete gave me my first flight from the lakeside base in a dual-equipped G2, CF-MEU.

From that fledgling start on the shore of Lake of the Woods, Helair Ltd.’s business eventually mushroomed to the extent that expanded facilities became a necessity.

HelairI don’t recall the year that Pete built the hanger on Villeneuve Road just off of Highway 658, but it was a pretty nice facility, nestled as it was in the trees ten minutes north of Kenora. In addition to the hanger there was a home on-site as well, complete with a swimming pool. Later, the site would be used as a residence for the students who took their flight training at the base.

Some time just after the new place was built I recall being sent to Kenora. I stayed at the Norman Hotel in Keewatin, a stately old place where I experienced the hospitality of the Norman Lord. Bruce was a real character who loved his cigars. He reminded me a great deal of Buster, the night manager at the King Edward Hotel in Niagara Falls where I stayed during my flight training.

If you’d like more about Helair Ltd. and how it all got started, Pete Peterson’s book A Flying Story is available for download. Not only does he document Helair’s beginnings, but he also spends much of the book examining the early years of helicopter development and use in eastern Canada, starting in the mid-50s.