I flew 300 hours in 47s for Midwest Helicopters back in the dark ages. Some of it was with Manitoba Forestry, and involved ferrying around the province. I never could figure out what was going on with that contract. I never saw any fire crews. I did no safety briefings or training for anyone. I never saw a fire. But I did end up seeing a lot of the province, so it wasn’t all bad. While I didn’t fly anywhere near minimums, I remember hoping it was a moneymaker for the company.
Ken Wilson was my engineer on the forestry contract. Ken’s normal summer attire was a pair of dark glasses worn while sporting sandals. When I got tangled up with a woman at one of the provincial parks near Rennie, Ken ran interference for me so that I could make a connection with Lucille. Thanks, Ken. I don’t know what became of Ken, but I do recall he mentioned that he wanted to go on the road to drive big rigs.
In August I ended up on a Manitoba Hydro contract at Burntwood River’s First Rapids, and much later still, at Gillam/Longspruce with CF-MWH. Both Klaus Lebrandt and Bill Henderson were already there.
Klaus was a former pilot with the Luftwaffe. When he was more relaxed, he regaled me with tales of his Luftwaffe experiences in the war. I was often in stitches listening to him explain how he felt he had spent more time floating in the Mediterranean than he had spent in the air, thanks to the British.
Klaus was an excellent pilot. Once or twice on sunny days when he was heading in and I was outbound, the bugger would come at me out of the sun and startle the hell out of me. I never forgot that, but I never tried it myself. I didn’t want to tempt fate as much as some others I know. I never thought Klaus was tempting fate, though; I thought of it more as practicing his craft and keeping current.
Bill Henderson was another story. He possessed the driest sense of humour I’ve ever known anyone to have. When he wasn’t flying under the bridge, he had an ability to rub people the wrong way. If you ignored his smartass comments and attempts to aggravate you, he was all right, and I got along with him. I recall that he had just bought a Jaguar XKE before coming north. I ribbed him about that, given the predilection at the time for British vehicles to self-destruct in minus 40 Winnipeg winters. Hell, they’d self-destruct on a warm, summer day.
Bob Mogk was our engineer. We got along well and we eventually ended up sharing the rent at a place in the south end of Winnipeg for a while, until I left for greener pastures. Decades ago while riding through Carman I stopped to visit with Bob and his family on the farm. He was working for Standard Aero – unless he too has retired.
All of the people at Midwest were pretty good to work with. When I was apprenticing on the shop floor, the engineers would go out of their way to show and teach the right way to do things. Lloyd Mackenzie, the chief engineer, was pretty patient with the likes of me and my old friend Bruce and our antics. The two of us put plenty of smiles on the faces of Jim Hawes and some of the others, but we got the job done too. On looking back, I think my days spent with Midwest on their shop floor while apprenticing were pretty good days. I know I enjoyed them a great deal.
Bill Henderson left this earth in a 212 when he tried to make the airport with no transmission oil pressure. Bill was a bit of a stickler for details. The flight manual at the time suggested that a 212 could proceed for ten minutes with low/no transmission oil pressure. That turned out not to be the case.
Midwest dissolved its Canadian operation in April of 1997.