Tower talk

I don’t recall having the privilege of flying into the Dryden airport during the festivities occurring twenty minutes away at Dryden-18 in 1974. The seaplane base was just a short distance from my apartment, so I was usually landing there just before dark, and gone by sunup.

With the influx of land- and water-based airtankers, bird dog aircraft, helicopters and commercial aircraft operating out of the strip, it must have been quite a beehive of aircraft activity. Obviously, the security mess we all have to deal with today was thankfully absent. You can have a look at some of the aircraft here, at the bottom of the page. Thanks to Rick Tyefisher for those images.

The temporary control tower at CYHD in 1974

Gerry Holmstrom doing the honours in the temporary control tower set up at CYHD during the 1974 forest fire season.

Given the amount of air traffic generated by the fires in the region, the Ministry of Natural Resources took it upon itself to install a make-shift ATC tower at the Dryden airport. It was staffed by off-duty ATC employees from Kenora and/or Winnipeg. It wasn’t much of a building, but it did provide some shade and a bit of a cross-breeze to keep the flies away if the wind was blowing in the right direction.

I was told that

“controllers were hired and paid privately by the agency responsible for the particular fire or area. Their instructions/info would not be “strictly legal” but would nonetheless be highly informative and accurate.” —thanks to Phil Gies for this

I’m more than certain that everyone using the airport appreciated the attention to detail that these off-duty ATC employees would have provided. For anyone interested, there’s a huge trove of Winnipeg ATC and other associated history located here.

Ron Berg and Gerry Holmstrom

Ron Berg and Gerry Holmstrom doing duty in the temporary control tower at the Dryden airport, a service that would have been much appreciated by the influx of traffic generated by the forest fires burning in the region.

I can remember in the very early ’70s arriving at YHD on one of Transair’s early DC-3 flights. The plane landed on a gravel strip and I deplaned onto a gravel tarmac during the airport’s startup. I don’t remember the terminal building then, but it probably began with a trailer, given the eagerness with which the community embraced the idea of modern air transport. Over time and with the improvements the community made to their airport, it wasn’t all that long before Transair was running a B737 on its Toronto/Thunder Bay/Dryden/Winnipeg run. Now those were the days—long gone now.

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