Dec. 26 - Open (10 - 4:30 pm)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Dec. 26 - Open (10 - 4:30 pm)
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
1903 - The St. Charles is the first steamboat on the Peace
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
René and Vic
(Source: Northward Into the Bush and Snow 1919-1929; notes of Elmer G. Fullerton one of – Pioneer Flying in the Canadian Sub-Arctic, one of the pilots; files of the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre)
As promised, this second in the series of René (G-CADQ) and Vic (G-CADP) – two versatile German Junkers all-metal monoplanes will feature the plight of pilots Elmer G. Fullerton and George Washington Gorman; mechanic William Hill; engineer S. (Pete) Derbyshire and others they met along the way.
We left the newly-named René and Vic and their crews on the tarmac of the Municipal Airport in Edmonton prior to their initial flight north to the sub-Arctic in 1921. The town of Peace River was their base.
Fullerton writes in his notes that they decided on a route along the Peace River to within 40 miles of Fort Vermilion – north-north-westerly across country to the Upper Hay River; along the Hay River to Great Slave Lake; across the south-western portion of Great Slave Lake to the mouth of the Mackenzie River; thence along the Mackenzie River to Fort Simpson and Fort Norman. The total distance was a little more than 800 miles.
The availability of fuel was in question. Thus, no advanced arrangements could be made for refueling. There was, however, credible information to suggest that trading posts along the way would have an adequate supply of motor-boat gasoline and oil. The concern, though, was for the first part of the route as far as Great Slave Lake. Consequently, the crews established a fuel cache about midpoint on the Upper Hay River.
As they were about to take off, an RCMP officer approached them with a note from Imperial Oil’s head office to take Sgt. Thorne, who had “mushed” out by dog team with a prisoner and was not looking forward to mushing back. He hitched a ride with them as far as Fort Simpson.
The two planes and crew took off from the Peace River aerodrome at 9 a.m., March 24, 1921, for ‘points north’. The day looked promising, but about 100 miles out it began to deteriorate. This meant a route change, which took them to Fort Vermilion. A short while later, they landed in a field near the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post where they were able to fill the planes’ tanks, but were unable to take off because of a blizzard. They were forced to stay the night.
A couple of days later they continued their journey, eventually making it to Fort Providence where they encountered snow so deep they could not gain enough speed to take off. After a couple of attempts, they returned to their starting point from which the five men and some locals on snowshoes tamped down the snow sufficiently to support the aircrafts’ skis. They were off now for Fort Simpson.
“Here, real trouble was encountered,” writes Fullerton. The violently uneven ice on the Mackenzie precluded their landing on that surface. They sought an alternative on a field at the edge of the settlement. “The Vic landed satisfactorily, but as the René was landing, one of her skis suddenly broke through the heavy crust of snowdrift, smashing the skis and breaking the propeller.”
No one was injured.
The pilots and crew later confirmed that about a mile south on a small subsidiary channel or “snye” of the Mackenzie, the ice was free of hummocks and would likely afford better landing conditions. They flew the Vic there to take off for Fort Norman alone with René out of commission. But, on the way, the Vic did not sound quite right. The conclusion – she would need a major overhaul before continuing.
The situation – the René had a broken propeller and ski – the Vic had engine problems. Plan – transfer the propeller and skis from Vic to René and fly René to Fort Norman. Changes were made – aircraft loaded – ready for takeoff – on their way. No! The René stalled at about 50 feet in the air. Crashed. People aboard were shaken.
The René, on the other hand, was damaged – broken propeller, slightly damaged wing and damaged undercarriage. “By an amazing bit of luck, the Vic’s ski was found to be the only part of the undercarriage which was practically undamaged.”
What to do?
The next in the series will tell about how the men and planes escaped from this dilemma.
Friday, April 3, 2009
An animated Constance shares a story with some young visitors to the Museum.
This was a wonderful way to end our storytelling series with Billy Joe Laboucan until this fall. The Museum would like to thank Billy Joe for his leadership in these events and also Larry and Constance for the stories they brought with them on Thursday.
Friday, February 27, 2009
(Source: Northward Into the Bush and Snow 1919-1929; notes of Elmer G, Fullerton, one of the pilots; files of Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre)
This is the first in a series of articles compiled by Beth Wilkins, Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre, pertaining to the two Junkers aircraft, which pioneered flight in Alberta’s North
The saga of two German-built Junkers and the Canadian North begins in 1920. One author wrote about the personal affinity – pride and affection ‘you might even call it love’ airplane pilots have for the aircraft they entrusted with their life. ‘For all I know, it might have worked both ways. Certainly there were some machines in the early days that seemed to have a personality – even a soul of their own,’ the writer surmises.
The wife of the vice–president of Imperial Oil Company Ltd. christened the two large monoplanes René and Vic – call letters (G-CADQ) and (G-CADP), respectively. The oil company obtained the aircraft to more expediently reach its experimental oilfield on the fringe of the Arctic Circle. They were especially necessary during the winter months. At the time, the only means of transportation from Edmonton to a site 60 miles north of Norman (later Norman Wells) on the Mackenzie River was by railway to the end of steel at McMurray. Then in the summer it was by steamboat on the Athabasca River, Lake Athabasca, Slave River, Great Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River, approximately 1,200 miles. Usually, the ice on Great Slave Lake did not depart until July and started its return in October. The navigation window was, at most, three months. This, coupled with the fact that the journey took two to three weeks, including an 18-mile portage from Fitzgerald to Smith meant irritating delays. Following freeze-up, travellers used dog teams on this route, extending travelling time to up to six weeks.
With the rapid development of oil resources, it was imperative Imperial Oil reached the fields as expeditiously as modern equipment would allow. Thus, the purchase of the two all-metal Junkers, which could be adapted to wheels, skis or pontoons. As well, a 175 h.p. engine powered each plane, which could carry five people or an equivalent weight.
The agent for the German-manufactured planes was in New York. That necessitated the contracting of pilots and crews to ferry them to their base in Edmonton. The company chose as pilots Captain Wilfrid R. ‘Wop’ May and Lieutenant George W. Gorman and S. (Pete) Derbyshire as engineer. The men journeyed by train to New York at the end of November 1920. By the time the three started back to Edmonton, winter was well on its way making it a long, cold flight.
When May arrived in Edmonton, Jan, 5, 1921, the temperature was -50F. Gorman’s plane, however, succumbed to the icy conditions and was forced to land at Brandon, Manitoba, where he and his plane remained for several weeks before being able to continue to Edmonton.
The author says, ‘the flight of the two machines across two-thirds of the North American continent in mid-winter drew little publicity or tribute, but it was a great achievement.’
On his return to Edmonton, ‘Wop’ May ended his association with the oil company. In his stead, it retained the services of Lieutenant Elmer G. Fullerton and mechanic William Hill. The new arrivals joined Gorman and Derbyshire to fly to the well sites. It was prior to the flight north from Edmonton that the Junkers were formally named.
The next in the series will feature the plight of Fullerton, Gorman, Hill and Derbyshire and others they met along the way.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Northern Sunrise County Reeve Agnes Knudson, president of the Peace River Air Show Committee greets (L-R) Mercy Flight recreation pilot Tom Hinderks and pilot/navigator Curtis Peters in the Northern Air Charter hangar at Peace River Airport.
After a month or so of braving cold weather and mechanical delays, the pilots of the much anticipated Mercy Flight Recreation were able to fly north. The pilots, Tom Hinderks and Curtis Peters, arrived safe and sound, and very, very cold at around 5:25 pm on Tuesday, February 10th. This trip comes exactly 80 years and 40 days after Wop May and Vic Horner made their way north to help stem the tide of a diphtheria outbreak on January 2nd, 1929. Members of the Museum Staff and Board, Constable Dave Brown of the RCMP, Don Good of Town Council and many others of our community were on hand to welcome the chilly aviators and revive them with cake and questions.
The entire crew included:
Pilot: Tom Hinderks
Navigator/Co-Pilot: Curtis Peters
Ground Crew: Ed Doucette, Rod Macleod
Chase Plane pilot: Bram Tilroe
Volunteer videographer: Greg Mockford
Media Relations: Dave Heathcourte
Dave was unable to come along, but was kept very busy updating everyone on the progress of the flight from Edmonton. His communications were indispensable. Denny May, son of Wilfrid "Wop" May, was also planning to attend but was unable due to health complications. He sent greetings along with the crew which was well-received.
The Spirit of Edmonton Kelly D two open-cockpit biplane that brought Tom and Curtis safely to Peace River.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The Mercy Flight to Fort Vermilion (with a stop in McLennan and Peace River) by Wilfrid “Wop’ May and Vic Horner, Jan. 2, 1929 is to be re-enacted. The purpose of the original flight was to deliver diphtheria antitoxin to Dr. H. A. Hamman in Fort Vermilion to inoculate residents of nearby Little Red River against the disease and thus to avert an epidemic.
By the time the flyers arrived in Fort Vermilion in their open cockpit biplane, an Avro Avian, one of the six or so people affected had died, but the antitoxin arrived and was administered in time to prevent the feared epidemic.
The 80th anniversary re-enactment of the flight itself, part of a Spirit of Edmonton Project, a joint venture of the Alberta Aviation Museum and the Edmonton Aviation Heritage Society, is to raise awareness of the 100 years of flight in Alberta and Canada. It also emphasizes the importance of medical flights into and out of the North to medical centres, such as Edmonton and the importance of Edmonton’s Municipal Airport.
The ‘Wop” May/Vic Horner Mercy Flight recreation is one of four slated from December 2008 to August 2009. The weather has played a major role in postponing the early flights. Thus, the flight scheduled for Peace River and Fort Vermilion Jan 2, 2009, looks as though it will not arrive in Peace River until Tues. Jan. 27.
When in Peace River, the plane, similar to the Avro Avian flown by the intrepid flyers, will be housed in Northern Air Charter’s hanger at the Peace River Airport, thanks to Rob King, and will set out the next day for Fort Vermilion.
There will be a public reception, hosted by the Town of Peace River, at Northern Air Charter. The exact date and time will be announced.
If you have any questions, please call, or e-mail us at the Museum, 780 – 624-4261, or email@example.com