Introduction to the Chapter Titled:
One of the great pleasures of being a
bush pilot is being able to enjoy the wilderness without suffering the
extreme kind of pain and hardship that the trappers, prospectors, miners,
and drill crew must endure. The bush pilot can make a short two hour
flight into one of these remote wilderness camps, enjoy the occupant's
enthusiastic company, indulge in the freshly baked bannock hospitality,
and wing his way back to civilization and his own warm bed for the night.
This lifestyle, of course, does not apply
to helicopter pilots or pilots on contracts where the aircraft must stay
with the geological or drilling party in the high arctic, but it does
apply to the majority of the bush flying jobs I have had.
The most important rule I learned was to
generally take care of the camps as if they were your own, and
specifically to be good to the cook or the camp boss or whoever was in
charge of the kitchen. There is nothing better than a cup of hot coffee
and a pile of fresh pancakes (made from scratch) topped with cool yellow
butter and real maple syrup, and a side of crisp Canadian bacon to fuel
the pilot on his return flight south.
This story, taken out of Grant McConachie's
biography Bush Pilot With A Briefcase, epitomizes, to the extreme, an
example of what it is like to be the bush pilot with a responsibility to
his trusting customers left in some remote wilderness. Hopefully we will
never get to experience what it feels like to be the stranded fool waiting
faithfully on the pilot to return.
I can't help but remember the time I left
an Indian trapper and his family on a remote lake out from my base of
Island Lake, Manitoba. I loaded the trapper, his son and daughter and
wife, an outboard motor, gas can, backpack, and rifle into the C185
floatplane. By the size of the pack I could see they carried only the
staples of flour, salt, and lard. We flew for about one hour as he
directed me to his remote camp. I dropped them off and agreed to pick them
up in two weeks.
The next two weeks was filled with 10 hour
flying days, dispersed with fights with my employer, inquiries by the
RCMP, distressed nurses, an Indian boy with a fishing hook through his
finger, burning houses, and other life-on-the-reserve distractions. The
two weeks turned to three when suddenly I remembered my promise. I set out
the next day only to discover to my horror that I had not marked the
location on the map. With three weeks of 10 hour flying days, I had been
everywhere imaginable and could not even remember what lake I had dropped
I flew to where I thought was the location
and started a slow search pattern. As luck would have it I spotted a fire
on the horizon after about half an hour of searching. I circled and to my
relief found the family standing on the Precambrian rock shoreline.
I landed and nosed the floats to the shore.
We loaded the aircraft without a word spoken. No one seemed perturbed or
upset, and in fact, they did not even seem to notice that I was late. They
had shot a small moose so we loaded the hide, the dried meat, some fresh
meat they had buried, and the head, and flew back to the Island Lake
Only days later did I start to get the
friendly polite ribbing from the Indians in the settlement about how some
"new" pilot had forgotten the Spencer family in the bush and had
only found them by accident when he was wandering around lost one day. The
smile induced wrinkles in the corners of their eyes told me they knew damn
well who the pilot was. I enjoyed the way they dispensed this good humour
teasingly, but I also recognized that they were doing it to let me know
that, as their guardian of transport, I too had responsibilities to this
god forsaken community.
Editorial Introduction by
John S Goulet
Continue now with the chapter out of Bush
Pilot With a Briefcase called:
High Granite Wilderness
The attitude indicator will take you back to Features2.
Top of this story.
John S Goulet Editor
January 06, 2015 .
© Virtual Horizons, 1996.