|Here are some long lost pictures that were taken of the light airplane crash that my father and I were involved in on December 22, 1971. My dad was 32 years old, and I was 9 years old:|
|Here is a shot showing the opening from which my father and I emerged and made our way to the Morden aiport club house:|
|NEW! Thanks to a family friend
for providing some personal pictures of the accident scene
-- after 47 years!
|Here is the Pembina Valley
newspaper article (with the wrong date) of the accident:
|Here is a photo of my father and myself sometime after the crash, still showing some of our injuries:|
|Here is an account of this story that my Dad wrote soon
after the crash. It was submitted for publication
but never made it. Now, 35+ years later, the
internet provides the way! No changes have been made
to his original manuscript except for spelling and
The Flight I'll Never Forget
We all survived 1971. Some of us remember it as the year of learning, some as the year of teaching, some of us came dangerously close to our inevitable end on this earth. For some no doubt it was a beginning. I survived in spite of the of the odds, and class myself in the group that learned.
December 22 1971 came along unusually mild, with afternoon temperatures in the high 30's. I had 300 plus hours in my log and a brand new night endorsement on my flying license. Most of the my flying at this time of year was night since daylight is short and business is long in December. Southern Manitoba is densely populated and very pretty in December due to an abundance of festoon lighting. I had been in and out of Winnipeg a few times in the past few weeks and I recall the splendor of these winter flights well. December 22 my work took me past the airport 3 miles east of town, I stopped by my hanger and stuck the engine warmer in the cowling, hoping that the weather would hold till that night. All day heavy overcast was sitting over southern Manitoba at about 2000 feet above ground level, with winds less than 5 miles per hour. My 9 year old son Darren was in for a surprise that evening -- his very first night flight. By 19:00 hours the two of us were pushing Yankee-Romeo-Alpha out into the night under dripping hanger doors. Lights were visible for miles, the continental 85 purred on the second blade. We taxied out down 260, and I'm sure Darren was thinking what he would tell the kids in his class about this flight, while I did a thorough run-up on the button of 080.
There is something about night takeoffs that have always intrigued me; maybe it's the feeling of the runway light being on an invisible monorail under each wingtip, and then falling off below and behind. This feeling was exemplified this night with no moon or stars; I am sure he was filled with amazement as we climbed out of 080. The climb from this runway is east and away from Morden over rural countryside, and I was on the gauges during the climb. About 30 seconds from rotation, the airspeed indicator dropped from 70 to 0 in a steady frightening arch. Now I was born and raised 8 miles from this spot, and in my 32 years had never known grasshoppers, bees, or butterflies to out-flying into pitot tubes at this time of year. The altimeter said 400 feet when I did a quick left bank for downwind and landing. It was after that 180 degree turn that the word 'HELPLESSNESS' took on a new meaning. No airport, no beacon, NO TOWN, nothing but black everywhere. I flew on for a minute or so hoping that as we flew over Morden we might get a glimpse of lights. Nothing, more black, another shallow left bank -- have to stay within visible range of the airport. Black, Black, Black everywhere. My concern in the preceding few seconds had switched from sightseeing to Saving our precious hide. Sensing that something was amiss, Darren asked what I planned to do about our situation. I told him that I was going to call Winnipeg air traffic control and tell them about our icing problem, hoping that somehow the magic of radar vector would get us in to Winnipeg, and down on good old mother earth. The V.S.I. and horizon were venturi-driven, and they must have been gasping for air. I thought I was climbing for altitude to call Winnipeg tower when we hit. The last I remember was reaching for the radio. I woke up for a few minutes on the 25th, just long enough to write a few things on a scratch pad. I am sure it was “HOW IS DARREN?” and when the answer was “FINE', I wrote “MERRY CHRISTMAS” and handed it to my wife who was at my side constantly.
By New year's day I started feeling more or less in the land of the living, but very numb. Left leg in a cast, left shoulder broken, left ribcage broken, jaws wired up firmly, and no voice.
Although I remember nothing, this is what happened from the time of the hit -- Darren woke up sometime later from a cold wind in his face and the strong smell of aviation gas dripping on him. He unbuckled his lap-belt and groped his way of the the wreck. He called me several times but got no response; finally he got back into the wreck, unbuckled me, and dragged me out into the snow away from the danger of fire. The fog was down on the ground level by this time and visibility was nil. We had come down in a field about a mile from the airport, and the week-old beacon was barely visible. Darren tried unsuccessfully to stand me up several times -- he tells me that I kept falling down. Finally he put his slender little frame around and under me and half-dragging half-carrying me, made his way toward that faint flash of light. The beacon had been down for a considerable time for repairs and had been re-installed only a few days prior. Without that light we might well have wondered in another direction and almost certain death for us. We must have made slow time crossing ditches, fences, and several tree-lines with heavy snowdrifts. Darren was near exhaustion when he finally reached the clubhouse. He phoned for help and lay down to rest and wait.
Darren's grandfather got the call and wasted no time on coming for us. It was one of those nights when everything was coated with about a half-inch of ice, even the highway. Darren was in the Morden hospital till about mid-January recovering from a badly cut scalp and loss of blood. I took a fast 65 mile trip into Winnipeg by ambulance accompanied by medical staff.
Miraculously I did not lose any teeth in spite of a badly broken upper and lower jaw (maybe it was the calcium in the milkshake and eggnog diet for 2 months that restored them). I remember that tough, mushy banana the day the wires came off my teeth. I thank God for my recovery. I have very minor scars, and with proper heals you wouldn't even notice a limp. Oh, sure, I'll keep the internal plates, wires, and pins, but I really don't mind. I have my son and my health, that's two of the best assets I can wish for. I was still in a wheelchair in spring when I purchased CF-JTE, a 150 commuter, which I flew home with a cast on my leg. I appears that aviation will stay in this family; my wife is presently enrolled in ground school, I belong to the EAA and have decided to build a 2/3-scale Mustang. This will most certainly be a five-year family affair.
I learned that it can be fatal to meet weather on the way down when you're on the way up – especially at night in December.
NOTE: I checked with the M.O.T. at the time of the accident investigation and they tell me that checking the weather prior to the flight that night would have revealed nothing -- since the closest MET station to Morden is Winnipeg 55 nautical miles. The weather at Morden localized and too low for Winnipeg weather radar. Since that flight I have a new rule – NO STARS, NO FLIGHT.
Here are my own retrieved original notes from a short presentation I made with my Dad in 1982 (minor grammar corrections only):
A few more memories of these times from my mom:
The plane itself was an old Cessna 120, built in 1946. Here are some links providing more info about this model and its 'big brother' Cessna 140:
Since I could not find any photos of my dad's Cessna
120 before it was destroyed, here is what it probably
|Here is the only surviving part of the aircraft: the magnetic compass!|
|NEW! This 'rear-view mirror' ornament was also part of the crash, and survived for viewing:|
This is a video showing a flight I took with my dad in his Cessna 150, one of the airplanes that he eventually purchased years after the 'accident'!
NEW! Video converted to MP4 and WEBM instead of FLV for maximum forward web browser compatibility :)
NEW! This is a view of the plaque that was presented to me in 1972 by the Morden Flying Club. At the time -- and even since then -- I have reminded people that this was no attempt on my part to 'be brave', but just to help my Dad!