George Brien sent us this - originally appeared in NetLetter #326 November 12, 1998.
A short "flash from the past" about TCA when job descriptions didn't cover all the situations.
The story by Bill Norberg reminded me that similar flares were still kept in stock by local maintenance during the mid-fifties.
Many of the smaller airports had basic runway lighting which did not show up too well during periods of poor visibility such as snow or fog (radio range letdowns with a minimum of 400 foot ceiling and 1 mile visibility didn’t help much either).
A box of railway flares were kept on hand and these could be ignited by breaking off the end somehow, which created a very bright flare.
An inbound DC-3 from Boston to Yarmouth was having a difficult time picking up any runway lighting, so after several approaches a request was made for 'flares'.
Not sure how I converted from being a radio operator to becoming the "flare operator" but borrowing an airport jeep, off we went to the end of runway 33. The flares only lasted about 10-15 mins so when the captain reported turning final, off we went lighting and setting a flare every 100 yards down the right hand side of the runway and quickly got back to the terminal.
The success rate from the several times that we tried it was poor to nil but it did give the passengers who were waiting in the terminal the impression that we were "doing all possible to assist" and I must admit that the flares were quite impressive as seen from the ground (too bad they couldn't be seen as well from the air).
We wish to thank Monika Hilson who has sent in several memories of her career which we will be publishing as a series over coming issues. The first of the series follows.
Air Canada Airlift
Air Canada Vancouver-based crews were assigned to airlift Vietnamese refugees from various points in South-East Asia to major Canadian cities in 1979-1980. This refugee resettlement program would become one of Canada’s largest and most ambitious, bringing over 50,000 Vietnamese ‘boat people’ to our shores and throughout the country.
Trying to remember 40 years ago, my first flight to Kuala Lumpur. We were so excited to be able to fly there and ferry a flight to that part of the world. What to encounter - we knew relatively little about the Vietnamese boat people except that they escaped from their homeland by boat and ended up in a refugee camp.
Our first set of passengers - we were surprised how many young children there were. Most of them had been split up and only the wife with children, or an Uncle with his sister's children, and so on.
Very few were couples. I remember counting 30 babies on laps. The amazing thing was they never cried and they were such sweet children. To our amazement all they had was a small Red Cross bag and that was their worldly possession; coming on an Air Canada flight to start their new life in Canada and now Saskatchewan of all places, coming from a tropical paradise.
The Air Canada Crew in Kuala Lumpur.
Right to Left: Denise Pemberton, Monika Hilson, Sharon Tetz, Sigrun Cowan (in-charge), Patricia Ponte, Margaret Rothlisberger.
Monika Hilson helping dress a young child on flight. Monika was involved in bringing clothing and toys to distribute to families aboard the flights.