Terry submitted the following article after reading the article entitled “An RCCS Pilot’s First Solo” which was posted to the website 30/07/2017. He was a student on the first Canadian Army Pilot Course to undertake primary flying training at RCAF Station Centralia Nov 59-Jan 60. Prior to Centralia, Canadian Army pilots, for the most part, undertook primary flying training at the Brandon (MB) Flying Club before proceeding to CJATC Rivers MB to complete their Light Aircraft Pilot Course, graduating with the award of the coveted Canadian Army Flying Badge.
LCol (Ret’d) JA (John) Dicker RCCS.
I’d never heard about the incident in the article “An RCCS Pilot’s First Solo”, but it brings to mind my own embarrassing experience at Centralia. Unfortunately the unavailability of my log books prevent me from reciting details of the date, Chipmunk registration, etc.
As it turned out, upon the direction of my excellent instructor, F/O Dave Garland, I was required to make what ended up being the largest contribution to that time to A Flight's 'rumble jar' for the sin of 'carrying unauthorized cargo' on an early solo training flight, which event occurred at the anticipated full-stop landing for the flight.
As our course at PFS Centralia was run in the mid-winter of 1959/60 and, thanks to the well-known 'lake effect' at the downwind southeast end of Lake Huron, ample snow covered the airfield, except for the constantly plowed runways, taxiways and hangar lines. Small conifers stood at regular intervals along the sides of each of those surfaces in order to provide ample reference of the respective boundaries.
Touching down during my intended final landing for the trip, I unwittingly allowed the plane to drift to the right and found myself heading off the runway towards the rather deep snow. Unable to correct the turn before leaving the runway, my instant thought was that I couldn't allow the ship to end up stuck in the snow, so I applied full power and was able to regain flight without, it seemed, any damage. However, as I climbed out, the Control Tower advised me that there was what appeared to be one of the small conifers hanging from the plane's elevator. I couldn't see it upon looking back but, checking the controls, I found fore and aft stick travel to be heavy, although more or less manageable.
Following anticipated discourse on the ground, I was advised to complete a normal circuit, land on the active runway and, if I recall correctly, to shut down the aircraft. I proceeded to do so and was met by a small team driven to the site, where I climbed out of the ship and went back to observe what I had precipitated. Surely enough, a conifer 5 to 6 feet long, was stuck hanging from the starboard elevator horn. I was driven back to the hangar while the aircraft was divested of its unwanted appendage and towed in.
Unfortunately, I can't recall the embarrassing but very appropriate nickname the incident conferred on me for the duration of the course, which I was still to hear occasionally at CJATC Rivers after successfully completing primary flying training.
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