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An account of a Mid-air Collision.

1 May 1959
BGen R.G. Heitshu

Peacetime, mid-air collisions were rare in the Air OP. The first, and fortunately the only one, occurred on 1 May 1959 in 2 Air OP Flight. Capt Bob Heitshu was attending the Long Locating Course at the School. During the "crater analysis" part of the course, it was arranged to take the students on an aerial view of the craters formed by different caliber weapons. Capt Heitshu, with Sergeant Bryden in the rear seat, flew one aircraft, and Capt Panet and Lt Pollock flew the other two aircraft. At the briefing prior to the mission, it was decided, among other details, that they would return to base in formation and break over the landing field prior to landing. All participants flying in the demonstration were warned that local SOPs (customs) frowned on extensive use of radios, and that hand signals would be used for the break. As they approached Proctor Field at one thousand feet, Capt Heitshu, Number 2 aircraft, was formatting too closely and slightly high of the lead aircraft (Capt Panet) watching for his signal. Capt Panet signaled a break to the left; Number 2 reacted quickly, and as he banked into the turn his wing tip lodged in the elevator of the lead aircraft causing it to descend in a 90° dive. Not knowing what had caused such a sudden violent manoeuvre, Number 2 continued his turn, leveled off, and left the circuit. Suddenly his attention was drawn to Lt Pollock's aircraft, which was on his right. Lt Pollock was waving furiously and pointing in the direction of Capt Heitshu's left wing, which the latter saw, to his astonishment, had been severed just beyond the strut's anchor point, and the wing tip was flapping up and down. On his part, Capt Panet, unable to bail out, forced the stick back and broke through the horn regaining level flight at two hundred feet to enable him to make a normal landing. Mean-while, Capt Heitshu, was the centre of attention as he made a long gentle sweeping turn into wind and landed without further mishap. A sequel to this event was the arrival of a C47 wing to replace the damaged L19 wing. The RCAF had computerized their inventory! The damaged starboard wing and the port elevator were rebuilt locally with some help from Rivers.

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  • 1 Air OP Flight Group photos.
    Assistance would be welcome in identifying personnel in these photographs: View Content.

    Compiled by BGen R.G. Heitshu.