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My Blue Wing Odyssey


LCol (Ret’d) WR (Ross) Craddock RCASC

The fact that I joined the military was likely in my genetics, as all my direct male ancestors had been in the military, with the exception of my father, who would have done so as well had he not been too short to meet the physical parameters of the day. As soon as I got a taste of the military through the compulsory high school cadet corps in my hometown of Kitchener Ontario, I was drawn to it and it certainly steered me in the “military” direction. Several summer cadet camps, including a “driver mechanic” one in Camp Borden lead me to the Militia and 48 Engineer Field Sqn for summer employment and camps. This included one as a driver for the Ipperwash Summer Camp and the interaction with the Service Corps personnel there. This made my choice of Service, when I enrolled in the Officer Candidate Programme (OCP) in 1962, a very easy one: the RCASC.

The OCP course at the RCASC(S) in Camp Borden was challenging as we had instructors like Des Morton, Stan Hand, Vern Taskey and Jack Granatstein, all very diverse individuals. During that time Stan Hand was doing proficiency flying on an L-19 and took all course members up for famil rides, after which we were asked if we wanted to sign up for possible pilot training. I think we all did, as everyone signed up for everything.

My first posting was to Wolseley Barracks as a supply officer running the supply depot under Maj Buxton and Capt Haines. The new found authority in this position lead me to write a letter directly to the commanding officer of the RCR pointing out that his organization was “lackadaisical” in their handling of required returns. I soon learned my first lesson in the chain of command and who could and couldn’t write to commanding officers and the tone in which to do so. I was certainly known around the Base after that.

After a year in London I was moved to the RCAF Station Clinton supply depot to replace Bill Rhodes, who was moved to London, to run the supply depot there. In that position, I got to go to RCAF Station Centralia to do inspections/liaison work and I got to see the Chipmunk aircraft and I was fascinated. I had forgotten all about my signing-up for pilot training when I got the call from my CO telling me that he had approved my pilot selection process. I had to do my aircrew medical at Centralia before going to Toronto for my selection process. Shortly after the Toronto selection process I was loaded on the next Army pilot Course at Centralia.

I started flying in the spring of 1964 at Centralia and it was very interesting, especially with such a mix of fellow Army officers. The initial part of the course kept us busy with ground school but near the end of spring and the beginning of summer that ended. When we transitioned to half day flying it gave us a lot of freedom and access to Grand Bend. The social life was great, and we had a chance to spend time on the beach and get to know some of the more interesting venues there. The most interesting event occurred when there was a problem with the propellers cracking and breaking on the Chipmunks. The most dramatic happened to Capt Bob MacDonald (Black Watch) over Grand Bend one day, when the propeller broke, pulling the engine off and keeping it suspended by the control cables between the wheels. According to Bob, when the instructor (F/O Mike Thompson) asked Bob what happened he said the engine was gone, meaning it wasn’t there anymore. The instructor took this as meaning it had failed. Bob, being a paratrooper, realised the danger of the engine falling off and was about to jump. After some heated discussion with the instructor with Bob on the wing of the Chipmunk, Bob reluctantly got back in. They force-landed in a field but unfortunately as soon as the aircraft touched down, the engine caught on the dirt and the aircraft flipped over.

Shortly after that Bob ceased training voluntarily. My remembrance of this occurrence is vivid, as I had just completed a solo flight in the same aircraft immediately prior to the incident and was questioned at length as to what I had done during that flight to rule me out as the possible cause of the accident.

There were several incidents that come to mind at Centralia, one being my first check ride with F/L Vern Peppard. I had been out late the night before with my instructor, F/O Morrow, and according to him we were just going to do a routine trip later in the morning. Much to both of our surprises, when we arrived for the flight, we were told I was doing my check ride then. The first circuit I did, according to Vern, was more of triangle than a circuit and he thought the ride was going to be a disaster and a fail. Fortunately, after that I did everything right, somewhat to his surprise, and passed. The second thing was the problems they were having with the boots on the tail wheels. They would fail and lock the wheel in whatever position it was in at the time of failure. On leaving the Brantford Airport on a cross-country, apparently my tail wheel had locked in a very off-centre position so when I tried to land back at Centralia it created a problem: every time I put it down, it tried to force the aircraft into the infield. After several attempts of adding power to get the tail wheel off the ground then dropping it back on the runway, it finally released, just as they were about to summon the crash vehicle.

The start of LAPC 39 at CJATC Rivers MB in September was a change from Centralia. The course was truly Army vice the Air Force course we had just finished and there were many interesting times. Our cross-country trip in the winter was to Edmonton with RON at Saskatoon. There, the briefing for the next day was quite unusual as it was held in Capt Ray Hall’s bathroom with him the bath tub. Later on, during the trip an oil leak in the L-19 flown by Capt Alf Tait developed, with oil streaming along the underside of the aircraft and the in-air dialogue from instructors to him kept everyone’s interest.

During the airdrop portion of the training Capt Don Chambers and I were swapping seats and reloading the drop bundles. When he crossed in front of the running L-19 he felt his “Carling’s Redcap” cap start to blow off and he tried to grab it. As he did, his arm moved close to the propeller and all I heard was a strange sound. When I looked over I could see Don looking at a shredded flight jacket sleeve, then at me, he was motioning to me to say that he was okay and to say nothing. On getting into the aircraft, the instructor, Capt Hugh Stevenson, asked what had happened, as he could not see anything from the rear seat: I said nothing. I was definitely taken to task for my silence after the flight. Fortunately, a torn sleeve that was all the damage that was done.

During the last few solo flights before graduation I was working on short-field landings on the end of the runway in L-19 709. During an attempt, where I knew I wasn’t going to make the spot I wanted, I initiated an overshoot, but when the power was advanced nothing happened. As there had been issues with 709 similar to this previously and the known remedy was to work the throttle back and forth several times so it would catch again. I did that but this time it didn’t and as I was in a 3-point landing position, I made a hard landing at which time the engine caught again. After a slight pause and quandary as to whether to go around again, I returned to the hangar and shut down. On shut down the propeller tips were curled in and, on inspection, the wheel housing for the brakes were worn down significantly. Fortunately, the curl on the propeller proved that power was not on and, as others had had similar issues, it didn’t end my training. Being shook up by the incident my quote in the maintenance log was “nicked prop bent”.

Once the L-19 course was over and we received the coveted Canadian Army Flying Badge we went directly to BHTU for helicopter conversion. I must admit, I felt more at home in the helicopter world than I did in the fixed wing one. After successfully completing the conversion, Alf Tait, Don Chambers and I were sent to Trenton for the H-21 conversion course.

The H-21 still had the wooden blades and the first few times I had to start the helicopter with the combination of friction clutch and tooth gears were tense, as there had been incidents of the process failing and the forces causing the blades to fly off. The course was going well at Trenton until the contract to supply the radar sites hit a problem and the helicopters had to deploy to Val D’or QC to keep them supplied. After 10 very interesting days and nights in Val D’or/Bourlamaque with very few training flights we went back to Trenton. On our return to Trenton we were getting close to our final rides and it was time to do the night auto-rotation section. My instructor, F/L Cal Drake, was new to the flight, so when we went out we did all the night autos to touchdown on the runway, and we did quite a few! When Cal got back from signing-in, the flight commander was not overly pleased because the auto-rotations were all to have been to power recovery.

While on course I received my posting message to Ft Rucker Alabama and the aviation test facility. I returned, with great anticipation, to Rivers ready to start my packing. I was called in to see Maj Harry Read, the CO 1 Transport Helicopter Platoon RCASC, to let me know my posting had been changed from Ft Rucker to his unit. Apparently after the crash that killed Lt Jack Shaw, the US Army wanted a more experienced pilot to fill that position. Maj Reid also let me know at the meeting that his preference would have also been for an older, more experienced pilot (there was six years difference between me and the next youngest pilot). I was crewed with Capt Buck McBride for my check-out and our first major deployment to Gagetown for the summer concentration.

As the helicopters were new, we had to stop in Ottawa enroute for all at Headquarters staffs to see them. Gagetown was very eventful with lots of training for all of the Brigade. Capt Colin Gillis’ cargo hook malfunctioned, dropping a jeep complete with gun, much to the dismay and chagrin of its driver who had signed for it. The Brigade Commander wanted to be landed behind the Headquarters Mess on return from the field. As we were unaware that grass behind the Mess had just been mowed, the rotor wash saw the Mess filled with grass, to the chagrin of the Mess Manager.

As the transport helicopter was new, we were in great demand and went to a summer exercise in Wainwright to demonstrate this new capability before numerous dignitaries. A big item, along with an airmobile deployment of the guns, was to be the firing of the Honest John missile during staged manoeuvres for dignitaries. The extremely dry conditions combined with the very large flame associated with the missile firing set the training area on fire, changing it from a demonstration to a major firefighting effort.

Although I was qualified as a co-pilot on the Voyageur, I was loaded on the first Voyageur co-pilot course at AATTS with Capt Dan Danyluk as my instructor. To say the least, it was boring, and I felt it was a waste of time for me but probably not for AATTS to validate the course. I got a total of 28 hours to add to the 200 I already had on the Voyageur.

It was during this period that there was a crash involving Capts Stan Hand and George Fawcett related to a stability augmentation system (SAS) failure. All crew members survived the crash, but Stan Hand later succumbed to his injuries. There had always been a discussion of how the aircraft would “swap ends” if there was a failure of SAS and not controlled. It took a while to convince the aircrew that it was safe to operate without SAS and you could, in fact, do a whole mission without it and survive. In later courses and during continuation flights, including IFR, the mission would be done with the SAS turned off: a lot of concentrated effort but very doable.

As soon as I got back from the course in November 1965, I was refreshed on the Hiller CH-112 “Nomad” or as we referred to it as the “Jeep” in preparation for a deployment to the Queen Charlottes to support an amphibious exercise “EX Sockeye”. The main squadron would deploy there while I and the “Jeep” would be airlifted there by Hercules. The main unit never got there due to weather and I was left to transport Gen Rockingham between the exercise areas and the ships supporting the exercise. Gen Rockingham continued to insist that I was reading the map wrong and would continually snatch it off my knee clip board and orienting it completely wrong. Fortunately operating on an island makes the potential of getting lost much easier to deal with.

We did many large-scale exercises including one to Newfoundland in 1966 where we operated out of Cornerbrook. It took us a long time to get there as the weather was always bad and we had to adhere to the VFR flight rules. Upon arriving in Cornerbrook we found that the city wouldn’t allow the Army or us to use the golf course for our base, so we operated from the city dump. After the Newfoundland exercise the squadron took the helicopters to Shearwater where they were going to embarked for a major exercise in Norway. I did not participate as I had to do my promotion exams during that period and remained in Rivers.

In the spring of 1966, the unit was tasked to support the Winnipeg floods and Capt Ron Hall and I were dispatched. Our role would be taking the provincial flood control experts out onto the ice with the explosives to let them drill holes in the ice, prepare and submerge the charges and then detonate them. What wasn’t clear at first was that when the charges malfunctioned and we had to back out on the ice to let the crew fix the problem. Initially we were landing back at Winnipeg International, by the terminal, to load the explosives and refuel until one day the tower asked what we had on board. Once we told them, we were repositioned to the furthest corner of the airfield to fuel/resupply and park. The key explosives expert we were carrying around had a very bad limp and was missing several fingers.

In the June 1966, Capt Gord Walker and I went to CFB Portage to determine if we could lift a T-33 from the Base to be mounted at Crescent Lake at Portage. There was great concern about how it would react in the air and also how much it really weighed, and could we lift it. After a few trial runs, mattresses were attached to the wings to stop it “flying” and we moved it very slowly from the Base to the pedestal they had placed in the park. Gord’s superior piloting skill allowed the setting of the T-33 onto the pedestal to be completed on the first try and it still stands there today.

The Unit was moved from Rivers to St Hubert that summer and it was left to many of the single personnel to move the helicopters. It was during one of the trips that we had a crash in the US, involving the helicopter flown by Capt Doug Hardy and Lt Cam Mathias, with the loss of life of one of the crew members. Once the move was completed, we got to settle into life on the Base which we shared with 414 Squadron.

That year we supported the Canadian International Airshow in Toronto as part of the CNE. After our portion of the show, we would return to CFB Downsview, refuel and pick up ground crew and Base personnel and take them out to the Toronto Island Airport to get a better view of the remainder of the airshow. The USN Blue Angels were performing, and we had found that a great view of their show could be had from the end of the breakwater. Joe Oakley and I had ventured out to the end. Then it started to a rain a bit so we decided to move back towards the helicopters. Just before their very impressive high-speed low-level cross-over we stopped to watch it and realised that there was something going wrong. The Blue Angel flying east towards the airport and breakwater was touching the water and the rooster tail from the full power application was huge, but the aircraft was not breaking free. It became evident that it was going to hit the breakwater so we both turned and started running. At some point, I think we both just hit the ground as the aircraft hit and exploded, with debris going everywhere, damaging one of the parked Labradors. There is a YouTube video of the crash on the web.

In December 1966, I was tasked along with Capt George Fawcett were tasked to support an exercise with the R22eR in Quebec City but a week long period of ice storms cancelled that. As we were about to return to St Hubert, we were tasked to go to Shearwater to support “EX Webbfoot”, an amphibious landing exercise with the militia near Mahone Bay. They were using the DDH and landing the Voyageur on the deck to pick up troops meant you had to land cross deck with minimum rotor clearance and the landing gear just on the deck. It could be done, but definitely not if there were any large swells or rough seas.

In March 1967 I was then sent off to the helicopter instrument course in Ft Rucker with Lt Bill Pollock and Capt. Dan Stovel. Ft Rucker was very busy in the mid-60s, graduating about 200 pilots a month. At that pace there were numerous accidents and fatalities. I was glad to be under the bag on launching from Hanchey Field in the morning, as there was often half of the 600 plus helicopters on the pad launching at the time. I got to fly the B, C and D models of the Huey there. As this was at the height of Viet Nam the atmosphere around the Base was unique and a friendly rivalry developed with the Australians, who were also on course there. Maj Marsh Wright was the CFLO there at the time.

In August 1967, Capt Mike Anglesey and I were sent on the Okanagan Helicopter mountain flying course in Penticton. It was a great course, but as the helicopters were called out on several occasions to fight forest fires, we had quite a few down days. Bud Tillotson our instructor was quite a character. He had many thousands of hours flying and was also a professional bronc rider. Although Bud was hard of hearing, he could tell when the RPM on the Hiller varied the slightest amount and his flying ability and sense of the winds and air currents in the mountains were unbelievable.

From 1966, until I was posted from the unit to BHTU in 1969, there were numerous exercises including support for the Infantry School in Algonquin Park out of North Bay, support of SAR 1 out of Goose Bay, flying the Prime Minister, becoming conversion instructor and primary test pilot and instructor for the CH-112. When a CF-100 crashed on St Bruno mountain in August 1968, I was tasked along with Lt Cam Mathias to respond to do the rescue/recovery. The weather was bad with a heavy fog down to near ground level. On launch we had to stay low and when we came to the Power Lines enroute, we had to hover up one side of the tower, rotate over the top and down the other side. The CF-100 had crashed into a house and one of the injured pilots had some eye damage causing the medical personnel to be concerned about changes in pressure, so the return trip was slow but fortunately the weather had gotten slightly better. From the time of the call until we had the aircrew back to the Base hospital was less than 30 minutes. Later I found out from the CO Pete Harrison that the Base Commander had wanted to put us in for a commendation, but Pete told him it was our job and not required. When I left 1 Tpt/450 I had accumulated over 1100 hours on the CH-113A Voyageur.

In May 1969, I was posted to CFB Rivers to BHTU on the CH-112 Nomad (Hiller 23) as an instructor. I did my Cat Ride with Capt Vern Taskey in Winnipeg and then started my formal instructing. In addition to the flight instruction, I taught the technical portion of the course taking over from Capt Fred Leach (RCEME) and was course director for several courses. During the time at Rivers, F/L Ken Young, the standards officer, and a student were killed in a CH-112 crash (269) on the airfield. As a result of that, to maintain the course load requirement, we had to take on three students, vice the normal two, until another instructor could be brought in.

Subsequent to the accident, there was a study initiated to determine the number of auto rotations that each instructor was involved in during a month, broken down by power recovery and to touch down. In my case it was at least 3-7 to power recovery and 5-10 to touchdown per student per lesson and 10-15 touchdowns per instructor solo or mutual. It was during this period that we received the first “Direct to Wings” rotary wing student influx and this created an interesting situation. When we started to review the course files on those being sent to rotary wing, the comments indicated that they were usually the lowest graduating student from flight school, as though “rotary wing” was so simple anyone could do it. This led to the Commanding Officer, S/L Roy Gummeson, talking to his counterpart at CFB Gimli to have us come up to do a “famil session” with his instructors. It was quite interesting and fun to see the A1/A2 Tutor instructors trying to keep the Hiller within a farm section while only controlling the cyclic and pedals. It was a worthwhile effort as the quality of students improved after that. The first course included Capt Dave Harrison and his father, LCol Pete Harrison, came and stayed with us so he could present Dave his wings.

CFB Rivers closed and the move to CFB Portage took place. I moved from instructing to standards flight after getting my A2 rating, while maintaining my test flight responsibilities along with Capt Fred Leach. It was here we formed the helicopter formation team which included Walt Morris, Fred Rehse, Ron Aumonier and me. As Fred Rehse had part of similar team while in Germany, he provided suggestions that included a rather intricate and exciting to view four corner cross-over, pull-up followed by another cross-over. It was a manoeuvre that required light and predictable winds to do. On one of the practice days, I had Col Paul Argue ride with me while practicing for an upcoming show. The first attempt was reasonable, but on the second we had not detected the increase in the wind speed and directional change. The first cross-over went well, but after the pull-up and return it was clear were all about to end-up in the middle at the same time with the pre-briefed break manoeuvre then being initiated. On Landing, Col Argue noted after it was “very interesting” with the proximity of the helicopters and whirling blades during the break manoeuvre. That manoeuvre was obviously removed from the routine. I also attended Staff School in Toronto during my time in Portage.

In 1970, in support of the October Crisis, we were dispatched with three Hillers to CFB Saint Hubert to support the operation. A lot of the missions I had were to transport the Quebec Minister of Justice Jerome Choquette from the Base or downtown Montreal to the prisons at Quebec City, Kingston and on Montreal Island. Once we landed, I was usually taken into the facility for security reasons and was monitored very closely by the guards, as this was one occasion where every military member participating was fully armed. There was rotation after a week and we returned home on commercial air, just notifying the flight crew that we had weapons in our carry on. That was all that had to done: times have truly changed.

We transitioned to the Bell 206 Jet Ranger in 1970 and I took a 10-hour checkout with the US Army at Ft Rucker on the OH58A. In January of 1971, the US Army test facility did cold weather trials at CFB Portage and I was assigned to the test. The basis of the test on the OH58 was to assess “extreme cold weather” starting methods ranging from battery to cartridge assist. The trial required the maximum cold soak so that meant it was usually 3 or 4 in the morning we would be called out to do the testing. The test ran for two weeks and at the end, it was found that the difference between battery and cartridge start was minimal, if you knew how to use (massage) the battery properly. A month after the trial I had to present the Canadian report, in conjunction with the US Army, to DLA in Ottawa. That year I picked up one of the first CH-136 Kiowas from Bell at Ft Worth and ferried it to CFB Portage. With the arrival of the Kiowa, there had to be a significant change to the curriculum to meet the new requirements of personnel graduating from the course as it now had to include instrument flight and navigation.

In 1972 I received my posting to an exchange tour with the Royal Navy and arrived at RNAS Yeovilton to start my Wessex V conversion at 707 Naval Air Squadron. On arrival at the Station, while waiting for quarters to be assigned, I was picked up daily by a staff car and driven to the squadron. As I was the first Canadian to be assigned to this exchange one of the first questions asked was why a “Captain” was doing it. When I explained my rank was the same as a “Lieutenant Navy” the staff car disappeared and the “Captain’s quarters” I was to be given changed. I was there the same time Prince Charles was doing his conversion and had the opportunity to go out “pubbing “with him and the rest of our course.


I completed my course in December was posted to 848 Squadron and embarked aboard HMS Bulwark in February of that year. The first action was to get me deck qualified before the two-month deployment to the United States and then to Puerto Rico. Having never been to sea before, the crossing of the Atlantic at that time of year was eye opening and fortunately, I did not suffer from sea sickness.

In Puerto Rico, we completed the annual weapons qualifications at the range on Vieques Island. The helicopters were fitted to carry machine guns, rockets, depth charges and torpedoes and this qualification was for machine guns and rockets. As the range was not instrumented, the method of assessing the accuracy of your weapons firing was very rudimentary. A helicopter would hover at 7,000 feet (for safety reasons) over the target area with a crew member lying on the helicopter deck at the door, holding a concentric piece of plexiglass calibrated with distance rings. At that height, in the high-density altitude associated with the high temperatures, holding position was hard and avoiding power settling difficult. For some reason, I was able to do that better than any other squadron members and would do it for hours at a time to speed up the completion of the firing exercises. There were also several flight level live fire attack exercises completed to test the concept.

On return from deployment I was made Flight Commander of D Flight. We embarked again in April for a major exercise in the Mediterranean with a full Royal Marine Commando unit onboard. Enroute as Flight Commander I was required to complete the deck landing qualifications for all the new pilots on my Flight. Day time checks weren’t too bad. The night ones were very interesting with all the landing spots being occupied and me occupying the left seat where seeing the marshal and edge of the deck was difficult. We disembarked the Commando in Malta and then proceeded on to Cyprus where the Squadron disembarked for a 4-week period at Nicosia airfield. The deployment was requirement as the UK had to exercise a required utilization of the airfield on a regular basis to maintain an agreement with the Cypriot Government. On return from the Mediterranean in July, and before returning to Bulwark’s home port of Plymouth, we were diverted to a Fleet Gathering in the Firth of Forth.

In August there was another deployment to the Mediterranean to support a major NATO Exercise in Greece and Turkey. As Greece and Turkey were still in conflict when we had to do exercises in either nation, they had tactical maps that were very closely protected by each nation. That meant that the information on the maps were detailed for their nation but blank for the other requiring so many maps to be carried for certain missions it became cumbersome. We had after exercise stops in Athens, Istanbul with a “Right of passage” into the Back Sea and in Gibraltar. We did not return to the UK until in December as we were diverted to two different exercises: one in the Orkneys with the marines and another in the North Atlantic to do NATO trials. On the way back from the exercise we were diverted to Germany to exercise a “Right of passage” into disputed area with the soviets. During this particular deployment, there had been several small fires onboard that had been controlled. This time, in the middle of the very busy English Channel on a very foggy night in December, a major fire was set in one of the diesel generators rooms and it was severe enough that there was an order given to prepare to “abandon ship”. The fire was controlled, and the arsonist found, but it was a close call.

In January, we deployed first to Amsterdam to embark the Dutch Marines for a deployment to Vieques Porto Rico for a three-week training period. We first went to Aruba, Curacao and then to Puerto Rico where D Flight was disembarked to support the Dutch Marine training for a three-week period. This “high tempo” of deployments was required as the RN was down to 1 LPH, HMCS Bulwark, to meet all the commitments. This was the last sailing for the HMS Bulwark, and it was to be paid off in June of that year. On return to the UK we were tasked to de-provision the ship armaments to Boddington and then return to Plymouth. One of the fondest memories I have is of the very special night on board celebrating the end of the ship’s service, with squadron and ship’s personnel.

In 1976, I was posted from the UK to FMC as Staff Officer Air Tasking in the air cell under Col Don McNaughton and LCol Ned Henderson. As FMC had operational control of several types of aircraft (helicopters, fighters and transport) there were always interesting debates over who could and couldn’t task them. It was even more interesting as there was conflict between the Commander FMC, LGen Stan Waters and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Dextraze, specifically concerning this. During this period, I was sent to the Army Command and Staff Course (Foxhole U) in Kingston.

There was a decision to form 10 Tactical Air Group (TAG) but it still required a few of us to remain in FMC: Capt Reg McCann and myself to name a couple. We were moved to SSO Tasking group where I looked after the air tasking and Reg the land tasking. This meant we attended Command Council meetings to brief LGenWaters on taskings, which more often than not, had him upset telling me to phone some senior officer to let them know it wasn’t happening. Getting a quick nod from Gens Paradis or Loomis indicating they would deal with it was reassuring.

I was relieved when all the air tasking was moved to 10 TAG and I was able to move there to become Staff Officer Equipment working for LCol Ned Henderson. The change was interesting, as we were getting ready for the Olympics and a lot of equipment had to either be found within the supply system or procured new. This became demanding as in addition to doing the regular equipment function, there was also the need to man the FMC Operations Centre nearly every day on the rotating schedule. I continued in that role until after the Olympics when I was made EA to BGen Roger Lacroix, a position that I held until I was posted.

My posting was to 450 Squadron Detachment in Edmonton on the CH-147 Chinook where Maj Mac MacIsaac was Detachment Commander. After my conversion was complete, I was sent to Ft Eustis Virginia to take the CH-147 Maintenance Officer Course. Shortly after the course Boeing finally replaced the one that had crashed, and I was sent along with the AETE Rep Capt Bob Auld down to Philadelphia to accept the new one. As the acceptance was priority, I missed the major squadron activity of supporting OP Northern Light, the recovery of the downed Soviet satellite.


I was promoted to Maj and replaced Capt Tiny Wenaas as Operations Officer. I was Ops O for about four months when Mac MacIsaac decided to take his release. I then became the Acting Det Commander. Almost concurrent with that move, a decision was made to re-designate the Det to 447 Squadron and dismantle the Aircraft Maintenance Unit, re-assigning it to either 408 Squadron or 447 Squadron. As all this required major changes to orders, it was necessary for me to be officially designated the Commanding Officer to make the changes. It also allowed 447 Squadron to integrate the AMU activity into it which made sense as we shared the same facility. We supported several major winter exercises for the Brigade that winter. On my posting from the unit to the Canadian Forces Language Training Centre for the year-long French language training, the command was upgraded to a LCol and Leo Noiles assumed command.

At the end of the French language training I was posted to DLA and took over the life support equipment and CH-136 Kiowa files. It was a good section led by LCol Hal Swain and included Majors Ron Hall, Dan Stovel, Ed Booth and Tiny Wenaas. During the four years I was there I was involved in the procurement of the training Kiowas at Portage La Prairie, the introduction of the WSPS and the procurement of EW equipment . I initiated the Canadian Forces Light Helicopter Program and obtained the required personnel (from FMC and Air Command) for the staffing of the program office that later formed under LCol Dave Simmons. A major problem at NDHQ was the ability to find sources of funding/resources to do all the projects. I was able to find them and get funding for EW trials in the UK and travel budgets to support the initial CFLH activities. When I left DLA, we had a travel/trial budget of over $75K. In my last year in DLA I was sent to the US Armed Forces Staff College Course in Norfolk Virginia.

In 1984 I was posted to Staff School as a DS and then promoted to LCol at the end of that year. The promotion meant I had to move and when Gen Don McNaughton came to the Staff School to do a presentation, he told me that there wasn’t any command positions available for me to take that year. As a result, I got a “no cost” posting to the CF Command and Staff College in Toronto as a DS. I spent the next two years there and was about to move back to Edmonton to command 447 Squadron again. I was faced with a quandary as I was still under the old Army retirement system and could be forced to retire in three years, with no guarantee that I could serve longer. When I was approached by a former DS, who had resigned earlier to work for a major aerospace company, I had to make a decision.

I retired in 1987 and moved to Ottawa to work for Honeywell Aerospace and Defence in Ottawa in Business Development. As with all industry, there were numerous divestitures, amalgamations and procurements which meant over the period 1987 to my retirement in 2011, I worked for Honeywell, Alliant Techsystems Inc, Raytheon and Hughes, as well as setting up my own company, WRC Consulting. The variety of companies and jobs meant that I traveled the world from South America, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, to all of Europe.

I retired in 2011 and live in Abbotsford BC to be near our children and grandchildren.

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