Posts Tagged With: aviation

High Flight

It is difficult to imagine that it has been one year since this blog post was made – I recall Dad was not well, but still , I did not believe that he would only live another two weeks or so… what a man he was – courageous. It was a very difficult decision to give him the freedom to choose to fly for the last time – how silly when I think of it now – but a year ago I was so desperate to have Dad live forever… I did not once consider quality over quantity — ha! Anyhow – on this, this occasion of his 92nd birthday – I wish to repost this blog post – happy birthday, Dad. I still love you. – Stacey

Well, it’s official:  I am 91.

I really never expected to even out-live my wife and yet, here I am. 

It is a beautiful morning – the sun is shining and the sky is clear.  It is indeed a good day for a high flight.  And a flight is what my son is giving to me. 

Last year was quite a celebration. My family arranged a wonderful open house for me.  There were so many people that came to help me celebrate – I was embarrased and thrilled at the same time.  It was the first birthday I had celebrated without my wife and so I must admit it was rather bitter sweet.  I was so grateful to everyone (nearly 150 friends and family) who helped me ring in my 9th decade.  There was music, food, dance, and of course, wine.

The day after this party, my son took me up in a plane.  It was a little Cessna that flew out of the Oro Airport.  What a flight!  The weather was much like it is today.  We flew over the farm, New Lowell, Kempenfelt Bay, and Barrie.  Spectacular.  The pilot even let me take the “stick” for a while and commented how “we old pilots seem to have the magic touch”.  I don’t know if he was actually terrified or truthfully impressed.  My daughter joked that I went into the air as a 90 year old and came down as a 70-year old. 

So – this year – I don’t know how old I’ll be when I arrive back on the terra firma. 

One of the nicest gifts I could get, though, was the opportunity to see my grand-son, Ben, graduate from high school.   Ben attends a French school and wouldn’t you know it – the entire ceremony was in French.  So, the Dancing Nannies and I watched and laughed when others laughed.  I didn’t understand a word.  Still, when Ben was called forward for an award, my heart swelled.  That’s my boy!  Paula would have been proud.  I found out later the award was for “Most Continuous and Genuine Respect”.  Wow.  What an honour.  I went home with the Nannies a very tired and very PROUD 90 year old.

I wonder what great things are instore for me this coming year?  I appreciate every day and I appreciate those who still think of me from time to time.  And I appreciate those of you who allow me into your world though this blog. 

My birthday wish for you is the same as it is to my family:  good friends and good health!  Cheers!

Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

George Duff’s Great Adventure

George Duff was my father.  He lived in New Lowell for the best part of his life and became quite a cornerstone of that community.  The George Duff Memorial Legion was named to honour his memory and recognize his contributions to both his country (he fought in World War I ) and his community.

We were quite close, my Dad and I, but Dad never really understood that I flew planes.  For some reason it had never really made a connection.  I think my flying remained something of “theory” to him…. until the time I picked him up at the Edmonton Airport – by plane.

I had been posted to Cold Lake, Alberta to work in air traffic control.  Since it was a posting with the Air Force, we lived in PMQs.  Dad had never been to Cold Lake before and so when I invited him to visit Paula, Jamie, the twins, and I, he agreed. He was flying in from Toronto via Air Canada and we were t o meet him at the airport in Edmonton.

I was president of the Cold Lake Flying Club at the time and so I was able to arrange to pilot a 152 myself to fly to Edmonton.  I took my son, Jamie, with me.  He must have been no more than 8 or 9.  In those days, one used headsets to talk to the air traffic control tower.  As we approached Ed airport I put on the headsets so I could negotiate our landing.   Jamie, on the other hand, couldn’t hear what I was saying.  I asked the tower for landing instructions.  I was #2 behind my Dad’s Air Canada flight which was landing in 10 minutes.  I told the tower I was over the run-way and I could take a “straight in” and land  in 5 minutes.  The tower cleared me provided I could clear the active run-way in 5 minutes. As soon as I got clearance, I pulled full flap down and power off.  Naturally, the airplane nose-dived and Jamie, not knowing what the heck was happening,  hung on for dear life as the plane rapidly descended.   I think the marks of his fingerprints must still be in the plane!

We were clear in 5 minutes and told the tower – they were relieved.

We parked the plane and went into the terminal to meet Dad.  We saw the passengers get off the Air Canada flight and spotted Dad quickly in the crowd.  We picked up his suitcase off the carousal and he turned and headed to leave for the  car park – assuming that we had driven to get him.

I said, “No, Dad, we’re parked the other way.”

Dad look confused.   He said, “There are only airplanes out there.”

I said, “That’s how we are getting back to Cold Lake.”

Dad again, looking confused, said, “Okay.  I see the planes, but where is the pilot?”

“I’m the pilot, Dad.”

“Can you fly one of these things?”

Of course, by this time I had logged over 2, 000 flying hours.  I replied to my Dad, “I think I can.”  This didn’t appear to reassure him.

So we boarded the plane and he said, “Its raining a bit – can you fly in the rain?

“Yes”, I replied.  “It’s raining here, Dad, but the sun is shing in Cold Lake”.

He inquired,  “How do you know?”

“Dad, when I filed the flight plan back in Cold Lake, I had to find out the weather.”

He seemed to be getting that maybe I knew what I was doing and the “theory” of me flying was quickly turning to “reality”.

We put Dad in the back seat.  Jamie was in the right seat.  I had never flown from the right seat before and I didn’t want to start then. About 1/2 way there he remarked that I only had one engine.  He was also quite concerned that it has been raining and there were puddles all over.   ” What if the engine stops?”, Dad inquired again with concern.

“You look for a dry spot and try to land there.” I assured him.

The rest of the flight seemed to settle him and he almost appeared to enjoy the flight.  I think he may have actually been impressed.  Imagine, a farm-boy from New Lowell flying to Cold Lake!  I guess he wasn’t too impressed, though,  when I let Jamie take over and fly the plane for a while.

When we approached Cold Lake, I put on the headsets and called the tower  to let them know we were arriving. It was rather late in the day – there were no airplanes flying.  There was no answer from the tower.  I called them again.  There was no answer.  I thought, what the heck is going on?  I knew the emergency procedure for no radio was to circle over the oil tank.  This maneuver must have scared the pants off my Dad  since he was looking out the back seat at the wing as it rose when the plane tilted as we circled the oil tank.   Finally, the controller finally looked out the window and saw us, gave us quick permission to land, which we prepared to do.

Later, we discovered later that the controller and his assistant had been playing chess and had the radio turned down low so they could concentrate.

Dad had some great tales to tell when he got home to New Lowell about his great adventure in the sky.

Categories: Duff History, New Lowell | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memories of Koggala Beach

Squadron 191 RAF was stationed in India on anti-sub patrol – that was my squadron.

Although I was hired to spot submarines the only thin I ever saw was water.

The water, mind you, was beautiful.

We lived in marquis tents only several hundred feet from the water front.  Even though the water was fantastic, we preferred to swim in the pool at one of the “exclusive clubs” RAF members were granted membership to.

Why did we not swim in the river?  Well, across the river was a pitch of burning ghats.  A ghat is a series of steps that lead down to the Red River.  A departed loved one would be placed on a float  in the river and then the entire vessel was set afire to cremate the body.  It was a very reverent service.  I could never get over the image of that cremation as the body – when it burned – would contract and sit up.  This is not one of my favorite memories.

It was hot there.  When we landed in Bombay on Christmas Day it was 105 degrees.  We sweat a lot and since we’d lose a lot of salt, we had to take salt tablets or a tablespoon of salt dissolved in water.  You’d just add salt to your water glass from a cruet – since salt shakers didn’t shake well in the humidity.

We also had to take methyl quine to protect ourselves against malaria.  These were little yellow pills.  When you sweat, the yellow would come out your body into your clothing.  Our socks quickly turned yellow.

There was once a tornado that came through and sucked up several of our aircraft.  We were able to salvage the auxiliary power units (AVUs) from the sunken Catalinas so that everyone had their own generating units.  We used these units to help light our tents.

We had to be pretty handy in those days and able to improvise.  Catalinas, the craft we so loved, truly “lit up our lives”.

Categories: World War II | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobster Air


When Dad told me this story – just a few months before he passed away – I was shocked.  Of all the stories I had heard growing up, this one had been kept a secret.  Maybe it wasn’t a secret but it had certainly slipped into the back files of his mind.  Dad didn’t really think this was a story at all and “It isn’t really worth repeating.”, he said.   Writing the update to the story, I did some research about the Straits and lobster there – found an article from the Toronto Star which puts another layer to the story about lobsters.  Kind of interesting read for those of you who are lobster fans!  (–new-brunswick-lobster-fishermen-fight-for-higher-prices)

“Oh, my goodness, Dad.  This is funny!”  I replied.  I must confess that I didn’t understand a few aspects of the story since I didn’t really put the story into the context of World War II and the fact that fishermen didn’t have access to much needed fuel.  After a few questions and a bit of research, however, this is the story that emerged.  Enjoy!

Lobster Air (in Dad’s words)

Yes – lobster can fly – at least they did in Prince Edward Island during World War II!   Truthfully, the crustaceans were assisted with their flight and it wasn’t that the pilots were particularly welcoming of their aerial hitch-hike either.

We, members of the RCAF Squadron, were on patrol in the Northumberland Straits watching for German Submarines.  The Straits are located between Prince Edward Island and the “Mainland” – mainly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Today, the Confederation Bridge New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island makes the trek between the two locations a little easier.  But, during World War II, the only way to “access” the area was by plane and air surveillance.  Although there had never been sightings in the Straits,  Germans had surfaced and were even so bold as to buy fish in Montreal.  I never did confirm that was the truth, but the rumor was pretty exciting.  Our mission was to criss-cross the Straits to watch for “enemy” subs.  (Funny how some of my best friends today are German.  Was sure is a strange thing!)

The Straits were well known for lobster.  Since my favorite meal was lobster I felt I was not only defending my country, but also my palate!  During lobster season, the fishermen were out in full force – not like today – but still there was many of them.  Since fuel was rationed during the war, the fishermen had to use sailboats to fish.

Some of the pilots – to conduct their patrol- would fly close above the water.  This would make a “slip-stream” behind the aircraft.  This slip-stream would unintentionally (or not) cause the  lobster farmers’ sailboats to tip over.

Oh boy, the fishermen became quite upset but it seemed there was little they could do.. until they figured out how they could retaliate.  When the low-flying pilots flew too low, the fishermen threw lobster up at the aircraft.  Some of the lobsters would become lodged in the wings.  This wasn’t really too much of a problem.  The fishermen felt they had had their “say” and the pilots were still able to fly without hazard.

The funny part of the story happened, though, when the pilots arrived back at base when the pilots took their planes to the maintenance crew for inspection.  The crew were quite surprised to find lobster stuck in the aircraft.  I guess for a while they figured the lobster jumped out of the water.  No one could figure out how the lobsters managed to hitch a ride.

Finally, the story emerged.  The low-flying pilots and their craft had unintentionally become, “Lobster Air”.  I guess we may have been the first to ship lobster into PEI!

Categories: Duff History, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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