The Flying Superintendents
by S. Bernard
The first Flying
Superintendent of Algonquin Park was Frank A. MacDougall,
later to serve as Ontarios Deputy Minister of Lands
and Forests. Probably the most important single factor in
MacDougalls success was an open-cockpit Fairchild KR-34C
biplane, the CF-AOH, with which he kept an eagle eye on Park
activities. This is the story of the AOH in the Park, its
subsequent firefighting exploits, and its crash, neglect,
recovery, restoration and flight in disguise as
At $7,000, the AOH
was an expensive aircraft in 1931, but it was a quality product,
selected personally by MacDougall. Fairchild Aircraft of Farmingdale,
New York, had purchased the design from Kreider-Reisner and
improved it to carry the sophisticated Fairchild aerial cameras.
Quite a small biplane, with a wing span of 30 ft., a length
of 23 ft., and 165-h.p. engine, it could haul two passengers
over 500 miles at a cruising speed of 82 m.p.h., and could
operate with wheels, skis or floats. It was finished in the
standard Fairchild coloursblack fuselage, fin and rudder,
with orange wings and a large company emblem on the vertical
tail. MacDougall insisted on a larger tail for better manoeuverability
on the water, a modification probably carried out at Fairchilds
Using this airplane,
MacDougall effectively erased the poacher problem that had
plagued the park since its inception in 1893. From his base
at Cache Lake, he would fly over the vast expanse of the park.
There was no escaping him in winter, as tracks were plainly
visible from the air. In summer, he would land alongside suspect
canoes to check that fishing limits had not been exceeded.
MacDougall was able also to check personally on and direct
the many park improvements that he initiated.
At the end of the 1933
season, the AOH had a complete overhaul at the OPAS headquarters
at Sault Ste. Marie. In the process, it was repainted yellow,
with silver sides, and the Fairchild emblem on the vertical
tail was replaced with the words Algonquin Park.
A series of Ontario Provincial Air Services mechanics kept
the aircraft in the air, including Stan Knight (1931-32),
Jack Humble (1933-35), James Cairns (1936-37) and Francis
Hughes (1938-39). MacDougall flew the AOH until 1938, when
he relinquished it for a more powerful, enclosed-cockpit Stinson
Reliant. Another overhaul at The Soo resulted
in an all-yellow paint scheme with black lettering and a stylized
OPAS emblem on each side of the forward fuselage. Stationed
at Temagami, the AOH was then flown by several OPAS pilots.
Aerial forest firefighting
is now a huge and routine operation, but the technique was
pioneered by Carl Crossley flying the AOH over Algonquin Park
in 1944. Bruce West tells the story in The Firebirds.
Inspired by seeing a fire started by lightning and then extinguished
by a shower, Crossley realized the value of getting water
to the fire before it was fanned by the wind into a major
conflagration. An aircraft should be able to do it, but how?
After some thought, he installed a 45-gallon steel drum in
the front cockpit of the AOH, with a system of three-inch
pipe and elbows protruding into the water.
snorkel water pick-up was not effective because Crossley could
not taxi fast enough to generate adequate pressure to force
the water up into the drum: he had to fill it up with a fire
pump. A small bush blaze started by Phil Hoffman, Chief Ranger
at Temagami, and Rene Simard, Crossleys air engineer,
was extinguished in a few passes with ground guidance from
Simard, who stood a little too near the target and was the
beneficiary of a free shower. It was a beginning, and experiments
continued with larger planes, leading to the specially designed
water bombers of today.
In 1944, some thought
was given to rigging the AOH for aerial spraying of spruce
budworm but, before the plan could be initiated, the aircraft
was sold (for $2,043.59) to Fletcher Air Transport of Wawa.
In 1945, the AOH was sold to Air-Dale Flying Services of Sault
Ste. Marie and was kept busy until 1948, when engine failure
on take off from Wildcat Lake, north of The Soo, resulted
in its wreck on the shoreline. Pilot John Hampton was not
seriously injured but the AOH was abandoned.
In 1963, OPAS decided
to retrieve the historic aircraft and restore it to non-flying
condition for display at the National Aviation Museum in Ottawa.
Considerable work was completed before they found out that
the museum would only accept aircraft in flying condition.
This was too big a task to tackle at the time and the AOH
was put on the shelf.
Many retired OPAS personnel
lived around The Soo (and still do), however, and they volunteered
to restore the AOH to flying condition for the 50th anniversary
of OPAS in 1974. Largely because of the difficulty in obtaining
drawings, parts and technical information, the volunteers
could not meet the target but, undeterred, they pressed on.
The restoration was completed for OPASOs 60th anniversary
and the aircraft flew again in September 1984, with OPAS Chief
Pilot Al Stewart at the controls.
But it was no longer
the CF-AOH. After the crash and write-off, this registration
had been reassigned to a DC-3, and Canadian registrations
had been changed to begin OC-O. The closest registration to
the original that could be obtained was C-FADH.
C-FADH operated from
The Soo airport hangar for a series of trials and photo opportunity
flights before returning to the OPAS hangar on the waterfront.
When the air service operation moved to new quarters at the
airport, the OPAS facility became the Canadian Bushplane Heritage
Centre, where CF-AOH can be seen today disguised
In recognition of MacDougalls
exemplary service as Park Superintendent from 1931 to 1941,
and his twenty-five years as Ontarios Deputy Minister
of Lands and Forests, in 1976 the section of Highway 60 through
Algonquin Park was named the Frank MacDougall Parkway. Frank
MacDougall was elected to Canadas Aviation Hall of Fame
and received the prestigious Trans-Canada (McKee) Trophy.
CF-ADH is a permanent tribute to Frank MacDougall and to the
other bush pilots who did so much to open up northern Canada.
The Canadian Bushplane
Heritage Centre has a unique collection of aircraft and equipment
used in Canadian bush and firefighting operations. Among the
displays is the remains of the prototype Noorduyn Norseman,
the first true bush plane, that crashed in Algonquin Park
after playing a leading role, along with Brenda Marshall and
James Cagney, in the bush flying epic Captains of The
Clouds. Jack Minor, one of the volunteers who run the centre,
provided most of the information used in this article. The
Centres web site can be viewed at http://www.bushplane.com
This is an original story,
first published in The Country Connection Magazine,
Issue 32, Winter/Spring 1999. Copyright S. Bernard Shaw.
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