A Flight of Anxiety

[Original image “Engine of plane” © Vasily Smirnov/Dollar Photo Club]

When those of us in the Regular Forces graduated from RMC we were posted directly to our Units in Korea.

Because we were going to Korea as individual replacements and not with a Unit, we were spared the long, and very uncomfortable sea trip in US Naval transport craft. We flew in Canadian Pacific commercial aircraft – both going and eventually when returning to Canada the following year.

I had gone to Korea direct from my Honeymoon, so I was especially anxious to get home to see my wife and meet my baby son – born 9 months and 20 minutes after our wedding!

The return flight was in a DC3-9B commercial aircraft – at that time a relatively modern four-engined propeller aircraft.

The route was from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to the USAF Air Base at Kiska in the most western extremity of the Aleutians for refuelling, and thence directly to Vancouver.

Kiska is a barren, wind-swept volcanic rock! The winds are so strong and persistent that all facilities are below ground. Commonly called by those Americans obliged to serve there as “Hell on Earth”!

Shortly before reaching Kiska one of our four engines failed. “No sweat” reported the Captain; “this aircraft flies well on three engines.” We landed OK and after refuelling and a quick lunch we took off with three engines.

Between Kiska and the Charlottes another engine failed!

Again we were assured by the Captain there was nothing to worry about. He said he had radioed Vancouver for a replacement aircraft and that it would meet us at Sand Spit in the Charlottes.

While we were in Kiska the latest newspapers had been provided from a west-bound flight out of Vancouver.

As the Captain was telling us we were to land at Sand Spit, I was reading an article in the Vancouver Sun reporting that on the previous day a flight landing at Sand Spit had overshot the short runway, gone into the Pacific, and all had been drowned in the freezing waters!

I called the Flight Hostess over – showed her the headline and she raced to the cockpit to inform the Captain.

Within two minutes we were told by the Captain that the DC3-9B was quite capable of completing the entire flight on two engines – we would just arrive in Vancouver a little late!

We landed safely with two engines and there, at the gate, was my Daphne, wee Andrew and my Dad. After 12 1/2 months away who cared that we were a little late!

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