Monday, February 22, 2010

1948 Olympic Hockey Champions: RCAF FLYERS

THROWN TOGETHER at the last minute because Canada needed to field a team for the 1948 Olympics that were then being held in St Moritz, Switzerland.

But in pre-Olympic exhibition games, the RCAF Flyers hockey team was so badly thrashed, people were saying,

"And THIS is the hockey team Canada is sending to the Olympics? Pourquoi??

Well, actually, Canada was having a real problem fielding a team that met then new, and more stringent amateur guidelines set out for participants at the St. Moritz Olympic Games of 1948.

In fact, it started to look like NO Canadian team would be sent overseas for the Olympics. And that, almost made Squadron Leader A. Gardiner "Sandy" Watson lose his marbles.

Working out of RCAF Headquarters in Ottawa, Sandy immediately went to see his air force superiors. In those days the RCAF could solve anything, and often did.

Sandy convinced the "brass" that the Royal Canadian Air Force could field a good team, just by selecting the best players from RCAF Stations all over the country! Team membership would be based on an individual's current hockey stats. And this type of team formation, could all be done on a shoestring budget. That sounded good to Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Wilf Curtis, who had already been running the entire air force on a shoestring budget… because of our damnable federal government.

So Wilf gave the nod, and the Canadian Olympic hockey team of 1948, manned entirely by active airmen of the RCAF, was formed. Enter the RCAF FLYERS!.

This irregular Canadian team entry was most strange.

PREVIOUS Canadian Olympic team entries were Allan Cup, or senior league champions. You know, teams that had played together certainly for months, if not years. But the St. Moritz team's player roster was only finalized just hours before the RCAF Flyer's team's departure from New York aboard the the luxury ocean-liner, the Queen Mary.

Incidentally, this was the first time that the Royal Bank of Canada would be called upon and would answer the call to help sponsor a Canadian Olympic team to compete at the Olympics. RBC paid for the hockey team's Queen Mary ocean-liner voyage overseas. And the RBC have been helping to sponsor Canadian Olympians ever since, including the current Canadian Olympic team. But helping the RCAF Flyers was their first such Olympic venture…

HOWEVER, once the RCAF Flyers arrived in Europe, those "boys"… were on their own!

Remember those were the days of zero funding for Canadian Olympians, and it ain't a whole lot better now! But I digress…

So the RCAF Flyers soldiered on, and paid their own way.

The team began playing in exhibition games (and singing!) all across Europe… to raise money to eat, and to put a temporary roof over their heads, all the while, practising for the big day…

And their initial lacklustre progress was watched, and publicly ridiculed, back home.

But then the RCAF flyers hit the ice in St Moritz…

And Canadians weren't laughing now. Seems those RCAF Flyers just kept winning. Not whining, like Canadians do now.

And when the RCAF Flyers wrapped up by defeating the Russian Team to claim Olympic Gold for Canada, a shallow, jeering Canadian public… that had formally been entirely aloof, and unsupportive, was now awestruck.

“Canada’s Sweetheart,” Barbara Ann Scott, who also won Olympic gold for Canada at the St. Moritz games (besides being the first, and only Canadian to ever win in women's senior figure skating) also happened to be the RCAF Flyers NUMBER ONE FAN at those important games.

Miss Scott was there cheering the Canadian team on to gold, and was later then hoisted up onto the player's shoulders right after the winning game on February 8, 1948. A photograph captured that happy moment, and it became THE photo of the Games.

Canada would win hockey gold again in 1952.

But then, not again, until 2002… 50 years later!

The RCAF FLYERS won their Olympic gold back in 1948 by true grit. The team had only a couple weeks together to get it right. And they certainly did!

And yes, that is an official RCAF FLYERS '48 OLYMPIC TEAM lapel pin.

Only 20 were made at the time, and only for team members. I own one.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

::: The Arrow, the Iroquois: Love, Planes… and the whole Damn Thing :::

ON THIS DAY, February 20, 1959… 51 YEARS AGO… the Prime Minister of Canada, John G. Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow, and the Iroquois, programmes.

Back then, it was called Black Friday.

The casualty was the CF-105 Arrow Canadian Intercepter programme.

But that wasn't the day's only casualty. The incredible Orenda Iroquois jet engine that was to power the Mark II Arrows also died that day. Not tot mention the 14, 500 employees thrown out of work!

51 Years Ago Today

Black Friday - February 20, 1959

FIVE ARROWS and parts to complete a total of 37 of our All-Canadian Interceptor.

We could have had three squadrons of Arrows!

But then again, 50 years ago, today, was Black Friday.

Yes, February 20, 1959.

PM John A. Diefenbaker stood up in the House of Commons (Canadian Parliament), at 11 am, and cancelled the Avro Arrow and Orenda Iroquois Projects on this date exactly 50 years ago.

And Crawford Gordon Jr., President of A. V. Roe Canada, and not one to be outdone by anybody, especially by a mindless bureaucrat… terminated every Avro Canada employee in the afternoon.

All 14, 500 of them!

No aircraft to manufacture…no need for employees!

Canada would never recover.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Way We Were ::: 1954 ::: CANADA

THE KEEN OBSERVER will note that the AVRO ARROW is noticeably absent from this proud 1954 achievement ad of A. V. Roe Canada (or Avro Canada Aircraft Ltd. as the company came to be known).

And that's because the Arrow was STILL on the drawing boards!

But there was already excitement within the company, as this ad hints at.

Notice, AVRO CANADA is meeting the challenge through ongoing research and development depicted by the illustration that "leaves" the boxed grid at the top of the ad, and enters the picture of the Avro Canada CF-100 flying over the Toronto plant that produced her.

If you were awake in 1954, you probably weren't, but if you were, and you were looking at this ad, you'd ask yourself… why, why, did the graphic designer alter the layout of this ad… so that the viewer's eyes are directed by the "flow" of the ad, from the TOP, and from the BOTTOM… to follow through and come to rest on the research and development illustration?

Huh, why?

What A. V. Roe CANADA Limited couldn't tell you at the time, but proudly hinted at… was Avro Canada had been secretly tendered a contract by the RCAF to build Canada an cutting edge intercepter, and work towards that end, was WELL UNDERWAY at this point…

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

::: The Avro Arrow: The "James Dean" of Aircraft

THE DESTRUCTION of Canada's military aviation industry (the cancelling of the Avro Arrow Interceptor and the Orenda Iroquois Engine Programs) in 1959… and the subsequent decline of Canada as a modern industrial state… go hand in hand.

THE CANCELLING of the Avro Jetliner Program, and the torching of the C-102 Jetliner prototype, which could have been wildly successful as a commercial airliner venture… an airplane that had many eager buyers worldwide, including the USAF, should have been a warning to all Canadians.

Yes, that something was not quite right, not in the business soul of the Canadian aircraft manufacturing sector… but in those program overseers, within the federal departments of the Canadian government.

Everyday folks, I get up, drag myself outta' bed, and fling the bedroom window wide open, and have a look out.

It's always the same question… that comes into my head.

"Why, why, are there no Arrows flying out there…"

…from the URBAN DICTIONARY: The Avro Arrow

The AVRO ARROW is the James Dean of the aircraft world -- "Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse". Considering that only 5 were ever flown, the Arrow has generated more books, articles, documentaries and controversy than many aircraft produced by the thousands.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

60 YEARS AGO: Dow Chemical CEO, and Four Others, Perish in Fanshawe, Ontario - CONCLUSION



And now for the stunning conclusion!

SOME FOLK might've thought there is nothing left to be said after parts (1) and (2).

And they'd be wrong.

Dr. Willard Dow died here, in this crash, in London, Ontario. 1949.

To begin to understand the significance, in modern terms, of the personage who died in the crash and the impact on that sector of business, Dr. Dow was immersed in, we may have to transpose businesses.

So we eliminate industrial chemical… AND substitute silicon valley. Software development.

WHAT IF an airplane crashed at your community airport?

The locals would come along and have a look. The police would soon guard the crash, and the general public would be forced farther off, away from the crash site, which might affect traffic routes, etc. and the community would be abuzz with the event.

But what if it was soon discovered that Microsoft's Bill Gates, and his wife Melinda, had just died in that crash?

Let the calamity begin! In silicon valley and the stock market.

It would be the SUDDEN and unexpected end of an era.

A captain of industry would be gone.

AND the hard-fought, hard-won empire of Microsoft could actually topple in light of such an occurrence.

So Bill Gates is dead. Now what?

Hope, you're getting my drift.

To the Dow Chemical executive only a few hundred miles southwest of the border in Midland, Michigan, the shock of losing Dr. Willard Dow, the company's living icon, was immense.

Dow sent everyone north so see what the hell had happened.

Dr. Willard Dow wasn't just some high school chemistry kid tinkering with his chemistry kit he had once got as a Christmas gift! This was the man! The man who had helped the Allies win World War II with his ever most timely, and incredible… chemical discoveries!

In the world of biz, this guy was huge. Willard Dow's greatness was chronicled in Part 1, so we needn't refer to the details again here, but we do need to remind the readership of the man's stature in that far-away world of 1949.

AND IN THIS one instance, the man, his greatness, his problem-solving acumen ACTUALLY lead directly to his demise!

Dr. Willard Dow had been invited by none other than the legendary Winston Churchill, to attend the former Prime Minister of Great Britain's MIT speech in Boston. And Willard, was not going to take a pass on so grand an overture by Winnie, himself.

Not on his life!

So Willard, quite accustomed to finding solutions to emerging problems, went with the Dow Chemical's second flight crew on call, that day. Willard simply bypassed the first-up flight crew of the company Beech 18 when they refused to fly… That refusal being based on the severe weather conditions prevalent in the region at the time!

And that would be his biggest, and final, mistake!

Sure the Dow Chemical Beech 18 captain, A J Bowie, waited 'till nearly all of the bad weather cleared at his end. Trouble is the Dow Chemical aircraft's route to Boston ensured that the corporate aircraft would be FOLLOWING the storm, and soon thereafter take-off ENTERING INTO the storm!

Do the math folks.

Storm traveling east. Aircraft travelling east.

Storm travelling at 45 mph. Airplane travelling at 190 - 240 mph.

No wonder they ran into trouble so quickly after take-off, being that London, Ontario… was less than 200 miles away.

But it wouldn't have been so bad, had all six people on board the twin-engine Beech died that day.

But they didn't.

There would be one survivor.

Calvin Campbell, Dow Chemical's Vice President and general counsel, would play over, and over again, the vision of that tragic day, in his head… for the rest of his life.

That terrible, horrible, moment during the crash landing sequence when the faltering Beech 18, now on fire, finally came to a complete stop. And try as they might, with all their might… his dear, precious, precious love, his wife Alta, of so many years… couldn't unfasten her seatbelt…

It just wouldn't unclasp!!!

The end was cruel, and quick.

It couldn't have been any more than a minute after the aircraft came to a stop before Alta was entirely engulfed in flames. All this, as Calvin looked on, helpless, actually… beyond helpless, as he was finally pushed back, for further rescue attempts, by the bewildering heat and wall of flame!

Make a note of this. I have a pocketknife attached to every one of my set of keys… and so should you. Survival 101.

You never know.

Such a simple tool would have saved her life on that ill-fated morning.

Sadly, these would be her final moments.

Never the same after, Calvin would make the rest of his life's journey, alone.

Interestingly, Calvin Campbell's former Midland, Michigan home is on the National Register of Historic Homes of the United States of America. Located at 1210 W Park Dr. the house comes with its official historic plaque identifying it as such. It was actually designed by Alden Dow, Willard's architect brother!

Alden was a fraternity brother of Calvin's at the University of Michigan. It's a beautiful design, simple but lavish, 5100 square foot home sitting on almost an acre of property.

Calvin and Alta, who had a quiet and tender lover for each-other, asked Alden to design the home for them in 1939.

They would have ten gloriously happy years in that house, before tragedy struck.

AND unexpectedly…right NOW, it's for sale!

All, at the give-away price of $350,000 USD!!

In Canada, this home would be a million and a third, easily!

Check it out:

Peruse the pics of Calvin and Alta's home, with the reverence they deserve. We all lay our plans, but…

Actually, your admiration will come quite naturally, as you review this early, modern-style home.

Both the Dows and Campbells were popular folk within the company, and throughout the community. Thousands of people, near and far, attended their funerals. The City of MIdland declared an entire month of mourning for the city, by unanimous decree, a day after the crash.

On April Fools Day, in 1949, the Bay City Times writer James Smith, stated that cause of the crash would likely never be established.

Well, that isn't true. I've told the readership what happened, already . Think of the RCAF Beech 18 that turned back from landing in London, and went back instead to RCAF Station: Centralia.

Think about the first Dow Chemical flight crew that refused to fly, and a CEO that overrode that captain's correct decision.

And finally, remember the severe weather that caused the ice-encrusted airplane to make a desperate bid to land in London, Ontario… a thousand miles away from its original destination of Boston, Mass.

Perhaps the recounting of this tragic tale should end here.

But every tale must be told in its's entirety.

And what I am about to end with, is just spooky.

Yes, spooky.

Did (and I put this forward gingerly), Dr. Willard Dow, somehow, foresee his own death?? Did he try to beat fate?

We'll never know for sure, but I'm guessing he might have.

But how do I know that?

Because Dow, had been working on an secret aircraft engine of his own design!

A fire-proof one!

Dr. William J Hale, also a world-famous chemist, and Willard's brother-in-law revealed at the time of the crash, both he and Willard, had been working together on a fire-proof engine! Hale explained to the media on the day of Dow's death, that Willard had been "secretly haunted" FOR YEARS… by the vision of death in a burning airplane!!

That's right… haunted—

Their collaborated engine design would use agricultural alcohol as its fuel, which, under normal care is virtually non-flammable. The Dow-Hale engine would produce steam to turn its' turbines, and thus remain cool during operation. Their preliminary work on the engine design had already proven its feasibility and only the previous week, Dow and Hale, had planned to resume work on the engine.

Never happened.

Hale would abandon the project, after Dow's death.

And to my knowledge, it was never made public, as to whether or not, the very expensive jewelry the Dow wives had brought aboard, on that most ill-fated aircraft flight of March 1949… if that jewelry… was ever found.