I have been working away at my book, an article for the Journal of Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, and just finished the final edits on my textbook chapter, which should be out next month. All while working and volunteering.
I did get a chance to read some local aviation history. In particular, I read Bill Bennett: Pioneer Bush Pilot and Outfitter, a biography by Len Rich, published by Breakwater Books. In searching for the link for this book, I found this Land & Sea radio feature about Bill Bennett, I’m listening to it as a type. Here’s the link: Hear about one of N.L.’s aviation pioneers in a Land & Sea archival special from 45 years ago | CBC.ca.
The book is interesting in how it approaches the biography. It is a collection of recollections about Bill Bennett. Each section is another person remembering Bennett. Sometimes you get the same stories told in different way, as it’s clear that quite a few people remembered the challenge of trying to dig a basement in the sands of Labrador for a new hunting lodge!
Presented this way, you also get personal stories about Bennett, mostly how his anger could be legendary, where after an incident or accident, he would get so very mad and start firing people, only to hire them back hours later.
The biography really showcases the work that Bennett put in to running Gander Aviation Ltd. and his travel lodges, and his passion for both of those areas. While he may have occasionally forgotten to pick up travelers at a lodge, his meticulous record keeping made sure they were eventually remembered. And sometimes fishing wasn’t as great at one of his lodges, so he’d fly to another camp and pick up salmon from other fishers to make sure the folks at the lodge always left with something.
I did find one strange oversight with the book. As it was done through the stories of other people, it means that stories are missed. Others remembered their own accidents, but of course, in the case of a tragic accident like the crash of the Beechcraft on Bauline Line, the pilot could not tell his story. I am certain that that incident was a major moment for Gander Aviation.
Overall, it was a short, enjoyable read about another colourful pilot who helped pioneer aviation, particularly bush aviation, in Newfoundland and Labrador. If you love local aviation, then this is an excellent read, with many other major players in aviation sharing their memories of Bill Bennett.