Bush Plane

All posts tagged Bush Plane

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.

A white float plane with orange markings is on a pond at the end of a dock. A man is reaching up to the wing that is over the dock.
Gander Aviation aircraft on Deadmans Pond in Gander. The Room S 894.

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!

A Gander Aviation plane on skis on the snow. The plane is white with orange markings and the propeller is turning.
Gander Aviation Ltd. plane on skis. The Rooms S 2291.

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.

Three men on the end of a dock next to a white float plane with orange markings. They are standing under the wing. A yellow float plane is in the background.
Unnamed men on a dock next to a Gander Aviation Ltd. aircraft. The Rooms S 2304.

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.

A float plane flying over a pond.
A Gander Aviation Ltd. plane flying over a pond. The Rooms S 3489.

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.

A fragmented piece of airplane aluminum with the word Aviation Ltd painted in orange on the site. Some graffiti has been scratched into the paint.
Part of the Gander Aviation Beechcraft which crashed on Bauline Line in 1978. Photo by Shannon K. Green 2016.

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.

A Gander Aviation plane on skis on the snow. The plane is white with orange markings and the propeller is turning.
Aircraft on skis in the snow. The Rooms S 2209.
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