A friend sent me this Youtube link about the Dehavilland Beaver in an email and it brought back lots of memories of the British Columbia coast. This is the “Beaver Ballad” performed by the Fretless Bar Girls.
What does a seaplane have to do with lighthouses?
In the days before helicopters many of these DeHavilland Beavers landed at lighthouses with supplies and mail, or were used to ferry lighthouse keepers and their families to and from the nearest town to a major center for their holidays.
I remember flying in one from my first lighthouse at Pulteney Point on Malcom Island. This would be early 1970s. We used to go on holidays by taking a boat to Port McNeill on Vancouver Island and then flying on a Beaver to Kelsey Bay, and from there we headed “down island”.
This was before the road connected Campbell River to Port Hardy (finished in 1976). From Kelsey Bay we could catch the BC Ferries to Vancouver, or get a ride to Campbell River to rent a car. It was quite the way to start on holidays.
This method of travel was not only for holidays – I remember one time I had to do it accompanied by a painful toothache on a trip to Victoria to see a dentist. In those days it was okay to hitch-hike, and so I had entertaining drivers to keep my mind off the toothache all the way to Victoria.
Hope you enjoy the song and photos from the video. The commercial float planes in Port McNeill area were equipped with floats for landing on the sea, and wheels for landing at the nearby airport in Port Hardy. I did hear tales of new pilots forgetting to pull up the wheels before landing on the water. Of course this manoeuver stopped the plane pretty quickly and flipped it over on its back.
After I forwarded the email, I received the following from Brian Lamb, a friend in Smithers, BC. He said:
The Beaver mentioned in the song, CF-FHB (named after its designer Fred Buller) was the first Beaver built, and spent several years in Prince George, British Columbia. My Dad tells me that they called FHB the “First Humble Beaver”. It now resides at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa, Ontario,Canada
It was, and is, quite an airplane, as many of them are still flying now. A Canadian airplane for Canadians.
In the gallery below you will see some photos taken in 1971 on my return trip from Kelsey Bay (ferry terminal) to Port McNeil, on my way home to Pulteney Point lighthouse. You can see more information on the two ferries mentioned here – Island Princess and Queen of Prince Rupert.
Later, after this article was posted I did some more research on the airline that flew in and out of Port McNeil. The nearest I could come to a name was B. C. Airlines Limited. I have no idea if this is correct or not. Does anyone know?
I did find one BC Airline’s plane on the website of Neil Aird who runs a website collecting information on ALL Beaver aircraft produced. If anyone is interested, check out his website at http://www.dhc-2.com. Perhaps some of you have some photos you can contribute to his site.