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April 12, 2002

A Final Look at Plane Crashes


The following plane crashes were unknown to me a month ago, but several readers have alerted me to them, and I thought they would be of interest, especially to people in Powassan, Callander, and Restoule, where they took place.

A Peck of Trouble.

The Grunman Avenger Torpedo Bomber flown to Powassan by an American pilot by mistake in 1967. Nugget photo with insert from the Hilton family.

During the summer of our Centennial, 35 years ago in 1967, two Americans didn’t realize they were going to be something of an event here themselves. Cecil Peck wanted to make some money crop dusting in Ohio, and bought a war surplus WWII Grunman Avenger torpedo bomber to do the job. On August 18th, he and a friend took off from their base in Connecticut in their new plane with a new but malfunctioning compass to fly to Akron, Ohio. A few hours later he realized that, like Wrong Way Corrigan, he was lost and low on gas.

He circled a community, which he found out later was North Bay, and turned south following highway 11, looking for a place to land when his motor started to sputter over Powassan. He quickly decided to try to land in a farmer’s field. That field was on the farm of Jim Hilton, just east of highway 11 on the north end of Maple Hill Road, where it crosses the South River. Mrs. New, who was renting a house on the property, was picking beans in her garden when she saw the low flying plane coming at her over the tree tops and sputtering badly.

The plane clipped some tree tops, and Mrs. New said the noise from the big plane was deafening. The plane touched down, scattering several cows, and headed directly for her. The plane turned right at he last second, and found another fifty yards to try to stop. It didn’t have enough room, and as the plane approached the trees bordering the South River, Peck applied hard rudder and swung the plane around in the opposite direction and coasted to a bumpy stop.

Eleven year old Doris New was the first on the scene, finding two white faced men leaning on the plane laughing. The pilot asked where they were and Doris said "Powassan." She then added, "Ontario." Bud Barry, the Nugget reporter who covered the event, quoted Peck as saying, "We’re serious young lady, where are we? We’re lost." When Doris replied "Canada," Peck said, "The hell you say!"

By this time Mrs. New had arrived, confirmed the location, and took the men to her house, where they called the OPP, the Department of Transport, and their families in the States. They had supper with Mrs. New and were taken to the local motel for the night. The visitors had nothing but praise for everyone, including the motel manager who lent them his car to get back to the plane. They were soon refueled and ready to go. Peck gave Doris a photo of his daughter and asked him to write her. The plane took off safely and the crowd dispersed, leaving a pleasant centennial memory behind. Jim Hilton provided the newspaper clipping with the photo of the plane, and his daughter Lynn Brown provided the photo insert of her (front left) and her sister Betty (back) and brother Richard (front right) in front of the plane.

F-86 Sabre Jet Crashes Near Callander

When thirty-sex year old Gordon Troke, who flew a spitfire in WWII, re-enlisted in the RCAF he was the oldest pilot in North Bay’s 430 squadron of F86-E Sabre Jets. In June 1952 Flying Officer Troke was flying his single-seat Sabre on a training flight over Lake Nipissing and heading toward Callander when his engine stalled and flamed out due to a failure in the fuel system. He lost altitude but got the plane going gain as he approached the Callander dock.

Charles Champagne holding part of the F-86 Sabre that crashed behind his home on Derland Rd. in Callander in 1952. Doug Mackey photo.

Captain "Mac" Mason was standing on the dock and noticed the plane was in trouble as it flew by. Three miles away, on Charles Champagne’s farm (two miles from the Quint home) on Derland Road the plane, streaming black smoke, hurtled through the trees, hit a rocky hill, and plowed into a second hill. Charles Champagne and some of his neighbours, the Corbeils, found the pilot wrapped in his parachute, dead, a couple of hundred yards from the Champagne home. The recent photo shows Mr. Champagne with a piece of the plane’s wing, which he recently recovered from the bush behind his home.

Restoule CF-100 crash

Dan Nielen of Restoule called to report on his research on a CF-100 crash on October 27, 1953 near the eastern tip of Bass Lake, seven miles north west of Restoule. Edgar Edwards, an RCAF Ground Observer, saw two planes flying low over Restoule around 8:15 that day, when one dipped and disappeared, followed by a flash in the night sky. A local crash crew immediately set off to seek survivors and found the site at 2:00 am. They found burning trees and wreckage strewn everywhere. The body of one of the pilots was found immediately. Other search parties arrived in daylight and the other body was found. The officers were identified as Flying Officer Charles and Flying Officer Ormiston.

Dan Nielen recommended the definitive CF-100 book "The Avro CF-100" by Larry Milberry (Canan Books, 1981). The North Bay Public Library has two copies. Since most of the crashes reported here were CF-100s, the book was of particular interest. An appendix in the book lists the number of crashes of the 692 planes built. There were 103 crashes in the thirty year history of the CF-100, with seventeen in the North Bay area. In seven, there were no fatalities, in one (the one in Chisholm) there was one fatality, and in 9 others both pilots were killed, for a total of nineteen deaths. The book has several North Bay photos including one of the CF-100 at Lee Park being towed down Main Street on its way to the display site.

My thanks to Gaetan Proulx of Callander for pointing out that the jet at the North Bay Air Museum is not a CF-100 but a Voodoo CF-101, and for drawing my attention to a display in Northgate Square by 22 Wing North Bay, just inside the main entrance, opposite Precision Optical. A black model of the CF-100 with some interesting information about it is on display there and is well worth a look

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