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Not sure if anyone has seen this but I thought it was interesting.


Jumping Off a Cliff

by Peter Corley-Smith


And that's how it started: through Carl and Barney Bent and some of the others sitting in a coffee shop in Penticton and reading this magazine.


-Alf Stringer, on the beginning of helicopter history in BC


In 1946, three young men were sitting rather gloomily round a table in a Penticton coffee shop, trying to figure out a way to stay in aviation. Carl Agar, Barney Bent and Alf Stringer were ex-RCAF officers, who had worked as instructors at Abbotsford, BC, during the Second World War. After the war, they had opened a flying training school. Unfortunately, few people at the time could afford recreational flying, and it failed. They had then registered as Okanagan Air Services Limited and tried charter flying, but that, too, faltered. Now, because Penticton was in the heart of Okanagan Valley fruit-growing country, they were considering aerial spraying as their next option.


Yet if aerial spraying seemed the best commercial possibility at hand, familiarity with American spray operators over the border was discouraging. "We were shocked at the mortality rate of their pilots and aircraft," Barney Bent recalled. "We looked around at one another; there was Carl Agar and myself as pilots and Alf Stringer as the engineer. I think it was Alf who summed it up. 'Well', he said, 'we could last at least six months with you two.'"


But Carl had picked up the mail on the way to the coffee shop. "An aviation magazine article in it disclosed that a company called Central Aircraft, which operated out of Yakima, Washington, and had been in the aerial spray business for years, was going to go into helicopters," said Agar. This new aircraft had the advantages of slow speed, remarkable manoeuverability and the fact that the downwash from the rotor blades tended to drive insecticide into the foliage of the plants below.


The upshot was that, after visit Yakima for demonstration rides and raising sufficient capital, Okanagan Air Services bought a helicopter, an open-cockpit Bell 47-B3. The three partners returned to Penticton with a firm conviction that helicopters would solve all the problems of spraying fruit orchards. As it turned out, they were wrong, but fortunately for them, the helicopter had other potentials.


Their first discovery in 1947 was that the aircraft could spray at the rate of 0.4 (1 a.) a minute, but since the orchards in the Okanagan were small and required different mixes of spray, a dozen helicopters would have been needed, along with a large staff and a fleet of support vehicles. In addition, of course, was the problem of what to do with all this stuff and equipment when the short season was over.


The next season began with a contract to spray insecticide over a vast area - the sloughs left by a disastrous Fraser Valley spring flood. The venture was clearly a commercial success and directly led to a contract with the Forest Service and the big breakthrough for helicopters universally: spraying forests to wipe out insect infestations using this new technology.


Now, for the first time, Carl Agar would be flying in the mountains instead of wide, open, lowland valleys. Bell Helicopters, the manufacturer, recommended the aircraft not be operated above 1,200 m (4,000 feet). But Agar, contemplating the possibility of dropping people high in the mountains, took up the challenge and developing the mountain-flying techniques he would become celebrated for.


Agar found that, provided he maintained a forward speed of a least 64 km-h (40 mph), he could safely fly a good deal higher. The reason a helicopter can fly much higher while in forward flight is relatively simple. The rotor blades are, in fact, wings. But instead of being pulled through the air fast enough to provide lift by a propeller or the thrust of a jet, they gain that speed by revolving around a hub. Once the blades are gaining forward airspeed as well, the lift improves significantly.


Agar, who had a keen, analytical mind, had noticed that even at relatively low altitudes, on a hot day it was difficult to get sufficient lift to get into the air with a load. He had developed a technique to deal with the problem. He would open the throttle wide and "jump" the machine into the air. As the momentum of the heavy blades briefly gave support, he would quickly move forward to gain speed and, therefore, enough lift.


The problem is magnified at higher altitude because the air is thinner. After a good deal of reflection, Agar thought he had a solution and, like most breakthroughs, in retrospect, this one seems obvious.


For a high landing, he reasoned he could gradually reduce speed so that he ran out of the additional lift just as he reached the ground. His "obvious solution" for lifting off was to make this landing on the edge of a cliff or a steep drop off - then jumping off the edge and dive to to pick up the necessary airspeed and lift to fly away. Easy to suggest, but imagine the courage required to try it for the first time.


The first pilot hired and trained by the new company, Bill McCleod, offers a graphic description of his first mountain land:


...I landed on a ledge at about 6,500 feet (2,000 m), a ledge jutting out from the mountain. There was a short cliff on one side and a sheer drop on the other...I landed about 60 feet (18 m) in from the edge - facing away from the drop-off. What I learned then was never land unless you have figured out how you are going to take off again. Remember,...the only way you can get back into the air at that height is to over-rev the engine and jump off over the edge. You'll lose your revs, but after picking up airspeed for a thousand feet (300 m) or so, you'll pick up your revs again as well.


But this time I did my jump take-off too far from the edge. The body of the machine was going to go over the edge all right, but I knew the tail wasn't. I was already losing revs by the time I realized this. I shoved hard forward on the stick and then kicked on full rudder. I cartwheeled over the edge - cartwheeled so far that I was inverted at one stage - and then I pulled out and got clean away with it. Right there, it was another few grey hairs. But after that I always landed very close to the edge of a drop off - and I always jumped sideways off a ledge.


In short, pioneer helicopter mountain pilots really earned their salaries.


Later, more powerful machines with turbo-charged engines eliminated the need to jump off cliffs, but Agar's innovations in flying opened the way for later generations of pilots and commercial success. Being able to fly helicopters in the mountains would revolutionize surveying, geological exploration, forestry, construction and recreation, and make vast areas of the province accessible for the first time.


In 1950, Okanagan Helicopters Ltd., as their company was now called, was awarded a contract to do the preliminary reconnaissance (followed by extensive transport contracts) for the biggest industrial development in BC's history: building hydro dams and an aluminum smelter at Kemano for the Aluminum Company of Canada. Okanagan was so successful it brought international recognition. In only six years, an idea three men considered over coffee for spraying orchards in Penticton had become the largest helicopter operation in North America.


Peter Corley-Smith

Among his many careers, Peter Corley-Smith has been a pilot in the RAF, a helicopter bush pilot for two decades (working with Alf Stringer for 15 years) and a Curator of History at the RBCM. Now retired, he is a Museum Research Associate and the prolific author of five books on aviation history, including Barnstorming to Bush Flying: BC's Aviation Pioneers, 1910-1930; Bush Flying to Blind Flying: BC's Aviation Pioneers, 1930-40 and the revised Helicopters: The British Columbia Story.

Link: http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/mh_papers/helicopters.html
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that was also included in his book called "helicopters-the british columbia story"...


in there, he also gives a great history of VIH, the coast guard, and several others...


you will also see many names such as don mckenzie, ted henson, des o'halloran, bud tillotson, and a score others...


it's a pretty good read and well illustrated... :up:

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