Jump to content

In Memoriam

Recommended Posts

I don't really browse anything here but Helicopter Operations so I don't know if there's an existing memorial thread so I thought I'd start one. I'm posting it in this forum because I believe that it belongs here mostly because I want to celebrate the lives of our Helicopter Industry friends rather than grieve their passing. A friend of mine (as well as other members of this forum) died six years ago today (well, tomorrow actually as I'm writing this the evening of the third of May) and I hate the thought of forgetting him and who he was. So here goes:


My friend Sandy was a man of many contradictions: On the one hand a talented piano player who broke his father’s heart when he pursued his dream of flying, on the other a well-built rough-and-tumble type with a very short fuse. Despite his defensiveness (a trait shared by many pilots, I suspect due to our insecurities…:) he had a great sense of humour and loved to laugh.


I have so many memories of Sandy that I would like to share, but a couple really stand out for me: Once we were heading to Skullcap’s place south of Edmonton to help him build a doghouse/storage shed (Skully has a very weird sense of thrift). Sandy was driving a company truck (the Peace Helicopter’s “Danger Ranger”) and had stopped in front of me on 109th St. and Jasper Ave. to wait out a red light. I came up behind him and gently rear-ended his truck. Once our bumpers made contact I started to push him out in the intersection. He could not stop laughing and was telling me to stop while shaking his fist in the rearview mirror. It just so happened that next to him was a convertible Vette with two (very hot) girls who were thinking that he had flipped his lid. He started out trying to explain to them that it wasn’t him, it was actually me, but of course they didn’t know I was pushing him (and every time he started to say something to them I hit his truck again) so they started to get a little alarmed. When the light turned green they peeled through the intersection leaving a cloud of smoke behind but poor old Sandy was in hysterics with his head on the wheel and we had to wait for the next green… I had tears streaming down my face as well and all the people behind us honking their horns barely made an impact on me…


Another incident that I, unfortunately, only heard about was a classic Sandy situation. He and a couple of other pilots were at an airport lounge waiting for a flight and having a few light libations. Sandy decided to play a number on the lounge piano and placed his drink on top as he began to wow the patrons. He was just finishing with Chopin and was warming up to Rachmaninoff (of course I’m just trying to illustrate his virtuosity… he wasn’t banging away at chopsticks or anything like that) when a customer walked by and threw a loonie in his drink. Naturally the customer was trying to reward the lounge act for being entertaining, but a half snapped pilot on his way home doesn’t appreciate a grubby coin in his drink. Thankfully no violence ensued but I would give anything to have been there.


Unfortunately Sandy lost his spark in a tragic crash in Utah on May 4th, 2000, that also claimed the lives of two of his five passengers. The cause of the crash is still unknown and will probably remain a mystery forever, but I will never forget any of the moments I shared with Sandy, nor will I lose sight of some of the lessons of mortality that I learned with his passing. I loved him as a brother and miss him now and forever (coincidentally my younger brother’s birthday is also May 4th, which helps me remember this date as it goes by every year).


Sandy my friend, wherever you are, I think about you a lot and hope you are happy. Your friends here (of which Skullcap, Helipinch and Vertical Ref are the only ones whose handles I know) miss you and hope you’re keeping the beer cold… See you (not too soon),



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 36
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I too had the pleasure of spending some quality time with Sandy...never met a finer fella! Definitely one of the good guys!


We were working out of Crying Girl back in 98, not sure if he got the *** chewin I did..but we took a great pic one day at Christina falls...two Astars..sunshine..apparently it was a waste of heli time....or so i was told. I still have it on the wall....and remember that day like it was yesterday.


He is surely missed...along with a few other good friends that payed the ulitmate price doing what they loved. Fate can be a cruel companion sometimes. One thing is for sure, it will be a great party when we all get together again....but as HV said..hopefully not too soon.


Take good care all! Fly as safe as you can.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

For some reason it is just not the same landing in front of the Shell dealer in Grande Prairie without having the Domino Pizza guy waiting there for us. Even the FSS and WestJet boys got a kick out of that.



I still expect to see his face somewhere on a fire or seismic staging or airport ramp. Just passsing thru, with that funny smile.


I am down in the 4 corners right now...I'll make a low pass for you my friend.




Good thoughts on the new edition to the board Harmonic.



Fly Safe All.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the spirit of this thread, I’d like to add this story, HV and everyone. Though I did not know her personally, I have enormous respect for this pilot, who now flies The Great Beyond.


Setting the stage

“France had fallen and the Nazis were invading England by air. The Royal Air Force was exhausted and overwhelmed. They fought gallantly, but the uneven odds had decimated their ranks. It was Winston Churchill who remarked that never have so few done so much for so many. But, unfortunately it wasn't enough. In late January 1940, England put out a call for female pilots to assist in ferrying military aircraft. Initially, eight brave women stepped forward to become part of an innovative program called the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). Soon dozens of highly competent female pilots utilized their skills to transport new war birds from the factories to needed airfields. The skilled female pilots also trained men to fly. With the enormous losses of male aviators, there were now more planes available than pilots to fly them, especially for ferrying duties.


Soon, more English women volunteered and the ATA program expanded. The challenge to England was for its very survival and few could argue that trained women pilots weren't helping in the war effort. But more help was needed and the United States had not yet fully committed to joining the fight against Nazi aggression.


On a sleepy Sunday morning in the first week of December, America got jolted from its complacency. Pearl Harbor was attacked by three waves of Japanese fighters and bombers. The U.S. suffered major casualties and felt suddenly united by a common cause. America entered World War II.”


In memoriam

She was an American citizen and a Ferry Command pilot put in place about January 1940, through British and Canadian coordination. Flying across the U.S. border was a big deal then because for her to have flown across would have been termed "an Act of War" and the U.S. would not allow such a thing to take place. So with FDR’s and Churchill’s approval, the a/c were landed next to the border and pushed across along roadways and farmer's fields to the Canadian side. Once the a/c was pushed across the border, men would try to shoo her away. She gave them "what for" and climb aboard anyway, leaving them with their mouths agape and scratching their heads; they'd never seen a woman do such a thing before and talk to them like a USMC Sgt/Major. She'd climb in, start them up and continue on her merry way—legal but highly discreet. She had every manufacturer in her logbook at some point or another. She was flying bombers, fighters and transport a/c out of the States into Dorval (Montreal) Airport in '42 when she met her future husband, a RCAF officer who was eastbound to WW2. Soon after, her airborne activities were curtailed with the birth of her first son; she would go on to be his IP for his PL and CPL F/W.


She was a firebrand to be certain—undaunting, unyielding and putting up with “no crap” until the very end. She was hospitalized last Tuesday with pain in her side and admitted to ICU, conscious and making demands in no uncertain terms that she WILL speak to her son. She says that all she really needs is about two-fingers of Single Malt and she'd be "fit as a fiddle". On Wednesday, she suffered two massive strokes that should have taken her out right there, but she fought onwards. Sadly, a week ago on Thursday evening, April 27th, she lost her fight and made that last flight into The Great Beyond.


She was an extraordinary pilot during an extraordinary time in history. She was also an extraordinarily spirited fighter. She would’ve been 88 years young this September. Her name was Virginia—“Ginny” to her friends. She was Cap’s mom. And I salute her!


To learn more about the elite group of women that Miss Ginny was a part of, see the following link:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing your memories and stories with us...certainly reminds me of all the good times shared with now departed friends.


I actually find it funny in a way that I see this thread today....Just arrived in a logging camp and met a forester whos husband is the brother of one of my (our) lost friends...Small world I guess.


Take care fellas, fly safe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cap: Condolences to you and yours. Mom's are always special ladies and yours seems to have been super great. Just think another "Angel" to look after us fly guys still grounded.


Take care bud, I'll have a single malt salut to your MOM, maybe two.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll also raise a single malt to Cap's Mom and all the rest tonight... that story got me a little misty eyed TQN... especially right at the end when you told us who she was...


And Cap, my condolences for sure but also my admiration for where you come from...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...