Article: Sky-high Stories

  • Air Trails Cover-640x250

    July, 1930, Western Canada Airways Limited bulletin
    by William Burchell

    Scanning the contents of a bookshelf the other evening, one could not help but notice the large number of adventure magazines, which, to a great extent, have replaced the Deadwood Dick stories of our boyhood days.

    Here’s an excerpt from the latest issue of “Sky High Stories”…

    “Possessed of certain composure and with more than a touch of dare-devilry, Barney Holdem strolled out of the hangar. Barney flicked his cigarette and imperiously signalled for his plane to be taxied out.  Climbing into the cockpit he glanced nonchalantly at the rigid wind cone, then ‘gave her the gun.’

    Six seconds later – and the huge craft was lifted into the air. Throwing it into a steep climbing turn and banking around the floodlight, Barney circled the hangar, flattened out, then set his course towards where the dawn was already showing in the eastern sky.

    Speeding through the clear summer night, the red glow of the exhaust showing dull against the brilliance of the northern lights, the roar of the 500 hp Whitt and Pratney ‘Grasshopper’ became so monotonously insistent and reassuring that to any other pilot than Barney the temptation to relax would have been overpowering.

    But tonight Barney was uneasy. A feeling of trouble had possessed him since leaving the sleepy hangar with its winking beacons on the outskirts of a little town in the foothills.

    In the glare of the floodlights, he had glanced momentarily at the faces of two men who had taken their seats in the cabin; one a tall lanky individual and the other a small, stockily set man, with a furtive glance in his beady eyes.

    As the plane roared eastward, its 140-miles-per-hour speed was helped by a friendly tail wind and a 40-mile-per-hour Chinook wind. As the beacons and lights of the emergency aerodromes scintillated and disappeared with reassuring frequency and steadily increasing rapidity, Barney realized that tonight the mail delivery would set a time speed record which would stand for likely quite some time.

    Browsing over these thoughts, his meditations were interrupted when, along the fuselage, and above the cabin door, there appeared a hand, groping, straining, and searching for the edge of the cockpit.

    As the hand found its grip at the corner of the windshield, the beady eyes of the small man seen earlier met and held the pilot’s startled senses. Barney’s first thought was for the protection of the mail – those three bags, two hundred pounds weight each, of securities, mining stock, certificates and Government papers – locked away in the fireproof mail compartment.

    One moment’s hesitation – the beady eyes blinked – Barney seized his flashlight and struck the clutching hand with all his might. A shriek of pain and the fingers relaxed their precarious hold.”

    Turning the pages of these stories, one cannot help compare the lurid fiction – which recounts adventures of these ‘Sky Devils’ – with the terse style employed by the real pilot when compiling his flight reports.

    Example: “Craft sank at moorings during night, ship salvaged, floats repaired, passed as airworthy, and tested O.K.” Nothing about that would likely entice a boy from the farm.

    This article originally appeared in the July, 1930 edition of the Western Canada Airways Limited bulletin.

Leave a Reply

* Name, Email, and Comment are Required