June, 1951, Canadian Aviation
For his distinguished contributions to the advancement of aviation in the successful development of mountain flying with the helicopter, Carl Agar of Vancouver has been awarded the Trans-Canada (McKee) Trophy for 1950.
A pilot since 1929, when he learned to fly with ‘Moss’ Burbidge (also a McKee Trophy winner) at the Edmonton Aero Club, Mr. Agar enlisted in the RCAF in 1941 and became an instructor. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1944 for his participation in the Air Training Plan. After getting his commercial pilot’s license in 1945, he became interested in the helicopter, first for crop spraying in the Okanagan Valley, then for mountain flying. He graduated in helicopter flying after taking a course at Yakima.
The application of helicopter transportation to the mountainous terrain of the British Columbia interior opened an entirely new vista in Canadian aviation. Mr. Agar flew his helicopter into the mountains and proceeded to learn the technique of ‘bump jumping’, an assignment requiring considerable courage as well as skill and judgement. During this rigorous familiarisation course, it was not unusual for Mr. Agar to hover and circle around some precarious mountain ledge for an hour before attempting a landing. Operating at altitudes of 5,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level, helicopter performance was vastly different than in the more-familiar lower levels. Furthermore, there were howling winds and vicious up and down draughts to bedevil the venture into the craggy upper world.
Agar’s first commercial job required a landing to be made on the top of Walach Mountain. On this assignment, he carried G.C. Emerson, a surveyor with the Topographical Division of the British Columbia Department of Lands and Forests. To make certain that this would be done correctly he first went in alone, then returned and carried his passenger. Thus, the first operation of its kind in Canada was completed successfully.
Gradually other people became convinced of the practicability of the helicopter and assignments came from many sources. Great savings were made in time and money in the erection of the Palasade Lake Dam when literally everything that went into its construction – cement, gravel, structural steel, equipment, etc. – was carried by helicopter. In the two years of operation, over 500,000 lb. of freight of all description was transported to areas inaccessible to all other forms of transportation. Achievements such as the re-opening of the Rico copper mines on the Cheam Range adjacent to Hope were completed in record time. Previous to this, attempts to reach the property on foot had failed. Carl Agar was able to dispatch a machine to the required area in a matter of 45 minutes and thereafter carried all the materials necessary for the proving of this property, including materials for the construction of a two-story bunkhouse. A total of 246 landings were made between 6,000 and 6,200 feet to complete this operation.
In the off-season, Carl undertook the instruction of two more pilots to augment the staff of the Okanagan Air Services. He was probably the only man in Canada with the experience necessary to conduct a thorough helicopter course in mountain flying, with the result that his pupils proceeded directly to this type of work upon the conclusion of their training. Proof of his prestige in this specialized flying came when, at the insistence of Bell officials, leading helicopter pilots of the U.S. Air Force (en route to Vancouver) consulted with Mr. Agar on methods of mountain flying.
This article originally appeared in the June, 1951 edition of Canadian Aviation magazine.