Article: Ships that Sink in the Night

  • Ships that sink
    January, 1937, Canadian Aviation

    One of the most unusual happenings in connection with bush flying in this country was reported recently. An unexpected and heavy fall of soft snow was responsible for sinking something like a quarter of a million dollars worth of aircraft, still on floats. The situation proved not to be as bad, however, as might at first seem, because most of the ships were riding at anchor in shallow water and were easily salvaged, most of the damage being done at bases at Amos, Quebec.

    What happened might best be described by quoting from a report received from a well-known operator at Amos, in which he said:

    “One night recently we had a heavy fall of wet snow starting about eleven o’clock. My first intimation of any trouble was a phone call from a passer-by at the base about 6:30 the next morning to the fact that one of my ships was sinking. On arriving at the base I found that about a foot of heavy wet snow had fallen and, as a result of piling up on the machines as it fell, it was found on examination to weigh six and a half pounds per square foot. (In the case of a Fairchild 82, for instance, that would result in a total weight of something in excess of a ton and a half.) One plane, a Fairchild, had the left wing submerged to the wing root, both floats being about five feet under water and the cabin and fuselage half full of water. Another machine, a Curtis Robin, was tied to shore and when forced down the aft section of the floats rested on the bottom and the machine could not sink far enough to let the fuselage down in the water.”

    The ships were salvaged by means of a borrowed scow upon which we rigged a boom. By using a chain block and tackle from the scow in the front and another rigged from an ‘A’ frame on shore to the tail, we gradually worked each machine up until the inspection-hole covers were above water and then pumped the floats. Both of these machines were afloat again within thirty-six hours and one of them was back at work again within forty-eight hours.

    Other operators had experienced very much the same thing. Something like fifteen machines, mostly of the larger freighter type, were similarly affected by the snow fall. The resourceful manner in which these operators responded to an emergency and salvaged their crafts is to be highly commended. With comparatively little equipment with which to work, they pressed into service such material as was available in the form of block and tackle, chains, ropes, scows and pumps.

    This unusual happening strikingly illustrates the hazards and peculiar difficulties under which our northern operators have to carry on. It also suggests a remarkable degree of confidence on the part of the operators when, for instance, aircraft valued at around a quarter of a million dollars may be left without a single guard in charge.

    This article originally appeared in the January, 1937 edition of Canadian Aviation magazine.

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