By Mike Tenszen
November, 1978, Canadian Aviation
Tighter and tighter, the Mohawk Pinto spun to ground. Quebec City, 1932.
Archie Vanhee was giving a student a type check on the low-wing metal and fabric trainer. “He froze at the controls, it was terrible,” said Vanhee. “I don’t even like to talk about that one – it was my only crash.”
The tight-fisted student spent six months in hospital. Vanhee… not so long. And when he got out, “I grabbed the first student I could find and told him to take me flying again.” He’s stayed flying for 50 years. On Oct. 28, the Austin Airways pilot/instructor celebrates a half-century since his first solo – in a Montreal Flying Club Curtiss JN4C “Jenny” in 1928.
“Oh yes, I’m still flying,” he told me over the telephone. “In fact, that’s why I couldn’t get back to you yesterday – I had a trip.”
Archie Vanhee is one of those pilots who… well… seems to have done it all – small-field instructor, military pilot/instructor, airline captain. And now, the spectacled, greying, 68-year-old is back with his students. “I have always had a penchant for training,” he admitted. “A man can contribute tremendously to aviation by being a good instructor.” Vanhee, who has logged 23,000 hours on 68 types, is now in charge of Austin’s simulator and instrument training and captains the odd scheduled Twin Otter flight for the Timmins, Ontario-based carrier.
Vanhee got his wings on the Jenny, “… it wasn’t a very nice airplane to fly… it stalled at 40 or 50 and only cruised at 75.” He spent from 1930 to 1935 barnstorming about southern Quebec, and stayed with the now-defunct Central Airways at Amos, Quebec, for a year then joined Mackenzie Air Service, eventually taken over by Canadian Pacific Airlines.
In 1939, Vanhee joined the Royal Canadian Air Force where he served as a flight instructor and helped organize convoy escorts and anti-submarine patrols. On discharge in 1945, he returned to Mackenzie Air Service and flew out of Edmonton to northern communities. With CP Air, he flew North Stars, DC-6Bs and the Bristol Britannia. “The DC-6B was my favourite to fly. It was a wonderful airplane. It never let me down. I think I had about 4,500 hours on it.”
Vanhee lost his license in 1960 because his visual acuity was 20-70 when the Canadian standard was 20-60. He was grounded for three years until Canada adopted international standards and his license was reinstated.
“Flying has been my life. I don’t know when I’m going to quit… never, I hope. I guess I’ll only quit when I can’t get my medical, but my doctor tells me I’m in bloody good shape.”
This article originally appeared in the November, 1978 edition of Canadian Aviation magazine.
The picture of the Curtiss Jenny is from the museum archive, c 1920s. Famed Winnipeg flight instructor Konrad (Konnie) Johannesson is standing in the cockpit.