1956

New Brunswick

Airstrips: Airstrips used in New Brunswick were Boston Brook, Budworm City, Charlo, Dunphy, Juniper, Tabu, Taxes, Horne’s Gulch, Nictau, Rose Hill and Sevogle.

Grog Brook and MacFarlane airstrips were built after the spray period.

Aircraft
13 Cessna
89 Stearman, few details, two aircraft lost during operations, with no injuries to pilots

The 1956 operation was the biggest to date and covered approximately 2 million acres. Half of this consisted of covering areas sprayed chiefly in 1953, and the other half of new areas of severe attack in the central and northeastern areas of the province. Plans for 1957 involve a continuation of the program on the largest scale yet, possibly to 5 million acres. [F.E. Webb 1957]

“Robert Rychlicki, general manager of Wheeler Airlines, scoured Canada and the United States rounding up ninety Stearman sprayers.” Four new airstrips were constructed. This was the first year that Forest Protection Limited formulated and mixed its own insecticide in the province. In previous years it had been purchased ready-made in the U.S. The mixing plant, the Chatham Formulating Plant, was built beside a siding in Chatham where the oil solvent could be shipped in from Halifax by tank car. The DDT, which looked like soap flakes, arrived in 50-pound bags from the U.S. The resulting insecticide was then trucked to storage tanks at each of the airfields. [unpublished FPL report]

Spraying started along the Main Southwest Miramichi River region on June 6 from Dunphy airstrip. The last flights were conducted from Horne’s Gulch airstrip in the northwest corner of the province on June 27.

No personnel were injured due to flying incidents. Unfortunately, the arrangements regarding the rescue helicopter were not as satisfactory as in previous years.

By the Skin of my Teeth: A Cropduster’s Story by William “Bill” Robinet (Billville Press) is again the basis of much of the following. In this book, Bill describes his years as a loader and a pilot cropdusting cotton with Stearmans and other ag aircraft in Arizona and Mexico for the years 1950 to 1957. He visited New Brunswick as a pilot to take part in the Spruce Budworm Spray Project for three of those years, 1955, 1956 and 1957, and his insights and descriptions of those situations are vivid and provide a real look at the program from the ground level up. The stories below are told mostly in his own words.

Bill Robinet was invited back to the Budworm Project in New Brunswick in 1956. The departure date was to be early in the morning of May 15, and he would be flying with 19 others from the Marsh Aviation fleet. He would be flying one of Steve James’ airplanes, and Steve would fly the other one. He did not work in Quebec in 1956, and his descriptions of the events are much less than in 1955.

Considerable planning went in to moving twenty airplanes for a 3,000 mile trip across the continent, with stops 150 miles apart and several RONs (rest over night) stops. Heading the Marsh fleet was Gayle Bishop, an ex airline pilot making his second trip to New Brunswick. The last RON on the trip east was Hancock Field at Syracuse, New York, where the Canadian Department of Transport Chief Engineer examined all the U.S. aircraft before allowing them into Canada. Gayle Bishop, Steve James and Bill Robinet were photographed and interviewed for the local newspaper after they had washed down several of the Stearmans. This article is included in Robinet’s book and is reproduced here.

Robinet’s group of 12 aircraft was cleared to fly to Fredericton, N.B., where they would be checked through Customs and handed over to Forest Protection Limited for escort to Nictau for calibration and assignment. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a report for the calibration, thus there is no final list of spray aircraft for 1956.

Taxis, New Brunswick Robinet was part of a group of 16 aircraft that departed for Taxis airstrip, near Boisetown, a location where the pilots and crew good partake in many recreational pursuits. The Chief pilot was P.E. Buckley, who ran a small operation out of Mesa, Arizona. Robinet spends several pages relating stories of that period, too long and involved to describe here, so you will just have to order the book and read them yourself!

Bill Robinet describes two accidents that occurred to planes flying out of Taxis, including one of his own, one fatal and other serious but reparable. In fact their were no fatalities during the Quebec-New Brunswick spray season, and I have not been able to identify the one Bill describes. 1) On June 13, Marsh Aviation pilot G.G. Cornia was taxiing Stearman N67884 owned by Steve James at Taxis airstrip when he collided with a parked Cessna 170 CF-HPX owned by Laurentide Aviation and piloted by Jerry Bulkley. Resulting damage was minor to both aircraft, and there were no injuries (DOT card).

2) On June 14, Bill Robinet damaged the lower right wing panel of N67884 (again) while attempting to land at Taxis. The DOT card describes it a “pilot error”, but Bill takes almost two pages to describe how he hit a dead snag. The wing was replaced, but it was a bright yellow that stood out against the normal silver wings and fuselage.

The crew eventually ferried over to the very isolated Budworm City for more spraying and then to the much less isolated Charlo airstrip to work for the remainder of the season. Bill’s group finished the project and headed home through Quebec via Rimouski and Montreal.

Other N.B. accidents On June 15, John A. Meaders was piloting N4825V for West Coast Air Services when the engine failed and he was forced to make a landing in unfavourable terrain 1.5 northwest of Rosehill airstrip. The damage was substantial but Meaders was not injured (DOT card).

Robert K. Annan was piloting N1309N on June 23 when the aircraft suffered an immediate loss of power on takeoff at Sevogle airstrip, causing a forced landing 1/4 mile north of the runway. The Stearman, owned by PMW Aviation of Salem, Oregon, was destroyed by fire, but pilot Annan was not injured. (DOT card)

Quebec

DDT on 446,000 acres were treated by 32 Stearman [Webb et al. 1961; Blais et al. in Prebble 1975] in this third consecutive years of operations in Quebec. Regions treated were again the Lower St. Lawrence and the Gaspé Peninsula, based on the 1955 operations. Airstrips used were Patapedia, Cap Chat and Farm Lake (Webb et al. 1961), and Nouvelle. Spraying began June 18 and was completed July 1, areas at lower elevations were treated first. Treating of these areas will continue in 1957.

Perhaps the toughest test encountered by the Stearmans came near the end of the Quebec operation when 22 planes were loaded onto the Nouvelle airstrip to clean up the job. They were flying on short hauls from a small airstrip that could accommodate only six planes at one time, four loading and two on the runway. So that they could land in some kind of order, a holding pattern was established; at one point, six planes were circling the filed at one time. [unpublished FPL report]

Accidents in Quebec Stearman N62834 piloted by Roland Eckman and under lease to Wheeler Airlines crash landed 10 miles west of Matapedia. Damage was substantial but the pilot was not injured. The DOT card states that there was no other information as this aircraft had left for the U.S.

Wheeler Airlines CF-EQU piloted by Michael Gordy crashed July 3 near Riviere du Loup. The pilot had misjudged his approach to a small turf field and undershot the landing area, nosing over in a ditch. Damage was minor and no injuries occurred (DOT card).

British Columbia

Experimental spray for Black-headed Budworm in northern Vancouver Island sprayed by one Stearman from Skyway Air Services in June. [Lejeune in Prebble 1975]

Maine

The government of Maine hired FPL to assist in its spruce budworm program by providing equipment and personnel. This assistance was granted up to 1975.