1965 – More Stearmans Again

First draft 23 May 2021


New Brunswick

Active Airstrips: Chipman, Dunphy, Juniper (TBMs), Kesnac, Taxis (Stearmans).

Airstrip Constructed: Trout Brook was built after the spray season.

20 Cessna
19 TBM-3e
38 Stearman
– 5 Wheeler, 33 other

Newspaper Articles

“No spraying was being done from the Dunphy airstrip at Upper Blackville, but there was intense activity from four other bases, including the Fredericton Airport.” [The Daily Gleaner, 10 June 1965: “75 planes spray area of Miramichi”]

Much of what follows is taken from “Aerial Forest Spraying Operations, 1965”. Forest Protection Limited. November 1965. B.W. Flieger. Despite the 11-page report plus tables and figures, not one aircraft is identified.

The low volume concentrate (LVC) experiments. Five Wheeler Stearmans were modified for low volume concentrate (LVC) experiments out of Chipman Airstrip, located on the south side of the spruce budworm infestation. The spray apparatus for all five Stearmans was modified according to instructions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; 36 Mini-spin nozzles were added.

5 Stearmans spraying, 1967
The five Wheeler Stearmans spraying in formation, 1965. [FPL Files]

Personnel included five Stearman pilots, one mechanic, and a project coordinator. A method of flying five Stearmans in formation was worked out. “Partly in parody of the now defunct R.C.A.F. Golden Hawks and partly because of the nature of the work and the equipment, these 5 Stearman pilots were dubbed “The Brass Cocks”.”


In August, FPL used seven Stearmans to spray 35,000 lbs. of Phosphamidon to combat the Jack Pine Sawfly on 140,000 acres of the St. Maurice River watershed. The Stearmans flew in the four-plane formation and were flagged by Cessna pointers. The job was conducted from two “hastily built minimum runway strips” well inside the project general area.

Crashes in Canada – DOT Cards

I found four Department of Transport accident cards for Canada for 1965 that involved two U.S. and two Canadian Stearmans. Only one took place in New Brunswick. They are, in order of date:

N58097, 28 May, 1965, Dustaire Inc. (East Middlebury, Vermont; no commercial operator number; penciled in: under temporary Canadian Operating Certificate), near Frelighsburg, Quebec. The plane, a Boeing A75, was destroyed by burning, and pilot Victor R. Richards (U.S. Commercial Pilot License No. 1399031), age 30, was seriously injured. Frelighsburg (spelling via Google Maps) is southeast of Montreal near the U.S. border.

The hand-written back of the card reads: “The flight had been normal to this point when about 0530 EST he noticed a tall elm tree just ahead of his left wings. The pilot attempted to maneuver the aircraft over or around the tree without success. The left wings collided with the top pf the tree and the aircraft fell to the ground. Pilot failed to observe objects. Possible partial loss of power, cause undetermined.”

N52144, 5 June 1965, James F. Trainor, no commercial operator number, 10 mi. nnw of Taxis, N.B. (Green Hill; owner James Merrill), Boeing A75N1. Damages was substantial, but pilot Richard Bridges (U.S. Commercial Pilot License No. 1521833) suffered only minor injuries.

“It has been necessary to warn people to stay away from a piece of ground in northern York County. … the place is contaminated by the poisonous cargo [DDT] of a budworm spray plane that crash landed last week.” [The Daily Gleaner, 15 June 1965: “Contaminated Area”]

Extensive hand-writing on the back of the card: “The take-off was normal and the flight proceeded for 10 to 15 minutes with nothing unusual happening. The aircraft was now approaching the area to be sprayed and was down to 100 feet above ground when the engine stopped without warning. The aircraft immediately stalled, the pilot dumped his spray fluid load and attempted to put the nose of the aircraft down. When the engine stopped the aircraft stalled into a field. It touched down on its right wheel first and in a nose low attitude, the propeller cutting several slash marks in the ground. The engine then dug in and the aircraft pivoted around clockwise, and during this time the left also tore free. DAMAGE: Substantial. Ignition system – failure of ignition system. Inadequate maintenance inspection. A faulty ignition system caused engine failure at a low altitude and aircraft stalled and crashed.”

Posted by Phil McGeehan on 15 Apr 2018 [possibly in Facebook group Forest Protection Alumni]. I remember when this spray plane crashed in Maple Grove in 1965. I would have been eleven years old at the time. We were traveling down the Maple Grove road towards Green Hill (625) and I had been watching the plane out the car windshield. I watched it swoop upward then nearly straight down until it went out of sight. I was with my Uncle Sonny and Roberta Foreman and I said “that plane crashed.” After passing through a little strip of woods we were there. Sonny said “By Jeeze that plane did crash” The pilot had just gotten out of it. I will never forget the Yankee drawl ” I broke ma thumb” … I think he said he was from Texas. Almond Clayton owned the field at that time. There got to be quite a crowd around in just a short time. The grass was soaked with spray because he had tried to dump his load in the last few seconds. Rhys Reynolds 16.29km @ 228.40 degrees from Taxis airstrip to point of impact. [via Rhys Reynolds]

CF-JOU, 26 June 1965, Hicks and Lawrence, Boeing A75, 2 miles northeast of Mount Hope Airport, Ontario, while “crop dusting”. The aircraft was destroyed by burning, pilot John Charles van Reitvelde (age 38; Commercial Flying License No. C-6211) was killed. The aircraft completed a spray run but ran out of fuel on the way to the airport. “Failed to maintain flying speed as a result of a very steep turn close to the ground without power.”

CF-JRK, 3 August 1965, Airspray Ltd., 5 miles southwest of Mercoal, Alberta (handwritten note: 38 mi southwest of Edson, Alberta). Pilot was Clarence Andrew Love, age 43, Commercial Flying License No. YZC-7179, suffered serious injuries, and CF-JRK was destroyed. A low approach caused the left wings to come into contact with trees.