The Story of Canso 9789
PO JA Joseph and his crew were scheduled to fly an operational patrol on the 30 July 1943. The weather was 800’ and 3 miles with a light drizzle, the sea was calm and the weather was forecast to improve. This was within operational limits and as there had been a sub sighting in the area on the 25 July this was considered an urgent patrol. PO Joseph had 1065.55 total flying time of which 84.10 was on Canso As. He had no instrument time on Cansos but he had logged 4.40 night time. He had just come off 19 months of flying Stranraers with the same Squadron .where he had logged 768.40 hrs of flying time on Stranraers which included 8.20 hours of instrument time. PO Joseph was rated as average on instrument flying ability on Cansos and he was deemed fully qualified on instrument and night flying but had insufficient instrument flying in Canso A’s as pilot in command. His copilot FSgt KL Brown had 536.20 hours, 241.50 were on Stranraer and 52.40 on Canso As which included 2.55 instrument time.
The crew was briefing at 0500 hrs, started engines at 0540 and started the takeoff run at 0552. The aircraft take off weight was 33,426lbs which was near the maximum allowable takeoff weight of 34,500. The aircraft became airborne after an abnormally long run and circled the area while climbing to 700’. As the direct route to the patrol area, Seaforth Channel, was closed by weather PO Joseph headed south via the west side of Lama Passage. The ceiling lowered so he descended to stay under the cloud. Suddenly the fog closed in and Joseph turned the aircraft to the left attempting to return to Base on a reciprocal course. His airspeed was 120 kts but altitude could not be maintained in the 35 degree turn like he used to do in a Stranraer. The aircraft was leveled off after turning through 120 degrees as they were getting close to the water. The aircraft was put into a steep climbing position at full power. They had started climbing in the patchy fog when the pilot saw a wooded ridge. They increased the rate of climb and the speed dropped to 70 kts and was down to 50kts by the time they mushed into the 700’ mark on an 800’ ridge. On impact the a/c caught fire. They had been airborne a total of five minutes. The second pilot kicked out the right window and he and Sgt Kershaw climbed through it. The pilot opened the top hatch and climbed through the windshield and tumbled to the ground. He called the crew and thought he had heard from everyone. He was a long way from the aircraft before he realized the Sgt Cowman was missing. They could not return to the aircraft as the entire area was ablaze and ammunition and depth charges were blowing up. They headed down the hill until they hit a stream and followed it to Alarm Cove on the shore of the Lama Passage which took 1 ½ hours. The survivors saw a Fire Ranger appearing out of the fog about 50’ away. The time was 0650. They borrowed the ranger’s rowboat and three of them set off for Bella Bella. An Indian fishing boat picked them up and dropped Sgt Rawligness off at the Bella Bella Store to phone the station then took the other two to the Station. The remainder of the crew stayed on the beach and the crash boat with the Station MO arrived at 0835 and took the rest of the crew to the hospital and the station. The Station MO and two of the crash crew went to the crash scene. They were augmented by a search crew who found Sgt Cowman’s body. He had been decapitated during the crash.
The cause of the crash was assessed as pilot error because of an inability through the lack of experience on the type of aircraft, the pilot was unable to control the aircraft during the turn and was obliged to straighten out. He then realized the presence of hills ahead and attempted to clear them by climbing but was unable to. It would have been advisable to have landed straight ahead when he encountered the fog or to have climbed to 2,000’ and then proceeded to sea rather than attempting a turn at low altitude in a narrow channel with a heavily laden aircraft.
The pilot PO JA Joseph J23027 was slightly injured
2nd Pilot FSgt KL Brown R122924 slight injury First Navigator WO1 LR Travis R91892 slightly injured
Second Navigator PO JL Jones 27441 had serious burns
1st WAG FO RB Shirra J13152 serious burns
2nd WAG Sgt HAS Rawlinson R140236 uninjured
WM SGT EA Kershsaw R72192 slightly injured
1st FE Sgt JA Cowman R75569 killed
2nd FE LAC WJ Johnston R118425 serious burns
(Canso 9879 was dedicated as part of the RCAF Station Bella Bella ceremony.)
52° 7’49.45″N 128° 6’28.96″W
52° 8’51.04″N 128° 5’22.16″W