TALES OF A WAYWARD AVIATOR

This forum has been created as an area to share memories of friends, who have passed on, that had a love for flight.

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Cat Driver
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Post by Cat Driver » Tue Jul 13, 2004 7:31 am

Duke :

I would love to come, however I have to go back to Amsterdam on the 21st.

I will see you when I return and please do not get drunk and ruin your reputation..

Chuck
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Post by ahramin » Tue Jul 13, 2004 7:37 pm

:?: I thought being drunk was his reputation.
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Duke Elegant
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Post by Duke Elegant » Thu Jul 15, 2004 4:36 pm

.

The job in Peace River Alberta had gone quite smoothly considering I was a new Captain on the Casa 212 and the flat terrain of Alberta made it easy to master the art of EM survey flying which was very different from straight Magnetometer flying I had been doing up on James Bay (Attawapaskat) in a Caravan.

We waited for Eric , my co-captain who was also a brand new captain and we had attended the same course in Ottawa. Eric had had some trouble on the course , mainly due to his native toungue , French, but we all spent extra time helping him think in English for the standard operating procedures in a two crew enviroment. Some of us got together after hours in the cockpit of the Casa in the hangar and went through procedures over and over until he was more comfortable. He was a very pleasant chap and we saw the value in this small investment. We had heard that he was a very good pilot. I , too , asked help of a young first officer, Chris , in matters that I did not fully understand.

This next mission was daunting to say the least especially for two rookies. Two other captains had turned down the job because it was way up north above the Arctic Circle and was a tent camp on the barrens of Baffin Island. The engineer was a rookie too , a Greek immigrant called Stathi Popadoppagoppabobbopolis or something. He had been making arrangements to fly south and then the long way around by airlines in order to fly in comfort and arrive on Baffin on the HS748 charter which bore our spares and supplies. I vetoed this by assuming the role of benovelent dictator and informed Ottawa that he was to fly with us. That's the way it is, I informed him after phoning many layers over even his boss's head.... and besides ... I was a Duke.

We launched for Yellowknife , North West Territories where we needed a hangar for preventitive maintainence since we were bare-assed to the elements for the next few months. This was also the departure point for some very long legs over very barren territory with very few alternate airports.

So the Frenchman , the Greek and the Aussie took off on an adventure of a lifetime.
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Post by . ._ » Thu Jul 15, 2004 6:05 pm

On the edge of my seat...

Let 'er rip Duke!

-istp :D
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Post by Duke Elegant » Thu Jul 15, 2004 8:12 pm

.

The Casa 212 is a chubby little speedster powered by two Dash 10 Garretts of a thousand horsepower each. Designed as a Spanish military troop carrier and cargo aeroplane it is ideal for the electro-magnetic survey role by virtue of its large interior that can accomodate small military vehicles easily loaded by a hydraulic ramp. By adding twin booms protruding from the nose and a large box section boom jutting from the tail, a six strand loop of heavy cables are strung around the whole aircraft (laid horizontally and steadied by arrows that resemble missiles) that pound a million or so millivolts of power into the ground. Once airborne , two "birds" that resemble cruise missiles are let out by their respective winches to trail behind and measure magnetic anomilies produced by ore bodies and oil and gas pockets. It has a surprisingly comfortable and well laid out cockpit that is a blessing when flying long missions close to the ground for hours on end. But no longer a speedster , it is more of a contraption with banks of electronics and AC/DC converters in back including an operators station.

So with the birds winched up against the ramp door , loaded with spares , personal gear, tool boxes and survival gear we droned off to Yellowknife at a blistering 140 knots. We are to meet our Polish operator Jerzy on site and the time in Yellowknife is spent on maintainence and visits with many friends flying Buffalo Joe's DC4's , C46 Curtis Commandos and DC3's. Yellowknife is a Mecca of bush aviation and Buffalo Joe immeditaely offered me a job as DC4 captain but Fugro Airborne Surveys had stuck with me during my first battle with cancer and my loyalty to them was resolute. This loyalty today is paying off many times over.

The company had rewarded us with a large stash of beer and whiskey for the job well done in Peace River and this would be very welcome in a tent camp for sure.

Flight planning for the next leg was complicated by the summer Arctic sea fog that blanketed the northern route via Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay so we had no choice but to take the Baker Lake and Hall Beach route that involved nearly four hour legs with very distant alternates so a window of opportunity was sought where there were no headwinds.

We droned high above the barrens that became devoid of trees but replaced by rugged eskers that looked as if they had been scratched into the Canadian shield by the almighty when he was in an angry mood ... they all ran in the same directiion and offered little solace in the event of an emergency landing. The famous Baker Lake cariboo migration herds were too far North for our viewing and we were instead rewarded by the nothingness of Baker Lake where we landed with bare reserves for refuelling. The leg to Hall Beach , an Eskimo villiage on the shores of the still iced up Artic Ocean was mostly in or above cloud. Icing was our enemy as ice would quickly form on the loop causing it to hump thereby giving a ten minute warning prior to plummeting to earth with the glide angle of a greased crowbar. This villiage seemed friendly enough and relatively clean but we elected to push on to Dewer Lakes on Baffin Island which was a Dew Line radar site and our home for the coming months.
Very rugged , rocky mountains loomed on all points of the compass.

Upon arrival we noticed the automatic radar site high up on the hill , a well prepared gravel runway and our teeny camp on the banks of a frozen river. We hadn't seen a tree since Yellowknife. Some cariboo wandered the strip but soon dispersed with the shrieking whine of the Garrets and we parked on the cleared ramp in a cloud of dust. Two all terrain vehicles greeted us , one driven by the data processor and the other by Jerzy , the operator, and these were our only means of transportaion which was OK since there was nowhere to go anyway.

With gear piled high we made our way to the camp over rocks , all the same size , all the wrong size ... even walking was a chore over these devil's marbles.

Enroute , Dave the data processor told me with some foreboding that I won't believe the BHP Australia female geophysicist that was on site. He chuckled and grinned and shook his head often.

The Arctic wind with no warning ambushed us and with the dusk approaching , a shiver enveloped me as we approached camp.

And then I saw her.
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treefrog
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Post by treefrog » Mon Jul 19, 2004 5:18 pm

You don't have to tell us.

What everyone else saw was a head like a bull mastif, humungous hogans, three pickhandles across the backside and bad breath.

What the Duke saw was humungous hogans and some other stuff.

We can discuss this on Sunday as I will definitely be at the weenie roast.

Treefrog
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Post by Sawmill Broad » Tue Jul 20, 2004 9:06 pm

Seems I have been upgraded from Sawmill Broad to:
Secretary to the Duke!

He tells me I should be honoured.

I am.

For everyone's information, he had taken a turn for the worse and has been in hospital since Friday evening (July16) in considerable pain. Our medical system sucks but perseverence prevails and the good news is that his CT today showed that there is a surgery that can be done to eleviate this. This will happen tomorrow evening so everyone out there should send positive energy his way.

The great 'piss-up'(celebration of his life) will go on this Sunday at the airport in Chilliwack and he will be there either on gurney or else!
That's what he says and I believe it!

He asked me to post this for note for him.
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Post by loopy » Wed Jul 21, 2004 7:02 am

Hang in there Duke! You've got an appointment to keep on the 25th. Back east we used to have Christmas in July parties on the 25th. Were all pulling for you. Merry Christmas old pal.
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W5
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Post by W5 » Wed Jul 21, 2004 1:05 pm

Best wishes Duke!
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Update on the Duke

Post by Sawmill Broad » Wed Jul 21, 2004 9:57 pm

Hi Everyone,

Just got the word - the surgery was successful but he will be critical for the next 5 days. He is doing well!
The doc did say he would be at the soiree on Sunday so here's hoping...

Because if he isn't, I fear a very crowded hospital room on that day!

I know he will love to hear from you so if you have any comments I will be taking them to the hosp. for him.

Thanks for the good wishes! I will keep you posted.
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Mitch Cronin
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Post by Mitch Cronin » Thu Jul 22, 2004 7:13 am

Please tell the Duke his MEL extension has been approved indefinitely. His airframe's time expiry has now gone "on condition", and the CDL will be rewritten for whatever his ailments may be...

And if all of that is to no avail.... please remind him that he's meant more to many of us - even in the short time so many of us have "known" him - than the Curtis Jenny, The Tiger Moth, The Boeing Stearman, the DC3, the 707, and the 747 combined....
In other words: Old airframes may always wind up in the desert, but the folks who flew in them will never forget.

Godspeed Mr Duke Elegant.... I wish I could have met you in person.
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Post by Mitch Cronin » Thu Jul 22, 2004 8:22 am

Further to that.... I have to apologise for not being able to say any of the right things... Truth is, none of us can say anything right because mere words on a forum can't possibly convey the enormity of the emotion, nor the sincerity of the wishes, nor the severity of the impact The Duke has had on many of us since he began telling his tales of daring do on these pages.

I don't mean to falsely canonize the guy, but I do mean to make it known that his contributions here alone have made such an impact that I know he'll not be forgotten by myself, and I highly suspect the same is true for many of us... God I wish the right words could come out of this damned keyboard!

It's that conundrum that I believe has prevented a thousand responses here.... I KNOW there are many others here just as tongue-tied as myself.... Damn I wish I could be there this Sunday....
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Post by treefrog » Thu Jul 22, 2004 4:33 pm

Griffon,

Duke's going to die, you're going to die and I'm going to die. The probable difference is Duke has had lots of warning and has been able to take stock, look back on his life and, importantly, write down much of what has had meaning for him and many others.

I suppose it is a double-edged sword knowing the time you will die, as most of us could live to 200 and still be left with things we want to do. In Dukes case he is just looking over the fence at 60 but what complete 60 years!!

Those who love him or know him or have just read or heard his stories might feel he is being taken while he has so much more to offer but it is unreasonable to expect too much. Duke has given more love, pain, advice, entertainment, frustration, insubordination and adventure than any two other people I know. Even his most ardent enemies - yes, like all of us, he does have one or fifteen of them- have a grudging admiration for this "rough diamond".

From the time nearly 40 years ago when I lay in the mud and rain beside him on an Army exercise I have been warmed and encouraged by his limitless enthusiasm, optimism and endless (often inappropriate) humour. He has been annoying, embarrassing, unreliable and noisy but even when he is doing those things people still look upon the incident with humour and normally the highlight of a dull day.

Our paths have crossed only occasionally over the last 4 decades and when we do meet it is as if we parted yesterday. Reports of his adventures have arrived regularly to create mirth in some crewroom or bar - often embellished with the telling.

I am not sad Duke is going, it is his time. He has drunk fully from the cup of life and taken a big gulp out of some other poor bastard's cup as well.

When I go, I will look back on all the things I have done and in that list will be "I knew Duke Elegant".

Treefrog
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in with it
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Post by in with it » Thu Jul 22, 2004 5:08 pm

~~~
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Last edited by in with it on Thu Jul 22, 2004 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Mitch Cronin
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Post by Mitch Cronin » Thu Jul 22, 2004 5:49 pm

Treefrog... Right on.

Life gives us a 100% failure rate. Everybody dies. Those who go leave the missing to those who survive them, and from my very brief knowledge of Duke Elegant, I'm gonna miss him. The bastard!

You may have a lifetime of memories... but I'm left feeling the same way I did when, very shortly after discovering the magic that came from the creative genious of Stevie Ray Vaughn's guitar work, he died... (To get a hint of what I mean.... find a copy of "Little Wing" by Stevie Ray (it's a Hendrix tune, but Stevie Ray does it way proud!) and if it brings a tear to your eye, you'll be there.)

I'm certainly richer for having Stevie Ray's recordings to listen to, but I can't help wishing he could have hung around to enrichen us all some more... same with the Duke. His stories have made me wish I'd known him... and left me wanting more... pretty selfish, ain't it?

Anyway, selfishness aside, I reckon it's not easy to see your own end coming, and I feel for the guy... and those who love him. I'm sure it's about the hardest lesson life has to teach us. ...And I wish him, and all his loved one's well.

I can't be in Chilliwack on Sunday, even if I was invited, but I'll have a drink for him - and a toast to him, just the same.

Forgive me if that all sounds incredibly cornball, I assure you I'm as real as I can be... and there's something about a man that's willing to share hisself with the world to the degree he's done here that strikes a chord with me.
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Post by W5 » Thu Jul 22, 2004 6:02 pm

Hey Mitch, for a wrenchbender you sure have a way with words. Thanks for expressing what a lot of us feel; and I'll join you in this drink at home.

remember: Life is a sexually transmitted disease with no cure.
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Post by Lost in Saigon » Thu Jul 22, 2004 8:38 pm

Here is a photo I took of Duke and Turbo relaxing on the wing of an A-26. (Tanker 14)
Fort McMurray, Alberta 1986


Image


Mike Sowsun
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Post by loopy » Fri Jul 23, 2004 5:28 am

Griffon and Treefrog. Very well expressed thoughts. Thanks.

Hang tough Duke.
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Post by Cat Driver » Fri Jul 23, 2004 7:56 am

I unfortunately will not be at the party as I am in Amsterdam again, however my thoughts will be with the Duke and if nothing else we had a few hours to talk in his sail boat a while ago.

The duke and I are very different in some of our traits, however I have always been very fond of him because he is not only different but a great airplane driver.

I only hope I have the guts he has when my time is up.

Cat
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Post by treefrog » Fri Jul 23, 2004 1:33 pm

Griffon,

I am absolutely certain you are invited to Chilliwack on Sunday. Everybody who has been touched by Duke's life or just seen him passing in the street should be there.

This is not so much a celebration of Duke's life but, from what I can see, is the Duke Elegant World Aviation Bullshit Championships sponsored by Duke himself. Whether he is jogging around the field, brought in on a gurney, still in hospital or embalmed and laying on the tool bench he will still be at the hangar in person or spirit and the show must, and will, go on.

If anyone is like Griffon and thinks an invite is required I am sure the Duke would insist upon your presence - it only takes 5 minutes to run to the liquor store for more beer! You too have a chance at the gold medal for your "There I was..." story so come and give the master a chance at defending his crown for one last time.

Treefrog
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Post by Sawmill Broad » Fri Jul 23, 2004 5:23 pm

Treefrog

You are absolutely right! Everyone is welcome on Sunday, for sure! Duke's orders!

By the by, he is recovering quite well. Even had some colour in his cheeks this morning. Very much looking forward to the event and will be holding court as promised.

Also, the nearest pub/beer & wine store is a short walk from the hangar. The weather promises a sultry (?) 38 degrees! So bring ice.
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Post by loopy » Sun Jul 25, 2004 8:37 am

I was thinking of you this morning Duke after a social get together with a couple of aviation brethren last night. Were all pulling for you. I'm looking forward to a recap here of the festivities.

Cheers, mate. :wink:
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Post by lilfssister » Sun Jul 25, 2004 4:30 pm

Sis and company hoisting a few cold ones in the Duke's honour...wish we could be at the real thing! :)
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Post by . ._ » Sun Jul 25, 2004 7:37 pm

I'm drinking one right now for the Duke. Cheers mate! The idea of a pre-funeral piss up is a great one. I hope to have one someday, but not too soon.

-istp
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Post by FSS » Mon Jul 26, 2004 2:13 pm

Sawmill Broad, anyone sobered up enough to tell us how the shin dig went last night for those of us who couldn't make it?? Did a few in his honor anyway. :?
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