Posted by Ron McCullough on Aug 23, 2019

what a story!!

 

We found our airplane 60 years later, just 40 km. south of Edmonton

Sixty years later, Class of ’60 MBA students Ron McCullough and Robin Eccles find an old friend.  

 

The story begins during a Marketing class in April 1959 with a note from Ron to Robin reading: “Let’s do something different on this summer  break!”

“Sure, what’ve you got in mind?” Robin wrote back.

“Let’s buy an aeroplane and tour South America!” -  Ron was a licensed pilot with over 2000 hours.

“You’ve got to be kidding.......... seriously?”

“Seriously!”

“OK, let’s do it!”

And so began an adventure which was to take them a total of 27,000 miles in 92 days down the Pacific coast of Central and South America; to cross the Andes via the Curico Pass 150 miles south of Santiago de Chile; across the Pampas to Buenos Aires; returning north through Brazil and the Caribbean across N. America to Ron’s home ranch headquarters near Red Deer, Alberta.

Ron had already identified a single-engine Piper aircraft which they bought for $4,200.00.  

A frantic three weeks followed, securing the charts, visas, flight permits and other paraphernalia they would need to overfly the countries they would be visiting.  Robin rushed through a crash course for his pilot’s license. 

Finally, on 6th June, Mrs. F.W.P. Jones, the Dean’s wife, christened the  aircraft “The Canada Goose”.  Fellow student Rev. Barry Brooks, MBA blessed it. And away they went to Laredo, Texas.   

In Laredo they had the back seats replaced by a large auxiliary fuel tank to give them the 1,000 miles range they would need in places where aircraft fuelling facilities were few and far between.

Of their many adventures, the closest call they had was the passage through the Curico Pass.  The charts showed the altitude as 12,000 ft.  The ceiling of the aircraft was about the same - leaving no margin for error with controls made sloppy by the thin air.  Members of the local flying club were adamant the altitude was less, and that The Canada Goose could get through quite safely. (“American charts...... gringos.......what do they know!”).  In fact the charts were accurate.  But by the greatest of luck there was a strong breeze off the Pacific blowing up the valley towards the summit. The updraft this created lifted the ‘plane sharply over the crest with 400 or 500 ft to spare and dropped it equally sharply down the other side.  Without that following wind, they would certainly have crashed in the high Andes - one of the bleakest places imaginable.

But their relief was soon tempered by the realisation that they were seriously off course.  The plan had been to follow a valley running northeast out of the mountains towards Mendoza where they intended to spend the night.  Instead, they were dropped into a valley which veered southeast towards flat grasslands without any features they could use for navigation.  They were lost. The only thing to be done was to keep going in the hope of finding a ranch or village where they could land before running out of fuel. Again fortune was on their side when they came across a well-equipped runway complex not marked on the charts.  They landed - only to be arrested and jailed for landing at a military airport without permission.

That incarceration was the first of three in which the Canadian Consular Service demonstrated its skill in getting their citizens out of trouble!

Over the years since that trip - it was once described as “Our Dream Flight to South America” in an article they sold at the time - Ron and Robin had wondered whatever happened to the little CANADA GOOSE aircraft that served them so well.  This year, sixty years later, another search discovered it near Edmonton - owned by commercial pilot Forrest Miller - extremely well maintained and still happily flying! 
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