Thorough, authoritative, and filled with over 700 superb previously unpublished photographs, Yukon Wings is an illustrated history of the birth and development of the aviation industry in the Yukon. An astonishing book of ingenuity, courage and determination, by engineer, researcher and pilot: Robert Cameron.
Yukon Wings is the extraordinary story of aviation in the Yukon and Canada’s far north, from its earliest beginnings with primitive wood and canvas biplanes to the sophistication of the modern jet age. It is the story of almost superhuman perseverance against accidents, disasters, impossible operating conditions and heartbreaking disappointments that would have crushed the spirits of lesser men. It is the story of faith and courage, of pilots who flew aircraft made of wood, steel and cloth, in conditions of bitter cold, relentless snow and zero visibility, often through unforgiving mountain passes that had taken the lives of airmen before them.
It is a story of the feistiness and guts of men who defied crazy odds to sink everything they owned into their fledgling air services only to lose it all in some horrific setback, then come back and begin anew – not just once, but over and over. It is the story of hard-driving competitors who fought tooth-and-nail for their share of the market, in defiance of all “common sense” standards of normal business practice. It is a story of men who challenged 40-below temperatures to overhaul a seized engine under an improvised canvas tent hundreds of miles from civilization, or who desperately struggled to save a valuable airplane from a watery grave as it clung precariously to the thin ice of a spring thaw. It is the story of the triumphs and tragedies of men who tenaciously persisted in their determination to bring safe and reliable air service to a frontier land.
And best of all – it is a true story.
About the Author
Bob Cameron was literally born to the world of Yukon aviation. His father, Gordon Cameron, began as an apprentice air engineer repairing the obsolete aircraft of the BYN Company, and ended his aviation career operating the most modern bushplanes and helicopters of the day. Two uncles, who worked for Canadian Pacific Airlines at the time of its inception, intensified his fascination with flying. Growing up, weekends were spent at the hangar with his dad, “helping” around the airplanes, listening to the tales of the legendary pilots, engineers, and aviation entrepreneurs of the Yukon, and acquiring a healthy dose of second-hand flying experience.
While still in high school Cameron attained his private pilot’s licence. By the time he earned his university degree in Mechanical Engineering he had already spent four summers working for Trans North Turbo Air repairing and maintaining helicopters in remote mining camps.
After university he joined United Aircraft of Canada, the manufacturer of Canadian Pratt & Whitney engines. Attaining his commercial pilot’s licence, he decided to follow his heart back to the Yukon flying business and rejoined Trans North, where he remained as a commercial pilot and Flight Operations Manager until his retirement in 2001.
In the early 1970s Cameron hunted down the remains of three wrecked and abandoned Fokker Super Universals. The Fokker was an iconic aircraft that had opened frontiers all around the world, from the Arctic to the Antarctic; despite its historic importance, not one intact example was still in existence. With Cameron’s help, two Calgary pilot/engineers, Clark Seaborn and Don McLean, reassembled the bits and pieces, and in 1998, after 18 years of painstaking labour and craftsmanship, the reborn Fokker, CF-AAM, rose into the air for the first time in more than six decades. Cameron, Seaborn and McLean flew the historic old Fokker for 30,000 miles throughout North America. At Air Venture 1999 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin – with 10,000 participating aircraft and over one million visitors the largest annual air show in North America – CF-AAM was placed front and centre on the parking line, and was awarded the trophy for Judges’ Choice.
Throughout his years in the aviation world Cameron devoted every available minute to researching the history of Yukon flight, collecting unique photographs, and compiling stories told to him by legendary Yukon aviation figures like George Simmons, Pat Callison, Herman Peterson, Bud Harbottle, Moe Grant and Lloyd Ryder, all of whom Cameron knew from early childhood. The result is Yukon Wings – a dramatic account of courage and tenacity, told by someone who not only knew the business from the inside out but has enjoyed a close, life-long relationship with many of its foremost figures.