Veteran Stories:
Len Wilke

Air Force

  • No. 7 ITS, Royal Canadian Air Force, Saskatoon, "C" Flight, Course 60. 1942. Mr. Wilke is on 4th row on end (right).

    Len Wilke
  • No. 7 ITS, Royal Canadian Air Force. Sakskatoon. Winner of inter-services field meet. Mr. Wilke is on the front row, on right (4th in) holding trophy. 1942.

    Len Wilke
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"I got posted to an Air Observer School, which was part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and run by Canadian Pacific [Air Lines]."

Transcript

I had graduated from Dauphin [Manitoba] and I went on a training flight from Portage La Prairie and I guess I let my crew lead me a bit too far but I got a lot farther north from Dauphin than I had ever got when I was training from Dauphin and when I came back, I had to land at Dauphin and get some gas to get me back. I just let them take me a little too far. But it was the airport in western Canada, it really was no hardship landing at Dauphin and getting a fill-up of gas. But we did do a few foolish things I guess. I was at No. 4 SFTS [Service Flying Training School] in Saskatoon on tarmac duty and the Sergeant Major would tell us we need eight people for pallbearers and eight people for a firing party and it was just simply that pilots didn’t get the training somewhere along the line and they were flying into thunder clouds and they were becoming casualties far too often. It was something that shouldn’t have happened to them at all. They should have known enough to stay away from the thunder clouds. I guess because I did have some navigation skills, I got posted to an Air Observer School, which was part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and run by Canadian Pacific [Air Lines]. I was seconded to them as a pilot and we weren’t in uniform, we were in civilian clothes and trained navigators. And it was beneficial to the navigators not to have to cope with rank in the aircraft. They would feel much more comfortable dealing with civilians than they would with rank and file. There was one, it was over the Riding Mountains in Manitoba. And I was heading into a thunderstorm and I thought I could see the top of it so I climbed to about 13,000 feet, which was more than I should attain, because we didn’t have oxygen. But I ran into the storm and my altimeter started to spin. And when it stopped, it was at 4,200 feet. And the Riding Mountains are about 4,500 feet high. So I was awfully close to the ground or I should have been in it. That was one experience that I should have known better.
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