Veteran Stories:
William Scott

Air Force

  • William Scott, 2010.

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"And Western Air Command immediately called an alert, a red alert [highest level of attack warning]. They didn’t know what it was."


We went up so that we could start about midnight. We were to leave the other crew that was there. They consisted of a technical man and four or five operators who ran the equipment. So we went on duty reporting into [RCAF] Western Air Command and the operators did their necessary DIs [daily inspections] and everything was in order and we started to do our job of scanning the skies. The antenna was built in a cabin that was raised up and the whole thing turned, so that it went 360 degrees. The radar equipment was built by research enterprises in Leaside and the main parts was the transmitter and the receiver. And the receiver part consisted of, today, we call it a PPI [Plan Position Indicator] tube. It was a tube about 16 inches in diameter, operated from a centre point that shot a beam up to the top, which went around 360 degrees. Its purpose of sweeping was to pick up any aircraft that entered it. And it would do so by leaving an echo, a little blip would be on it, but it would keep going around.

Well, I should say that during the night, we were successful in getting a blip on it. And so once I got a blip that meant there was an aircraft in the vicinity somewhere in the order of 150 to 200 miles away. So the idea is you report to head office, you get your instructions. They say it was an unidentified aircraft and they called in an alert. So that meant Queen Charlotte’s [Islands] had radar stations, so everybody became a little more sure of what’s going on.

Well, this went on all night, but lo and behold, towards the sunrise, I started, well, not I, but the machine started to pick up a blip here, a blip there, a blip somewhere else until I had quite a few blips. And Western Air Command immediately called an alert, a red alert [highest level of attack warning]. They didn’t know what it was. They were traveling at about 65 miles an hour which didn’t mean that the big aircraft were coming in because they fly at a higher speed. And two or three planes that was out of Vancouver flew at a slower speed, about 85. But the speed of what we were getting was about 65 miles an hour. So Lord only knows what it was. So we had to sit and wait.

And as the daylight approached, I took my binoculars, went outside and focused in on where it was coming from from the east. And eventually, I discovered what it was. It was flocks and flocks of geese; and naturally, it was reported back to western air command. They called the alert off and we became the laughing stock of all radar stations. So be it. The geese circled and went into a lagoon just south of us.

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