The Tale of an Ill-Fated Fokker

By the mid-1930s, airplanes were being used frequently in northern BC to transport men and freight. Bush pilots had become quite adept at landing their single-engine craft on the small lakes that dotted the landscape. In July 1935, prospector Joe Jackson (1895-1972) traveled by airplane from Dease Lake to McDame Lake (near Cassiar) to check out some mining prospects. The BC Archives has Mr. Jackson’s amateur film of that trip, which turned out to be a different experience than he’d bargained for. The plane shown is a Fokker F-11AHB amphibian—one of only six built.

I’ve edited the footage and added some historical details about the plane itself. The timings below indicate the location of a sequence in the clip above.

0:25 – Photo of the Fokker in service with Air Ferries Ltd. of San Francisco, early 1930s.

0:55 – Here’s the amphibian on Dease Lake, with crew members paddling it up to the dock. I think this must be at Dease Landing.

1:05 – Here’s our friend Joe disembarking, in a posed shot; he actually got on the plane there.

1:19 – These first aerial shots show the full 23-mile length of Dease Lake.

1:46 – This open area coming up ahead is the delta (or flood plain?) at the mouth of Thibert Creek, where Jackson’s Three J’s Placer Mines company was prospecting for gold. [The subject of another video based on his film footage.]

2:09 – The plane passes over many lakes and rivers on its way northeast.

2:43 – Now we’re approaching McDame Lake (large lake at centre), where the amphibian landed and Joe disembarked.

2:55 – This is what happened next, as Joe filmed the plane trying to take off from McDame Lake. The story was reported in the Wrangell Sentinel, and other Alaska papers, as follows:

3:10

Four men…were injured Saturday, but none fatally, when William Strong’s plane crashed at McDame Lake. … The accident occurred when the plane, a Fokker amphibian, taking off from McDame Lake at 7 p.m., failed to gain altitude.  The plane ploughed 100 yards through timber and is totally demolished. Word was sent out by R. Latimer, who has an amateur radio broadcasting set, and by Tuesday pilot Everett Wasson, operating his private plane, made two trips to place the men in a hospital in Whitehorse. … [i]

Joe Jackson, a cameraman, standing by to record the take-off, attempted to cross the river to help the men, but the current was too strong and he was carried half a mile down stream and thrown against some snags.  Jackson sustained six broken ribs, and now all five men are in the hospital. [ii]

It looks like Joe had considerable stamina and presence of mind to go on and film the wreckage, even after breaking six ribs.  If so, he was a tougher man than me.

4:28 – This colour photo, which I found on the internet, shows the recovered fuselage of CF-AUV when it was briefly on display at an aviation museum in the Netherlands.

=====

JJ_Jackson_Fokker_June_1935

Joseph J. Jackson and the Fokker F-11AHB amphibian CF-AUV, probably at Dease Lake, BC, on July 13, 1935. (digital frame grab from V1987:68/002.01)

 

NOTES:

[i]       “Four Injured in Plane Crash at McDames Lake,” Wrangell Sentinel, July 1935; undated clipping in Box 1 File 2, MS-0528.

[ii]       “Man Hurt in Effort to Help Passengers in Airplane Wreck.”  Undated clipping (from unidentified newspaper) in Box 1 File 2, MS-0528.

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