Tourism Industry

Topics: Aircraft, Aerial firefighting, Air Tractor AT-802 Pages: 18 (3321 words) Published: August 31, 2014
History of Aviation in the
BC Forest Service

A pictorial account for the BCFS Centennial
August 2011

Part 1 : Transport, Supply, Reconnaissance


This is a brief pictorial account of the history of fixed wing flying in the roles of transport, supply, reconnaissance, patrol and inventory with the British Columbia Forest Service. The Early Years

By now, many of us have heard about or seen the
results of the BC Forest Branch’s first foray into the
world of aircraft. A contract was initiated by the
Department of Lands with the Hoffar Motor Boat
Company for the construction of a single engine
two seat flying boat, to be used primarily for
patrolling. The H-2 biplane was constructed during
the summer of 1918 and test flights conducted
toward the end of August and early September. On
September 4th, on one of the early tests over
Vancouver, the aircraft experienced engine
problems and the pilot elected to head for the
waters of Coal Harbour. It never made it. The
aircraft stalled (quit flying) and spiralled onto the roof of a Figure 1: Hoffar H-2 crash Vancouver Sept. 1918
house in West Vancouver. The H-2 was destroyed but the
young pilot luckily sustained only minor injuries. This ended the thought of Forest Service aircraft ownership for almost 80 years.

In September of 1919, the first aerial
discovery of a forest fire in B.C. took place over
Duncan. The pilot of a Curtiss JN-4 (possibly
during an air mail flight) spotted the fire and
landed at Duncan to report it to the Forest
Branch, who then took suppression action.
The end of WW1 saw a surplus of aircraft and
support equipment in both Europe and North
America. After the war, governments and
agencies recognized the value of aircraft in
roles such as patrols and transport of men and
Figure 2: Curtiss JN-4 first forest fire discovery 1919
supplies. The Canadian government formed the
Dominion Air Board to oversee the growing civil
aviation in Canada. Half a dozen air stations were established across the country in 1920 including Vancouver, located at Jericho Beach. The Vancouver Air Station soon acquired 2 types of flying boats.


The Curtiss HS-2L was a single engine four place biplane with a payload of up to 700 pounds and a top speed of 70 mph. The Felixstowe F.3 was a large twin engine flying boat capable of speeds over 85 mph and a payload up to 12 people with gear. These aircraft were not used operationally in 1920 but the HS-2L was tested and evaluated by

the Forest Branch and Air Station in the fall.
The 1921 fire season saw both types used in
various roles by the Forest Branch including
patrols, fire suppression and forest
reconnaissance, inventory and photography.
One HS-2L was also based in Kamloops during
that summer.
1922 proved to be a serious fire season on
B.C.’s coast. The F.3 proved it’s worth
transporting men and equipment to fires. Near the
end of July the F.3 transported men, equipment
and camp supplies to a fire near Buttle Lake on
Vancouver Island. The use of the F.3 saved days
of ground travel and undoubtedly prevented the
fire from becoming a major event.
By 1923, the Forest Branch had become
somewhat disenchanted with both types of
aircraft as they were becoming obsolete.
Aircraft performance was not up to
requirements especially in the mountains, and
aircraft maintenance costs were high. In 1924
the Branch used the aircraft on a casual basis
and only flew two dozen hours. By 1926 the
regular use of aircraft for forestry work was
severely curtailed.

Figure 3: HS-2L at Alert Bay late 1920. BC Archives NA-07649

Figure 4: Felixstowe F.3

For more detailed information on Forest Branch aviation activities between 1918 and 1926 including an account of the 1918 accident, see the publication “Aircraft and Their Use in Forestry in B.C.: 1918 – 1926”


Through the late 1920’s and 1930’s
occasional fire patrols and aerial spray...
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