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The Ghosts Of Gander  
User currently offlineaviateur From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1350 posts, RR: 12
Posted (3 years 3 months 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 8685 times:

"At Cape Spear, I stood next to a lighthouse and admired the blur. The edge of the world had washed itself of form; land, wan and shapeless; the horizon rubbed out; the air blank, howling colourless streaks, sparkling with cold. It was strange to think that, every day, America's first dawn had to struggle out of these smudges on its way to New York, 1,200 miles to the rear. Cape Spear seemed so much more an end than a beginning ..."


What I wouldn't give for the DNA to concoct a passage like that. It reads like something out of "Moby-Dick," but it's actually by the British author John Gimlette.

Gimlette is the world's best living travel writer. Or the funniest, it can hardly be argued, at any rate. A shame he has but a trio of books to his name (plus numerous magazine essays).

The best and most hilarious of the three is a book called "At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels Through Paraguay."

It can be said that the truly gifted travel writer is the one who makes your life feel incomplete, through prose so compelling that the reader is unable to forgive himself for not visiting whatever country or region the writer is tackling, no matter how uninviting such a place would ordinarily seem. That's how I felt about Paraguay after reading "Inflatable Pig" two summers ago during a swing through northern Argentina.

Paraguay was right there, all verdant and misty on the opposite side of the Parana River. I could have hit it with a Frisbee. But the bastards wanted a visa and I didn't have time to get one.

The above quotation, though, in which the author describes a visit to Cape Spear, the easternmost barb of the North American continent, is taken from another of Gimlette's books. This one is called "Theatre of Fish: Travels Through Newfoundland and Labrador." Maybe it's not his best, but once again I'm Googling road maps and scoping out hotels, this time in the "Canadian Far East."

While the book has stirred my interest, I also have a peculiar, aviator's attachment to this oddest of Canada's provinces. (Newfoundland and Labrador do not actually touch, reaching out to one another from across a watery strait, but they comprise a single provincial entity.) What I mean by that is I'm constantly flying over the place. Any pilot who regularly crosses the Atlantic has a certain high-altitude connection to this gale-thrashed nether region, with its boulders and forests and frozen black rivers, clusters of icebergs bobbing in the bays. We look down -- at least I do -- mesmerized by its jaggedy, end-of-the-world remoteness.

"God built the world in six days," writes Gimlette. "And on the seventh he pelted Labrador with rocks." That seems about right, looking down on it.

At one point in "Theatre of Fish" Gimlette drops by the airport in Gander, Newfoundland. I was hoping he'd get there.

Before the advent of long-haul flying, little Gander was one of the world's most important airports, a critical refueling stop between the United States and Europe. Well into the 1980s you'd still catch a chartered 707 or one of Aeroflot's Ilyushins sloshing in from time to time. I dropped by a few times myself, crewing cargo jets for DHL in the late 1990s.

Nowadays Gander is almost exclusively a diversion spot. I'm always circling it on the plotting charts and measuring out the coordinates, just in case. If you're calling at Gander, chances are it's a response to some misfortune, like a failed engine or a passenger's failing heart.

Gander Center, meanwhile, is one of the busier air traffic control facilities, helping choreograph the hundreds of commercial flights that traverse the North Atlantic every day, coasting in (or out) along the great circle routes. This is the ultimate flyover country; the controllers must be lonely in their bunkers -- all those planes and people merely passing overhead. I've called in countless position reports, crackling over the HF radios: "Gander, Gander ... over?" I love just saying it. There's something romantic and evocative in the name alone: Gander.

Historically, Gander isn't unlike its transatlantic counterpart, Shannon, another strategic pit stop whose salad days have similarly long passed. But in addition to supplying kerosene and whiskey (Shannon's transit lounge included the world's first duty-free shop), Shannon was and remains something of a destination unto itself in a way that Gander has never been -- a jumping-off point for throngs of tourists headed to the counties of western Ireland. I've been to Shannon in April, the landscape all warm and spongy green. Four hours later I'm in Gander, in a pall of ice-fog thicker than a pillow, waiting for a storm to blow through.

The funny thing is that Shannon sits at a higher latitude. Even the Gulf Stream snubs its nose at poor Newfoundland, saving its rewards for the other side.

As if the climate hasn't provided enough ignominy, Gander was also the scene of one of history's worst air disasters, the crash of an Arrow Air DC-8 on Dec. 12, 1985. The plane didn't "miss the runway" as Gimlette states, but rather went stalling off the end in a doomed, pre-dawn takeoff, plowing into the woods below. Nobody knows what happened. Some say it was a malfunctioning engine and erroneously set power. Others say the wings were coated in rime. A third opinion says both, and a fourth blames sabotage. On board were 256 people, including 248 U.S. servicemen returning from Egypt. There were no survivors in what remains the third deadliest crash ever in North America.

Gander's isolation feels fossilized in the meaningless jumble of its airport identifier: CYQX, the letters clattering like blocks of ice. Cold, empty, forgotten. If there is a sub-zero equivalent of tumbleweeds, they are rolling across the apron at Gander......



- PS


Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
23 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAR385 From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 5943 posts, RR: 30
Reply 1, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 7869 times:
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But, you also forget that Gander taught the world a lesson in human solidarity, kindness, openness, love for its fellow man in need, beign a good neighbor and an ally in a time of extreme need and many more things on September 11. Mostly, that is why I remember Gander for. Gander and its people will always have a special place on my heart.


MGGS
User currently offlineJean Leloup From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 2115 posts, RR: 20
Reply 2, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 7655 times:

Nice post; thank you.

Newfoundland is the only province I haven't been to yet. When I go there, I want to do it right and make sure I get up to Gander, as well as Labrador.

Quoting AR385 (Reply 1):
But, you also forget that Gander taught the world a lesson in human solidarity, kindness, openness, love for its fellow man in need, beign a good neighbor and an ally in a time of extreme need and many more things on September 11.
http://www.airliners.net/photo//0191...d=17fa18c04aa5b67be41a4928f34b68ad

I had never noticed that one of the widebodies parked at YQX on 9/11 was an AN-124! Must have been a particularly weird time in Gander for that crew, as opposed to the western european and north american travellers on the passenger aircraft.

JL



Next flight.... who knows.
User currently offlineN14AZ From Germany, joined Feb 2007, 2607 posts, RR: 25
Reply 3, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 7490 times:

I am not sure to which aircraft you are referring to but what I see in that picture is a Galaxy.

Best regards
N14AZ


User currently onlineFlaps From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 1227 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7423 times:

Please correct me if I am wrong but I do believe that the probable cause of the Arrrow crash was a brake malfunction. The main gear brakes were locked up as the crew attempted takeoff. The aircraft slid along the icy runway burning up its tires and wheels as it went. As a consequence acceleration was below normal and the aircraft never achieved takeoff speed.

User currently offlineGonzalo From Chile, joined Aug 2005, 1950 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7383 times:

Aviateur, many many thanks for your post. All of us who love aviation for decades feel a special connection with a place like Gander. When I read the title I was expecting some article or news remembrance of the Arrow Air crash or Swiss 111 ( I know, is not related "exactly" with Gander since they were nearest to Moncton at the time of the crash, but still ).

A very good reading for this afternoon. Again, thank you.

Rgds.

G.



80 Knots...V1...Rotate...Gear Up...DC-3 / EMB-110 / Fairchild-227 / Ab318-19-20 / B732 / B763
User currently offlineseabosdca From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 5095 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7357 times:

My first landing at Gander, for a fuel stop in a TWA non-ER 762 flying CDG-JFK on a bitterly nasty winter day when I was about ten, remains one of my most vivid memories. It was dead flat, and empty, as far as I could see. Something about the desolateness of the landscape got into my head, and even today I have a strange attraction to forbidding places.


Most gorgeous aircraft: Tu-204-300, 757-200, A330-200, 777-200LR, 787-8
User currently offlinecbphoto From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1548 posts, RR: 6
Reply 7, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7310 times:

Quoting Jean Leloup (Reply 2):
I had never noticed that one of the widebodies parked at YQX on 9/11 was an AN-124! Must have been a particularly weird time in Gander for that crew, as opposed to the western european and north american travellers on the passenger aircraft.
Quoting N14AZ (Reply 3):
I am not sure to which aircraft you are referring to but what I see in that picture is a Galaxy.

Correct, I as well see a C-5 Galaxy in that photo! What is interesting though, is that they diverted a military aircraft as well as the civilian planes. I would have thought surly a US Air Force plane would have been allowed to enter the airspace and land during the whole 9/11 ordeal. Does anyone have more info on this? Was it only certain military aircraft allowed to operate during the closure of the US airspace?



ETOPS: Engines Turning or Passengers Swimming
User currently offlineJean Leloup From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 2115 posts, RR: 20
Reply 8, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7240 times:

Quoting N14AZ (Reply 3):
Quoting cbphoto (Reply 7):

Thanks guys! Didn't look closely - just saw the high wing and 4 engines and never would have suspected it would be a C-5, which seems even more random.

JL



Next flight.... who knows.
User currently offlinePITrules From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 3033 posts, RR: 4
Reply 9, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 7191 times:

Quoting AR385 (Reply 1):
But, you also forget that Gander taught the world a lesson in human solidarity, kindness, openness, love for its fellow man in need, beign a good neighbor and an ally in a time of extreme need and many more things on September 11. Mostly, that is why I remember Gander for. Gander and its people will always have a special place on my heart.


This is one of the best documentaries of the role of Gander during 9/11 I've seen. At least 45 minutes long; originally aired during the Vancouver games and well worth the time to watch.

http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/play/1335538/gander_brokaw_piece

Quoting cbphoto (Reply 7):
I would have thought surly a US Air Force plane would have been allowed to enter the airspace and land during the whole 9/11 ordeal. Does anyone have more info on this? Was it only certain military aircraft allowed to operate during the closure of the US airspace?

I was near IAD during 9/11. On Sept 12, with US airspace still closed to civilian traffic, a British RAF VC-10 arrived at IAD, so there must have been some sort of case by case approval to allow flights. Even on Sept 11, I believe AirNet Express, the overnight check hauling expediter, was allowed to operate flights to the NYC area with blood donations.



FLYi
User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1034 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 7108 times:

Quoting Flaps (Reply 4):
Please correct me if I am wrong but I do believe that the probable cause of the Arrrow crash was a brake malfunction. The main gear brakes were locked up as the crew attempted takeoff. The aircraft slid along the icy runway burning up its tires and wheels as it went. As a consequence acceleration was below normal and the aircraft never achieved takeoff speed

No, that was a Capitol Airways DC-8 at ANC in 1970. There were surviovors in that one, also a MAC flight.

Russ Farris


User currently offlinejc2354 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 564 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 6353 times:

Quoting PITrules (Reply 9):
This is one of the best documentaries of the role of Gander during 9/11 I've seen. At least 45 minutes long; originally aired during the Vancouver games and well worth the time to watch.

http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/p...piece

Thank you very much for posting this.

Jack



If not now, then when?
User currently offlineantonovman From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2001, 719 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 6330 times:

I used to fly on AN124 as a flight manager and we did a lot of stops in Gander. It was one of my favourite stops. We stayed in Sinbads hotel and they looked after us so well. We shopped in the gander mall and always had a great time. The service we got from the handling agents and airport authority was excellent. Great people in Gander.

User currently offlinewjcandee From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 4970 posts, RR: 18
Reply 13, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 6196 times:

Beautiful piece about Gander. Brokaw did a very nice job. Well worth the time to watch it.

User currently offlineUAL777UK From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2005, 3356 posts, RR: 1
Reply 14, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 6156 times:

Quoting Jean Leloup (Reply 2):

Brings back many memories, I can see my wifes UA 777 (UA929) parked on the apron. That was the last UA flight to make it back to the States, they were there for about 5 days. Emotional times.


User currently offlinerscaife1682 From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 332 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 6030 times:

Back in the days when we use to perform tech stops in Gander all the time before we started using 767's. In the first pic a RYAN AIRLINES 757 N929RD.

Tech stop on a Reach AMC flight from EGUN


[Edited 2010-12-23 02:35:32]

User currently offlinemacsog6 From Singapore, joined Jan 2010, 520 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 5628 times:
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Quoting AR385 (Reply 1):
Gander and its people will always have a special place on my heart.

As a child in Europe in the late 40's and the 50's, when my family returned "home" to North America a couple of times a year, I recall stopping in Gander many times. It was for me always a fascinating place. I marvelled at how the pilots found it after those hours flying across the dark waters of the North Atlantic from Shannon, loved how the people treated me, and felt I was back, even though as a US citizen, I knew I was in Canada.

Gander is a special place to me as well. After hours looking down at all that dark water, Gander was the bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel.



Sixty Plus Years of Flying! "I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." - Saint Ex
User currently offlineAR385 From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 5943 posts, RR: 30
Reply 17, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 5520 times:
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Quoting PITrules (Reply 9):
This is one of the best documentaries of the role of Gander during 9/11 I've seen. At least 45 minutes long; originally aired during the Vancouver games and well worth the time to watch.

http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/p...piece

I have not had time to watch the clip, I will sometime today, but there is an excellent book out there. I´m not sure its available throught he normal channels anymore: "The Day The World Came to Town" Many passages moved to tears. Give me a PM if you can´t find it.



MGGS
User currently onlineFlaps From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 1227 posts, RR: 4
Reply 18, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 5231 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 10):
No, that was a Capitol Airways DC-8 at ANC in 1970. There were surviovors in that one, also a MAC flight.

Thanks Russ. Old age is slowly killing my memory.


User currently offlinePinsent From Canada, joined Jul 2001, 92 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 5150 times:

Well, I was born and raised there. Small town, but I could not imagine a better place to grow up. Not much of a tourist destination, but for an aviation nut, there certainly is a lot of history there. Most of it is fading quickly. Especially the 80 year old people with all the stories. I still vividly remember the first Concorde landing when it was doing its trial runs in the early 70's. My dad, being an oceanic Air Traffic Controller knew it's eta and we were waiting alongside the fence to watch it!

A town with such a rich aviation history has very little to show for it today. Only a couple of WW2 hangers remain, one of which was the terminal in the 40's, and a very small aviation museum on the side of the Trans Canada Highway. Too bad there was no means to get, preserve, and fund a real "North Atlantic" museum complete with some classic liners of the day.

Last year CBC radio recorded an episode of their "Vinyl Cafe" program there. I've uploaded to rapidshare and for history freaks it is well worth the listen. Only the first 15 minutes pertain to the town and aviation.
http://rapidshare.com/files/438956525/vinylcafe_20100327_26923.mp3

/Dan


User currently offlineArgonaut From UK - Scotland, joined Dec 2004, 421 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 4843 times:

Quoting PITrules (Reply 9):
On Sept 12, with US airspace still closed to civilian traffic, a British RAF VC-10 arrived at IAD,

I recall seeing an RAF TriStar over my home in Annapolis, MD, on the second morning after 9/11. I guessed it was on the way to Andrews AFB, since it appeared to be on a path occasionally used by military transports in or out of there, but I imagine it could have involved IAD (although no IAD-related flight path I know of passes this way, at least not at low altitude). It was very easy to be aware of it, since the sky around here is typically full of aircraft lining up for BWI, and therefore there's almost always the sound of a jet. After two days of complete silence, it was extremely hard not to notice---not to mention, somewhat eerie. Clearly, there was some exemption for military flying, which seems hardly unexpected. The use of a TriStar suggested some diplomatic activity, and the VC10 sounds similar.

Back on topic: a very captivating piece, aviateur. It made my day to read such writing. Although I've never visited the place, it was always a familiar name to me when I was a commercial-aviation-obsessed lad. Perhaps the beginning of the end was when El Al introduced Britannias, and made a big deal of their ability to by-pass Gander (and Goose Bay, too), using the prominent slogan "No Goose, No Gander."

rj



'the rank is but the guinea stamp'
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 24075 posts, RR: 22
Reply 21, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 4331 times:

Quoting aviateur (Thread starter):
Quoting AR385 (Reply 1):
But, you also forget that Gander taught the world a lesson in human solidarity, kindness, openness, love for its fellow man in need, beign a good neighbor and an ally in a time of extreme need and many more things on September 11. Mostly, that is why I remember Gander for. Gander and its people will always have a special place on my heart.

Gander wasn't the only airport in Canada that efficiently handled 9/11 diversions. Dozens of flights diverted to many other airports from coast to coast.


User currently offlineAR385 From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 5943 posts, RR: 30
Reply 22, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 4319 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 21):
Gander wasn't the only airport in Canada that efficiently handled 9/11 diversions. Dozens of flights diverted to many other airports from coast to coast.

True. And México too. Specially the ones coming from South America and the Caribbean. But, the OP spoke about Gander.



MGGS
User currently offlineluv2fly From United States of America, joined May 2003, 12090 posts, RR: 50
Reply 23, posted (3 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 4170 times:

I remember stopping in Gander numerous times when flying TZ from FRA to DTW in the late 90's


You can cut the irony with a knife
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