The Last Argus Flight – Argus CP 107 - 10742
CFB Summerside to the National Aeronautical Collection at Rockcliffe, Ontario
10 February 1982
Maritime Air Group Headquarters (MAGHQ) assigned an aircrew Team to move the last Argus to Ottawa in early January 1982. Firm plans were made to move Argus 10742 to its final resting place at the National Aeronautical Collection at Rockcliffe, Ontario – now named the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.
The Team’s first task was to renew all their expired Argus Aircraft Flying Categories since they had not flown the aircraft in over a year. The Team transited to CFB Summerside and over the period of 5 -9 January 1982, with great support from the Summerside Ground Crew team, the Argus Team flew two trips (5.0 hrs/3.0 hrs). They conducted several training missions, successfully renewing and updating all their individual Argus Aircraft qualifications. On the 6th of January 1982, we were ready to complete the mission.
The Weather Delay:
However, “Mother Nature” had other plans for the team! A huge “ICE STORM” subsequently hit the Ottawa area over the next several days and, as our NDHQ Operations Coordinator LCol Ken Allen stated often over the next few weeks: “The Rockcliffe 09/27 Runway is still covered with several inches of clear ice”! Which again, often resulted in our firm response of: “OK? Let us know when it is bare and dry!” The runway is only 3,300 feet in length and 100 feet wide!
The Runway is Bare and Dry!
Finally, in early February 1982, almost a month later, LCol Ken Allen finally calls to tell us that the Ottawa crews had worked overtime and the full runway length and approximately 75 feet of the width of the runway would be cleared of ice soon. We assembled again at CFB Summerside to complete the mission.
Again, however, “Mother Nature” shows her rough side and at about 4:00 o’clock in the morning on the 10th of February 1982, the First Officer, Major Rose, wakes the team up with the news that a winter storm is brewing. He opinions that if we do not leave soon, we may be snow bound in Summerside for the next few days!
Major Griffith rallied his crew and they completed Argus 10742’s external and pre-flight checks “inside” the Summerside Alert Hangar. Then, with the able assistance of CFB Summerside Ground Crews “outside” in terrible winter weather, the Alert Hangar doors were opened and Argus 10742 was started for the second last time (#3 Generator failed to come on line necessitating a full shut down and “then” the very last successful start (thanks only to all the professional ground support crews and technicians who had kept 10742 in top operational condition for over a year). Argus 10742 was taxied out and received take-off clearance on its final flight to Ottawa. Argus 10742 departed on its last flight from Summerside for Rockcliffe at 15.24 GMT, 10 February 1982. A point of interest: The crew had arranged to record an audio tape of Argus 10742’s final Start, Run-Up, Taxi and last Take-off, which is narrated by Major Griffith. I believe the audio tape and several strips of film of the Argus 10742 that were taken that day are both resident with the 415 Squadron Historian.
The Team had thought that we would fly over to CFB Greenwood for a last visit because we knew we would be early arriving in Ottawa for the official welcoming ceremony, but decided against that and we headed for our first on route mission.
Wave The Flag:
It had been earlier arranged by higher headquarters that the last Argus Flight would also conduct a final fly past over the “Canadair” Plant at Cartierville Airport in the Montreal Suburb of Saint-Laurent Quebec, where the Argus fleet were built (Canadair provided a photo later). After “mission accomplished” over the Canadair Plant, the crew requested clearance on route to Ottawa through the Montreal Air Traffic Control Area.
It was then that the Montreal Tower called and asked if the last Argus Flight would like to conduct a “farewell fly past” down the Montreal Airport runway? Once we were ensured that we were “cleared and had the field to ourselves” Argus 10742 and crew flew a low pass farewell to Montreal Airport on route to Ottawa.
It is Hard to Hide an Argus!:
When we finally arrived at Ottawa, early as we expected, Major Griffith decided to burn some time and fuel to reduce our weight by conducting touch and go landings at CFB Upland. Major Griffith and crew did just that. During their landing sequences they received a call from CFB Uplands Tower asking if we were indeed flying an “Argus”. Apparently, the Tower was receiving many calls from the public who had seen the aircraft flying around and asking if it really was an Argus aircraft.
The official time for our landing at Rockcliffe was around noon that day, 10 February 1982. A senior officer from NDHQ and Mr. A.J. Shortt, Assistant Curator of the National Aeronautical Collection at Rockcliffe Ottawa, Ontario were scheduled to officially accept the transfer of Argus 10742 and its Log Books after we landed. But, the NDHQ senior officer was delayed in his arrival to Rockcliffe because of heavy vehicle traffic near the base. The word had got out in Ottawa that the last Argus aircraft was to land at Rockcliffe around noon and the public started to stop along the roads around the base to see it land, blocking and slowing the NDHQ Senior Officers arrival!
Major Griffith and crew had since transited over to the Rockcliffe site in anticipation of a quick landing, but due to the delayed arrival of the NDHQ representative due to heavy traffic, the crew then proceeded to conduct a number of practice approaches and overshoots to the Rockcliffe runway gauging their approach to the short runway for a final landing when informed of the NDHQ representatives arrival. Their close flying display drew further interest from the regular public who kept stopping and parking to watch Argus 10742’s last landing.
Argus 10742 Last Landing:
The NDHQ senior officer arrives and Major Griffith and crew conduct a smooth and perfect final landing on the 09/27 3,330 foot runway at Rockcliffe in Argus 10742. Total flying time for the trip was 4.6 hours.
When the order to conduct the Argus Post Landing Check is given, I ask the Crew to stop the checks for a minute. As we sat alone, quietly on the runway, I remind everyone that: “We will never, never, ever hear this sound again!” So, we all sat there listening to Argus 742 engines ticking over for about five minutes, keeping the VIP’s waiting. Then the Post Landing check was completed and Argus 10742 was taxied in following its last landing.
The Argus 10742’s Log Books were presented to the NDHQ Senior Officer and Mr. A.J. Shortt with the comment that Argus 742 is now “in their care”.
A note of interest: Argus 10742 landed at Rockcliffe around 1:00PM on 10 February 1982. On this, the last flight of the Argus, my total Argus flying time topped out at 2595 Argus hours. Around 4:00 PM on the same afternoon, the last flight of a CF 100 #100785, a Mark 5D Twin Engine (EW) Jet Fighter, also completed its last flight, landing at Rockcliffe. A coincidental memorial event for me since my first RCAF operational flying tour was with the 432 Cougar (AWF) All Weather Fighter Squadron, CFB Bagotville, Quebec, where I flew over 650 hours flying in the CF 100. Two Ladies retiring on the same day!
Our Argus 10742 Team was to be picked up by a CFB Greenwood Aurora later that day but the Aurora had to return to CFB Greenwood due to a mechanical problem. Another Aurora was re-scheduled to pick up the crew in the early morning hours of the 11 February. It was at this point that I told Major Griffith to tell Greenwood to cancel that flight because we had been up for over 24 hours and the crew would be staying in Ottawa at a local hotel for crew rest. Pick up was reschedule for the late afternoon of 11 February.
We awoke the next day to see the local Ottawa newspaper with a full “Top of the Front Page” photo of Argus 742 just rounding out over the approach to runway 09/27 for its final landing! (See above). A beautiful ending to the Argus era!
Argus 10742 Crew Members (all Swordfish):
Major B. W. Griffith Aircraft Commander/ VPC (VP 415)
Major M.E. Rose First Officer/VPC (MAGHQ Halifax)
MWO E.M. Weatherbie Lead Flight Engineer (MAGHQ Halifax)
Captain H.S. Allen Flight Engineer
L/Col J.R. Lambie VPC (SSO Fixed Wing/MAGHQ Halifax- Operations Commander)
Argus Ground Crew (Last Argus Flight 10742 - CFB Summerside)
MWO L. Green AVN Supervisor
WO F. P. Bendall AVN Tech
WO L.J. Goguen AVN Tech
SGT L.B. Mackay AF Tech
CPL W.T. Semple AE Tech
MCPL J.G. Brown IS Tech
CPL R.C. Bowers CS Tech
CPL. C. J.L. Chantigny IE Tech
PTE. H.B. Mcgee SS Tech
M/CPL (R) C.W. Batchelor WTA
Argus Ground Crew (Last Argus Flight 10742 - Recovery Crew - CFB Ottawa South, BAMEO Branch)
MWO W. Anjowaki
M/CPL G. L. White (Recovery Coordinator)
M/CPL J. Rivard
PTE. M. Strasbourg
PTE. (W) K. Pasetka
National Defence Headquarters (Operations Commander)
LCol Ken Allen (NDHQ/DMA)
National Aeronautical Collection at Rockcliffe Ottawa Ontario
Mr. A.J. Shortt (Assistant Curator)
THE FINAL ARGUS 10742 MESSAGES
1. FROM: CFB OPS OTTAWA – 10 Feb 1982
UNCLAS BOPS 415
MUSEUM FOR MR. SHORT, ROME FOR COL SL KINKAID, LCOL HA JOHANSEN
SUBJ: ARRIVAL MESSAGE – END OF AN ERA
REF: CFB SUMMERSIDE
1. ARGUS 10742
2. MAJ GRIFFITH
3. ARR ROCKCLIFFE
4. NO FURTHER DEPARTURES. JOHN 17-4* REFERS
5. SERVICEABLE. LAST FLIGHT 4 DECIMAL 6
6. THE ARGUS ERA ENDS. TO ALL AIRCREW, GROUND CREW AND SUPPORT PERSONNEL BOTH MILITARY AND CIVILIAN WHO HAVE FLOWN, MAINTAINED, CURSED AND LOVED THIS AIRCRAFT OF A THOUSAND EYES, WE ASK YOU TO PAUSE SILENTLY FOR A MOMENT AT YOUR NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT GATHERING TO RAISE YOUR GLASS IN A FINAL SALUTE AND FAREWELL. SHE SERVED US WELL. SHE HAS EARNED THE RIGHT TO REST, IN A PLACE OF HONUR, IN OUR NATION’S CAPITAL. AD METAM
*EDITOR’S NOTE: JOHN 17-4: I HAVE GLORIFIED THEE ON EARTH: I HAVE FINISHED THE WORK WHICH THOU GAVEST ME TO DO.
2. FROM: MAGHQ HALIFAX
UNCLAS COMD 020
SUBJECT: ARGUS MUSEUM AIRCRFT – ROCKCLIFFE
1. THE ARGUS ERA HAS ENDED
2. I AM FULLY AWARE OF THE DEDICATION AND PERSONAL SACRIFICES MADE BY THE BAMEO SUMMERSIDE, BY MWO GREEN, WO BENDALL AND HIS ARGUS SERVICING CREW IN THE PAST SEVEN MONTHS TO MANTAIN ARGUS 10742 IN A SAFE AND FLYABLE CONDITION. IT IS A CREDIT TO THEIR PROFESSIONAL SKILLS THAT THE LAST ARGUS WAS SAFELY DELIVERED TO ROCKCLIFFE ON 10 FEBRUARY 82 AND I UNDERSTAND LANDED FULLY SERVICEABLE. A FINE TRIBUTE FOR THE LAST FLIGHT. I EXTEND TO YOU MY SINCERE THANKS.
3. I WOULD BE VERY REMISS IF I DID NOT ALSO SEND MY PERSONAL THANKS TO THE OTHER BASE SUPPORT AGENCIES AT BOTH CFB SUMMERSIDE AND CFB OTTAWA WHO WORKED SO DILIGENTLY, AGAINST MANY UNPREDICTABLE WEATHER FACTORS TO BOTH CLEAR AND MAINTAIN THEIR RUNWAYS OPEN, PARTICULARLY THE EFFORTS OF BOPSO AND BTNO STAFFS AT CFB OTTAWA IN KEEPING ROCKCLIFFE OPEN. THEY WERE SUPERB.
4. FINALLY, MAJ. KEN ALLEN OF DMA STAFF, THE NDHQ OPI, WHO AT SOME PERIOD OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS MUST HAVE WISHED THE ARGUS, HAD NEVER BEEN BUILT. A SPECIAL THANK YOU FOR A JOB WELL DONE.
5. YOUR COMBINED EFFORTS HAVE ENSURED THAT THE LAST ARGUS WILL REST IN A MOST FITTING PLACE OF HONOUR: IN THE HEART OF OUR NATIONS CAPITAL. A FITTING END FOR A FINE LADY.
JR LAMBIE/LCOL SSO FW
To the reader: Early apologies for any errors and/or omissions made in this Last Argus Flight story. They are entirely the fault of the writer. Any comments/additions or comments back to me at: email@example.com AD METAM
415 Squadron Association