Royal Canadian Air Force, July 31, 2012 - By Capt Rodney Dietzmann - On June 8, 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, located at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, but belonging to 1 Wing Kingston, Ont., played a unique part in seeing that a part of Royal Canadian Air Force history is preserved.
Ten members of the squadron’s maintenance flight loaded most of the airframe and parts of an H-44a “Flying Banana” that was being stored at the Reynolds Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alta., for its long journey to the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum (GMAM) in Greenwood, N.S.
“With the great team we had, and a civilian crane to assist us, it took about three hours to load the frame and parts and make sure everything was secure for the cross-country trip,” said Warrant Officer James Gilmour, the 408 (Tac Hel) Squadron maintenance flight aircraft servicing officer.
The helicopter, affectionately named the Flying Banana due to its curved shape, was the predecessor to the CH-113 Labrador helicopter in Canada’s search and rescue fleet. Specifically, 103 Search and Rescue Squadron used the H-44. The GMAM general manager, Major Robert Johnson, spotted the helicopter on a visit to Westaskiwin.
Noting the fuselage number and familiar paint scheme, Maj Johnson convinced the Reynolds Heritage Foundation Society chairman, Byron Reynolds, that the restoration and display of the H-44a should be done in Greenwood. “A team will be assembled this fall to start on the restoration project,” said Maj Johnson. “Once completed, this will bring our museum’s aircraft collection to 10.”
The remaining airframe and parts of the helicopter will be shipped in the coming year. The project is slated for completion in four to five years. When it is completed, 408 (Tac Hel) Squadron members – past and present – will be able to look at it knowing that they had a special part in bringing this project to fruition.