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In a Moon's Course ....

Whitey Dahl's last flight

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Harold Evans ‘Whitey’ Dahl was, to use an understatement, a colourful character. Born in Illinois in 1909 he graduated as a pilot from Kelly Field in Texas in 1933 and served with the USAAC. Trouble with the law seemed to follow Whitey throughout his flying career and around the world, largely due to aircraft or cargo disappearing.

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profile of route used, developed with Plan-G software

After his US military service ended (under a cloud, metaphorically) he became a ‘soldier of fortune’ in the Spanish Civil War under the name Hernando Diaz Evans. He was captured by Franco’s forces and first sentenced to a firing squad followed by a dramatic reprieve, the story of which made him headline news.

During World War II he served with the Canadian Air Force (RCAF), first as a CATP trainer in Bellville, Ontario and later in South America as a Ferry Command pilot - but was then given a Board of Enquiry for things that went missing. These items included significant bits of aircraft, a motorcycle and a vacuum cleaner. Government-owned vacuum cleaners are very valuable, of course, and he was found guilty of 4 of 14 charges. After the war he flew for Swissair in Europe until some cargo gold bullion also went missing, putting him into more trouble and a stint in gaol in 1955; Swiss gold is even more valuable than Canadian government vacuum cleaners.

Whitey filed an Appeal and was released early pending its review. He then headed north - a long way north - working as a cargo pilot for the Dorval Air Transport Company, flying C-46 ‘Commandos’ along the DEW line.

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After take-off and setting course at Iqaluit

His last flight was in a Douglas C-47 on 14 February 1956, flying from Frobisher Bay to Fort Chimo (now the communities of Iqaluit and Kuujuaq, respectively). The C-47 he flew that day (CF-BZH) was not a company aircraft; it was owned privately and, heading south on leave, Dahl agreed to fly it out. A WWII surplus plane, it was reportedly not in the best condition - it did not even have a working radio. Dahl almost made it; he crashed 25 miles north-west of his destination. He was 47 years old at the time.

More about Harold Dahl’s tumultuous life and flying career can be found here. His daughter’s perspective on her nomadic early years (she is the Canadian author and journalist Stevie Cameron) can also be found here.

Allan Jones
[email protected]
Allan Jones is the author of In a Moon’s Course, an ebook of World War II flight stories/plans of the Air Transport Auxiliary, available at Amazon, Kobo, W.H. Smith and other ebook online suppliers.

The Flight. CYFB YLC YKG YLA CYVP (a distance of 394.6 nm).

I don’t know the exact route Dahl followed but chose the most obvious for the simulation – the shortest crossing of the Hudson Strait from Kimmirut (Lake Harbour) to Kangiqsujuaq (Wakeham Bay). This seems consistent with maps of the WWII transatlantic ferry routes from a decade earlier and would tie in with his crash location being north-west of Kuujuaq, as he would have been heading south near this point along this route.

The alternative routes would have been either point-to-point direct, or a slightly longer over-water route to Quaqtaq with a lower total distance, or a flight down Frobisher Bay across a stretch of the Davis Strait to pass over Port Burwell then head south-west.

Dahl, for all his foibles, was a skilled pilot. But this was a risky flight. In February there are 7-8 daylight hours and the 3-4 hour flight would have been under VFR conditions over inhospitable terrain (see Plan Elevation). The accident report will be buried somewhere in the Canadian Library & Archives in Ottawa – it would be interesting to know what they concluded!

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Updated 01-02-2014 at 07:08 PM by allanj12

Aviation History & Flight Simulation