The bush pilots of North America have served the needs of people for almost 100 years. The pilots fly in all weather conditions, and all months of the year. They fly single engine, multi engine, land, and sea planes. There are only a few places that have landing strips available the year around. In the summer, pilots are able to land on lakes, in the ocean, and prepared landing strips. However, during the winter months, landing an airplane is restricted to aircraft equipped with snow skis or on prepared runways. The bush pilots must endure the hazards of fog, snowstorms, ice, and winds exceeding 150 miles an hour. I have flown many times with bush pilots, and have experienced how the pilots cope with everyday hazards in the Arctic.
During the summer and fall of 1978, I was working for the United States Air Force in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. I was in Cambridge Bay, Canada, during August, and needed to go to Barter Island, Alaska. The planes only fly west from Cambridge Bay, twice a week. I left on a Tuesday, in a cargo plane, flying west towards Barter Island, Alaska.
Two hours into the flight, the plane's radios failed. The pilots made an emergency landing at a radar site named CAM-1. CAM-1 is one of twenty-seven radar sites on the.
Distant Early Warning Line. These are sites maintained by the United States Air Force for early warning radar detection during the Cold War.
After the plane landed, I offered to help repair the radios. The pilot happily consented. It would take two or three days to fly in a radioman to make repairs, and I was qualified as an airborne radio repairman. The problem was a dead antenna. I made the necessary repairs, and we left CAM-1 the next morning, heading to Barter Island, Alaska.
The closer we got to Alaska and more overcast it became. The only navigational equipment at Barter Island, Alaska, was a directional beacon. The pilot was using the beacon's signal to home in on Barter Island.