CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005
Bush Pilots is the story of nine men who did amazing things with aircraft in the Canadian north. One became the President of Canadian Pacific Airlines. Another, Max Ward, started his own charter airline. Sadly, both CPA and Wardair no longer exist. The book also tells about the MacAlpine Expedition in 1929 that made a round-trip of over 22,000 miles, the longest ever made. There are nine chapters, one for each pilot and one for the MacAlpine Expedition. The book is intended for recreational reading. Those in the intended age group should have no trouble with the book which was written by Peter Boer, a journalist with a love of history. A psychology graduate from the University of Alberta, he writes for the St. Albert, Alberta Gazette.
The accomplishments of the men Boer writes about were remarkable. Flying small aircraft over vast distances of the Canadian north, while often encountering dreadful weather conditions, is not the kind of activity most men would enjoy. To Boer's bush pilots, however, this was ordinary stuff, all part of the job, and done willingly. They were a breed apart. Unfortunately, in Boer's hands, the stories of these unusual men are not that exciting. The book is at times confusing and dull, and this reduces the reader's pleasure.
One confusing example, among many, concerns Frederick J. Stevenson, known as "Steve". This excerpt explains the confusion. Was "Steve" in bed or in his airplane or was he dreaming?
Equally confusing, each chapter begins with some incident in a pilot's life that is later repeated in the body of the chapter. The repetition isn't necessary. The reader is not initially aware that Boer has done this and is just puzzled by reading about the same incident twice.
Bush Pilots is described as history, but it is a combination both of fact and fiction. The dates and major events in the lives of the men are facts. What transpired when they were in the air and in the wilderness is less so. So, too, is the dialogue which does make the book more realistic, but for which no record is available.
There is one questionable fact in Bush Pilots. In the chapter on "Wop" May, a bush pilot and First World War fighter ace, Boer states that Canadian Roy Brown shot down German ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, popularly known as the "Red Baron." This is not known for certain and likely never will be. Australia also claims credit for the German's death, saying that Richthofen was shot down by its ground fire. Boer should have pointed out this controversy. Brown's "kill" is not a historical fact. Stating that it is perpetuates what is only supposition.
The book is well illustrated with black and white photographs of the pilots and some of their planes. These are spread throughout the book and are functional. There is a list of the secondary sources Boer used but no teaching aids.
Recommended with Reservations.
Thomas F. Chambers is a retired college teacher who lives in North Bay, ON.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.