It was shouting time in heaven
Salutations, my reading friend. Are you well? I am delighted to hear (read?) this. While it is true that the library of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, has no equal in the country, the fact is that many aeronautical / aerospace events are not covered in the thousands, yes, yes, thousands of Canadian and foreign magazines found therein. Newspapers, whether daily or weekly, contain many very interesting photos. Just take a look at the one above, taken from a Montréal, Québec, weekly Le Petit Journal of 31 August 1958.
What is it you say, my reading friend? You are slightly disappointed by the quality of the photo that accompanies the text of this week? Yours truly must admit I am as unimpressed as you are. That said, I am convinced that the story behind this illustration will bring you back to better feelings.
Said story began in New York City, New York, around 1957-58. During a stay in this American metropolis, the president of an independent radio station in Verdun, a suburb of Montréal, heard short traffic reports broadcasted by an employee of a local radio station sitting in a light / private plane. Jack Tietolman was intrigued.
A cunning, rich and sympathetic individual, Tietolman was one of the co-founders of CKVL (Canadian Kilocycle Verdun Lakeshore), a subsidiary of Radio Futura Incorporated, in 1946. His broadcasting career spanned a 40-year period. A rather innovative station, CKVL was one of the first in Québec to open its microphones to women. In 1959, for example, Madame X inaugurated one of the first, if not the first radio tribune in Canada. This pseudonym hid a highly remarkable woman of Polish origin. Indeed, the name she received at birth remains unknown to this writer. Arrived in France at a very young age, Reine Charrier fought with the Résistance during the Second World War. Her activities and courage earned her many decorations, but back to our story.
Wishing to offer his listeners short traffic reports broadcasted from a light / private plane, Tietolman decided to launch the experiment when the traffic was the densest, on Sunday afternoons. He gave this file to a journalist who was not yet 25 years old. Then largely unknown, Jacques Duval later became a race car driver in Québec, Canada and the United States. This being said (typed?), the reputation of this multitalented individual was / is primarily due to the fact that he launched an automobile guide published annually in Québec since 1967. Editor of this remarkable series of books for many years, Duval collaborated on it until around 2015, but let’s go back to our story once again.
Tietolman having asked him to organize the traffic reports, Duval contacted a childhood friend who had a pilot’s license. Jacques Lemelin readily agreed to join this adventure. This bush pilot was a close relative of the owners of Autobus Lemelin Incorporée. Now gone, this intercity transport company was one of the first, if not the first such company in Québec (or even Canada?) to install radiotelephones in several of its vehicles, around 1950.
Lemelin gave vent to his exuberance during the first flight on board his small floatplane. He passed twice under the Jacques Cartier bridge before flying at a very low altitude over a street in Saint-Bruno, Québec, where Duval lived. Lemelin later flew over a herd of cows in the vicinity of Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Québec. These antics did not go unnoticed. The Department of Transport received many complaints and CKVL terminated Lemelin’s contract after 3 or 4 weeks. Tragically, he died in an airplane crash in 1967.
However, Tietolman did not give up the broadcasting of traffic reports. He contacted the Ligue de sécurité du Québec and the Sûreté provinciale, in other words the provincial police service of Québec. These two organizations deemed the idea appealing. CKVL soon leased a Sikorsky S-51 helicopter from a Montréal operator, World Wide Airways Incorporated. And yes, my reading friend, the S-51 was mentioned in August 2017 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.
Interestingly, the founding president of World Wide Airways was a well-known Canadian pilot. Donald Moore “Don” McVicar began his career as a ground-based radio operator before obtaining one of Canada’s first air traffic controller licenses, in 1940. He flew many transatlantic aircraft ferry flights during the Second World War. McVicar founded World Wide Airways once the conflict was over. The company grew over the years and gained in importance. In 1965, the Canadian Transport Commission suspended its operating license following various complaints. McVicar denounced this decision, which he considered political, but had to put the key in the door. This prolific author published a dozen autobiographical works between 1981 and 1994, but let us now return to our subject.
The Sûreté provinciale assigned Sergeant Maurice Dupont to the CKVL project. Around August 1958, this gentleman flew with a World Wide Airways pilot for 2 weeks to familiarize himself with helicopter flying. Then in charge of the radio division of the traffic department at Montréal headquarters, Dupont has been working for the Sûreté provinciale since December 1945. He left the Sûreté du Québec, a new name adopted during the reorganization of 1961, in March 1962. Dupont died in March 1974. He was 61 years old.
The first official flight, a Canadian first in all likelihood, took place on Sunday, 24 August, in the afternoon. It was scheduled to last 3 hours but rain forced the pilot to land after a little more than 2 hours of flight spent above the Mercier and Jacques-Cartier bridges, and the neighbouring roads. While the S-51 was flying at low altitude, Dupont used the loudspeakers installed on board to give advice / directions to motorists. He particularly emphasized the need to maintain a minimum safety distance between vehicles. All these tips were broadcasted by CKVL. They also arrived at the headquarters of the Sûreté provinciale, which directed its patrol cars toward traffic jams. Many motorists were so surprised by this voice from the sky that Dupont had to enjoin them to keep their eyes on the road.
The police officer was very satisfied with the results of the flight. The inevitable traffic jams were cleared quickly by quick interventions of the helicopter and / or patrol cars. Better yet, no accident was reported in the patrolled area, while there were usually 15 to 30 accidents and fender benders.
Dupont continued his work for an indefinite period of time during the summer and, perhaps, fall of 1958. This writer was unable to confirm if the officer flew over other areas of the Montréal region, a possibility considered even before the end of August. At the same time, the S-51 may have visited the Pointe-Calumet recreation centre, not far from Montréal, in front of the property of the director of the Sûreté provinciale. Hilaire Beauregard seemingly gave various words of caution to the many children present on the site before they went back to school.
If the presence of Duval during the flight of 24 August seemed somewhat uncertain, he did participate in flights that took place thereafter. CKVL broadcasted the brief bulletins in which Duval indicated the location of traffic jams and the routes to follow to avoid them.
If I may, I would like to discuss another flight involving the S-51 from World Wide Airways. Please note that this aspect of our story ended tragically. In the autumn of 1958, 50 or so ill people made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, and Rome, with a statue of Saint Joseph sculpted by Jean-Julien and Médard Bourgault, two well-known artists of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Québec. This statue was blessed by Pope Ioannes XXIII, in other words John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncelli. In any event, the statue returned to Montréal-Dorval International Airport in mid-November.
Ernest Crépeault, founding mayor of Ville d’Anjou, in the suburbs of Montréal, paid the cost of the transport of the statue, by helicopter, right to the Oratoire Saint-Joseph, a well-known Catholic institution in the heart of Montréal. A representative of the oratory, a journalist from a Montréal weekly newspaper, Le Petit Journal, and the police chief of Ville d’Anjou were aboard the S-51. The latter, Joseph Antoine “Tony” Di Croce, perhaps born Giuseppe Antonio Di Croce, later carried the statue of Saint Joseph to 8 dioceses of Québec in a light / private plane. A representative of Oratoire Saint-Joseph accompanied him. The two men become friends.
Crépeault was a hyperactive and conservative autocrat who led an increasingly corrupt administration. Di Croce, on the other hand, was a convicted individual, chosen by the mayor, who seemingly had access to Montréal’s organized crime community. Concerned about what was happening in Ville d’Anjou, the Québec government launched an investigation into Crépeault and his clique at the beginning of 1969. Ville d’Anjou was quickly placed under government supervision. While Crépeault escaped prison, he was defeated in the municipal election of November 1973. Di Croce, on the other hand, lost his job as director of the police department of Ville d’Anjou in August 1969. Fearing that he would be incarcerated, he took his own life in February 1970. It should be noted that Ville d’Anjou was not the only municipality in Québec which had problems with corruption at the time.
Before concluding this article, allow me to give in to my wingnut side as well as yours, with a brief pontification on the S-51 visible in the photo above. Technically speaking, the designation S-51 was not entirely accurate. Indeed, the history of this flying machine began around 1950, with its delivery to the United States Navy, under the designation of Sikorsky HO3S. Withdrawn from service around January 1956, the helicopter was acquired by an American aircraft broker, Ming-Ayer Incorporated, in January 1957. At the end of 1957, or the beginning of 1958, Autair Helicopter Services Limited of Montréal imported 8 S-51s / HO3Ss, including the one which concerns us. World Wide Airways registered this helicopter in February 1958. As mentioned above, CKVL rented the S-51 for some time in 1958 and, perhaps, 1959.
Age of Flight, a now defunct aviation museum in Niagara Falls, Ontario, acquired the helicopter in 1965, when it opened perhaps. The Olympic Flight Museum in Olympia, Washington, got it from a scrap dealer at an undetermined date. Stored outside for a while, the S-51 seemed to be in pretty bad shape. It received, at an equally undetermined date, the rear fuselage of a helicopter of the same type that had flown in Canada for a certain time. The Olympic Flight Museum handed over / sold the S-51 to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, California, around 2015. The helicopter received around this time the rear fuselage of an unidentified S-51. As you read these lines, in August 2018, my reading friend, the helicopter used in 1958 by Dupont and Duval was still on the aircraft carrier USS Midway. It wore its original colors and markings, that is those of an HO3S from the United States Navy.
If I may say so, it is most regrettable that this helicopter was not acquired by a Canadian aviation museum before it left the country.
This writer wishes to thank all those who provided information. Any error in this article is my fault, not theirs. And that’s it for today.