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Bob Cameron writes about the mystery plane

Thank you very much Bob Cameron for the information about the mystery plane, which turned out to be quite a story.

Thank you very much Bob Cameron for the information about the mystery plane, which turned out to be quite a story.

His letter follows:

Hello Jim,

Your Colourful five Percent photo in the Yukon News of November 24 is an interesting one.

The date of the photo is September, 1939, and the location is the south facing beach of Timber Point on Teslin Lake.

Earlier that fall, three young Americans had left Bellingham in the rare, obsolete Stearman M-2 mailplane, full of high hopes of adventure, fame and fortune in Alaska.

Only one of the three was a pilot, and it turns out that his navigation experience was limited to the immediate area of Bellingham. Their flight north, therefore, certainly gave them more than enough “adventure”, as they repeatedly became lost, and out of fuel and found themselves forced down a number of times, inflicting minor damage to the machine on at least one of their arrivals (Hazelton).

On October 5, 1939, they departed Grand Rapids from a gravel bar on the Stikine River, where they had been stranded (out of fuel) for two weeks.

After three more days stranded in Telegraph Creek, they headed north, in search of Atlin, and eventually found themselves circling over a small village on the east side of a large lake, which they assumed to be Atlin Lake. They wondered why they could not see the anticipated (Atlin) airstrip. The village turned out to be Teslin, which had no airstrip at that time, and being once again out of fuel, they made a forced landing on the beach several miles north of the town.

The landing itself was smooth enough, but the beach slanted down towards the lake, and the braking action of the old Stearman was not good. As the wheels rolled off the beach and entered the water, the old biplane gently nosed over onto her back, leaving the three hapless occupants hanging up side down in their seat belts, over the shallow water – an ignoble arrival in the Yukon!

Stranded in Teslin for the next several weeks, the erstwhile trio became reluctant guests of the village while they waited for Teslin Lake to freeze enough to travel on. Then, with the help of Father DeKeyser and BC Provincial Police Const. Charlie Bennett, the three were escorted out of the country via Atlin and Carcross. Their battered Stearman was left abandoned on the beach.

In 1989, with the help of John Martychuk and Brent Hougen, I salvaged the remains of the rare Stearman, and today it has been “restored” in the US by a Stearman aficionado named Alan Lopez. (Although it is doubtful that much of the present aircraft is from the original, our retrieval of NC9055 certainly inspired the resurrection of this extinct type).

Any day now, it will make its maiden test flight.

Knowing the owner (as I do), I would not be at all surprised if he flies his historic bird back to the Yukon sometime in the near future.

Stay tuned!

Bob Cameron