Nfld. & Labrador

'Brought tears to my eyes': N.L. man travels to Alberta for restored plane's takeoff

A man from St. Anthony travelled to Fairview, Alta., this month to watch a restored Canso Bomber plane take flight. The man had an emotional bond with the engine used in the remodel.
Roger Penney says he wanted to honour his late cousin and colleague. (Submitted by Doug Roy)

The Canso aircraft has shaped the life of a St. Anthony man  — for better or for worse — in many ways, and it was an emotional experience watching the restored aircraft take to the skies in Alberta on Father's Day.  

Roger Penney spent most of his life flying the bomber-style aircraft — which is best known for its use in the Second World War and to fight forest fires — but his bond with the plane that took flight in Alberta goes back decades.

"It brings back a lot of memories, a lot of fond memories," said Penney.

'Always been on my mind'

In 1967, Penney was in Goose Bay fighting forest fires with his cousin Ron Penney. The duo was assigned to fly a plane back to Newfoundland, but Roger switched with another co-worker, Yannick Dutin of St. Pierre.

That ended up being a fateful choice, as that plane went down fighting a fire near Bay St. George — killing Roger's cousin and Dutin. 

"It's always been on my mind. If I only went on that flight that day, that probably would've been me that wasn't around anymore," said Penney.

He wanted to honour his late cousin and co-worker, so he found a Canso plane and had it put on display in St. Anthony as a memorial. 

As it turns out, that display plane actually had a working engine — which was precisely the missing piece needed to finish a restoration of a Canso plane in Fairview, Alta. 

People working to restore the Canso airplane travelled to St. Anthony to get the working engine, and Penney eventually got to see it take flight. (Submitted by Catherine Penney )

Penney worked with the group that was repairing the plane and needed the engine.

"It's a good feeling to know that I had a part to play in that," he said.

"Without the engines, that aircraft would not be flying today," said Penney, who added the fully restored Canso is just one of 13 working models today. 

Seeing it take off was something Penney was not going to miss, so he travelled to Alberta and he was among a group of people to watch it become airborne on Father's Day. 

"Brought tears to my eyes, actually," he said.

"It brought back a lot of memories. A lot of good memories, a lot of bad memories, too of course. But, mostly good memories."


Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show