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NNSL Photo

Albert Bernhardt of A&B Salvage stands on the wing of what was once a Canadian fighting plane. The Canso PBY-5A crashed on the LORAN site at Kittigazuit (Army Camp). - Terry Halifax/NNSL photo

Cold War casualty

Canso aircraft towed to Inuvik dump

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Apr 18/03) - A piece of Cold War history found its way to the Inuvik dump last week.

The Canso PBY-5A was termed a "flying boat" and was capable of flying long-range attack missions up to 2,700 miles and also flying heavy cargo.

The four-engine float plane came equipped with six 303 Browning machine guns and dropped 4,000-pound depth charges. The Canso was credited with downing several German U-boats in the Second World War.

The plane crashed of the beach at Kittigazuit (Army Camp) NWT in 1948, killing one Canadian airman.

Roger Connelly, chief operating officer for the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, said the plane represents one of the final pieces of material that will be removed during cleanup at the Kittigazuit camp. The cleanup was ordered as part of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.

Connelly said the plane crashed there while supplying the Long Range Aid to Navigation (LORAN) site. The project was operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Air Force.

On the beach

The wings were brought up on land, but the fuselage remained on the beach where it crashed until it was hauled away by the E. Gruben's Transport crew last week.

Albert Bernhardt of A&B Salvage hasn't seen the plane in many years, but remembers sailing by the hulking big bird in the 1940s.

"When I was still a child we were on a barge going to Aklavik and we went right by it," Bernhardt said. "It was the first time we'd ever seen planes, never mind a big thing like that."

Bernhardt said the Canso was one of two that had hit the beach at the Kitty camp.

"There was two of them that crashed up there," Bernhardt recalled. "One got swamped in the spring and went away with the ice. This other one crashed on the land."

"They were hauling freight in to the army camp," he said. "They were doing a lot of building with towers and trying out this new equipment."

Along with the wrecked plane, Gruben's also brought in the remnants of a 500-foot tower from the site.

"That's what encouraged the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line sites, because these towers didn't work that well," Bernhardt said.

The towers at the LORAN site were a pre-cursor to the DEW radar sites that were later installed along the coast during the Cold War.

The Kittigazuit site was part of Operation Beetle, a joint project between Canadian and U.S. governments to monitor the skies for tracking aircraft. Stations were also constructed in Skull Cliff, Barrow and Barter Island, Alaska, Coppermine (Kugluktuk), Sawmill Bay and Cambridge Bay.

LORAN was terminated in 1950 and that led to the DEW Line system that began in the mid-1950s.

The towers and many of the DEW line sites were scrapped and cleaned up recently under a joint environmental initiative funded by the American and Canadian governments.