The 22nd Helicopter Squadron was located at Goose Bay Air Base, Labrador (SAC). The unit commenced operations in 1953 with H-19A and H-19B helicopters and later switched to H-21’s. Goose Bay was temporary home to KC-135 and KC-97 Air Refueling aircraft from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. ARRS also had a detachment of rescue H-21’s at Goose Bay.
The 22nd HES helicopters were used to re-supply the Air Defense Command Early Warning Radar sites along the northeastern coast of Labrador.
The helicopters flew to five sites delivering supplies and personnel. These sites had began construction in 1951 and became operational in 1953. They were located about 100 miles easterly from Goose Bay. The names of the sites were Cape Makkovik, Cartwright, Hopedale, Fox Harbor, and Spotted Island. The troops at the sites were always glad to see the “chopper” because it brought fresh produce and MAIL.
At the time, the 22nd had the unique distinction of being the only helicopter squadron assigned to SAC. The 22nd H-21 helicopters were recognized by the rear half of the aircraft painted red and a horizontal red stripe covering the windows with an arrow at the front.
In 1957-58 the 22nd sent 3 aircraft and 4 pilots TDY to Frobisher Bay. The mission was to re-supply the radar site at the end of the bay on Resolution Island. (see Marv Delong’s comments on Frobisher)
22nd Pilots 1958 – from Marvin DeLong
During the 1959-60 period the 22nd HELIRON was comprised of some 30 pilots that flew a maximum of 3 aircraft a day. This was a terrible waste of manpower. (see K.V. Hall’s comments) The assignment was basically an unaccompanied tour of 18 months, later shortened to 15 months. Some officers were able to get their families to accompany them if the timing was right but for the majority it was a “solo” assignment.
In 1959, the Squadron Commander was Major John “Jack” Halpin and Operations Officer was Captain Harry Schussler.
22nd HeliRon Pilots, circa 1959 – from Kyron Hall
The re-supply schedule varied with some sites receiving a trip daily (weather permitting), some twice weekly or weekly. None of the sites had a landing strip for fixed wing aircraft. The AC&W sites were on the coast and most had a bay where an SA-16 or L-20 (on floats) could land in summer to bring in supplies. Sometimes in the winter when the choppers were grounded for weather, the SA-16 would make air drops or the L-20 would land on the ice with skis. In the summer, the sites also stockpiled supplies that were brought in by ships.
In April of 1969 two H-21’s and 5 pilots were sent TDY to Sondrestrom, Greenland, to support construction of a new DEW (Early Warning) site (Dye 1) on Greenland. The pilots got to fly about every other day, which was very welcome from the boredom at Goose Bay. Over a seven month period, from April to October 1959, the 22nd carried over a half million pounds of cargo and passengers in support of the construction of Dye One site. One of the perks to this mission was that the Danish cook at Dye One would always have a sack full of wonderful pastries for the helicopter crew.
Sondrestrom Air Base was between the end of a huge icefield/glacier and the fjord. Sondrestrom fjord is a mile or 2 wide and runs 90 miles to the Ocean. The mountains go up very steeply on the sides to a height of several thousand feet. The water in the middle of the fjord was reportedly 600 fathoms deep. The mountains didn’t stop when they reached the water. (The book, “Fate is the Hunter” by Ernest Gann has a chapter on WW II cargo planes flying IFR up the fjord.)
With summer advancing, the Atlantic salmon and Arctic char were on their spawning runs from the ocean though the streams and the fishing was fantastic. We caught lots of fish and a medic at the hospital used the kitchen to deep-fry the fish. Fresh salmon and a bottle of Rose’ Matusse made the evening.
A few of the 22nd pilots at Goose got checked out in the L-20. In the summer the L-20’s were on floats and were used to support the R&R fish camps. Wheel-skis were installed in the winter as they would sometimes do supply runs to the sites.
In October 1959, the 22nd’s mission was contracted out to Okanagan Airways and soon the pilots would be rotating stateside. The assigned crew members had to remain at Goose Bay for 30 days until it was assured that Okanagan could fulfill their commitment. Okanagan brought in three H-34 helicopters and two pilots and in a couple of weeks had hauled out the entire backlog. They sent one aircraft and one pilot home and accomplished the 22nd’s entire re-supply mission with One aircraft and One pilot with a single backup H-34.
The 22nd Helicopter Squadron was officially deactivated on November 30, 1959.
The bad news. The pilots not only waited the obligatory 30 days but also were without any flying aircraft through December and January. They had to get their 4 hours of flying for flight pay in the back of an L-20 or SA-16. Many went home on Christmas leave and back to Goose without a job or assignment. Finally in late January some assignments began to trickle in.
Labrador’s AC&W sites continued to be supported by Okanagan Helicopters for several more years. The main site at Cartwright was operational until 1968 with the “gap filler” sites closing in 1961.
Goose Bay Today:
Due to its strategic location along the launch trajectory, and also because of its long runways, the airfield at Goose Bay is an alternative landing site for the NASA Space Shuttle. Goose Bay, Labrador witnessed an historic event when back on May 3rd, 1983, for the first time outside of the USA, a Boeing 747 carrying the Space Shuttle landed and refueled while on its way to Europe.
Goose Bay is connected with Labrador City and Baie-Comeau in Eastern Quebec via the Trans-Labrador Highway (Route 500). The Trans-Labrador Highway is mostly an unpaved, gravel road, which is scheduled to be extended to Cartwright, out on the Atlantic Seaboard, in the near future.
According to the Canadian Government’s 2006 census the community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has a population of 7,572.
22nd Guys 1959
22nd Squadron Photo
Lost in Flight
Red Tail Birds