Not that EZ to figure out what really happened to G-CYET.
This photo is from Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3389794. It’s G-CYET unless the caption is wrong.
That’s the Viking G-CYET that crashed in 1927.
This next image is taken from Charlotte M. Campbell’s photo album…
It’s a close-up view…
of a modified image…
of the original.
So what really happened on 11 July 1927? Was it lightning or structural failure?
First, I had to figure out what were those particular Vickers Viking amphibian aircraft… G-CYET and G-CYEZ.
I was still a bit confused…
So I did this montage.
Now I know which is which.
But were the newspapers correct in their breaking news on 12 July 1927?
Wilmington News-Journal Ohio 1927-07-12
Hilbre, MB Lightning Strikes Plane, July 1927
THINK LIGHTNING BOLT STRUCK PLANE, HURLING THREE TO DEATH.
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE AVIATORS WERE MAKING TOPOGRAPHICAL SURVEY.
Winnipeg, July 12 – (AP) – Exploding in mid-air a hydroplane of the Royal Air Force burst into flames and in four separate pieces crashed to the ground near Hilbre, Man., yesterday, bringing death to three men. The dead are: Flight Officer W. C. WEAVER, pilot. A. T. HARDLEY, photographic mechanic, and F. H. WRONG, surveyor of the Topographical Survey Branch, Ottawa. Eye witnesses say the plane entered a heavy cloud bank and was lost to view. Soon there was a loud explosion and three bodies came hurtling through the air, followed by the separate pieces of the plane, afire like huge rockets. Officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Winnipeg today expressed the opinion that the plane had been struck by lightning. The plane was believed to have been at an altitude of almost 3,500 feet when the explosion occurred. One of the victims was found buried head first in the ground. One of the airmen had a parachute strapped on but evidently had no time to use it. The aviators were making a topographical survey of the Hilbre district.
Reno Evening Gazette – July 12, 1927, Reno, Nevada
Canadian Air Surveyors in Manitoba, 3500 Feet up,
Meet with Death Bodies Hurtle from Mist to Ground before Eyes Of Startled Observers
WINNIPEG, Manitoba 11 July 1927
Exploding in mid-air a hydro airplane of the Royal Force burst into flames and in four pieces crashed to the ground near Hilbre, Manitoba yesterday, bring death to three men.The dead are: Flight Officer W. C. Weaver, pilot in charge; A.T. Bradley, photographic mechanic, and F. H. Wrong, surveyor of the topographical survey branch, Ottawa.-
EXPLODES IN CLOUD
Witnesses say the plane entered a heavy, cloud bank and was lost to view. Shortly after there was a loud explosion and three bodies came hurtling through the air followed by the pieces of the plane, afire like rockets. The flaming, gasoline tank separated from the machine. Officers of the Royal Canadian air force in Winnipeg today expressed the opinion that the plane had been struck by lightning. The accident occurred over a farm a short distance from Hilbre, which is northwest of Winnipeg on the north shore of Lake Manitoba.
FALL OF 3500 FEET
The plane was believed to have been at an altitude almost 3500 feet when the explosion occurred. One of the victims was found buried head first in the ground. Nearby another body was found and a short distance away a third was discovered in the grass.” One of the airmen has a parachute strapped on but evidently had no time to use it. Parts of the machine were half buried in the ground and debris was scattered over wide area. The pontoons were found one hundred yards from the main portion of the plane.
The aviators had taken off from Winnipegosis during the morning, a topographical survey of the Hilbre district. It came from the Lac-du-Bonnet station of the Royal Canadian Air forces, where forestry and survey planes are stationed during the summer months. It was a single engined Vickers Viking of the pusher type with the propeller at the rear of the wings. Preparations for an investigation are under way and Flight Lieut. L. T. Stevenson of headquarters staff here left tonight for the scene of the tragedy.
Were Flight Officer W. C. Weaver, pilot in charge, A.T. Bradley, photographic mechanic, and F. H. Wrong, surveyor of the topographical survey branch, Ottawa in Charlotte M. Campbell’s album? If of course it’s them seen here in 1924…
By looking at that next picture, we see two pilots. They both have pilot’s wings. If the caption is right, and I have no doubt it’s right, one of the pilot should be Flight Officer W. C. Weaver.
Having a name to work with I went on Google.
Norman Hogwood, from New Zealand, sent us this information.
I’m reading a book called “One Summer – America 1927” by Bill Bryson.
In it, Lindbergh has flown to Paris, Byrd has crash-landed on the beach in Normandy so the papers are full of aviation stories.
He says they’re silent on the 12th of July, 1927 except for one small item about an event in Canada the day before when a survey plane took off from an airfield near Lake Manitoba. It carried a pilot, a photographer, and a surveyor. The weather was fine. Witnesses reckoned it climbed to about 2000 ft in a normal manner but when it emerged from a cloud bank they saw the occupants fall out, one at a time, and plunge to their deaths. According to Bryson the events surrounding that incident are largely unknown. A very strange happening and I wonder if you or any of your friends have the answer to the riddle.
We, at the NetLetter, contacted, Betty Draper, one of our readers, who sent us this information –
I found this for you I think it is the one you are looking for. I didn’t find it in the Winnipeg paper, that’s odd as it happened in Manitoba, they always have the news from the 1800s. I found it in the New York Times, and this was the information-
Three Fall Our of Plane 1,000 Feet in Air;
Canadian surveyors Die in Strange Accident.
Winnipeg, Canada, July 11, 1927 (AP) –
Three members of a Manitoba aerial photographic survey party were killed near Fairford, Manitoba, this afternoon when in some unexplained manner they fell from their machine a distance of about 1,000 feet. The dead were Flight Officer W.C.Weaver of Melfort, Saskatchewan, pilot in charge; A.T. Hardley, photographic mechanic, of Locre, Manitoba; F.H. Wrong, Surveyor of Topographical Survey Branch, Ottawa.
Eyewitnesses say the plane entered a cloudbank. Lost to view for several minutes, it later was observed following an erratic course through the clouds. The watchers were suddenly startled to see three men come hurtling through the air and the machine follow in a shallow nose dive to earth.
The body of Flight Officer Weaver was recovered near the shore of Lake Manitoba, at Hilbere. The bodies of the others were also recovered.
Norman had also copied his request to Geoff Hayes, and this was his reply – My good friend Andy Triolaire, (ex Director of Safety, Canadian Airlines) has attached a (possible) report of this mysterious event.
This was the pertinent paragraph –
Two of the eight Vickers Viking Mk. IVs were the only aircraft made at Vickers in Britain rather than the Canadian Vickers company. G-CYET, pictured, suffered a Category A accident on 11 July 1927. The accident involved the failure of the hull in the air and a structural test on G-CYEU at Winnipeg practically duplicated this failure leading to a local modification on the remainder of the fleet to strengthen the hull.
To be continued…