On this date on August 28, 1920, the first ambulance flight in Northern Canada took place, when W.R. Maxwell in a Curtiss HS-2L flew J.W. Thompson from Moose Factory to Remi Lake (near Cochrane), Ontario for hospitalization, suffering from mastitis – an infection of the breast tissue that can affect breathing.
The HS-2L Flying Boat was a big, slow biplane, designed in 1917 with the express purpose of sinking German U-boats during WWI for the U.S. Navy… it certainly was designed to be a hard-working, abused bush plane.
The reason Canada became so familiar with the HS-2L, occurred after Canada allowed the U.S. in 1918 to place an anti-sub base near Dartmouth Nova Scotia… and when the war concluded… and so many aircraft available for sale… the U.S. simply said ‘screw the sale’ and gave 12 of the HS-2L aircraft at the base to Canada. I guess Canada owes the U.S. a Coke.
Hearing of this sale, Ellwood Wilson asked the Canadian government if he could have two of the planes to be used to spot forest fires and to map the forests–for timber use–in the Canadian north.
The first pilot hired was Stuart Graham, a WWI vet who flew with the Royal Naval Air Service , and on June 8, 1919, he made the first ever bush flight, flying his HS-2L from Dartmouth to fishing Lac-à-la-Tortue, Quebec – about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) – then the record for the longest cross-country flight.
It also the first airplane in Canada to:
- be used in making a mining claim;
- complete the first aerial timber survey;
- perform the first forest patrols;
- fly the first scheduled air service;
- provide the first regular airmail service.
Needless to say, often not being able to be so close to the shore did make the loading and unloading of people and cargo a little bit more difficult.
Still… because of its water capabilities, people thought it would be a great bush plane.
Between 1919 to the late 1920s, the HS-2L was THE bush plane… finally being retired in 1932.
Wingspan: 22.6 meters (74-feet);
Length: 11.9 meters (39-feet);
Weight: 1,950 kilograms (4,300 pounds);
Speed: 137 kilometers per hour (85 mph);
Ceiling: 2,800 meters (9,200 feet);
Capacity: 4 people (including crew).