Home » Research » Wildfire Detection » People » Guardians in the Sky

During the summer of 1918, the province of British Columbia contracted an aircraft manufacturing company to build the H-2, a flyingboat, for forest fire detection patrols.

H-2 Flying Boat

Initial test flights of the H-2 for the B.C. Forest Branch were carried out in late August by Flight Commander Capt. W.H. Mackenzie of the Royal Air Force. He pronounced it to be a “really excellent machine” which “will fly herself.” Without hesitation the Forest Branch signed a one-year lease with an option to purchase, but their hopes proved to be short-lived.

While flying above Vancouver in view of thousands of spectators the H-2 crashed and was utterly destroyed during another test flight in the afternoon of September 4, 1918…..

The pilot on the ill-fated flight was 23 year-old Flight Lieut. Victor A. Bishop, a Vancouver resident on leave from his duties as flight instructor at the Royal Air Force base in Southampton, England. A veteran of many crossing of the English Channel ferrying new aircraft to Paris, as well as battles at Vimy Ridge and the Somme, Bishop held a regular military permit authorizing the flight. Trouble in the peaceful skies above Vancouver was probably the last thing on his mind.

Ascending at 3:00 PM from Coal Harbour, Bishop flew over the city, Burrard Inlet, and English Bay. While over False Creek at an altitude of 1,200 feet the engine started to miss and the aviator considered heading for English Bay, then decided in favour of Coal Harbour and headed there. Before getting over the water the engine stopped altogether and the aircraft, at the wrong altitude and lacking enough forward speed to permit manoeuvring, went into a spinning nose dive. The half-hour flight was about to reach a swift conclusion.

Just before the final impact Bishop looked down to see where he was going to hit and brace himself. The housekeeper was alone in a house at the corner of Bute and Alberni streets in the West End of Vancouver, but she was soon joined by an aircraft and pilot. Lieutenant Bishop managed, more by good luck than anything else, to crash into the roof…..

[The house] suffered structured damage as would be expected, largely as a result of the heavy engine bursting through the roof and lodging on a landing on the attic staircase. For his part, Bishop suffered some facial cuts and slight injury to his back, and likely to his pride as well. While recovering in the hospital he said, with no small measure of understatement: “Well, anyway, this is the first fall I have ever had, and I am free to say that it was a miraculous escape,” adding that he was anxious to get back to France as quickly as possible as, “life away from the war zone has too many risks.”

Parminter, John. “Guardians in the Sky: Aircraft and their Use in Forestry in B.C.: 1918-1926.” Whistle Punk Magazine Spring 1986.
Photo Credit:
Victor Bishop Estate. Barnstorming to Bush Flying by Peter Corley-Smith [H-2 Flying Boat]
Facility Rentals Northern Nature Trading Bushplane Productions Our Aircraft Ontario Provincial Air Service
gofundme"
pinterest Facebook Twitter