United States Navy. General Motors TBM-3E. Construction number 3976 but also reported as 6961.
John E. Orahood, Rocky Ford, CO, 1963. Registered as N7029C.
Aerial Applicators Inc., Salt Lake City, UT, 1966-1972, flew as #D16.
Hicks and Lawrence Ltd., St. Thomas, Ontario
#16 CF-BQS 1972
Aerial spray program – NB
1972 – Calibration trials in Dunphy, NB. Pilot Woytaz.
Crashed 18 May 1972 in northern Maine while on ferry from Dunphy, NB, to Maniwaki, Quebec. The aircraft washed out; pilot Al Woytaz was not injured, but was rescued a day later.
The Story of FBQS
The following description of the events surrounding the crash was written by FPL employee Don Henry in the early 2000s.
In the spring of 1972, FPL assembled a total of 45 TBMs in early May at Dunphy Airstrip in central New Brunswick for calibration, etc., before being assigned to various airstrips in Quebec and New Brunswick to carry out forest spraying operations.
About mid-morning of May 18, and after all aircraft were calibrated, a flight of Avengers left Dunphy in Upper Blackville, NB, and “flight planned” for Maniwaki, Quebec, with a stopover for some in Quebec City for fuel. The flight path took them over northern Maine.
About noon that day I got a call from Quebec City from Lou Sitzma, who was flying TBM CF-AYL, saying that Al Woytaz flying CF-BQS, owned by Hicks & Lawrence of St. Thomas, Ontario, had gone down in dense woods about 12 miles east of St. Pamphile — a small town in Quebec and close to the US border. I asked if the pilot was okay and if the rescue authorities had been notified. Lou said that he had circled the downed aircraft and that the pilot had waved to him while standing on the wing of the aircraft, but he had only notified the people at the Quebec City Airport. I checked the aviation map and found that the TBM was without doubt in the State of Maine, and called Search and Rescue in Presque Isle [Maine] with all the information that I had.
That evening and again the following morning I checked, but the downed aircraft had not been spotted. About mid-morning of the 19th of May, we were sending the final flight of Cessna 172s to Quebec from Dunphy Airstrip, and the last to go was Doug LeBlanc and a radio technician, Gummy Thompson, who was a Conair (Abbottsford, BC) employee. Before leaving, Doug and I talked about his flight path and I marked a circle on the map in the approximate location of the downed Avenger. All flying personnel involved knew about the downed TBM, and of course were very concerned about the pilot.
The next information I got was several hours later when a very excited Doug called from Quebec City saying “We found him.” Apparently they were flying monotonously along when they crossed the St. John River in northern Maine and Doug said “We’re getting close to where Al went down,” so they changed course slightly and went up an adjoining valley in the area circled on the map. They flew directly over the downed aircraft with pilot out frantically waving. No one, including Doug, could believe that they had spotted it so quickly, since northern Maine in 1972 was one of the largest wilderness areas in the East. Doug said that the pilot seemed okay, and he finally got the right US radio frequency to notify the search aircraft. I asked if they were still searching and his reply was ”Yes, but 20 to 30 miles to the south.”
The pilot was subsequently rescued with no apparent injuries except the discomforts of spending the night in the aircraft in the wilderness of northern Maine.
Al Woytaz was back again a few years later flying a light spray aircraft for one of the FPL contractors. No incidents for him that year. I’ve seen Doug LeBlanc a couple of times since — he’s out of flying — but that’s the first thing we talk about, that one chance in a million of finding that pilot and aircraft.
The Recovery of FBQS
The recovery of FBQS is told in the following newspaper clippings from Don Henry’s files and in a 2015 article in New England Aviation History called “Northern Maine – May 19, 1972”.
Recovered to NAS Quonset Point, RI by CH-54, November 1991. Restored, and now at the Quonset Air Museum, Rhode Island Aviation Heritage Association, North Kingstown, RI, USA. The Museum is now permanently closed and its collection dispersed (article here). FBQS is now at the Commemorative Air Force – Falcon Field Airbase in Mesa, Arizona (article here).