Les frères Vachon
2001

Bush pilote and aircraft mechanic

Roméo Vachon (1898-1954) McKee trophy, CAHF. Trained as aircraft mechanic in Borden in 1920, Roméo joined in 1921 the Laurentide Co. organization in Lac-à-la-Tortue (which became in 1922 Laurentide Air Service). Licenced as commercial pilot in 1923, he achieved celebrity in 1928 by rescuing the Bremen, first airplane to complete east-to-west crossing of the Atlantic after a forced landing near Blanc-Sablon. The event made him an instant hero to all French Canadians wishing to become aviators. Flying for Canadian Transcontinental Airways, he was at the time organizing the first winter airmail service on the North Shore (dropping mail bags from the air to each community). At various levels of management in the 30’s for Canadian Airways, Quebec Airways and Trans-Canada Airlines, Roméo was a key actor in the development of the province air network. During WWII, Roméo supervised maintenance of aircraft as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In 1944, he joined the Air Transport Board. The same year, he was a member of the Canadian delegation at the Chicago Conference leading to the creation of ICAO.

Irénée «Pete» Vachon (1894-1977) OC. Having learned automobile mechanics in Detroit, Irénée joined in 1921 his brother Roméo at Lac-à-la-Tortue. In 1925, he went to France to follow a study course in advanced mechanics. Licenced as commercial pilot in 1928, he flew for Canadian Transcontinental Airways and Curtiss-Reid. But he is better known as a great air engineer, working for La Compagnie Aérienne Franco-Canadienne, Curtiss-Reid and, from 1935 to 39, at Noorduyn Aircraft, for which he was Shop Superintendent (greatly contributing to the success of the Norseman bushplane). Working for Canadian Car & Foundry in Montréal during WWII, Irénée supervised production of Liberators, Hampdens and Hurricanes. He was also involved with the making of the Burnelli Loadmaster, before returning in 1950 at Curtiss-Reid as maintenance manager and superintendent. Well liked and respected by his peers, he’s had a long career and was awarded in 1973 the Order of Canada.

Roméo became an instant hero to all French Canadians wishing to become aviators.

Donat Vachon (1903-2001). Following along the lines of Roméo and Irénée, Donat started in 1928 for Canadian Transcontinental Airways in Saint-Hubert as aircraft technician. The same year, he received training to become private pilot. From 1929 to 1933, often with Irénée, he flew for Curtiss-Reid in Saint-Félicien, doing mail delivery, supplying trade posts, etc. Receiving his Air Engineer’s certificate in 1933, he worked various positions at the Cartierville factory. In 1938, he joined Trans-Canada Airlines in Winnipeg as maintenance personnel, and was transferred back to Montréal in 1940. During WWII, Donat was assigned to the engineering department, working on conversion of bombers into transport aircraft. After the war, he returned to his regular post at Trans-Canada Airlines (today Air Canada), until his retirement 36 years later. Worth mentionning is the fact that he helped his wife opening a shelter for handicapped children.

Fernando Vachon (1912-2005). Introduced by Donat, Fernando started in aviation in 1936 at the Curtiss-Reid factory in Cartierville. In 1938, he moved to western Canada, hired as mechanic for Canadian Airways. During WWII, he was in charge of aircraft maintenance at the Cap-de-la-Madeleine RCAF Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS), being recognized for his ingenuity (for instance, he developped a system to facilitate parking of ski-equipped aircraft in hangars with concrete floors). After the war, Fernando worked briefly for Trans-Canada Airlines and B.O.A.C. In 1948, C.P. Air brought him to Vancouver where he had a career of nearly 30 years as maintenance supervisor, inspector, instructor, quality control supervisor, etc. He also designed a system to detect delays among the fleet and another to locate communication failures. From 1979 to 1985, he was a teacher at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He also contributed to the construction of a hemodialysis machine.

Honors

1937 : Roméo received Tophée McKee

1973 : Irené (Pete) Officer of the Order of Canada

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