Walter (Bill) Kahre
2002

Mechanic and aerial photograph

Born in Nebraska, Bill Kahre was a mechanic in 1919 at Dartmouth Naval Base (NS) when pilot Stuart Graham recruited him to ferry the Curtiss HS-2L flying boat La Vigilance to Lac-à-la-Tortue (Qc). This historic flight marked the beginning of bush flying in Canada. During two seasons, at Lac-à-la-Tortue, Graham and Kahre pioneered forest patrols and aerial photo survey. In 1923, Kahre joined a new company formed by Ellwood Wilson and called Fairchild Aerial Surveys (of Canada), also based at Lac-à-la-Tortue. Appointed Chief Air Engineer, Kahre also became an aerial photographer, contributing to the development of this new field. According to chief-pilot Ken Saunders, the company would never have had any success without the ressourceness of Kahre. When equipment didn’t yet exist, one had to invent it! For example, Kahre created a special carburettor heater.

Appointed Chief Air Engineer, Kahre also became an aerial photographer, contributing to the development of this new field.

Aerial surveys soon became the main source of revenues for many operators. At first, equipment was not quite fit for the job. Biplanes lower wing restricted camera view and open cockpits were freezing boxes in winter for the crew! Flights were generally conducted above sparsely settled areas and dense forests, leaving few chances to rescue downed crew members. Kahre joined Canadian Airways when it absorbed Fairchild air operations in 1929. Besides being an air engineer, Kahre overhauled all camera equipment for the company twice a year. An article published in 1938 in Fairchild Aviation News emphasized the very few camera failures experienced in two decades, giving due credit to Kahre. With the creation of Canadian Pacific Air Lines in 1942, Kahre became Superintendent of Maintenance at the St.Lawrence district base in Rimouski. He also worked for Labrador Mining & Exploration before setting up with A.E. Simpson their own aerial survey firm. He died in flight at age 72, still at the camera, following a stroke.

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