Bob Burns Remembers “Sir” Jim Irvin
Bob Burns recently passed away at the age of 80. In his honour, I am putting these stories about Laurentian Air Services from him up first.
Jim Irvin was always the “nuts and bolts” of LAS and Air Scheff. When I joined LAS the first time in 1970, he was chief pilot and flew everything – including the Grumman Goose. He was extremely conscientious and careful and later became the operations manager. At this point we shared the same office and became very good friends. He would steal things from my house then gift wrap them and give them back as Christmas gifts!
When later I re-joined around 1988 he was managing the company in Schefferville. He was not able to speak French but everyone who knew him, loved him.
When I arrived in Scheff in January 1988, there was a Beaver on wheel-skis loaded to fly turbo fuel to a remote lake. The flight was delayed 3 days as Castor, the pilot, was busy bulldozing snow on a winter road to Blue Lake. I told Jim that I would do it. Jim declined as I had not yet been checked out on the Beaver. I reminded him that I’d been flying them for 15 years. “Nope, we have “procedures,” he said.
When Castor flew the load he got stuck in slush on the lake and returned to Scheff by helicopter. That night on our way to the Legion for a beer, Jim said to me that tomorrow we’ll take the Otter and a couple of guys and dig out the Beaver. I would have to fly the Beaver back to Scheff. When I asked him about the “procedures” he didn’t answer.
“Just Another Ordinary Charter”
He was flying a charter for LAS in the Beech Baron. I went along as his cojo. This was way back during the FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec) days when Quebec in the early 1970s and there was considerable tension in Canada about how radical things might become.
LAS was chartered by 2 people from the Buckingham, Quebec area to fly them to Windsor, Ontario to pick up some packages. Arriving in Windsor, the clients asked Jim & I to come along to help get the packages. We all went up to the motel room and gathered up the boxes. Jim & I left the room first. Entering the hallway outside the room, we heard someone say, “put down the packages and put your hands up against the wall” – just like in a movie. We did as instructed and 2 detectives frisked us. We presented our ID and they told us to leave. The packages contained rifles and they had been reported to the police who had been waiting for whoever came to get them. The room contained more guns and our clients were left to explain. It turned out to be ok as the clients gave an adequate explanation to the police.
Anyway we left Windsor and departed for Ottawa with the packages and clients on board. Unknown to us, they had a bottle of Rye going in the back seats. Deplaning at the Ottawa terminal. Jim and I got out to help the paxs out of the aircraft. The bottle of Rye fell out of their grasp and splintered into a thousand shards of glass on the tarmac. The paxs waddled into the terminal, helping each other along the way and of course Jim & I were left to clean up. Jim thought of it as just another ordinary charter!