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.


“Emergency Procedures”

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!

2 thoughts on “Bob Burns Remembers “Sir” Jim Irvin

  1. Enjoyed flying with Bob on the DHC-6 in Schefferville late 80s. Good steaks, scotch and hard work. I loved the friendly bitching at Jim Irving over the HF radio during long flights 😉


  2. My heavens, my old bush flying compatriots from the 1970’s are leaving for their final destination.

    Jim Irvin was an inspiration to me. His dry wit, superb aviation skills and chain smoking in the middle of dinner were unforgettable. I may have achieved one or more of those skills due to him.

    Seriously though, I was invited to an interview with Air Canada in 1979 but I needed a letter of reference from Laurentian. Jim was my boss, so I asked him.

    He said, and I quote, “Write the damn thing yourself and I’ll sign it.”

    What a great man. I scripted a very modest account of my abilities because he put me on point.
    I’ll never forget that.

    Another short blurb about Jim…

    His favourite saying “When you’re being nice to me, I get nervous!”

    A truly great man from “Souse Porcupine”.

    Bob Burns was my last employer before I joined Air Canada. He was a man’s man. Bigger than life.
    We mostly saw eye to eye but Bob always took care of Bob, and didn’t care for opposition.

    I think we left on poor terms and I regret that.
    He was a good person and we never had a chance to reconcile.

    I met Danielle at a Laurentian Air Service reunion in Hull, Que some years ago

    I admire her writing talent and encourage her to pursue her endeavours.

    Other names that were part of my introduction to aviation that bear further investigation are:

    Ted Bennet (Squaw Lake boss)
    Eddy Lord (passed)
    Pierre Gendron (Guelph bus driver for God’s sake)
    Mike Denis (literally named my son after him)
    Dennis Costello (very talented pilot)
    Bob McKenzie (aka wart hog, now works for the government)
    Danny Fournier (Mr. McGiver.)
    Jacques Dupuis (good guy)

    And many more…

    If you need more, I might provide.

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