Stories from Brick Bradford's Memoirs

Early Stories

Innovation by the Vertically Challenged

October, 1939

I was required to make a 3 stop cross country flight to qualify for my commercial license. The trip, in South Western Ontario, was to be from Hamilton to London, to Jarvis, and back to Hamilton.gypsy moth Clark Seaborn 2 300At each stop it was required that the journey log book be signed by a responsible person. On this trip, I was to fly the DH 6O "Gipsy" Moth. I landed at the London Flying Club at Lambeth, and had the log book signed by the chief instructor. The "Moth" does not have a starter, so it is necessary to have someone 'swing' the propeller in order to start the engine. The mechanic at London started me up and away I went to Jarvis.

No one had told me what to expect at Jarvis. All I knew was that it was an airport. Sure enough, there was a radio operator and he was happy to sign my log book. He had probably done this numerous times before, but he made it appear serious and official. Perhaps to impress a 19 year old kid who looked all of 15, and 90 pounds soaking wet. Then I asked him if he could help me start my engine, but he declined saying that he had to stand by his radio.

If you were to look at a "Gipsy" Moth, and then me, you'd realize I can't reach the propeller to start the engine. After a while, I figured out that if I put the tail up on the fence, I could reach the propeller. After much struggling and heaving, I finally got the tail up on the fence. I set the engine controls, pulled the propeller through, switched the magnetos on, and pulled the propeller through. The engine started and lifting the tail from the fence was now easier because of the propeller wash over the drooping elevators. It was easier to move the aircraft away from the fence, as well. I jumped in, harnessed up, taxied out and took off.

There was much laughter and teasing around the Club house when I told them my experience at Jarvis.

Photo credit: The de Havilland Flying Club

War Time

Brick Bradford

In the cockpit of the Spitfire Supermarine XI speaking with his CODepartment of National Defence
Royal Canadian Air Force

Distinguished Flying Cross Citation

"This officer has completed a large number of low level photographic reconnaissance sorties over enemy occupied Burma. He has always displayed outstanding determination, tenacity and courage and has flown throughout the worst possible monsoon weather. As a flight commander Flying Officer Bradford has set a high standard of perseverance and devotion to duty."

Reconnaisance in India, 1944

Spitfire PR XI Found

Supermarine Spitfire PR-XI



In 1985, Brick's Spitfire was recovered in India.
See the interview by the CBC regarding this discovery. Click here

Today the same Spitfire PR XI (PR is for Photo Reconnaissance)
can be seen at the United States Airforce Warplane Museum in Dayton, Ohio

After the War, Holland, 1947

My first Captain route on the DC-4 - a trip to Bangkok

November, 1951

This was a cargo flight eastbound to Bangkok. What I didn't know was, that the return flight was an animal flight.

DC 4 300

When we showed up at the airport we found the aircraft was loaded with 5000 rhesus monkeys. These monkeys were destined for New York to be used for medical research. In addition there was a large python, a giant whooping crane and two dogs.

The monkey cages were lined along each side of the cabin with room to walk through to the cockpit. When we entered by the rear door, all the monkeys were chattering, and when they saw us suddenly they were all silent, and they turned their backs to us and looked at us over their shoulders. I thought that was very strange, yet funny. This occurred any time we walked through the cabin. There was an animal handler with us, and he slept in the crew bunk during night stops. At our stops we had ground power hooked up overnight, and the cabin ventilation fans running, as the smell of the monkeys was overpowering.

By the time we reached Amsterdam we smelled really bad. After clearing customs a KLM representative led us to some showers in the terminal and brought us our suitcases. We were given a bag in which to dump our uniforms, underwear, shirts and sox, and we put on whatever we had in our suitcases. Our clothes were fumigated and dry cleaned, then we picked them up later.

Another crew took our mini zoo to New York.

Photo : Lars den Hartigh from the blog 'Meanwhile at KLM'


Hollinger in Mont Joli, Quebec

Hollinger Ungava Transport (HUT)

August, 1953

Once leaving Sept Isle, Quebec to fly north, we were in what was known as a Flight Information Region. In addition to our normal VHF (very high frequency ) radio, we also had long range HF (high HUT DC 3 300frequency) radios and when we left Sept Isle we would call the company radio operator and ask about the south bound flights in order to find out what altitude to fly northbound. We might have as many as 3 or 4 aircraft southbound and we wanted to decide what height to choose northbound so as not to conflict with the other flights. Apart from our departures and arrivals in Sept Isle, we were our own air traffic control. At night the minimum en-route altitudes were 5200 feet to Mile 164 and 4500 feet from there north to Knob Lake. This meant that the SSW bound flights would be at 6 to 8 or 10,000 feet and we would be obliged to fly NNE bound at 7 or 9000 feet. Sometimes we would go higher if traffic or weather required us to do so. During the day, if the weather was good we flew visually at much lower altitudes, just deviating around the high ground, but of course broadcasting our altitude to the radio operators and other aircraft.

It was beautiful country to fly over in daylight, dotted with lakes, trees, scrub land and rocks. Hilly in spots and in some areas barren rocky hills rose up to 3 and 4 thousand feet. The Moisie River flowed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Sept Isle and extended north about 140 miles. The railroad followed the river valley a good part of its journey north. Sometimes returning south with the empty aircraft, we flew low over the rail grade for a good look at the progress of the work on the grade. To look at this glorious rugged landscape up close was a moving experience and I loved to do it. Of course we told the other aircraft what we were doing, in case someone was doing the same thing northbound. The operative word here was,"Scenic Route" southbound. We really didn't want to tell the world on the HF radio that we were low flying.


Photo Credit for the Hollinger DC-3 - Flight Source Aviation photo Database

Private Corporate

Private Corporate Aviation

1955 - 1965

It became apparent quickly that in the area of Corporate Aviation a flight crew was at the beck and call of the aircraft owner. Upon reviewing Brick’s memoirs from the 1955 to 1962 the totals for hours flying exceeded that of what is allowed today. Also, the aviation branch’s operation of a corporation was subject to the state of the economy of the day. Brick makes reference to their aviation group closed down as the “Accountants” said the operation was not feasible in present economy. Three aircraft and 6 pilots out of work.

But the pilots in Corporate Aviation were a close knit group which meant that members of the group knew who was closing and where openings were occurring. Out of work but not for very long provided you could move to a new location. This often meant a family move at inconvenient times.


My Experience

I was an undergrad student at the University of Western Ontario (1968-71). At this time the Bradford home was outside Oakland, California. I could get home from London, Ontario in the jump seat of a DC-9 provided that I get to Indianapolis by 9:00am on a specified date. Brick Bradford was flying the DC-9 full of freight from Norfolk, West Virginia to Oakland, California.onaDC9 gina summer72

I left London the day before the rendezvous, hitch hiked to Detroit, took a bus to Metro Airport, slept on a bench and caught the first Delta Flight to Indianapolis. There were a few minor setbacks but I got there in time.

Somewhere over the mid-west at 35,000+ feet Brick, my Dad, said that if he jerked the controls it could tear the wings off the aircraft. But gently was no problem. Of course he knew that the company DC-9 was coming eastbound 1,000 feet below us. At that very moment Brick did a quarter of a roll and I watched the eastbound flight pass under as I looked out the left side cockpit window. For the brief moment I realized I was looking straight down and then just as quickly was flying level. All done without any loss of balance.

DC-9 - N938F - Image credit to Cargo Facts


Time to RetirecaravanFedEx 300


At the age of 77, the CEO of FedEx realized the responsibility the company had with an uninsurable WWII pilot ferrying their cargo from Vancouver to Victoria in their Cessna Caravan. So it was time for Brick to retire.

Photo Credit: