Edward Penwell

by Frank Tibbo

We were both born in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, attended the same classes in school, played on the same football teams and eventually went to university together.

Some people have great character, some have brains and some have both. Edward had both. When he graduated from high school, he won a scholarship for attaining the highest marks on the Burin Peninsula. Penwell

Edward could have succeeded in any career and his choice was aviation. In 1953 the RCAF recruited him as a navigator on the CF-100 fighter jet, and he signed up for a five-year commission. This, however, did not completely satisfy his aviation dreams. While he was in the air force, he attended the Winnipeg Flying School on his days off and obtained a Private Pilot’s Licence, which was followed by a Commercial Pilot’s Licence.

One of his dreams was that of establishing an air service back in Newfoundland. After spending six years in the RCAF, the last few as an instructor, he received an honourable discharge and obtained a job with Dunn and Bradstreet in Toronto while looking around for a suitable aircraft.

He found a Cessna 180 in Brantford, Ontario, and came home to Newfoundland and set up an air service on the south coast flying from Grand Bank, St. Pierre and St. John’s.
One day he was flying to Frenchman’s Cove with a woman and her baby when fog prevented him from getting to the air strip. He made an emergency landing on a dirt road which caused some minor damage to the aircraft; however, there were no personal injuries.
He flew the aircraft to Halifax to have the minor damage repaired, but engineers discovered that it had been in an accident prior to Mr. Penwell’s purchase of the aircraft. The damage and cost to repair was more than previously anticipated. He flew the aircraft back to Grand Bank to continue with his air service but soon realized that getting regular maintenance was a major problem.

On one of his trips to Gander to have an inspection on his aircraft, EPA offered to purchase the aircraft and also offered Mr. Penwell a job flying with the company.

Edward Penwell was employed with EPA as a bush pilot and was soon sent to St. Anthony on contract work for the USAF moving personnel and supplies from St. Anthony to Stephenville. He also flew the air ambulance known as the ‘Mission Plane’ at St. Anthony. Later EPA was in need of two additional helicopter pilots and sent Edward and Hubert Rodway to Carp, Ontario for training.

On January 7, 1967, Edward was assigned a charter flight for Mines and Resources. He was to fly from Gander to Stephenville. While he was flying over St. George’s, the helicopter developed engine trouble and began to descend. The helicopter became uncontrollable despite his valiant efforts, and the helicopter crashed on a large rock which burst the fuel lines. The aircraft caught fire immediately.

The passenger, a Mr. Mews, escaped but Edward was severely burned. He was rushed to Stephenville Hospital, then to Corner Brook Hospital. After a few days his medical condition was such that EPA airlifted him to a Halifax hospital; however, he succumbed to his injuries on January 17, and I lost a dear friend.

Edward had asked me if I’d like to go with him on that last trip – that was until he was told he had to take along a forestry official. That ruled out my accompanying him.

One trip I did take with him was to St. Anthony. We were carrying a load of mail, and the aircraft was stuffed with mail bags. The bags were bulky, and I asked him how much they weighed and if he knew what was in the bags. He laughed and replied, “Yeah – a thousand pounds and 8 ounces; 8 ounces of letters and a thousand pounds of Eatons’ catalogues.”



Contributed by F. Tibbo

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