Lancaster veteran RCAF pilot returning to the skies

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Lancaster veteran RCAF pilot returning to the skies
Gordon Helm with his flight log book. Submitted photo.

LANCASTER, Ontario – Gordon Helm, 84, knows what it feels like to fly. He has more than 4,000 hours logged in his flight book from his time as a Cold War RCAF pilot. He is about to log, just a little more time in that book.

Helm currently lives with his wife Isobel at the Chartwell Lancaster Long Term Care Residence and Chartwell, in partnership with Wish of a Lifetime is granting Helm’s wish to relive some old memories.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, as a part of National Seniors Day, Helm will be going to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum to take flight in a de Havilland Canada DHC-1B-2-S5 Chipmunk, a plan that Helm is familiar with.

During the Cold War in the 1950s, he was stationed in West Germany and used to fly patrols in his F-86 Sabre as a part of No. 4 Wing fighter squadron based out of  RCAF Baden-Soellingen in West Germany.

“We used to fly up and down the Iron Curtain,” he said. “I suppose you might consider it tense. Canada lost 29 pilots during that tour.”

Flying was Helm’s life, but he was taken out of the pilot’s seat after a serious medical diagnosis.

“I don’t know how you explain a loss,” Helm said. “My life ended when I was 29 as far as flying goes.”

He did not stay far from planes for long, and got into the engineering side of flight. He had a long career with Air Canada eventually becoming their Chief Operations Engineer.

To ensure that he is in top shape for his trip on the Chipmunk, Helm has been doing some exercise at a playground near his home in Lancaster.

“Aviation is my life,” he says. “I wish everybody had the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”

“Through Wish of a Lifetime Canada, we are able to enrich the lives of older Canadians, help them overcome barriers to fulfill their dreams and feel a sense of inclusion,” says Brent Binions, President and CEO, Chartwell Retirement Residences.

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