A Testimonial for Bob
I vividly remember your action on that foggy cold New Year's Eve so many years ago in France; a lifelong lesson on how to handle stressful situations. As you are aware the MP's were exposed to being first responders to all accident types, but in France, the response was mostly to severe auto accidents. It was not uncommon to come across an accident of utter chaos (screaming, complaining, moaning, etc.) making it very difficult for the attending MP's.
The exception to this was the evening when myself and a young fellow MP named Johnson were the first on the scene of the Bristol air crash site. After checking for survivors, I advised you that there was not going to be an explosion but I was going to fire 3 shots from my pistol and repeat it in 5 minutes to get some help into the site. Your reply was a calm and simple, "Do you what you have to do, son". In spite of your serious injuries, not a single complaint or sign of panic came from you.
I must admit that I was pretty worried after firing the second volley and not hearing signs of anyone responding as I only had 3 shells left, however, help arrived shortly thereafter.
Your calm disposition left an imprint on me that has never left. To think that a person with serious injuries, who lost his spouse in the crash and laid trapped within crash debris in the cold black forest; could remain so calm while no doubt hurting within - at this point is where I said to myself "there was no reason, ever, that I should panic in a stressful situation".
This experience has served me well in my challenging career and although I left the Air Force after 11 years, I never left airplanes. During my tenure as President of Echo Bay Mines, we had a C130 Transport, a Boeing 727, a Convair 640, a Twin Otter, a chopper and a Lear 35 operated by a 21 pilot crew.
I also became a sky hazard, first owning a Cessna 185, then a standard Beaver followed by a Turbo Beaver (all on floats). The Echo Bay Mines Board of Directors decided that they did not want me flying around in a single engine aircraft on my own. That was an argument I lost about 20 years ago; so I started buying boats. My first one was a 65 foot motor yacht which I kept for about 4 years. The second vessel was an 85 foot Esterel which I replaced 4 years ago with a 103 foot Broward.
I have used my "Middlemiss" lesson many times over the years while heading up a large company in business dealings where not showing unrequired emotions has been very effective. It has been mentioned a few times that it takes a lot to get me upset and even verified once by a very successful businessman during a stressful meeting when someone asked, "Does John ever get ulcers?" The reply from the mentioned business colleague was, "No, but he sure gives a lot of them."
Here are three examples in which I applied the "Middlemiss" approach when I really wanted to tear a strip off people.
EBM's aviation department and the ice road development group reported directly to me as none of the other senior people were interested in departments not directly related to mining and milling. In Edmonton, we shared a hanger with Eldorado Nuclear who operated 3 DC4's, 4 DC3's and a couple of helicopters then acquiring their own 737. Our firm rented a DC3 which was in the Eldorado hangar when one of our aircraft engineers ran a forklift into the wing of the DC3. I received a call from the Chief pilot to come out and assess the mess. When I arrived at the hangar there were about 15 people hanging around the aircraft to see my reaction. I looked at the wing damage then turned to the fellow that ran the forklift into the wing and asked him if he had contacted Northwest Industries to fix the damage. He replied negatively and all I said to him was, "Well let's get on with it", and then I left. I knew he would never run into a wing with a forklift again and nor did he during the next 15 years around our various aircraft.
Another example of the "Middlemiss" approach included an aircraft incident at Port Radium, NWT where Echo Bay Mines operated a silver mine. As a point of interest, this was the same plant facilities that produced uranium for the "Manhattan Project" during WWII and consequent atom bombs. During the winter months we operated our supply aircraft off Great Bear Lake (900 miles north of Edmonton) where an ice air strip (250' x 6,000') was constructed. At that time we operated a Convair 640 with a large cargo door in a number of configurations be it straight cargo (16,000 lb payload), straight passenger (46 passengers) or a combined mode. After completing a 2 day site inspection while waiting for the inbound aircraft I was speaking on the phone and watching the touchdown shortly followed by a large snow cloud and a bright flash. I jumped in a pick-up and headed for the aircraft. As the snow cloud dissipated the aircraft sat on its wheels approximately 100 feet off the strip facing the opposite direction of the approach. When we got to the aircraft the crewman was in the process of evacuating 6 passengers down the escape slide.
The port prop was completely torn off the engine and was probably the cause of the flash. There were no injuries and damage was confined to the engine and some tail damage as the aircraft did tip back and hit the tail on the ice as a result of the sudden stop.
Needless to say I was extremely annoyed to see the aircraft damaged by a crew that had been operating off the strip for months plus weather conditions were excellent. However, I said very few words other than to ask the 2 pilots to come with me for a drive down the strip; shortly thereafter I asked them to call their families to prevent any panic as I knew it would be minutes before word got out that Echo Bay pranged their Conair.
I set the pick-up trip meter and followed the aircraft tracks marked in a light skiff of snow to the touch down spot approximately 1,500 feet from the impact zone. The tracks of the aircraft at about 750 feet from the touchdown veered towards the runway edge snow bank. The only comment the pilots made was to say that the skiff of snow sure made the strip slippery.
After phoning their families I directed them to complete their accident reports and we would meet the next day in Edmonton. The next day, I read the reports which were both very generic blaming the accident on slippery conditions. I first spoke with the Captain and asked him if there was anything else he wanted to add; he replied "no". I told him I had minimal flying time but at 700 feet you should still have rudder control and I was going to bring in experts to explain to me why not.
I then had the Co-pilot come in and advised him that I did not believe their reports and if he wanted to add anything now was the time to do it as I was getting expert help to investigate.
The add-on from the Co-pilot was pretty interesting.
The Convair 640 had Rolls Royce Dart 42 engines with long props only clearing the ground by about 18 inches and no reverse thrust as did the 580 Convairs. The landing procedure on the 640 after touchdown was to put the props into ground fine and the big flat props acted as a drag. Somewhere along the Captain's time on the Convair 640's, with another airline, they experimented with spooling up the props on touchdown in ground fine to create more drag. Unfortunately, on our incident apparently the port engine stayed in ground fine on spool up and the starboard engine went into course.
The Captain resigned the following day and the co-pilot went on to be our aviation manager for many years before succumbing to a heart attack. His name was Bill Granley and he was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame in 1990 in relation to work completed by the Echo Bay Mines Aviation Department. You have probably met his brother, Bud Granley, an ex-Sabre jock and 20+ years airshow star with a variety of aircraft in Canada and the USA.
One more "Middlemiss" approach was being present in an Edmonton dining room when several people were in a panic because a fellow had passed out and was face-first in a plate full of food. Someone was shouting, "he is choking, he is choking" but again I followed your method of just being quiet, got up and completed a modified Heimlich on him and got him breathing and then finished my lunch. The victim, a retired RCMP officer, remains in touch.
The non-panic approach in a boardroom regardless of the situation pays great dividends. Over the years, I have used your name many times as an example of how to bypass a self-pity mode, regardless of how upset one gets from time to time. It is always difficult to determine what incidents can have a profound effect on one's life but I know in my case, your behaviour under stress was one of them.
I have taken the liberty of passing on my biography which I think has been a reasonable route by learning from others. The Nuna Group of Companies is primarily focused on heavy construction in the Canadian Arctic. Some of what we do is outlined on our website (www.nunalogistics.com) (presently being updated).
Bob, if you are interested, please forward me your mailing address and I will send a collection of photo (CD's) on parts of northern Canada where we work.
I am approaching my 73rd birthday in March but still am having fun building "stuff". One thing both of us have to acknowledge is that in spite of some calming attributes, had your daughter not been very vocal that night it could have been hours before we found your group.
Thanks for your contribution to my career.
This letter was sent to Bob a few years ago. John Zigarlick passed away on December 16, 2011, from natural causes, while at his home in Edmonton, Alberta.
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