Majors Wally Sweetman and Bob Henderson: “Shining examples of strength and courage”

Members of 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron recently paid tribute to a fellow aviator who died in an accident two and a half decades ago.

The squadron is part of 12 Wing Shearwater, Nova Scotia, but as the West Coast operational CH-148 Cyclone squadron, 443 Squadron’s home base is Patricia Bay, British Columbia.

While carrying out a mountain flying training exercise in April 2019, the 443 group flew their CH-148 Cyclone helicopter to a mountain saddle located southwest of Keremeos, British Columbia, at an altitude of 7,400 feet (2,256 metres). Their destination was a place known as “Wally’s Saddle”, named after Major Wally Sweetman, a CH-124 Sea King helicopter pilot and 443 Squadron member whose sacrifice and heroism 25 years ago will not be forgotten.

During the morning of April 28, 1994, a transfer of Sea King helicopters was taking place from 12 Wing to 443 Squadron. Major Sweetman was the aircraft commander and Major Bob Henderson was the co-pilot. En route over the Bay of Fundy near Saint John, New Brunswick, the crew experienced an aircraft emergency. A fuel line broke, causing complete engine failure and a fire on board the aircraft at 6,000 feet (1,829 metres).

As the aircrew were preparing for a forced landing, burning fuel was entering the cabin from above, causing blinding smoke to rapidly fill the cockpit. In spite of the chaos, the pilot performed an autorotation and managed to execute a survivable landing. The navigator and flight engineer…

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