Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aviation Site Maps Will Offer Guide to Newfoundland's 'Crossroads of the World'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aviation Site Maps Will Offer Guide to Newfoundland's 'Crossroads of the World'

Article excerpt

Gander plans visitor guide to aviation sites


GANDER, N.L. - A remote forest trail about 35 kilometres southwest of Gander, N.L., leads to an eerie, sacred site: the still intact tail and partial fuselage from the Belgian airline Sabena disaster of Sept. 18, 1946.

The DC-4 was en route to New York from Brussels when it tried to land in rain, wind and heavy cloud cover at the airport in Gander for refuelling. Small crosses still mark where 26 passengers and crew who died at the crash scene were buried because thick woods made removing the bodies so difficult.

Heroic efforts to save 18 people still alive when rescuers reached them more than 36 hours after the accident included one of the first uses of helicopters in such a mission. Seventeen of them survived.

The Sabena made international headlines as one of the most deadly commercial airline crashes of its day. It is one of several sites around Gander -- a town of about 12,000 people in central Newfoundland -- that draw visitors from around the globe who want to learn about its aviation history.

Gander's airport was among the largest in the world in 1940 and was a vital staging ground to ferry thousands of aircraft from North America to Britain during the Second World War.

In later years, it was a refuelling point for transatlantic flights carrying everyone from Fidel Castro to the Beatles. Gander became known as the "Crossroads of the World" before jumbo jets that could make longer trips diminished traffic to its sprawling airfield.

Frank Tibbo, a retired air traffic controller in Gander, wrote the book "Charlie Baker George: The Story of Sabena OOCBG." He has visited the isolated crash site as a guide several times in helicopters rented by relatives of those who died.

It's also possible to approach the Sabena on ATV and hike the rest of the way in, he said in an interview.

"A lot of people, when they get there, they sort of stop in awe. Such a horrific incident took place in 1946. I think they still feel the effects of that when they get there. …

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