Canso Bomber Plane Crash - Hike | Tofino, BC, Canada
Trouble At Radar Hill
In the early 1940's and throughout much of the following decade, the Vancouver Island coastline had heightened military presence. During these times, deterring a potential Japanese invasion was of significant importance along the Canadian shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Given the war time era the world was embroiled in, it was not a rare occasion for the military to be conducting military flights during the evening.
However, on this winter evening, a rare event did occur..
Shortly after 11:00pm on Feb 8th, 1945, trouble presented itself for a crew of 12 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. During a routine training flight from RCAF Tofino to Ucluelet, British Columbia, the Canso Bomber Plane (flight 11007) lost power to its left engine immediately upon lifting off the runway.
At this point, knowing a crash landing was inevitable, the pilot attempted to perform a sharp, 180 degree turn in an effort to return to the runway of the Tofino airport.
The swift decisions that followed by Pilot Ron Scholes made a huge difference in the outcome..
Dealing with split seconds to make a decision that would decide the outcomes of the 12 souls on board, Scholes soon realized that making it back was not a possibility.
The plane began clipping the tops of trees, resulting in additional loss in speed. Fearing the likelihood of hitting the side of an elevated area, Scholes stalled the remaining engine to allow the aircraft to reach the slowest speed possible, in an effort to minimize the impact of the crash landing that was soon to follow.
The weight of this reality surely was a scene of the worst nightmares, as the amphibious aircraft was carrying 12 passengers, 2800 litres of fuel, & 4 bombs (depth charges) weighing 250 lbs each.
There was an eery feeling during this hike as you first witness the plane from the trail as you approach from the rear.
Upon the crash landing, the plane spilled thousands of litres of fuel, fires ignited, & uncertainty of the depth charges were at the backs of the minds of the soldiers. Miraculously, the entire crew survived with only minor injuries. Scholes and the crew were able to gather themselves to extinguish the fires.
The crew were able to salvage a parachute, which provided shelter for many hours before help would reach them.
What about the bombs?
Days after the rescue, the military returned to the crash site to remove sensitive operational equipment. The most sensitive issue at hand were the live depth charges.
Hauling these bombs into the forrest for 4 kms was not an ideal approach, therefore, it was decided that the charges would be dragged 100 yards from the crash site to be detonated right there in the wilderness.
Above is a photo of one of the ponds that was created due to a crater from the bomb detonation location. This was another aspect of the hike that puts you into the moment as if you were a part of the experience that happened 77 years ago.
- 8 km round trip
- moderate difficulty
- roots, elevation changes, mud bogs
- no signage
- not maintained
This is not an easy trail to locate. To find it, you must park at the lot near the base of Radar Hill. Once you leave your vehicle, walk back onto the highway and turn right. Walk down the highway and count 15 power poles. After the 15th power pole, you will see the start of the trail that you need to take just on the right hand side.
Unless you are a well seasoned hiker, attempting this hike during the Pacific Northwest winters can be difficult. We ran into a couple that were lost on the trail who then followed us to the site and back to the highway.
Plan to get back to your vehicle dirty
Leave your pets at home
Pack Snacks and Water
Prepare for Black Bears - they are around
Roots on the trails can be slippery although easy to hike through as seen above. However, as you see in the bottom photo, mud bogs cover much of the trail choices and you can get yourself into some trouble quick if you do not know what you are doing.
The area around Tofino, BC is an outdoor paradise. To this day, this was one of my favourite hikes that I have taken.
The story of the Canso Bomber Plane is a unique one with a happy ending.
Where else can you hike into the bushes to lean on an abandoned engine of a 77 year old crash site?
View below is from the top of Radar Hill revealing the terrain that the survivors made their crash landing in.
I hope this story encourages some to visit Tofino, BC! It is well worth it!