While the tales in Jim Hall’s new book aren’t tall, they do originate from his time high above the ground as a pilot, and as an air traffic controller.
The Shuswap resident and pilot of 52 years recently received the first hard copies of Tower Tales, his book of about 90 stories spanning 27 years, including anecdotes from when he was an air cadet, bush pilot, aerial photographer and his time working in the often stressful job of air traffic controller.
“Rather than the Sabre rolling out of the turn for base leg, the angle of bank steepened, the aircraft rolled inverted and the nose pitched downward. Within milliseconds the Sabre hit the ground at high speed. An instant explosion not half a mile from the control tower.
“My god. They hit. I couldn’t believe it. We just had a mid-air collision.”
The above is an excerpt from Golden Hawks, the harrowing tale that begins Hall’s book.
All of the stories in Tower Tales are factual, said Hall, including those from the control tower, which were based on details recorded at the time.
“When I got into air traffic control, I was on duty an awful lot of times that had major accidents, fatal accidents and so on,” said Hall. “Whenever we had these experiences, you had to, immediately when you got home, write them all down because otherwise your memory forgets… So after accident investigation boards and so on were over, rather than chuck these stories, I thought, well, I’ll just hang on to them.”
While there are plenty of intense moments, Hall’s book also includes moments of humour, personal successes and loads of information detailing what it was like being in the cockpit, or on the ground and responsible for those in the cockpit.
“I kept them as simple as I could for the general public that aren’t quite aware of all the things that happen either while flying or in the control tower, yet in detail enough that anybody that flies or controls will really get a bang out of it because they’ll be able to relate to it,” said Hall.
Hall said he was inspired to write the book in part from tales told by pilots who flew in the Second World War, stories Hall enjoyed that were never written down.
At 17, Hall completed the RCAC flying scholarship program for his private pilot’s licence. By 20, he had his commercial pilot’s licence and started his first flying job for a construction company doing oil exploration north of Fort Nelson. At 21, while waiting for an instructor’s job, he applied for and began working as an air traffic controller at Calgary International Airport. He started his second career as an aerial photographer in 1985.
After arriving Salmon Arm in 1992, he was hanging around the Shuswap Regional Airport in Salmon Arm when he was asked to fly for a local skydiving company. Later, he took up work with Shuswap Air, flying fire patrols.
“After 52 years of flying I decided to let my pilot licence elapse and retire full time,” said Hall.
Tower Tales was printed locally and Hall said hard copy versions of the book will be available at Bookingham Palace when it reopens after restrictions around COVID-19 are loosened. Electronic versions of the book are currently available on amazon.ca and at smashwords.com.