RIP, Captain Bob

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Written by Jim Bredy
Friday, May 31, 2013

Photo of Jim Bredy.This survey for me is more than just about counting ducks. I have forged some life-long friendships from some of those I’ve met. As I sit here in Edmonton with my plane undergoing a mandatory inspection, I began to reminisce about all of the people that have come, and gone in my life. It has been like an ever going tide, some come in and stay, and some go. As I write this with a tear in my eye, one of those persons that stayed and is now gone, was Bob Heath.

Bob was one of the most congenial persons I have ever met. When I first arrived on the ramp at Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories over a decade ago, I remember seeing a twin otter, and this "guy" stick his head out the window, and suggest that we sit down and chat about arctic flying. Because I was a “greenhorn” to arctic flying, I quickly obliged. His chats are lessons that will stick with me forever. I recall trying to get to Sachs Harbour with some of the usual inclement arctic weather in progress. It was on one of my excursion up there to conduct some snow goose aerial photography. Bob suggested I wait and go over with him, flying as a two plane "convoy". I learned a lot from him, both with his chats, and real world flying that have helped to keep me safe. I have also been the target of some of Bob's dry humor. He once mentioned to one of my co-workers, Walt Rhodes, that my Partenavia Observer looked like a twin otter that had gotten wet, and been put through the drier.

Bob truly was a world-wide traveler. Last winter, during an un-forecast Antarctic storm with hurricane force winds, his plane with two others on board, was slammed into a mountain. No one survived. It is especially sad to learn of Mike Denton, whom I have never met. I remember seeing the exuberant enthusiasm of one of Bob's younger co-pilots Chris Ander, and expect that this young, recently married man (with a large part of his life still ahead of him), was the same. People more than half my age are not supposed to pass on that young.

Bob was the “god” of twin otter pilots, and especially Arctic and Antarctic flying. There was none better than him. Even in his death, Bob is still teaching me. Because if "it" can happen to a man of Bob's enormous experiences and talents, "it" can happen to anyone, including me. Bob Heath, may God hold you in the palm of His hand now and take you under His wing, just as you have taken so many other pilots under your wing.

RIP, Captain Bob.

Bob Heath was a twin otter pilot who mentored many FWS pilots about arctic flying, before his untimely passing last winter in Antarctica.

Bob Heath was a twin otter pilot who mentored many FWS pilots about arctic flying, before his untimely passing last winter in Antarctica. Photo by Kenn Borek Air