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Linc Alexander - Air Tanker Pilot

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For those of you who either knew Linc or read any of his books, Linc passed away this last Thursday 24th May am 2012 at his home in Richmond BC.

Fly high Linc, it was great to have known you.


This tribute was sent to me by Pam a while ago now, but its still very relevant........
About Dad and Grandpa ~

If only I had a happy reason for writing to you. However, I am deeply saddened to have to say that our dear and beloved Dad and Grandpa, Linc Alexander, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Thursday, May 24th, from a heart valve condition. I still feel as though I'm in a bad dream from which I will awake, and that I'll hear Dad come in any time now, calling out our names as he trots up the stairs, and smiling as he sees us and gives us both a great bear hug. I'm so glad that he lived life to the fullest right until the end. It still wasn't long enough. Only eternity is that.

After more than two years of work, Dad was most excited to see his internationally renowned earlier book, Air Attack on Forest Fires, finally completely revised and almost ready for publishing in a new, 500-page second edition. He had just sent out four copies for vetting to those in the aerial fire fighting world before he was to have set about the final editing process. It will be Ben's and my great privilege to take up the challenge from here, and to ensure that his latest work is published.

Ben and I were thrilled to have had the honour and delight of attending with Dad the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators (GAPAN) awards dinner in London, England last October, where he was presented with the Master Air Pilot distinction and the Sir James Martin Award for Air Safety. Featured in a 1996 Discovery Channel documentary on aerial firefighting, Dad had experienced many strenuous years as a pilot in a highly dangerous occupation but nevertheless greatly loved his work. It was such a joy to see him esteemed for his decades of contributions to the challenging yet rewarding field of aerial fire fighting (Fire Bombing). [A brief account of that visit appears at the end of this tribute.]

Not one to mention his achievements, Dad was nevertheless held in great esteem in the aviation world, both personally and professionally. His work continues to be a means of training aerial fire fighters around the world and of saving many lives, and I knew how deeply thrilled he was about that. I've been finding that there is a camaraderie and true bond among pilots that is so moving. Already they've been enfolding Ben and me in their care. I feel such a deep appreciation for them. What a blessing and a comfort it is to come to realize how deeply appreciated he has been all these years as tributes for him are sent in from around the world. Anyone on Facebook can read some of them at the "Fire Bombers" page. He never knew. I hope he knows now. How deeply experiences like these remind us of our true home. He looked so utterly peaceful. Even the nurse who accompanied me to his room commented on how peaceful he was. "Isn't everyone?" I asked her. "Not at all," she replied. I had such a strong sense that he was held in the arms of God, completely and deeply loved, and experiencing unimaginable joy.

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

(Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee,
No 412 squadron, RCAF, 9 June, 1922 - 11 December 1941)

It's been a real balm to think of happy memories, and the recent one last October of our accompanying Dad to London is a wonderful one. We so enjoyed the week's holiday, especially with seeing Dad's old RAF friends from his RCAF days, after an absence of more than 55 years.

Here's the story of Dad's most memorable awards evening:

Also accorded the distinction of Master Air Pilot in a separate ceremony earlier that evening, Dad was awarded the Sir James Martin Award for Air Safety, the first Canadian ever to be awarded this honour. The award not given every year, Dad stands honoured with several notable individuals and groups from around the world, among them the Lockerbie Disaster Investigation Team. A tribute was written for him, from the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators (GAPAN) on their website

Sir James Martin invented the the Martin-Baker ejection seat, estimated now to have saved over 7,000 lives in 93 Air Forces.

His son, engineer James Martin, and his twin brother, Andrew, are now Managing Directors of Martin-Baker. We had the privilege and honour of sitting with James and his wife at the gala. Their company was delightful. I've attached a photo (L-R) of Dad and James. The 800-year-old Guildhall, London, is the (palatial) former residence of the Mayor of London, back in the day when the Mayor had great power, influence, and the desire and means to throw magnificent functions on a royal scale. Here is the Guildhall website:

The GAPAN banquet and awards ceremony is a the largest gala event of the year in London, and quickly sells out. The Brits really know how to do gala! We were escorted into the ceremonies by the Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company, complete with doublooned uniforms and, yes, pikes.

The banquet for seven hundred was served in the magnificent medieval Great Hall. During the sumptuous dinner and serenaded by a Renaissance orchestra (also doublooned), a host of tuxedoed servers quietly brought and whisked away all the courses and libations. At various intervals as we dined, we raised our glasses to Queen, country and the like, periodically bursting into song. We Canadians as a whole are not immersed to the ruffled neck in rich history, nor accustomed to singing during dinner, but I did my best to follow along in a humming kind of way, finally being able to chime in heartily with the chorus of the one song that I knew: Rule, Britannia!

Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

What fun it was! I would recommend singing at dinner more often. The Guest of Honour, who presented the awards, was Major General David J Scott, Director Operations and Strategic Deterrence HQ USAF Europe, surely bearing a weightier responsibility than was indicated even by his several rows of medals. He was most impressive.

Despite his lofty position, he was gracious to his hosts and humourous and entertaining to the guests, in detail giving the British credit for being the first to accomplish several feats in the world of aviation. I enjoyed his speech very much.

HRH Prince Andrew is the Grand Master of GAPAN. It may be that he was not there to present the awards last October because of the Occupy London protesters, who were camped just around the corner at St. Paul's Cathedral. In fact, all of the guests were ushered quietly out a a different door in order to avoid the protesters who had come over to heckle us as we were leaving late that evening.

While we were waiting for our cabby, who could not find the small back lane where we were waiting (never been asked to find it, I suppose) we became surrounded by hecklers (guess they knew about the secret door!). Dad was unfazed. When he finally could get a word in edgewise, he asked them, “Do you know why we're here?” One of them said no. “Would you like me to tell you?” They did, thankfully! So Dad told them. They were very interested in talking after that, asking Dad many questions. While we waited for our still-mystified cabby, Dad entertained them all. As we were leaving, they thanked him and, touchingly, wished him well. Even this added to the adventure of such a wonderful day in our week in London. [Two photographs capture the joy pf the occasion Linc emerging from a London phone box and Linc sitting with Sir James Martin’s son, also James, at the guildhall banquet.

Pamela and Ben
(Pamela and Ben Linkewich, daughter and grandson)


I've been talking to Linc Alexander after purchasing his new book and he kindly sent me some unique photos of his time as an Air tanker pilot.
Linc writes..
Hi Martin,
Wow, you sure have done a lot of work on your site, it's very comprehensive and most impressive.
Yes, I can send you a good selection of photos. I have many slides of the airplane which I'll convert to digital to be able to send on to you. No problem with the bio. It will take me a bit of time to do it (a week or two) so I hope that's OK.
Thank you for your offer, it's most welcome publicity. It's not surprising your site gets that many visitors a month, it's a real achievment. Hope you enjoy the book.
Linc Alexander


Linc continues...
I'm sending you my book info and hope you can include this in your coverage. Some of your visitors may be interested in getting a book. I haven't written anything regarding an article, is this something that you will be doing? My bio is in the back of the book, you can use whatever part of that you wish or if you want more info I can send it.

Regarding the photos, there is one with two of us in the cockpit. I am the one on the right and I'm checking out the other pilot on the airplane. You can use any or all of the photos that suit you. I can send any other information you many want for your article. The pictures were taken in British Columbia and the North West Territories. Looking forward to seeing what you do.

Thanks Linc....


Linc’s Fire Bombing career began the following summer after his release from the RCAF in October of 1959. Over the years he flew the Stearman, the TBM, the A-26, the F7F, the S-2F and the DC-6. In that time he flew for Airspray in Wetaskiwin Alberta, Johnson Air Service in Missoula Montana, Skyway Air Service in Langley British Columbia, SIS-Q Flying Service in Santa Rosa California, and Conair in Abbotsford British Columbia.

Linc has captured not only the details but the emotions of being a Fire Bomber pilot. His 37-year career spans the majority of the aerial firefighting period, so he knows it as well as anyone possibly could. Linc masterfully weaves a wide range of technical, business and personal knowledge into a delightful, yet educational, primer on the history of firebombing.


Linc’s contributions to the aerial firefighting community go far beyond his flight time over a fire. He was a consultant to DeHavilland Aircraft in Toronto Canada in appraising and testing the suitability of the S-2F Tracker as a Fire Bomber. In 1967 he wrote Pilots Notes for Fire Bombing; a guide for pilots. In 1972 he wrote Air Attack on Forest Fires which became the world’s definitive manual on aerial fire-fighting techniques by aircraft.

His new book Fire Bomber Into Hell…A Story of Survival in a Deadly Occupation, is a must read for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in this great adventure.


Linc Alexander's photographic library











Fire bomber into hell


To my fellow Aerial Firefighters
Beginning in 1960 and continuing for 37 years, it was my good fortune to improve my own abilities and make contributions to Fire Bombing as the industry developed over the years.
I am now a retired “old timer.” I felt there was a need to have our occupation placed before the public in a way for them to understand and share the great adventure. My purpose in writing Fire Bomber Into Hell was to give the “person-on-the-street” the feel, and an insight into our highs, our lows at the loss of good friends, and our emotions and fears as we did our job immersed in the extraordinary hazards of our working environment.
The book is more than just my story; it’s the story of every bomber pilot who sat or presently sits in the same dangerous seat. The book is dedicated:
To the Fire Bomber pilots who risk their lives in the service of others.
You'll find information about my book Fire Bomber Into Hell on the main AAF website page, it is not technical and I sincerely hope you find it good reading.
Linc Alexander

Fasten your seat belt as you take a front seat beside Linc and fly down tunnels with walls of flame hundreds of feet high, feel the steep dives and the turbulence of rotor winds so severe that it has torn airliners and Fire Bombers apart, and experience the white heat of fear when you know that certain death is only a few seconds away.
The Fire Bomber does not take the high, smooth road of airliners. Fire Bombing pilots fly in the lower levels of the atmosphere, the boundary layer of air that rages with turbulence, horizontal tornadoes called rotor winds, downdrafts and sudden tail winds that can instantly stall an airplane and send the pilot to his death.
Fire Bomber Into Hell
is Linc’s story beginning with the bi-winged Stearman and the chaos of early bombing in 1960 and ending in 1997 after Linc had flown six different types of bombers both in the United States and Canada.

Television news casts have given the public vivid pictures of walls of fire three stories high approaching suburbs of Los Angeles. Intense radiant heat and showers of embers precede the firestorm. As the flames are about to engulf the first structures, an airplane suddenly enters this maelstrom to drop a uniquely-effective fire retardant between a row of homes and the oncoming calamity. What kind of pilots does it take to fly into this Hell of fire, turbulence and smoke to place this retardant precisely on target?

Linc has captured not only the details but the emotions of being a Fire Bomber pilot. His 37-year career spans the majority of the aerial firefighting period, so he knows it as well as anyone possibly could. Linc masterfully weaves a wide range of technical, business and personal knowledge into a delightful, yet educational, primer on the history of firebombing. Along the way, the reader gets a first-hand look at the supreme highs of doing a job well, savings homes and lives from a raging wildfire, while tempered by the awful lows of losing good friends.

Linc’s contributions to the aerial firefighting community go far beyond his flight time over a fire. He was a consultant to DeHavilland Aircraft in Toronto Canada in appraising and testing the suitability of the S-2F Tracker as a Fire Bomber. He also wrote Air Attack on Forest Fires which became the definitive manual on aerial fire-fighting techniques by aircraft the world over. Fire Bomber Into Hell also reveals the “secret” of how newly discovered fires are contained and stopped in a matter of minutes.

Fire Bomber Into Hell
not only relates Linc’s story, but is the drama of every pilot who sits in the same dangerous seat. Enter these pages for the full inside story of Fire Bombing and hang on for a great adventure.


Table of Contents



Chapter One: Permanently Flying at the Edges

Chapter Two: The Deadly Winds of the Boundary Layer

Chapter Three: Aircraft Overstress and Fatigue

Chapter Four: Carelessness, Incapacity and Neglect

Chapter Five: My Singular Accident

Chapter Six: A Summer of Chaos

Chapter Seven: The Beginning of Effective Fire Bombing

Chapter Eight: The Learning Curve Continues

Chapter Nine: Missoula Montana and Back to BritishColumbia

Chapter Ten: California and Sis-Q Flying Service

Chapter Eleven: The California Cannonball

Chapter Twelve: The Perfect Fire Bomber

Chapter Thirteen: The First S2-F Conversion to a Fire bomber

Chapter Fourteen: Flying the A-26 for Kenting

Chapter Fifteen: Flying the A-26 for Conair

Chapter Sixteen: The S2-F Tracker – The Duplicitous

Chapter Seventeen: Deciding to fly the DC-6

Chapter Eighteen: Duties of the F/O

Chapter Nineteen: Inevitable Change Becomes Win-Win

Chapter Twenty: The Wonderful DC-6

Chapter Twenty One: Flying in the Great Canadian

Chapter Twenty Two: Confronting the Dragon

Chapter Twenty Three: The Odyssey Ends In Recognition


About the Author

This new book is a MUST READ for anyone interested in fire fighting, forestry, or aviation history!

ISBN 978-1-60910-346-8 - Publisher Booklocker Inc. - Dimensions 6 X 9 inches... 414 pages

Price $18.95 plus $3.00 shipping - order directly from Booklocker

Author autographed copies $22.50 plus $3.00 Media mail shipping to US residents…total  $25.50.  Canadian residents $22.50 plus $7.00 shipping…total $29.50. Order at  include shipping address…payment by Paypal or send your cheque to: 

 Linc W. Alexander
#134  5700 Andrews Road
 Richmond, BC V7E 6N7

Allow 2 to 3 weeks for delivery.

Where you can get Linc's book