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Rod Goff


People who have personal knowledge of Gander that goes back to 1940 are getting mighty scarce. Roderick B. Goff, author of Crossroads of the World: Recollections from an Airport Town, came to Gander from St. John's after a successful interview with Dr. Patrick McTaggart-Cowan, O.B.E., chief of the weather office, first at Botwood - during the Flying Boat operation - and then Gander. Therefore, it's not surprising that Rod Goff is the only person remaining who has first-hand knowledge of the first Gander Meteorological office. Mr. Goff's interview for a position with the Gander Weather Office was the beginning of a successful aviation-related career that is unique in that later he became the first licensed aircraft dispatcher in Newfoundland.

Rod Goff

Aviation - People who have personal knowledge of Gander that goes back to 1940 are getting mighty scarce. Roderick B. Goff, author of Crossroads of the World: Recollections from an Airport Town, came to Gander from St. John's after a successful interview with Dr. Patrick McTaggart-Cowan, O.B.E., chief of the weather office, first at Botwood - during the Flying Boat operation - and then Gander. Therefore, it's not surprising that Rod Goff is the only person remaining who has first-hand knowledge of the first Gander Meteorological office.

Mr. Goff's interview for a position with the Gander Weather Office was the beginning of a successful aviation-related career that is unique in that later he became the first licensed aircraft dispatcher in Newfoundland.

Dr. McTaggart-Cowan, a former Rhodes Scholar whom in the postwar period became president of Simon Fraser University and chairman of the Science Council of Canada, was sent to Botwood first, and Gander later, to forecast North Atlantic weather for the budding transatlantic traffic, but later became the revered weather forecaster for the famous Ferry Command.

It had to be a fascinating six years (1940-'46) in the meteorological office for Rod Goff. The ferrying of aircraft across the North Atlantic for the war effort became the main focus at the largest airport in the world, and forecasting the weather was a critical cog in the aviation wheel.

The weather office staff were among the few civilians at the airport during the war. They were initially located in the administration building along with other essential services.

In 1941, prior to Pearl Harbour, the Americans also established their own weather office here operated by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) under Captain Clark Hosmer. The USAAF weather unit was also housed in the administration building until they obtained their own office. Dr. McTaggart-Cowan arranged for them to share the space and the technical instruments of the Canadian meteorological office.

The meteorological staff increased to the point that it became necessary to erect a special meteorological building near the Eastbound Inn to provide rooms for the single members of the staff. An apartment for married employees was also built near Chestnut Street.

A highlight of Mr. Goff's meteorological career was meeting and talking to Dr. Banting at the weather office, prior to Dr. Banting's tragic flight and subsequent death on Feb. 21, 1941.

Mr. Goff remembers well the regular visits to the weather office by the crews of the Royal Canadian Air Force Digby and Liberator bombers in preparation for hunting German submarines and protecting convoys of ships.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) Ferry Command built two large aircraft hangars and the weather office was relocated there. (The two RAF hangars, 21 and 22, are still in use today.)

In April, 1946, Mr. Goff changed careers. He was hired by Pan American Airlines as an assistant dispatcher. In September of that year, Pan Am sent him to the Pan Am school at LaGuardia Airport, NY. The FAA told Pan Am that a reciprocal agreement would have to be in place between Newfoundland and the United States prior to any Newfoundlander writing the examination. (The reciprocal agreement would allow the same privilege to Americans in Newfoundland - should Newfoundland have a course to license dispatchers).

Mr. Goff contacted the Newfoundland Commissioner in New York, a Mr. Tait, and told him the problem. Tait said he'd take care of it - and he did.

In November, 1946, Mr. Goff wrote the exams and received the first FAA Dispatcher's License to be issued to a Newfoundlander. His license, No. 433301, is dated Nov. 9, 1946.

Mr. Goff considers the 15 years between 1946-'61 as the prime time for Gander Airport. That's when BOAC, Pan Am, TWA, AOA, Air France, Air Canada, KLM, Aer Lingus, TAP, Loftlieder SAS, Swiss Air, Aeroflot, Cubana, Aramco and some others operated out of the airport. It was the days when celebrities from all over the world such as Bob Hope, Maureen O'Hara, Ingrid Bergman and Frank Sinatra could be seen at the Gander terminal. Goff remembers John Kennedy (later U.S. president) after a drink, when he put a generous tip in his hat and then passed it around for his friends to do likewise. The bar tender, Leo Maloney, probably got the biggest tip - and thrill - of his life.

After retirement, Mr. Goff decided to enhance his education and went off to college where he eventually obtained three bachelor degrees.

Mr. Goff has an extensive knowledge of Gander's history and has helped this columnist on numerous occasions.

Mr. Goff was 92 on Aug. 16. Best wishes from The Beacon readers and staff.

Happy birthday, Rod.

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