'This is about history': Sask. museum hopes to recover long lost plane from Peter Pond Lake

The Saskatchewan Aviation Museum has its eyes set on the next restoration project, but instead of looking up at the sky, it's looking down underwater.

The museum is hoping to recover a Cessna 180 float plane that crashed into Peter Pond Lake on August 20, 1959.

The plane was flying from Buffalo Narrows to La Loche. Pilot Ray Gran and Conservation Officer Harold Thompson were on board and both died in the accident.

The plane was found last Summer when Ray Gran's daughter and son-in-law used sonar technology to locate it.

For Dorrin Wallace, the president of the board at the Saskatchewan Aviation Museum, the story is personal.

Wallace worked in Buffalo Narrows and started his aviation career not long after the accident. He worked beside Ray Gran's brother, Morris for about 25 years.

"I knew a lot about that," Wallace said. "I'm like a lot of people, I didn't think that there ever would be a resolution to this story but there has been. [It's] put a lot of people to rest."

Submitted by Donald Kapusta

The Saskatchewan Aviation Museum is interested in the plane because of the role aviation played in Saskatchewan during that era.

Currently, the museum doesn't have any planes from the Saskatchewan Government Airways at that time because the company was sold around the same time period.

"Since then, their airplanes have been disbanded all over the world and, of course, some of them are no longer in existence," Wallace said.

Submitted photos

"Airplanes are still a big part of the north. But back in those days, airplanes, they were the mode of transportation," Wallace said.

Wallace and other members of the museum are heading out to Buffalo Narrows this week. Members of the families of the lost pilots will be in attendance. Wallace said they got permission from the families before pursuing the dive.

"We have a crew of somewhere between 10 and 15 people going up between Wednesday and Thursday," Wallace said. "I don't anticipate this job to take any more than three or four days."

Wallace is hoping to have the plane on the ice by the weekend, he said. But recovering the plane is the second item on the list.

"The first part of the job is to recover the artifacts that belong to the gentlemen that were in the airplane when it went down." Wallace said they'll be waiting until the families are satisfied before lifting the plane.

We want to rebuild it and have it looking just like the day before the accident. - Dorrin Wallace, President of the Board of the Saskatchewan Aviation Museum

Wallace said a number of experts will also be on the scene to help recover the plane.

"This is a very easy lift. I mean, this is just a little airplane. It only weighs 1,200 or 1,400 pounds and it is in 57 ft of water, but you attach some air bags to it, it comes up pretty easily," he said.

The aviation museum is also fundraising, not only to recover the plane, but also for the costs to rebuild it. They're hoping to raise $150,000 which was an estimate to restore the plane to its original state.

"We want to rebuild it and have it looking just like the day before the accident," Wallace said. "This is about history."

Most of his time in aviation was in Northern Saskatchewan, Wallace said. And with the museum having only opened in 2018, this was the perfect opportunity.

"One of the things that has bothered me for many, many years is the fact that Saskatchewan did not have an aviation museum," he said.

"I got involved with the museum simply so that I could be part of us doing exactly that. Recording this history," he said "And [to] be able to tell Saskatchewan's aviation story."