Charles (Charlie) FISHER

Passed Away in 2011

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Décès en 2011

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A Canadian Radio Pioneer. Worked in the Arctic as a Radio Operator at range stations. Was Supervisor of Measurements and Standards in the Central Region.


Un pionnier de la radio canadienne. A travaillé dans l'Arctique en tant qu'opérateur radio dans des stations de ''range''. Était superviseur des mesures et des normes dans la région centrale.


Charlie Fisher, supervisor of measurements and standards in the Central region, retired from the Department in December 1974.


Chas began his career after obtaining a Second class radio operator's ticket from Sprott-Shaw Radio School in Vancouver . He had planned a career at sea but landed in Vancouver at the VAI coast station.         In 1942, a northwest staging route was opening up between Edmonton and Snag, Yukon Territory. A string of radio range stations was being built from Edmonton along the Alaska highway and Charlie went to work for the Department of Transport on November 6, as a aeradio station operator at Fort St. John. British Columbia for two years.


From there followed three years in Calgary and six years in Yellowknife. He spent three years in Saskatoon, working as an instrument landing system technician.


In 1956, he was the successful candidate for a travelling technician job with the Winnipeg Regional Heaquarters, spending a couple of years installing and maintaining navigational aids and equipment throughout the Central Region.


He joined radio regulations in 1958 and spent most of his time in the Central Regional office in Winnipeg except for a four years stint in charge of the Brandon Field office.


Chas retired in 1974 and has been on extended holidays for as much time as he was in radio. Needless to say the Superannuation crew does not send him Xmas cards any more.


At 93, Chas remember his years on a range station.


Yes indeed, I was an aeradio station operator from 1943 to 1956 and became very familiar with the installation, operation and maintenance of radio range stations. They provided air routes and navigational aids for pilots who only needed inexpensive radio receivers to fly the courses or home-in on their destination. The range stations were located about 150 miles apart.  I do not recall that there was a range station at Castlegar. Going west, there was one at Cowley in western Alberta - followed by one at Cranbrook B.C., then another at Carmi B.C. which is not too far from Castlegar. The one at Carmi was a bit of an oddity because during the war years it had to be guarded by guards or commissionaires . There was a feeling at HQ that it could be the subject of sabotage by Doukaboors who lived in the area. The radio range stations started to get phased out around 1956 to be replaced by VOR's and NDB's. However, they did play an important part in the development of cross-country air travel in Canada under instrument flight rules. Although there were ceiling and visibility limits at all airports, the pilot could use the radio range station to make a procedure let-down and line himself up with the runway on the let-down leg. 

( on the technical side )

Bear in mind that I am depending on my memory and looking back 60 - 70 years. Transmitters operated in the range 250 - 350 Khz. Power - around 300 watts. The earlier transmitters were modulated by a tuning-fork oscillator vibrating at 1020 c.p.s. Later, the modulation was accomplished by a 1020 c.p.s. audio oscillator. The keyed signal was fed into a Goniometer. The secret of producing the courses was a goniometer adjusted to feed four 149 ft. towers simultaneously .  Wartime pilots often referred to the course as ' the beam ' - but it was not really a beam at all - a matter of listening to two signals blending together.


This effect was produced somewhat ingeniously by a device called the Boehme keyer. The keyer operated off a cam which transmitted DAH - DIT- DIT -DAH continuously First was the dash of the N followed by the dot of the A, then the dot of the N and the dash of the A. The result was a field pattern in which there were two quadrants where a distinct A could be heard and two with a distinct N. At a point where the pilot was receiving an equal amount of each signal, an almost steady 1020 c.p.s. tone would be heard. This was the ON COURSE signal. However the '' On course '' signal was 3 degrees wide - and 100 or more miles from the station, it could be quite wide. So pilots flew the course slightly to the left or right of On course where he would be receiving a twilight A or twilight N. A little further and he would be receiving what was known a Predominant A or N. Then - away off course- is the Distinct A or N.


There was a cone of silence directly over the station . i.e. no signal would be heard. To compensate for this and to let the pilot know that he was passing over the station , a 75 MHz signal was transmitted from an on-site Cone of Silence (C.S.M) Marker which transmitted a cone-shaped signal to fill the silent spot above the station. This turned on a signal light and a tone in the cockpit - if I remember correctly.  The Canada Air Pilot contained the instructions for making procedure turns and adjusting the rate of decent along the let-down leg after passing through the C.S.M. The let-down leg was usually lined up with the main runway which should soon come into sight if the ceiling was high enough to permit a landing.

The aeradio station operator on duty would broadcast the weather at his own station as well as the weather of the adjacent stations - every half-hour. On the early stations, this was a problem for pilots flying on course , and more so - for those making a range let-down. In the broadcast mode all the towers became omni-directional - no courses. If a pilot was making a range let-down, he could demand Continuous Range and the aeradio station operator could not broadcast until the aircraft had landed or the pilot had cancelled his request for continuous range.


The Department solved this problem by building a fifth tower in the centre of the site and installing a second transmitter which was used for voice communication only. The frequency was off-set 1020 c.p.s. from the Range frequency and the audio oscillators were removed from the Range transmitters.. (They ended up as code oscillators in the Radio Regs Field Office examination rooms.)  The introduction of the fifth tower resulted in the modification of the aircraft range receivers. The pilot could now have a choice of monitoring Range and Broadcast, Range only or Broadcast only. A later modification was the introduction of an attention signal which would alert the pilot that a Notam, weather - or any other announcement was about to be made.

I was one of the first staff members to open up a Radio Range station at Yellowknife N.W.T and was stationed there from 1947 to 1953. The Range at Yellowknife was rather unique since it was so isolated and did not form part of an airline route - although CPA used the south leg to approach from Edmonton. Bush pilots used it mostly as an NDB. When we first opened up - the operators were also weather observers until a Met staff finally showed up. The population at ZF (Yellowknife) was less than 3000. Now it is a small metropolis.


73, Chas.

9 Nov 2008



Poem by Chas Fisher received from Laval Desbiens on 20 September 2010


Of when Sparks and tech's went from Radio Inspectors to Spectrum Managers !

by Chas Fisher

From the tables at the Windsor

From the heights  where Desmond dwelt

To the far-off reaches of Swan River and the Pas

Came the Radio Inspectors with their mallets raised on  high

And a Channel Six  Yagi atop the car.


They cruised the noisy Hydro lines

Where   fringe signals were too weak

A friendly Hydro man would climb the poles

 He's give the arcing lag bolts a noisy bang and tweak

Then -  all ok till the next line patrol


Lac du Bonnet was a nightmare of snowy screens and ghosts

So were Pinot and Leader - I remember them the most

But science and technology have saved the scene today

Folks on the fringe are smiling

Satellites and Cable saved the day.


So, did the R.I.  like the dinosaur, became a legend of the ages ?

Ah no, he studied Brownie points

Which determine Federal wages

Managers get better pay when the powers that be select 'em

So now, he is a Manager and manages the Spectrum. 



Obituary - Avis de décès

Charles (Charlie) Fisher

1912 - 2011


Passing of a radio pioneer


Charles Denmark Charlie Fisher died May 26, 2011 peacefully, with his daughters by his side. He was in his 99th year and maintained his independence and dignity until his final day.


Charlie and his wife of 63 years, Agnes retired to Abbotsford from Winnipeg in 1976. They were avid golfers and gardeners. For years he enjoyed the camaraderie of the Amateur Radio Club.


Charlie lived an interesting life with a range of interests, careers and experiences that most people just read about.


He is predeceased by his wife Agnes in 2006 and son James in 1958. He is survived by his daughters Joan and Susan and grandchildren Brent, Brian and Krista (Lorne.) Charlie had a quick wit and will be missed by family and friends. By request, no service will be held.


Info from




Hi Alf,

I am Charlie Fisher's daughter from Williams Lake.  In the early morning of Thur. May 26, he had a heart attack. An ambulance took him to hospital where he died peacefully 12 hours later.  Susan and I were with him. The night before he had a few drinks with us as we enjoyed the hockey game.  He was active until the end and always maintained his independence. Pretty good considering he was in his 99th year! We thought that you would like to know.

Joan and Susan



Please distribute to anyone that knew Charlie Fisher.
A part of our history as Radio Operators and Radio Inspectors has passed.
Address for condolences to be sent later.
A.S. Northam



From: Michael Power
Subject: Fw: Silent Key Charles Denmark Fisher - VE7YD

Another one of our colleagues passes on.



Links   -   Liens


Travels with Charlie

32 ans de fidélité


Northern Vignettes... # 1 (Prince Philip next door)