TERPENING, Rex




Author Tags: Transportation

DATE OF BIRTH: July 23, 1913

PLACE OF BIRTH: Wainwright/AB/Canada

ARRIVAL IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: 1950

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Commercial aviation—1932 to retirement—1978

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bent Props & Blow Pots (Harbour Publishing, 2003)
Republished as trade paperback/300 pages/available Sept./6/06

Inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997, Rex Terpening, born in 1913, was one of the last of a breed of air engineers who flew with the original arctic bush pilots in the early 1930s. He later worked for airlines in Edmonton, Regina and Whitehorse before being transferred to CPAir's headquarters in Vancouver in 1952. He became responsible for maintenance of CP's planes both domestically and internationally until he retired in 1978. "Reviewing my 45-odd years in aviation," he says, "I would say that the '30s placed the greatest responsibilities on all of us as individuals." In his 90s, Terpening wrote Bent Props and Blow Pots: A Pioneer Remembers Northern Bush Flying (Harbour 2003) to recall mishaps and heroics that stretched from Fort McMurray to the Arctic Ocean. He kept a meticulous journal from which his memoirs were gleaned.

[BCBW 2003] "Transportation"

Aerophilatelist Editor's Award
Press Release (2008)



Rex Terpening, author of Bent Props and Blow Pots (Harbour $24.95), has been honoured with The 10th Annual Canadian Aerophilatelist Editor’s Award given to an individual who has made a substantial contribution to the aviation community. Award ceremonies will take place at this year’s CAS Annual General Meeting presented by The Canadian Aerophilatelist.

Crash landings, perilous rescue missions, planes wandering lost over unmapped muskeg—these were all part of the job in the early 1930s, when Rex Terpening started out in arctic aviation. As an air engineer for Canadian Airways in the Northwest Territories, Terpening took the right-hand seat in the cockpit and flew “on operations” daily, on a beat that stretched from Fort McMurray to the Arctic Ocean.

Bent Props and Blow Pots is a collection of Terpening’s remarkable stories of early bush-flying adventures, from the daily tasks of warming the oil and engine on winter mornings, refuelling, and inevitably mending both engine and aircraft when things went wrong, to the dogged searches for downed flyers lost on the Barrens and the emergency landings in blizzards on nameless pothole lakes. There is humour, too, in tales of a planeload of rambunctious sled dogs and a trip in a tiny Fairchild with a Catholic priest and the wife of an Anglican minister. And there are also vivid evocations of the sheer joy of flying over the Arctic’s raw beauty.

Rex Terpening not only kept a meticulous journal from which these stories are derived, but he also carried his camera everywhere, snapping pictures of downed machines, their step-by-step resurrections, the men who flew them and those who fixed them. Most of those men and machines are gone now, but they live on in Bent Props and Blow Pots.

Rex Terpening is one of the very last of a breed of air engineers who flew with the bush pilots and shared all of the routine hazards they faced. Now in his 90s, Rex is a perceptive observer who writes not only with an insight gained from a lifetime in aviation—much of it at the grassroots level—but also with humour and sensitivity. Rex lives in Surrey, BC.