The second functional feature was also on the nose of Labradors. Mirrors while useful and from my experience effective, did not last. At the time of purchase, mirrors were not installed on the machines, but rather were fitted after delivery to Labradors only. Photos show that the Labradors were still using the 400 series numbers when the mirrors were applied.
As a teenager, I had the good fortune to have a father who worked on a SAR squadron equipped with Labradors and for a time Voyageurs as they integrated into the SAR fleet. One afternoon I remember seeing a Labrador lifting off from in front of the SAR hangar, but instead of nosing down and flying away, the helicopter lifted off and backed over the hangar… I was amazed. It was not until four or five years later when I was posted to that very unit as a Rescue Specialist that I found out who the pilot was and how he accomplished such a feat. It was of course his ability to fly the Labrador combined with his dexterous use of the mirrors. By the time, I joined the squadron, such feats had been prohibited, but I did recognize the usefulness of the mirrors.
When landing in remote areas in rough terrain, often in confined spaces, SAR crews would, as a team, monitor the distance from the rotor tips to the closest trees and below the fuselage for objects that could damage the aircraft. As the helicopter descended, the left and right spotters would invariably lose sight of objects directly under the fuselage especially those towards the ramp, which of course met the ground first. This is where the mirrors proved their worth…pilots, using the mirrors, could see objects that the spotters could not and could maneuver the helicopter to avoid damage to the airframe or wheels. Unfortunately, this method was not foolproof and on the odd occasion, damage was sustained despite the mirrors.
Note the patch on the underside of this Labrador. Although the picture above is of poor quality, it appears that this aircraft has mirrors. Photo DND
Most aircraft eventually had the mirrors removed, however…304 and 305 retained, at least for a period, their mirrors even after they had been upgraded through SARCUP. Eventually, their mirrors too were also removed.!
It is unclear how long the mirrors remained on 304 and 305, the last two Labradors with mirrors. Photo DND
NNote the mirrors on this early Labrador are blue and that the mirror braces lack the barber pole striping.
At one point, at least one Labrador had red mirrors with all red braces...no barber pole striping. I will add a picture later if I can again find it.