Whither Indigo? In his latest (November 25) editorial on his blog “SHuSH”, Canadian literary guru, Ken Whyte, discusses Indigo and some Canadian bookselling machinations. Have a look … we need to know what’s happening to Canada’s bookselling industry.
Welcome to the 174th edition of SHuSH, the official newsletter of The Sutherland House Inc. If you’re new here, hit the button:Subscribe
A SHuSH update: at the end of May (SHuSH 150) we mentioned that after three years of operation, SHuSH had 2,132 subscribers and was averaging 4,000 readers a week. We anticipated continued steady growth that would bring us to 2,800 subscribers by SHuSH 200 next June. We’re happy to report that we hit 3,000 subscribers this week, well ahead of schedule. We are now averaging 5,000 readers a week.
We need to talk about Indigo. As you know, it’s Canada’s biggest bookstore chain, with 88 superstores and 85 small-format stores. It sells well over half the books that are bought in stores in Canada, with Walmart, Costco, and independent bookstores accounting for most of the rest.
One problem with Indigo is that it’s failing. The other problem is that it’s abandoning bookselling. Yes, that sounds like a Woody Allen joke, but it’s not funny from a publishing perspective. We depend on Indigo.
The company’s finances have been ugly for some time. It lost $37 million in 2019, $185 million in 2020, and $57 million in 2021. Things looked somewhat better in 2022 with a $3 million profit, but the first two quarters of 2023 are now in the books (it has a March 28 year end) and Indigo has already dropped $41.3 million.
That the company lost money in its first two quarters isn’t the end of the world. Indigo is a third-quarter business. All the magic happens over the holidays. The trouble is that the $41.3-million loss is about $10 million more than the 2022 loss over the same period. That’s the wrong direction; things were supposed to improve with COVID’s foot lifted from the neck of the retail sector. The company’s share price, which seemed ready to recover in June, has since dropped 30 percent, down to $2 (from a high of about $20). Without an absolute blockbuster of a holiday season, Indigo is likely to be back in the red on the year.
While all this is going on, Indigo has been backing out of the book business. If you follow the firm’s marketing, it’s all about “intentional” and “purposeful” living (its press releases sound like Gwyneth Paltrow circa 2008). Indigo is intentionally and purposefully attempting to re-establish itself as a general merchandise supplier to youngish women.
This is not news. As far back as its 2013 annual report, Indigo said it was in “the early stages of a journey that is taking us from our position as Canada’s leading bookseller to our vision of becoming the world’s first cultural department store.” It saw toys, paper, home decor, fashion accessories, and gift sales as the future of the business.
As far as I can tell, 2014 was the first year Indigo reported its book and general merchandise sales separately. Books, once practically the whole of its business, were by then down to 67.4 percent of total sales, with general merchandise accounting for 28 percent. By last June, books were down to 53.6 percent and general merchandise was 41.5 percent.
Indigo has made roughly half of its retail space devoted to books go poof and the transformation is far from finished. At its showcase New Jersey location, the mix is 40 percent books and 60 percent general merchandise, and it’s specializing in a particular kind of book. “We found a niche,” said an Indigo executive. “We became the preferred destination for New Yorkers for coffee table books. In fact, every decorator in New York comes to that store to buy these big format coffee table books for their clients’ homes. So we go from books about décor to books as décor… That store has had an incredible year.”
In July, Indigo released this publicity photo for a new flagship store at Ottawa’s Rideau Centre. See any books there? All the company’s flagship stores are being refitted in this direction.
And, over here, a few books, bestsellers only.
That’s pretty much it for literature on the main floor and even in this corner, the book tables share space with general merchandise. I didn’t pull out my tape measure, but I’d guess well under 20 percent of high-traffic space is devoted to reading material. If you want more books, you have to journey up to the dark and forbidding second floor. At least you avoid the crowds.
Two weeks ago, Indigo announced a deal with Adidas to bring sportswear into the stores. Last year, it held a contest where kids-and-baby businesses competed for the right to open their own stores within Indigo stores.
The fastest-growing category of general merchandise at Indigo is its house brands, stuff it makes itself, cutting out the middlemen. Walk around an Indigo and you’ll see products labeled OUI, Nóta, The Littlest, Mini Maison, IndigoScents, Love, and Lore. All house brands; none have anything to do with books. This is a business that owner Heather Reisman learned in the last century, making private-label soft drinks for grocery chains. She’s returning to it now.
Indigo hasn’t come right out and said we’re through with books. It can’t, given that Heather has spent the last twenty-five years building herself up as the queen of reading in Canada. Also, the Indigo brand is still associated with books in most people’s minds and that won’t change overnight no matter how many cheeseboards it stocks. So Heather talks about a gradual, natural transition: “We built a wonderful connection with our customers in the book business. Then, organically, certain products became less relevant and others were opportunities.” To be clear, books are irrelevant; general merchandise is the opportunity. Heather recently appointed as CEO a guy named Peter Ruis who has no experience in books. He comes from fashion retail, most recently the Anthropologie chain, which sells clothing, shoes, accessories, home furnishings, furniture, and beauty products. Anthropologie was hot in 2008, and it seems to be where Indigo wants to go today.
Fair enough. You own a company, you can take it in any direction you want, so long as your shareholders will follow. I don’t blame Heather for having second thoughts about the book business. (I have them every week. It’s a tough business.) But where does that leave readers, writers, agents, publishers, and everyone else who remains committed to books?
You’ll recall that Indigo and Chapters, between them, decimated the independent bookselling sector in Canada in the nineties. They are the principal reason Canada has so few independent bookstores today. You could probably fit the combined stock of all our independents into a handful of Heather’s stores. The federal government let Heather’s Indigo buy Larry Stevenson’s Chapters in 2001, which gave her a ridiculously large share of the market. That shouldn’t have happened.
At the same time, with the help of some lobbying by Heather, the federal government made it clear that the US chains, Borders and Barnes & Noble, weren’t welcome up here. The argument was that bookselling was a crucial part of our cultural sector and needed to be protected from foreign domination by the Canadian government. In that spirit, Indigo also asked the federal government to prevent Amazon from opening warehouses in Canada. That request was denied in 2010, which is about when Indigo began its transition out of books.
One can see how Heather might feel betrayed by the federal government. Instead of protecting bookselling, it swung the door wide open for Amazon. You said I wouldn’t have to compete! All the same, one can also see how Canadian readers and the Canadian literary sector might feel betrayed by Heather and Indigo. They bought control of the Canadian bookselling market; now they’re washing their hands of it. I put more onus on the feds—you intervene in a market, you own it—but assigning blame is a useless exercise when none of the parties will accept it.
We’re left with a bookselling sector dominated in its bricks-and-mortar dimension by one firm spewing red ink and running for the exit, and in its online dimension by an international platform that could care less about anything Canadian and is also deprioritizing books.
Publisher’s Weekly reported last week that Amazon was eliminating roles in its books division, a decision that follows a summers-long effort by the company to reduce the number of books it was keeping in inventory and adds “more fuel to the feeling within publishing that Amazon is losing interest in its book business.”
Where this ends is anyone’s guess. It is interesting that Heather stepped down as CEO at Indigo a couple of months back (she remains executive chairman). This was followed by her husband and bankroll, Gerry Schwartz, retiring as head of Onex this month. Might be a lifestyle choice. Might be a sign that she’s about to unload Indigo. My dream is that she sells, preferably to Elliott Advisors, the same private equity bunch that owns Waterstones in the UK and Barnes & Noble in the US. They seem to have figured out how to make a book chain work. Meanwhile, as I said at the outset, the publishing sector needs Indigo. I wish the company a robust and highly profitable holiday season, and I hope books outperform for them.
A Sad Day, Warbirds Lost
Update forDecember 1, 2022-11-30 … Rytis Beresnevicius Reports in AeroTime News: No Altitude Deconflictions Brief Before Mid-Air Collision in Dallas
The National Safety Transportation Board released its preliminary findings from the Wings Over Dallas historic air show, summarizing the events that happened prior to the mid-air collision.
The accident, which took place on November 12, 2022, resulted in the death of six people onboard the two aircraft, namely a Boeing B-17 and a Bell P-63. The two aircraft collided in the air when the P-63 was banking to the left, hitting the left-side aft wing section of the B-17, sending the pair of planes into the ground.
“Both airplanes were operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 in the Wings Over Dallas Airshow,” the NTSB’s report noted. Additionally, the government agency indicated that the aircraft were part of two different airship formations, as the Bell P-63 fighter and Boeing B-17 bomber were flying in three and five-ship formations, respectively. Following an analysis of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and radio transmission data, the NTSB indicated that the air boss at Wings Over Dallas was directing the two formations to fly southwest of the runway at Dallas Executive Airport (RBD). Subsequently, they were ordered to return to the flight display area.
“He directed the fighter formation to transition to a trail formation, fly in front of the bomber formation, and proceed near the 500 ft show line. The bombers were directed to fly down the 1,000 ft show line,” continued the report. Both show lines kept a distance of 500 and 1,000 feet from the viewing line … However, the NTSB’s report stated that there was no altitude deconfliction brief neither in the air nor on the ground: “There were no altitude deconflictions briefed before the flight or while the airplanes were in the air. When the fighter formation approached the flying display area, the P-63F was in a left bank and it collided with the left side of the B-17G, just aft of the wing section,” the preliminary accident report continued. Following the mid-air collision, both aircraft broke up while in the air and hit the terrain on the airport’s property just south of the approach area of one of the field’s runways. The B-17 was on fire while still in the air and exploded as it impacted the ground.
“Both airplanes were equipped with ADS-B. An Avidyne IFD540 unit from the B-17G and a Garmin GPSMAP 496 unit from the P-63F were recovered and submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorders Laboratory,” the report stated. However, the P-63F’s mini-multi-function display (MFD) did not record any data for the flight that resulted in the accident. “The wreckage of both airplanes was retained for further examination,” the report concluded. The weather conditions, per the information provided by the NTSB, provided 10 miles (16 kilometers) of visibility, while the wind speed was 14 knots, with gusts up to 18 knots at 350°.
Remembrance Day 2022 was well celebrated from coast to coast in Canada. This year I attended the service at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, the final resting place of many Canadian aviators. The service centred on the mausoleum where Canada’s great W/C William G. “Will” Barker, VC, DSO, MC and 2 Bars, is entombed. A wide spectrum of Canadians attended to honour Canada’s veterans from wars down through the generations, including the Commander of the RCAF, LGen Eric Kenny, and other dignitaries, to a Guard of Honour from 16 Wing Borden, and Air Cadets from 330 and 631 squadrons. On the dot at 1100 hours a C-130 Hercules from RCAF Trenton made a perfect, low pass over the event. Here are a few photos from this important day honouring Canada’s military heritage:
It’s been so long since we’ve had the time to post anything new. Finally, here’s a bit of an update. First of all, I hope you will have a close look at our new Fall/Winter 2022-23 newsletter & booklist. It’s packed with outstanding reading for all those having a serious interest in our great aviation heritage. I really appreciate that most of you are long-term CANAV fans, but in order to survive, any such small aviation publisher needs more of its fans to turn into actual supporters (i.e., fans who buy a book once in a while). CANAV needs you both, but can’t survive without a few more more fans becoming supporters. Please give it a thought, if it won’t break the bank.
CANAV introduces its latest booklist
Canada’s premier aviation book publisher presents its Fall/Winter 2022/23 list. Have a close look and you’ll find many important titles old and new including some exceptional bargain books. Please get in touch with any questions about ordering, etc. Cheers … Larry Milberry, Publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of my 2022 efforts have been in basic research and writing for CANAV’s next book, its grand history of the RCAF 1924. After four years of this so far, the groundwork is done covering from the background to 1924 and into the 1980s. The next year mainly will be covering the modern RCAF, including visiting as many bases as possible. I started this lately with visits to Borden and Winnipeg to cover such squadrons as 400, 402 and 435, and such other important organizations such as CFSATE at Borden and Barker College at 17 Wing Winnipeg. In November I’ll cover 8 Wing Trenton and Petawawa. This fieldwork lets me see the RCAF in action, before finishing the final chapters. This is the recipe for a book that will be worth having on your shelves.
Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada
While visiting 17 Wing, I squeezed in a sidetrip to Winnipeg’s wonderful new aviation museum, the former Western Canada Aviation Museum. There, Gord Crossley (17 Wing Heritage Officer) and Bob Arnold (long-time museum member, restorer, scrounger, etc.) showed me all the super work that’s been done to bring the museum from its roots in the 1970s, through its decades jammed into an old TCA hangar, to today’s magnificent museum. Here are a few of my quickie photos to give you an idea of why you need to make an aviation history pilgrimage to Winnipeg. At the end, I include a few images from Winnipeg’s other important aviation history collection at 17 Wing Winnipeg across the field from the RAMWC.
Norseman Update … Antti Hyvarinen from Finland recently visited the Dutch aviation museum where ex-Canadian Norseman CF-GLI is being restored. Here are his photos. Thanks, Antti! See the attached special offer for our two beautiful Norseman books. For outside Canada drop a note ref. shipping costs to email@example.com
Norseman lists … Northern pilot, Rodney Kozar, keeps close track of Norseman “facts and figures”. Here are his two basic lists for 2022. Please contact Rodney if you have any updates.
RCAF 100th Anniversary Project +The Great George Fuller Passes + Nostalgia Time & Commentary + A Few Old Milberry Pix + Rants + Leslie Corness Classic + Old Malton Airport Scene + De Havilland Open House: End of an Era + Cemetery Studies + Blogs of Years Gone By + “Ghost Canso” Update + Aviation Adverts from the Early 1950s + Order your Autographed Copy of Air Transport in Canada+ Obituary … Last Survivor of Japanese Prison Camps in Taiwan
Just so you have your copy and haven’t missed anything, here’s our current main booklist:
Greetings from CANAV Books World HQ, where we’ve been publishing since 1981. Who knows how long we’ll be keeping this up, but certainly long enough to publish the grandest ever single volume history of the RCAF. We did this in 1984 with the RCAF’s 60th anniversary title, Sixty Years. This beauty remains the best such book to date. Amazingly, after five printings and 20,000+ copies Sixty Years is still in print for anyone needing a copy.
2024 will bring you CANAV’s RCAF 100th book, an even more fantastic history. Naturally, there will be a host of such books, but none will come close to CANAV’s in depth and breadth of written history, combined with superb photo coverage, design, paper quality and all else that goes into a top book. CANAV fans know what we’re talking about here and can’t wait to place their orders.
Highly recommended from the CANAV Blog Archive … Enter Mission to Krasnoyarsk in the search box for some very special CanForces air transport coverage.
RCAF T-33 Update
The wonderful T-33 still gets into the news, have a look:
Today (July 4, 2022), George A. Fuller, one of Canada’s top aviation historians, died peacefully at home in Montreal. George was CAHS Member No.56. I first met him in the early 1960s, while on a trip to the Quebec Winter Carnival with fellow aviation fans Nick Wolochatiuk and Paul Regan. We visited George at his cozy apartment at 50 Hudson Ave and were warmly welcomed. Later, when he was in the Anaconda Brass office in New Toronto, we’d get together, and also would see each other at local CAHS meetings and aviation events. Ever since those ancient days, we kept on touch. If for no other reason, George would call to make sure the Milberry kids were behaving. He had met them at CANAV book launches when they were little and had been impressed.
George especially was interested in the earliest days of flight in Canada — balloons and dirigibles from the 19th Century, then the great Montreal Air Meets of 1910-11. Everything else about early Quebec aviation especially fascinated him. Veteran CAHS member, Sheldon Benner, adds a few memories: “The last time I talked to George was 9 months ago when he called to say that Paddy Gardiner (#125) had passed away. George was 94 and would have celebrated his 95th birthday in September. As you know he was a regular contributor to their Chapter’s newsletter and submitted 19 articles for the CAHS Journal in the period of 1963 to 2008. He was a co-author of 125 Years of Canadian Aeronautics – A Chronology 1840-1965 published in 1983 with John Griffin (#160) and Ken Molson (#361) by the CAHS National. He also contributed to the Special Edition of the CAHS Journal in 2009 to honour the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada.”
Calgary Mosquito Aircraft Society … As usual, things are hopping at this go-getting museum. Check in here to see what’s happening, including restoration of one of the famed Spartan Air Services Mosquitos: https://calgarymosquitosociety.com/feature83/feature83.htm And … check out the museum home page for membership info.
Have you seen this hilarious VW advert? Reklama kone-Wolksvagen.mp4
Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story
This year marks the 75th Anniversary of CAE Inc.of Montreal. This in mind, if you’ve seen our fantastic book Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story, you’ll be interested in this fastidiously-detailed aerospace history. Google CAEvideogallery for an update about the company, and see CAE’s new logo.
Here’s a special deal for your signed copy of the CAE book (392 pages, large format, 100s of photos). Usually $65.00 + shipping + tax, mention this offer and get a copy all-in for: (Canada) $55.00, (USA) $60.00, International $95.00. Pay straight to firstname.lastname@example.org and your book will be in the mail within hours. Certainly, for Canadian aviation bibliophiles, this is one of the most thoroughly written and beautifully produced books about our aviation industry.
You’ll read about CAE’s early struggles, its intimate connection with the CF-100, Argus and CF-104, then its battle to rise to the top in commercial flight simulation (that’s where it sits today). Besides all the expected technology history (which is fascinating for any serious aviation reader), you’ll marvel at CAE’s involvement in the DEW Line, aircraft overhaul (T-33, CF-104, F-84F, C-119, Viscount, etc.), trying its hand building bush planes, its automotive and forestry years, its key role with the Space Shuttle, the amazing systems it developed for warships and commercial vessels, etc. Take it from the author, if you’re a fan of CANAV Books, once you get your hands on this one, you’ll agree with me that it’s probably the best and most beautiful all ’round Canadian aviation book ever published. CAE’s longest serving CEO, the late Doug Reekie, once summed up this incredible book, writing to me: “You deserve a great deal of credit for undertaking this task and for doing it so well. There should be a medal for you for perseverance.” If it’s solid Canadian aviation history that you enjoy, get in on this deal. You’ll be a happy camper with your signed copy of The CAE Story! If you already have your copy, think about the CAE Story as a very special gift for any aviation pal, customer, supplier, etc. Cheers … Larry
Nostalgia Time & Commentary
In Toronto back around 1960 we teenage spotters watched eagerly for any chance for a special new photo. My boyhood mentor back then was Merlin J. “Mo” Reddy. Mo had been a radar tech with 410 Squadron in the UK during the war, and when we met he was a technical writer working on DND manuals for a company in Willowdale, Ontario called Technical Economists. Mo and I spent many a day sleuthing around Toronto’s Malton and Downsview airports hoping to catch something new. Here are three typical Mo Reddy RCAF pix, all taken “back in the day” on Ektachrome 120 and shot with Mo’s “2¼” Yashica twin lens.
First, here’s Mo’s nice, slightly-rear view of RCAF Dakota KG587, which we spotted at Malton on September 11, 1959. These were the days when RCAF units sometimes had showy colour schemes, something that always really got us going. In the background is the club house of the Toronto Flying Club, and you can tell that this is a late evening shot. KG587 had begun in May 1944 with the RAF. It served RAF 48 squadron and RCAF 435 and 436 squadrons before war’s end, so likely served in India/Burma. Postwar it had several assignments until joining 102 (Composite) Unit at Trenton in 1959. Somewhere along the line this spiffy paint job was approved. By 1968 KG587 was in Winnipeg with 440 Squadron, then in 1970 became CAF 12931. Its air force days seem to have ended with a tour at the CAF Airborne Sensing Unit at Uplands, then it began a long civil career, including with Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife as C-GRTM. In 1985 it became N115SA in North Carolina and presently (nearly 80 years since built) is in the collection of the Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum in Portland, Oregon.
Sometimes we’d be waiting and pacing around beside Wilson Avenue at the south end of Downsview’s main runway. This was a favourite spot to catch RCAF and de Havilland planes landing. One of our favourite types, of course, was the RCAF’s C-119 Flying Boxcar. These often were in the circuit, for Boxcar operator 436 Squadron was based here. On May 2, 1959 Mo and I were hanging out when 22123 rumbled in to land. I love the looks of Mo’s shot. Really a great angle in the late evening light. Of course, no such early photos ever were perfect. Focusing manually while panning was a fine art at which we often fell short. Then, there’s Ektachrome’s graininess and other issues that we faced doing “real” photography. But … for the day, this qualified as quite a decent airplane photo. This evening from Wilson Ave. we also spotted C-119 22129, RCN Avengers 53697, 53804 and 86180, and DHC-4 Caribou No.1 CF-KTK-X.
Mo’s nice side view of RCAF Expeditor 1534 was made at Dorval on Christmas Day 1959. He always could get on the ramp at Dorval, where his brother, Frank, was a senior Department of Transport man. Expeditor 1534 had joined the RCAF in March 1952, then served steadily into 1968, when it was sold into the USA and converted by Hamilton Aircraft of Tucson, mods including a cargo door. As N6686, then N38CB, it toiled in the freight business for many years. Since leaving the RCAF it spent most of its time hard at work in the air freight business, but in the last 25 or so years has been in private hands and has been converted back to Beech 18 executive standards. First to fly N38CB privately was Doug Sellix in the late 1990s. Today it’s based in Athens, Georgia, where it’s being refurbished yet again, this time by airline pilot John Cartwright. Airframe hours to date for 1534/N38CB total a very impressive 16,280. You can see an impressive gallery of Mo Reddy’s wide-ranging photos in Vol.2 of Air Transport in Canada.
Next … here’s one of the most glorious views of any TCA DC-3. It’s from an original 4×5 Kodachrome transparency made by Canadair c.1946. CF-TEC had been RAF KG485. It joined the TCA fleet in May 1946, served into 1958, then became CF-DTB with Canada’s Department of Transport. After more than 35 years with the DOT, it moved on in 1998 to Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife. About 2016 “DTB” left Buffalo to become N856KB with Basler Turbo Conversions of Oshkosh. As recently as August 2020 it’s been photographed there out in the weather and still in its (fading) red-and-white DOT colours.
A Few Old Milberry Pix + Museum Rant
Here are some ancient Kodachrome 35s that I came across lately. These are always nice to look back upon. First is a shot I took of the sole Canadair C-5, the RCAF’s premier VIP transport in the 1950s. Many a head-of-state flew aboard the C-5. What a beautiful propliner! See the C-5 story in our book, The Canadair North Star.
What a shame that such a beautiful plane had to go into storage and not to a museum. Here it is as I saw it collecting dust at Mountain View (near Trenton) on June 11, 1966, after its retirement. From here it was sold for peanuts, then went for scrap in California. Letting such treasures end so badly should be considered an assault on Canadian heritage, yet our history and heritage bureaucrats in Ottawa have committed many such nefarious acts. Look how our prototype CF-100 went for scrap after being turned down by our aviation museum in Ottawa? Meanwhile, do you think the Americans scrapped their presidential DC-4, etc? Not a chance, for they know the cultural importance of “Air Force One”.
You likely heard lately that the same place (Canada Aviation and Space Museum) recently (as reported widely) had turned down an RCAF De Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo. About this, the “Ottawa Citizen” of June 6 reported: “The lack of interest from Ottawa’s national aviation museum in acquiring the Royal Canadian Air Force’s last available Buffalo aircraft has prompted a U.S. organization to make a bid for the plane.” However, the CASM via its overseeing body, “Ingenium”, reports (July 4) that, contrary to “The Citizen” (which has apologized for some incorrect reporting) it has “voted to acquire the Buffalo and we are working closely with DND to prepare for its arrival next summer.” What a relief to all who support Canada’s aviation heritage.
Here’s another historic Canadian transport plane, the first of two CanForces Dash 7s. I shot 132001 (Dash 7 No.8 of 113) at Lahr, West Germany on March 11, 1987, when it was serving 412 Squadron’s 1 Canadian Air Group Lahr detachment. Taken on strength in August 1979, 132001 served to April 1987, then became C-GJSZ back at DHC. “JSZ” then was sold to Arkia in Israel, where it flew as 4X-AHI. Reportedly, “AHI” has gone for scrap. The Dash 7 story is well outlined in Fred Hotson’s book, De Havilland in Canada.
An airplane hobbyist couldn’t photograph a lovelier subject than the T-33, one of the most aesthetically appealing airplane designs. Beautiful just sitting there, let alone in flight. We always revelled in photographing any T-bird. In my own progression as an aviation “buff”, I eventually enjoyed a few great backseat T-bird flights, including with 414 Squadron from North Bay on June 26, 1991. At this time 414 has painted T- bird 133174 in a special 414 “Black Knight” Squadron colour scheme. Somehow, I got permission to do an air-to-air photo shoot of “174”. Capt Lou Glussich took me up in 133543 for an hour to get the job done. Today “174” belongs to the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum at Halifax International Airport.
Leslie Corness Classic
If you’ve been following our booklist and blog, you’re familiar with the spectacular photography of the late Leslie Corness of Edmonton. No one could capture the feel of an aviation scene better than Les. Lately, I came across this gem, one that I used in The Leslie Corness Propliner Collection. Can you imagine being on the ramp this day in the early 1950s at Edmonton Industrial Airport when it was packed with airshow planes of the postwar era! Les being Les found himself a high vantage point to capture his C-124A Globemaster (51-5176) scene just the way he wanted. This grand propliner ended its days on April 2, 1957. On landing at Cambridge Bay, NWT that day, it touched down short, tearing off its undercarriage. Rumour has it that it’s still at the bottom of Cambridge Bay. See our booklist (above) to order the Corness book at a very nice price.
Old Malton Airport Scene
In going through some of my old Al Martin photos I found yet another fantastic image from long ago. Al passionately photographed at Malton (today’s “YYZ”) in the 1950s-60s, and collected anything else he could about the place. So … I wasn’t surprised when I found a large format b/w aerial view of Malton early in its “Aeroquay” years (Malton’s modern circular terminal opened 1964). However, Terminal 2, which opened in 1972, also is here. T.M. “Tom” McGrath’s invaluable book History of Canadian Airports tells the story of Malton/YYZ in detail, including about all such history. This is a priceless book, so see if you can track down a copy.
Many of us remember Malton in these times. Our favourite vantage point was the roof (parking lot) of the Aeroquay. Whoever took this magnificent photo (the great Les Baxter took most such photos for the DOT, City of Toronto, etc. using a small plane based at Toronto Island Airport, aerial photography was Les’ business) did so just as the aircraft at the Aeroquay included 2 Air Canada DC-8s, 2 Air Canada DC-9s, an Air Canada Viscount, an American Airlines 727, an Allegheny “580” and a United 737. In the distance is a 707 on an overseas charter. Looks a bit like Donaldson. Centre left you can see the airport admin building. The tall white building in the distance is the then new (now demolished) Constellation Hotel at Airport Road and Carlingview. Top center with the treeline in the foreground is the iconic Skyline Hotel. Notice how there’s lots of open space in this view that looks southward towards Toronto. You won’t find much open space there today. This is the sort of aviation history photo that people can stare at for an hour, it’s so packed with detail. Anyway, as far as this YYZ scene goes, there’s next to nothing remaining from it in 2022. Thank goodness that Al Martin filed this gorgeous photo away. His photos also are featured in Air Transport in Canada. Just now you still can get a set of this huge, 1030-page 2-volume title (usually $155++) for $65 all-in. Want a set? Drop me a line email@example.com . For that matter, also get yourself a copy of The Leslie Corness Propliner Collection at $40 all-in (offers for Canada only, USA and overseas drop me a line for a price). You’ll count these as two of the top books in your home library.
On Saturday, June 11, 2022 thousands of retirees and friends gathered at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada at Downsview to close a famous page in Canadian aviation history. Founded in 1928, DHC spent most of its years at Downsview. Starting with the tiny Gipsy Moth, then the whole UK Moth family, DHC made a huge, deserved name for itself. First, it provided training planes to the flying clubs and RCAF, then bush planes to operators everywhere in Canada, anything from Gipsys to the big Dragon and Rapide twins. Come WWII and everything changed, for airplanes were needed quickly and in great numbers for the RCAF, especially for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. First came the D.H.82C Tiger Moth trainer (1384 delivered), then the Anson II (375 assembled from UK stock) and the Mosquito bomber (1033). Post WWII DHC soon recovered from the doldrums created when the war ended and all contracts were cancelled. First, DHC built some new Fox Moths to help small commercial operators get a start (some of these became Canada’s first postwar airplanes for export). The Chipmunk, Beaver and Otter soon were being built at Downsview, then a long list of types that you know so well, everything from the Caribou, Buffalo, Twin Otter, Dash 7 and the whole Dash 8 family to the magnificent Q400. All this history is best enjoyed in Fred Hotson’s magnificent book De Havilland in Canada (copies usually can be found on the web). The company now is leaving Downsview for good. For now it still is building new Twin Otters and upgraded Canadair water bombers in BC and Alberta. Let’s hope that the Q400 soon enjoys a renaissance. For all the basic DHC gen see www.vikingair.com . All the very best to De Havilland of Canada. Here are a few photos (taken by me unless noted) covering DHC’s grand June 11 send-off. The company did a fantastic job of finding examples of most types to fly in for the event (after you’ve had a look, you’ll figure which ones were missing).
Ever since the 1960s I’ve been fascinated by “cemetery studies”. Whatever the subject someone may be following, there’s a wealth of history to learn by pacing the rows of grave markers and reading the inscriptions. Of the many great sources of aviation history, cemeteries may not leap to mind, but they are part of the picture. For serious historians, for example, they are important in confirming dates and correct spellings. On June 5 I visited St. John’s Norway Cemetery in my Toronto neighbourhood. We used to play here as kids back in the 1950s. Here are a few photos from this interesting foray.
Blogs of Years Gone By
Our blog by now includes hundreds of stories and reports, and innumerable photos. You can take in some of these by scrolling back, but it’s a long way back to 2009. These are a few that I recommend … just enter some key word in the search box. Have a look, you’ll not be wasting a minute:
Visiting Lakehead Airport 1961 Great War Flying Museum East Africa Adventure, Summer 1994 Boeing 727 Turns 50 Typhoon and Tempest – Reminiscences Typhoons and CF-100s Old Canadair CRJs Go for Scrap 440 Squadron Gets together The Great Bob Halford Canada’s Enduring DC-3s Some Great Lakes Shipping Photos Visiting the 10th Mountain Division
“Ghost Canso” Update
Aviation Adverts from the Early 1950s
Everyone has enjoyed our earlier blogs covering advertisements from aviation magazines of yesteryear. You can find these by using the blog search box entering such dates as: February 23, 2022; March 9, 2022; April 9, 2022. Today, here are a few more, these from the October 1952 edition of “Canadian Aviation” magazine. There’s a lot of general Canadian history to learn from these (about the industry and products to what was happening in the world) and the art and illustration can be superb. Who can even do such work (by hand) in the 2020?
Veteran POW Dies, Where Is Japan’s Apology?
Ottawa is world famous by now for its propensity to apologize for absolutely any real or perceived “past transgression”. It gets a little ridiculous some days. Japan on the other side has barely apologized for one of its countless horrible atrocities, which far exceeded those of the Nazis. By comparison, we here in Canada have almost nothing for which to apologize, especially in the context of what, for example, comprised actual human development, progress, etc., in centuries gone by. I hope there are realistic books about this subject in the works “as we speak”, for Canadians need a reality check about their past, about whom were/are the truly great Canadians (John A. Macdonald, Egerton Ryerson, Samuel de Champlain, etc). On July 11, the Hamilton Spectator covers this important topic with its feature about a great soldier and what Japan did to him … and millions of others. This is fact and reality. An apology from Japan would be welcomed, but we won’t hold our breath. Canada by comparison? Ottawa … please stop already with the endless vote-pandering apologies:
Obituary: Burlington veteran Adam Houston was last survivor of Japanese prison camps in TaiwanFormer British soldier worked 12-hour days in copper mine, brutally beaten
Adam Houston was a hardworking Canada Post worker and an active member of many Burlington clubs, but he could never forget his time in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War. The former British soldier talked of having nightmares about his experience working in a copper mine in Taiwan, including the time he received a beating from a guard and was left for dead because he was too weak to work. He spent 12-hour days toiling in the cold, dark mines, scrubbing the wall for copper in 1943 and 1944. He and other prisoners dug the copper out with small shovels and put it into bamboo baskets. Many dropped half their weight.
After the beating, other PoWs carried Houston over a mountain and back to the camp. He spent months in a coma and was moved to two other camps before the war ended. “It’s very hard to talk about what happened in the mines,” he told The Burlington Post in 2005 after he visited Taiwan to take part in the dedication of a PoW memorial park. “I nearly broke down. Too many memories come back . . . the memories are difficult to forget. I think people need to know these sorts of things happened.” Still, he counted some good fortune out of it. “I think I got off lightly being out (of the mine) after a year,” he said. Houston — who died April 13 at age 100 — was part of the British force in Singapore that surrendered to the Japanese on Feb. 15, 1942. Canadian historian Michael Hurst, who has written extensively about the camps since 1997, said Houston was the last remaining Taiwan PoW.
Former Golden Hawk, George Miller, has donated his personal airplane. See this important Canadian aviation heritage story. Google it: “New Brunswick Aviation Museum Update 2022-06”
CANAV News … I’ve been buried lately keeping on top of CANAV’s 2024 book project — our grand history of the RCAF in its 100th Anniversary. This is one of CANAV’s grandest and most important aviation book projects, but it’s gobbling up much of my and co-author Hugh Halliday’s time. For now, the blog is taking a bit of a back seat. Meanwhile, treat yourself by scrolling back in the blog, where you’ll fine plenty of enticing items that you haven’t yet digested and many others you’ll enjoy re-reading, whatever your interests.
J.F. “Stocky” Edwards &Bjarni Tryggvason … People everywhere were saddened lately to hear of Stocky’s & Bjarni’s passings. Stocky died in Comox at age 100 on May 14. Truly one of the great, all ’round Canadians, Stocky excelled as a WWII fighter pilot and postwar commanded a wing of RCAF Sabres. Look just at this one recognition — the citation for Stocky’s 1944 Distinguished Flying Medal: “Flight Sergeant Edwards is an extremely capable soldier and a superbly gallant fighter pilot. Since October 1942, he has destroyed six enemy aircraft while participating in numerous sorties over enemy territory. He has displayed outstanding coolness and courage in the face of opposition while his cheerful and imperturbable spirit has been an inspiration to the squadron.” Then … the citation for the Bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross: “This officer has successfully completed a very large number of operational flights and has destroyed thirteen enemy aircraft. He is a keen and courageous pilot whose example and leadership have been most inspiring.” Talk about impressive, right, and what an inspiration to any aspiring young Canadian aviator. It was an honour to know Stocky, who was one of my earliest supporters back in the 70s, when I was getting into the history game. We last visited in 2016. You’ll see some good new coverage about Stocky in our upcoming RCAF 100th Anniversary book. You can see a wonderful photo of him on the cover of Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.1. Not surprisingly, Stocky and Bjarni were members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. For a good summary of Bjarni’s amazing accomplishments, see: http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-040622a-canadian-astronaut-bjarni-tryggvason-obituary.html
737 Flight to the Mary River Mine on Baffin Island
You’re really going to enjoy this short video featuring an old 737-200 of Chrono Aviation of St. Hubert. This versatile company’s fleet includes the old “200” that remains one of the Arctic’s most versatile jetliners, equipped as it is with a gravel kit allowing operations on rough strips. This is the host’s first Arctic trip, so he’s a bit cranked up. Never mind, he does a good job, certainly gets across his main points. Well done for a fellow from Dubai landing at Iqaluit and Mary River in the dead of winter. The Chrono crew also is great to watch in action, full marks for them. This sure reminds me of several similar northern trips (mainly in winter) over the decades on the Argus, C-46, Convair, DC-4, 737 and 748. Sit back and enjoy this one — 20 minutes well spent, especially for the armchair aviator. Cheers … Larry
The Dove and Heron in Canada
Our feature aircraft for this cycle of the CANAV Blog are the De Havilland D.H.104 Dove and D.H.114 Heron, two beloved types from the UK’s aircraft industry in early post-WWII times. Naturally, they were of great interest to DH in Canada, which in the initial flurry of publicity sold more than a dozen as corporate aircraft. Needless to say, the Dove and Heron were real treats for we aircraft spotters.
Soon after WWII several small 5-to-8 seat twins were vying for the Canadian air taxi and executive markets. However, they had to compete with war surplus types such as the Anson, Beech 18, Cessna T-50, etc. For surplus aircraft, “the price was right” for that category, so sales weren’t easy for such types as new Beech 18s or the UK’s premier offering, the De Havilland D.H.104 Dove. Beech knew its North American market well, while DH mainly knew its home and Dominion markets, having done very well pre-WWII with such popular twins as the D.H.84 Dragon and D.H.89 Rapide biplanes. The Dove having flown in September 1945, it was evident that DH had been designing it well before the bullets had stopped flying. The Dove began with two 330-hp DH Gipsy Queens, but DH soon upped the power to 340, then 380. Once the C of A was awarded, the sales force and company demonstrator G-AHRB moved out across the world to find buyers. In spite of the Dove’s relatively steep ticket price compared to something like an Anson, sales were encouraging – eventually 500+ were built. On the homefront, various air taxi services and UK companies such as Dunlop Rubber, English Electric and Shell ordered executive Doves. The Rapide had been important in getting Canadian commercial aviation going in the 1930s, so the market was keen when the Dove reached Canada in the late 1940s. The big companies (where money was no object when it came to an executive plane) liked the Dove’s speed (150 mph) and roomy interior for 6 to 8 plus crew. We spotters photographed many a Dove at Toronto’s Malton Airport in the 1950s and early 1960s. Early Doves there were flying for the Massey Ferguson farm machinery empire, Imperial, Shell and Sunoco oil companies, and a big DEW Line contractor, Federal Industries. However, the photogenic little Dove faded quickly to second tier operators, when such types as the Gulfstream began appearing in 1960.
In gathering all the details for such a basic caption as re. CF-ODI, many sources must be used. I’m fortunate to have a large library of the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register (CCAR) beginning from 1955. I’m constantly referring to these, e.g., for dates of an aircraft’s registration and its owners over the years. A CCAR library is essential for doing serious civil aviation research in Canada. Then, Terry Judge’s CCAR website is indispensable. Since Terry chiefly uses original sources, his facts are extremely reliable. Have a look … google Historic CCAR Project. Of course, much else exists on the web for the Dove and Heron, two useful sites being the “rzjet” Dove and Heron production lists. These provide many facts, but such sites are works in progress, and some can be misleading, by jumbling facts, so use them with discretion. Check and double check your facts, right. You still can make the odd error – history’s a demanding business. Other sources that I consulted were the great Geoff Goodall’s Dove and Heron sites. Also important is the “Aviation Safety Network” website. In this case, I went to ASN’s Dove and Heron accident compilations. ASN is tops as to reliability. Some Doves and Herons were military, so www.warbirdregistry.org is another wealth of data. Believe it or not, I’m still using my ancient copy of Dove and Heron Production List No.2 from VHF Supplies in the UK; also A.J. Jackson’s seminal book, British Civil Aircraft 1919-59, Vol.1 (1959), which beautifully encapsulate the Dove and Heron stories. Happily, I still have my airport notes from the 1950s, so was able to look up my own observations re. Doves and Herons from the 50s-60s. It all comes together, but many sources have to be scoured for to put the simplest item together. CANAV’s own Air Transportin Canada also proved useful in getting this item together. Such books (yes, actual books made from paper, ink and glue) are essential. No researcher can function at a professional level without them, so a word to the wise to the dunces who have bought into the big lie that we no longer need books. The chief problem for such people is their laziness. Having 90-second attention spans, these iPhone addicts no longer can cope with the No.1 source for aviation history – books!
The DH Dove’s Big Brother
Having succeeded with the Dove, De Havilland wanted to see what the market would say about a stretched version. Enter the Heron, first flown in 1950. Compared to the Dove, the Heron had four two 250- hp D.H. Gipsy engines. Being about nine feet longer, it carried as many as 17 passengers. Heron production totalled 149. It found its niche among commuter operators from the UK to Australia, Indonesia, throughout Africa, in the Caribbean, South America, etc. It proved to be rugged and economic, even if slow and underpowered with its Gipsys. The Heron did not catch on in Canada. The first was the Department of Transport’s CF-EXY with its fixed undercarriage. Delivered in 1953, “EYX” served to 1966, then was sold to Newfoundland Air Transport. After about two years there, it went to Aero Servicios in Honduras. On May 26, 1970 it crashed on approach to Tegucigalpa, killing all four aboard.
For years there was no sign of the Heron in Canada. Then there was a resurrection, when entrepreneur and brilliant inventor, Dave Saunders, devised a canny scheme to convert the Heron to the PT6 turbine engine. This became the Saunders ST-27, an excellent airplane, but that’s a story for another time. Any reader can see that there certainly is enough good, interesting material to produce a modest book about the Dove, Heron and ST-27 in Canada. Sad to say, however, but few remain on the Canadian aviation history scene with the fortitude to take on such projects. Everyone is too busy texting and playing video games.
A Bit More Douglas B-23 Coverage
In our last session I featured the exotic B-23/UC-64 Dragon. Since then one of our readers supplied a bit of further history. Tom Appleton recalled how Juan Trippe, chairman of Pan-Am in the 1940s, had purchased a batch of surplus B-23’s. This is where the movement to convert B-23s to corporate use began, Trippe taking one of these for Pan Am’s own use. He then assigned one of his pilots, Al Ueltschi, to be his personal B-23 captain and B-23 marketing man. Tom notes: “Al thought it might be a good idea to offer PanAm’s training expertise to the fledging biz aircraft pilot community. So began Flight Safety International, now owned by Warren Buffet. I knew Al quite well, as I brought FSI to DHC when I was running customer support, and negotiated the building of a training center with simulators for the Dash 7 and 8, along with a Twin Otter. It turned out to be a very successful venture and DHC was the first regional aircraft manufacturer to offer simulator training with every Dash sold.”
As the 1930s came to a close, America’s aircraft industry was booming, and the US Army Air Corps and US Navy were ordering new aircraft fleets in the rush to be ready for potential war. In one case there was a competition among manufacturers to produce a new medium bomber to surpass the current frontline type, the Douglas B-18 Bolo. Douglas proposed a revamped B-18, the result being the B-23 Dragon, first flown in July 1939. However, as impressive as the B-23 was – it was fast, had good range, carried a load, etc., it did not compare overall with the competing North American B-25 and Martin B-26. In the end, only 38 B-23s were built and these spent their forthcoming war on the home front more or less in the shadows as advanced trainers, glider tugs, etc., and UC-67 transports.
What makes the story of extra interest by 2022 is how – immediately after the war — the B-23/UC-67 became a sudden star, once discovered by corporations needing a fast, comfortable, impressive executive transport plane. Soon many large companies and some wealthy individuals were operating UC-67s. That’s how we young “airport rats” got introduced to the UC-67 as we hung around Malton airport near Toronto, and travelled around with our cameras spotting between Chicago and Montreal.
As promised a few weeks ago, here are some of my UC-67 black-and-whites. For a good source of B-23/UC-67 history, google “Warbird Information Exchange B-23 Project”. For simplicity, in the captions I call these planes B-23s, but feel free to substitute UC-67.
News From Buffalo Airways of Yellowknife(March 26, 2022)
Buffalo Airways is on the verge of the jet age. Famous for its DC-3s, DC-4s, C-46s and Electras, the company has just announced its purchase of a Boeing 737. Here’s the work straight from Mikey McBryan of Buffalo: http://www.pierregillard.com/blog/index.html
Talk about déjà vue … have a look at how Communist doctrine worked when the USSR invaded Finland (they’re threatening to do the same thing 80+ years later) See Winter War: The 1939 Soviet Invasion Of Finland In Crystal-Clear Photos (rferl.org) (also see https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/russians-finland-1.6379693). Exactly the same today with Ukraine. Brute force, merciless bombardment, intimidation, starvation, lies, lies, lies, etc. That’s the traditional Communist way. Civilized people rightly call this “pure evil” and so it is. In January 1940, Winston Churchill noted about the Finnish invasion: “Finland shows what free men can do…. Everyone can see how communism rots the soul of a nation; how it makes it abject and hungry in peace, and proves it base and abominable in war. We cannot tell what the fate of Finland may be, but no more mournful spectacle could be presented… than that this splendid northern race should be at last worn down and reduced to servitude worse than death by the dull brutish force of overwhelming numbers.”
“Aviation Advertising – A Goldmine of History in One Old Copy of “The Aeroplane”
Many of you enjoyed our blog post “Postwar Adverts” from November 2, 2016. Even if you’ve seen it before, take a look back to enjoy again what emblems of technology history these old adverts have become. Really … they are fascinating, and in many cases literally are works of art, for the lead magazines such as “The Aeroplane” in the UK and “Canadian Aviation” on this side of the pond employed actual artists (i.e. with bushes and paints) to create the artwork required. Thus might you enjoy the great Frank Wootten’s original paintings as cover art and in advertisements in “The Aeroplane”, and Canada’s top aviation artist Robert Bradford’s originals as the foundation of adverts for De Havilland Canada’s Otter, Caribou, etc.
Here are a few adverts from “The Aeroplane” of October 21, 1955. What quickly caught my eye (once I got over the dramatic cover art by top British commercial artist, Vic Carless) was the page taken out by Avro Canada featuring the all-red CF-100 that it was operating experimentally as a target tug. Otherwise, there was page after page of fascinating adverts portraying the aviation industry of the times, when Britain’s V-Bombers were just coming out, and types such as the Gannet for ASW and Supermarine 525 fighter held great hope for Britain’s postwar aviation industry. Adverts for the Britannia, Vanguard and Herald announced the way ahead for the airlines, while the Skeeter helicopter was where the light helicopter market was heading (so hoped Saunders Roe). Also, take a look at the want ads page to get a better sense of what was happening.
Welcome to the CANAV Books blog for February 2022. As usual, there’s a lot to cover. You can start right here by downloading our Spring/Summer 2022Booklist. Any reader will find something enticing — guaranteed! For one thing, you’ll spot some excellent Avro Canada books, including a top new CF-100 history, Canadian Cold Warriors. “CCW” nicely complements the Jan Zurakowsi and Bill Waterton test pilot autobiographies. Chris Gainor’s Who Killed the Avro Arrow caps off this selection. There’s also Paul Ozorak’s new Abandoned Military Installations of Canada, Vol.4, a massive production for anyone with the least interest. Covering Gander in wartime, North Atlantic Crossroads is another gem. What else? Any Canadiana reader will revel in The Company, ditto for Chris Hadfield’s Apollo Murders. And don’t miss our special offers on Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace and Air Transport in Canada, two monumental and legendary Canadian aviation book publishing projects that are beloved anchors in many an aviation home library. Here’s your list … have at it!
Russian assault on Antonov airport February 24. If you google these bits, you should be able to see these dramatic scenes as Russian commandos take the airport by helicopter assault. Not a happy sight — so far not a single nation is willing to help Ukraine. Putin has the world terrorized. pic.twitter.com/SnvmwQ1Ge
More Oldies — Wartime National Film Board Aviation Short
During WWII, Canada’s National Film Board’s primary job was turning out propaganda shorts. 75-80 years later these are a window on the day’s documentary standards from storyline to editing and presentation. By today’s standards, the acting seems almost ridiculous in how the NFB narrators (this one is the great Lorne Greene) put across their message in that panicky style of the times, but that was then and this is now. Here’s a good example of the NFB’s wartime effort. I’m sure you’ll be able to overlook the aggravating presentation to enjoy the fascinating film clips from Canadian aviation “way back in the day”. Google it at:
In Air Transport in Canada all of our post-WWII air carriers are covered in decent detail, for such a general book. You see all about the roots of such carriers as Maritime Central Airlines, Mont Laurier Aviation, Wheeler Airlines, Transair, Queen Charlotte Airlines, etc. for which air cargo was so important. “ATC” provides solid background for what was happening – the war was over, surplus airplanes were available, markets beckoned (or did they?), on and on. To the credit of the visionaries, many companies survived for decades, until gradually absorbed into larger ones. If this sort of business/aviation story interests you, there are good books to track down. Besides “ATC” for the Canadian story, two of my favourites are R.E.G. Davies Airlines of the United States since 1914 and Commuter Airlines of the United States, but so far I’ve yet to see a book about the US postwar cargo airlines. Is this one in the works? Here’s an excellent old movie covering Sante Fe Skyway, a short-lived 1940s carrier with DC-3s and DC-4s. It’s an excellent business case study and the ancient propliner footage is not to be missed. Sante Fe Skyway reminds me of such great Canadian companies as QCA and World Wide Airways. For an informative and enjoyable 18 minutes, google The Failure of Santa Fe Skyway – YouTube
More of Les Corness’ Unique Photography
Any time I glance through a pile of old Les Corness transparencies from the 50s, I spot many that I’d like to share. Regardless of their sometimes rough condition with scratches and crud, or Les’ preference (when called for) to favour content over form, there’s always something inspirational about his photos. You’ll know what I mean if you have your copy of The Leslie Corness Propliner Collection (if you don’t, see the booklist for a great deal). Also, you can search for earlier blog items featuring Les, this item included: “Leslie Corness Propliner Review” which features lots more of his magnificent photos.
Over the decades CAF/RCAF aircraft procurement has been a subject of discussion, analysis and befuddlement. Project timelines themselves have been mindboggling at times. How long, for example, long did it take to replace the Argus? It seems that since the late 1960s the Argus was going to be “replaced”. Finally, the Aurora arrived at Greenwood in 1980. So it went with the F-104/CF-5/CF-101 replacement, which culminated with the delivery in 1982 of Canada’s first CF-188 Hornets. Then there was the Sea King replacement, which finally has arrived in the form of the Cyclone, a much modified civilian Sikorsky. Most recently, the fantastic old Buffalo has been phased out after 50+ years of stellar service. Its replacement, the C-295 Kingfisher, has arrived, but with a list of either unacceptable features or yet-to-be sorted out mods (so it also went with the Cormorant). Somehow, each such fleet gradually has been sorted out. The main thing about DND procurement seems to be that Canada rarely acquires an airplane without massive gobs of time to contemplate and complicate everything, plus astounding (sometimes unjustified) over-spending.
When, lately, I spotted the wonderful old photo (above) of Richfield Oil’s NC13777, I was reminded of how the RCAF had acquired its first modern, all-metal airplane in 1936. Just then it needed a new type to replace its ancient Bellancas and Fairchilds of 1920s vintage. Somehow, RCAF engineering HQ learned of the Northrop, maybe simply by a salesman knocking at the door, or spotting a trade magazine advertisement or article. It looked like a good airplane, and (RCAF HQ soon learned) industrial and trade skills spinoffs were available. But the Delta was a civil design. The great Joseph P. Juptner describes it as “a highly advanced single-engined airliner, a speedy conveyance … for medium roads on the trunk airline routes”.
Unfortunately, TWA had cancelled its order for 15 Deltas when the US government ceased licencing single-engine airliners for night schedules. Northrop was left holding the bag, but the RCAF came to the rescue, buying three Deltas from Northrop’s surplus, then contracting with Canadian Vickers for licence production of 17 more. These served well into early WWII, then had extra duty into late the war as ground training aids. In the end, the RCAF saved Jack Northrop’s bacon by buying his orphan. In RCAF service, the Delta proved to be a solid, versatile plane. Meanwhile, it must be admitted that DND procurement can get things rolling in a hurry if necessary, not just with the Delta. Look how it acquired its fleets of C-17s and C-130Js – they seem to have come out of nowhere compared to the decades needed to replace the Sea King or Buffalo.
Canada’s Hornets –Retrospective
We fans started following the CF-18 Hornet back in 1982 and since then haven’t missed much about this exciting, ongoing episode in CAF/RCAF fighter history. My first chance to photograph Hornets was at Cold Lake in 1983. Since then I’ve chased them all over the place, and even had some backseat rides (starting at Baden-Soellingen in 1987). Other highlights were at Maple Flag at Cold Lake, various exciting events at Bagotville, fighter meets at Tyndall AFB, Langley AFB and Burlington, Vermont, a few days with 437 Sqn refuelling Canada’s last NATO Hornets between Lahr and Goose Bay via Keflavik, Doha for Gulf War I, and airshows from coast to coast. Another historic event occurred in 1993, while I was waiting at CFB Lahr to catch a Hercules back to Canada. There on the ramp sat a lone Hornet getting ready for departure. Here’s that story as it appeared in the November 1993 edition of “Wings” magazine.
Harsh Realities in Space Flight
Terranauts … here’s an important Space Program retrospective. The topic is melancholic, but needs to be contemplated to have a realistic sense of where we’ve been and where we’re going tomorrow in space exploration. Chris and Helene Hadfield are the guests. Google this: We remember – A special episode of Terranauts with Helene …
You’ll never run out of solid history to read or photos to enjoy on our blog (which dates back to 2009). What are your interests? Here are some of the worthwhile topics you can find in a flash via the search box or by scrolling back through the years:
440 Squadron Gets Together in Ottawa A History of Austin Airways Aircraft of the USAF Museum Antonov AN-124 Apollo 40 th Anniversary Beech 18 Boeing 727 Turns 50 C-119 The Travels of Nick and Larry Canada’s Enduring DC-3s Canadian Fighter Pilots Association Canadian Forces in Ethiopia, Somalia and Rwanda Canso CF-104 Warbird Emerges Dash 8 No.1000 Is Delivered Fox Moth Discoveries From the Wilf White Collection Homebuilding Roots in Canada Last Lockheed Jetstar Retires Light Planes Lockheed Lodestar More CF-TGE Nostalgia Norseman Northern Aviation in 1977 Old Canadair Originals Postwar Adverts Super Connie Field Trip The Crash of CF-100 18417 The Great Bob Halford The Great War Flying Museum Toronto/Winnipeg Turn-Around Winter Photography
Next Time on the CANAV Blog?
Have a close look at our promo sheet for CANAV’s grand history of CAE Inc. of Montreal. If you pride yourself in having a serious Canadian aviation home library, The CAE Story belongs in it. There isn’t a more wide-ranging aerospace history book with this depth of coverage anywhere in the world, nor a more beautifully-produced book at such a bargain price.
Since we’ve had a very snowy winter here in Toronto this year, I got thinking about winter photography in years gone by. I was further encouraged by Pierre Gillard’s recent winter aviation photography at St. Hubert — see http://www.pierregillard.com/blog/index.html This is not to be missed!
First, here’s a January 1976 scene from the bad old days of the Queen St. East morning commute. Well do we remember packing ourselves onto such PCCs as 4690. Talk about the wretched lives of sardines, eh! Then, 4449 rounding the loop at Neville Park on January 15, 1968 ready to battle its way on another cross-town Queen Street grind. Finally for this trio … PPCs 4230 and 4309 stored at the Wychwood Barns as I spotted them on December 6, 1969.
Old Magazines Are Real Treasures
There is no more fun with the printed page than flipping through old magazines reading the articles and perusing the wonderful old advertisements. Lately, I spotted these two wonderful old “adverts” in “The Aeroplane” from 1955 — one featuring the Viscount for TCA, the other the Avro CF-100. The first one illustrates the heyday of the UK’s post-WWII aviation industry; the second — Canada’s at its peak, a time when such other types as the Beaver, Otter, Tracker and Argus all were coming off the lines. Canada was at the top of its aviation industry game. For more such delightful reading, see our earlier item “Postwar Adverts”.
Martin Mars … Many older fans have been watching the great Martin Mars story since several Mars came to Canada in the late 1950s. Lots of us eventually made the pilgrimage to Port Alberni, BC to photograph these giant beauties. Today, two Mars remain at their Port Alberni base, but they’ve been dormant for years, bypassed by newer technology. Now, the last airworthy Mars is for sale. Here are all the details and much more about the classic Mars: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/martin-mars-for-sale-1.6317194
A Bit of News – CANAV’s RCAF 1924-2024 Project
Hello to all our great fans keeping up with the CANAV blog. Nothing much huge to report this time, other than about how we are making solid progress with our 2024 book to cover the history of the RCAF in its 100th year. This will be the ultimate among all general RCAF books over the decades. If you have our 1984 60th Anniversary book Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924-1984 or any such other CANAV book (Canada’s Air Force Today, etc.) you’ll know what to expect. Our “2024” book will have no equals. So far we’ve laid the groundwork and roughed out our coverage of lead-in and interwar years chapters, and now are starting to put together the many chapters covering 1939-1945 on the homefront and overseas. In case you have anything that’s unique re. hardcore history (log books, other original documents) that you think might fit in, let me know firstname.lastname@example.org
In the early 1960s we still were shooting North Stars, Super Connies, Viscounts and all such propliners out at Malton airport (today’s YYZ). Suddenly, things started to perk up when BOAC started showing up with the Comet 4. Service was infrequent. Several times I hitchhiked out to Malton after school on Fridays to try to catch the Comet on its weekly run, but always missed it. It wasn’t ‘til a trip to Dorval on July 26, 1959 that I finally got to shoot Comet G-APDB. ‘DB was the first Comet that I got close enough to at Malton to catch the registration, that being on April 29 the following year. Then, on May 6, I spotted G-APDD. Still, I came away with no photos.
Finally, the first 707s and DC-8s started to appear at Malton, making for really exciting times. Now we were turning up our noses (like little idiots) at the propliners. The big jets had us mesmerized for a while. Here are a few of my early photos from this period.
C. Don Long — Aeronautical Engineer, CAHS No.104
One of the great early members of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society (Member No.104) was C. Don Long. From the first days of the CAHS Journal, Don contributed many authoritative articles, often covering the history of De Havilland of Canada, but also such special topics as the Toronto-Buffalo air service using Sikorsky amphibians c.1930.
Born in Toronto in 1911, Don was smitten by aviation as a boy. Cycling to old Leaside aerodrome, he got to know and photograph dozens of local and transient planes. Leaside, of course, had trained WWI pilots in 1917-18, then was home to the Toronto Flying Club from 1928, before being ploughed under for industrial use. Graduating in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto in 1933, Don was hired by De Havilland of Canada. Soon he was known as the go-to man whenever any UK DH type needed Canadian “mods” – winterized cowlings, skis, etc. Just before WWII, Don created the mods for the Canadianized D.H.82C Tiger Moth – its sliding canopy, brakes, tail wheel and skis. Next, he became chief inspector of Mosquito production.
Postwar, Don had positions with such other organizations as AVRO Canada, DH in the UK, Canadair, Spartan and the National Research Council. He returned to DHC in 1959, then joined the staff of McMaster University in 1970. Other organizations to which he contributed included the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, and the Society of Automotive Engineers. Don died fairly young on May 18, 1972. Here are some of his wonderful pre-WWII photos. I don’t have many details about these, but here’s a chance simply to enjoy some historic photos taken around Toronto by a keen young spotter (probably before the term was in use). Most of these would have been taken at Leaside and the airports around what today is Downsview. One of these strips was the second home of the TFC, another belonged to International Airways. These all had disappeared by the time DHC had developed Downsview into a modern airport just before WWII. Sometimes Don could get his subject “in the clear”, but even if there was a mob scene he was keen to shoot off a frame. Thank goodness that he did.
Short Flying Boats in Canada
In 1937 Britain’s Imperial Airways and America’s Pan American Airways began experimenting with flying boats on the North Atlantic. The dream for Britain was to add to its growing system of routes that eventually would encircle the world, bringing the old “Empire” closer together. Pan Am had its own global dreams. This challenging effort commenced on July 5/6, when 4-engine flying boats took off from opposite sides of the Atlantic — the Imperial Airways Short “C” Class “Caledonia” flying from Foynes, Ireland to Botwood, Gander Lake, Newfoundland; and the Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42 going from Shediac, New Brunswick to Foynes. Canada was involved, having helped to finance facilities at both western termini. This was just as Ottawa, under the determined drive of J.A. Wilson (Controller of Civil Aviation) was on the brink of launching Canada’s national airline.
Establishing a North Atlantic air service was vital for Great Britain, which already had flying boat links as far as distant Australia. Now, Ottawa envisioned Canada being part of Great Britain’s globe-encircling plans. Meanwhile, France and Germany already were well-entrenched on the Atlantic, operating flying boats and Zeppelins. Imperial Airways, unfortunately, was at a disadvantage, since its Short “C” Class boats lacked range, so could not carry loads on the Atlantic. For its flights “Caledonia” had all excess weight stripped out and long range fuel tanks added, then it barely could make it across to Botwood. America’s Boeing, Martin and Sikorsky flying boats, on the other hand, were built from the outset for range and payload. Imperial Airways’ Short “G” Class flying boat, which would match the American designs, still was on the drawing boards.
After landing at Botwood, “Caledonia” pushed on to Montreal, where its arrival was a huge media event. Its sister ship, “Cambria”, already having made proving flights to the Mediterranean and Azores, also was involved, but its first crossing to Botwood was a near-disaster, when navigation and radio equipment broke down. Temporarily lost, “Cambria” finally reached Botwood. Next, it continued on a public relations trip to Montreal, then Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor and Hamilton. Cambria’s arrival in Toronto Bay was heralded by the local press: “The Cambria’s landing will be marked by a shrieking outburst from factory and locomotive whistles.”
Instead of boisterous headlines the next day, the front page of the “Toronto Daily Star” reported grim news. Front and centre was a large photo of “Cambria” floating cockeyed on Toronto Bay with the caption, “Flying Boat Soars above City, Breaks Pontoon in Landing”. On touching down on Lake Ontario in front of the Canadian National Exhibition, Captain Griffin J. “Taffy” Powell seems to have miscalculated, perhaps fooled by a crosswind. His port wing dug in, the huge sponson near its tip tore off, and the mighty flying boat slewed dramatically to a stop.
Once the situation was under control, “Cambria” was towed into Toronto Bay. A repair crew from De Havilland of Canada (including Don Long) was organized and eventually completed repairs (needed parts were shipped from Belfast aboard the Queen Mary and on by surface express to Toronto). On September 23 Captain Powell test flew “Cambria”. Next day he flew to Hamilton for a civic event, then left for the long flight home. “Cambria” landed in Foynes on September 28 after a record-setting 10:35 hours for the eastbound leg.
These C. Don Long photos of “Cambria” rarely have been seen. They show Don’s great facility with a camera, getting wide, medium and close-up views, taking it all in, as we used to say. I’m sure that somewhere there are other photos from this series, but these are impressive enough.
n.b. For the in-depth story of the “Cambria” in Toronto see Patrick Fitz Gerald’s 2005 history “The Cambria Incident: A Very Public Mishap” in the Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal Vol.43 No.4. Also see Ray Crone’s 1998 summary “Canada and the Short Empire Boats” in CAHS Journal Vol.36 No.4. For membership in the CAHS please go to www.cahs.com If you are not a member yet, you will thank yourself for joining.
This series of Don Long photographs shows “Cambria” moored in Toronto Bay. There were no telephoto lenses in everyday use in 1937, so this is enlarged from a small part of Don’s negative. Then, a series of photos of “Cambria” in the Toronto Islands lagoon near the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, where repair work was done. Any true aviation history fan will revel in these scenes. The cockpit photo will really get the flying boat aficionados going. I haven’t seen such a nice one.
Toronto Bay History Treasure
Also among my small collection of C. Don Long negatives is this one of the Toronto Harbour Commission’s 214-ton tugboat Rouille. I’m guessing that it was named for Fort Rouille, the original European settlement here. Fort Rouille was a small French trading post somewhere on the Lake Ontario shore where York later was founded in 1793 by Governor Simcoe (York became Toronto in 1834).
Tugboat Rouille was built by Collingwood Shipbuilding Co. in During WWII it was impressed by the RCN. Postwar, it worked for J.P. Porter and Sons of Toronto, but ended badly. On December 3, 1954 it was sailing from Sydney, Cape Breton Island to Rimouski on the lower St. Lawrence River, when it got into stormy waters. Just off Cape Smokey, about 60 miles north of Sydney, it sank, taking its five crew to their deaths.
Here, Rouille is tied up in the Keating Channel near the mouth of the Don River. To this day, the scene is not hugely different, although the Keating Channel is destined for a major facelift as the Lower Don is redeveloped. This photo exemplifies the stalwart photographer. Airplanes are of great interest, of course, but a fellow like Don Long always had his eyes open, looking for other fascinating subject matter. What great work such hobbyists do in preserving ordinary Canadian history.
Lately, the fabulous AeroTime News website has featured some items about the plane spotting hobby. Here’s the introductory part of it. What an excellent summary, but has the hobby ever changed since we old timers got interested. Who would have thought that a hobbyist could end in jail over his simple interest in photographing airplanes? Well, it’s happened, mainly because there actually are rules … and always have been. One day at Malton, for example, I had cycled up to the Avro end to see what there was to see. Spotting some CF-100s about a half mile away, I decided to have a go at them by trudging through some fields of thick grass and weeds along the Avro fenceline. We always had known about this spot, but had been warned by pals that Avro sometimes patrolled the fence. Finally I reached the CF-100s, which were parked on a run-up pad. Nobody was around, so I took a few snaps through the Frost fence. All of a sudden I heard yelling, turned and spotted a couple of uniformed Avro security cops huffing and puffing through the field heading my way. Soon they had me cornered and were giving me the gears. Who did I think I was, etc., etc. After confiscating my roll of 120 and jotting down my particulars, we parted on good enough terms. A couple of weeks later my negatives came in the mail, all of them, so Avro security had a heart after all. However, it had been a good lesson for a kid. After that I was a bit more cautious about when and where to push my luck at the airport. We had other even more exciting run-ins with airport security, about which I’ll write in a future book.
About two years ago Don McVicar of Hamilton put a team together to restore Canada’s first Piper PA-23 Apache – Central Airways’ CF- KFX. “KFX” was brought into Canada by Central’s always forward-thinking owners, Bobby and Tommy Wong. This is really a newsworthy story that any fan will enjoy. It’s all about how CF-KFX recently has risen from the boneyard. There are many interesting threads and the project has spun off some worthwhile activity. In one case, it’s brought some old time Central Airways (Toronto Island Airport) staff and former students back in touch with each other. Here’s your link to this nifty story:
Click on this link to see the stills and action-packed videos showing the crash landing on December 9 at Anchorage airport. In spite of it all, this C-117 “Super DC-3” should be flying again before long:
In the late 1950s the RCAF ordered a small fleet (10) of Grumman G-111 Albatross amphibians for its search-and-rescue units. These replaced Canada’s long-serving Cansos and complemented the RCAF’s Otters, Dakotas, etc. doing SAR work. Retired in 1971, our Albatrosses returned to Grumman, then were re-sold, some to the Mexican military.
In 2022 the Albatross is having a revival. Many of the 466 built survive, and there is a plan to refurbish some, and maybe build new examples in Australia powered by Canada’s famous PT6 turbine engine. Will this actually happen? We shall see, as usual. Pratt & Whitney Canada’s recent press release explains (the PT6 stats are amazing):
The G-111T is the only large transport category amphibious aircraft for passenger, cargo and utility in the marketplace,” said Chairman of Amphibian Aerospace Industries, Khoa Hoang. “Because of its ability to land and take-off from both land and water, the G-111T is ideal for use in inland rivers, ocean rescue, mountainous terrain and tropic river basins.”
Pilots and operators fly the PT6A engine with confidence, even in the most challenging of conditions. The engine builds on the experience gained from more than 900 million hours of operation expertise across our portfolio and reliability of the PT6 family. With more than 50 years of experience in general aviation, the PT6A engine further benefits from 425 million flying hours – more flying hours than any other engine on the market – the PT6A is a proven engine and the most prolific in the segment.
PT6A-67F engines have been identified as the engine of choice from within the PT6A family for the G-111T aircraft application,’ said Anthony Rossi, vice president, Business Development, Pratt & Whitney Canada. “We have been working with Amphibian Aerospace for the past five years on this program and have developed an effective and productive relationship that bodes extremely well for the success of the program.
Pierre Gillard Blog
If you are not familiar with the superb aviation blog by Pierre Gillard, please take a look. This week, Pierre features a wonderful gallery of Nordair 737 photos:
Welcome to CANAV’s Fall/Winter 2021-22 booklist. As usual it includes all the standard CANAV classics, with some excellent deals, especially for Air Transport in Canada at a give-away, all-in price. There are numerous new offerings, all enticing for the serious fan. It’s hard to say which is the real standout of the bunch., but I’m tending (for one) towards Chris Hadfield’s The Apollo Murders. I’ve just started to read it and I’m reminded right away (as far as writing style and enticing content go) of Ernie Gann’s Fate is the Hunter. That’s about as grand a compliment as I could give any aviation/space author. I think you need this book, but so do you need a boxload of others from this fall’s list. Take a look, you’ll see what I mean … stock up for winter.
Hot Off the Press … Red Lake Norseman Project Finale!
Norseman CF-DRD finally has been fully refurbished and again graces the Red Lake waterfront at the head of Howie Bay. To see this week’s posting, google:Kim posted an update to Save DRD – Red Lake’s Norseman icon Please drop a few bucks in DRD’s gofundme kitty while you’re there. How painful will that be? Not at all, but you’ll have helped push the project fund to its goal of $50K, a target that a couple of years ago must have seemed so impossible. Not today it isn’t! Cheers … Larry
Canadian Aviation Society: Beginnings
Canada’s premier aviation history organization for 60+ years has been the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Lately, I came across two historic documents that reveal some key CAHS history. Have a look at the minutes of the society’s original meeting, when it was known as “The Early Birds of Canada”. This was a name suggested by the original US-based “Early Birds of Aviation”, which included pilots who had flown prior to December 17, 1916. Soon, however, we realized that this name would restrict the breadth in coverage, so the more general, all-encompassing “CAHS” name was adopted at our second meeting. To my knowledge, none of those mentioned in the minutes are still with us. The second document from a few months later in 1963 is under the CAHS banner and states the society’s rationale. These documents were printed on a 1950s “spirit duplicator”, so it’s a miracle that they haven’t faded away to nothing by now.
A Few Photos by the Great W.J. “Bill” Wheeler, CAHS No.5
Bill Wheeler (1931-2020, CAHS No.5, Member Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, etc.)) spent more than 40 years as editor of the Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. As such, he really was the beating heart of the CAHS. He also spent a tour as CAHS national president. Residing in Markham since the 1960s, his day job in his younger years was commercial illustrator for such publications as Toronto’s legendary “Star Weekly”. He also produced some renowned book covers, and his illustrations fill our Journal from the early 1960s onward. For today, here are a few of Bill’s ordinary airplane photos, of which there are too many to count. We early CAHS members had much in common. While many had been involved in the development of early aviation, others were more the “arm chair” type, sharing such pastimes as reading aviation books and magazines, taking in airshows and CAHS events, being enthusiastic aviation photographers, etc.
When we met in 1962, Bill was still earning his living as an artist and illustrator. Happily, before long he got into teaching art, then enjoyed a long career at West Hill Collegiate in east Toronto, finishing as art department head. Over the decades as a hobby photographer he amassed other photos from countless sources. All these he kept lovingly in huge albums. For example, here’s a very rare photo that he saved ages ago of Leavens Brothers famous Pitcairn PAA-1 Autogyro CF-ASQ.
Leavens had started on a farm near Belleville, Ontario in the late 1920s, then moved to Toronto’s Barker Field and Pelee Island on Lake Erie. Leavens became legendary delivering supplies and mail to Pelee, teaching thousands of young Canadians to fly, and leading the way for years in spruce budworm aerial spray campaigns, and in aircraft sales and service.
Leavens’ sole Pitcairn had come to Canada in 1932, then spent more than 20 years doing everything from joyriding at country fairs to spraying and – as you see – banner towing. A bit of self-promotion is going one in this scene – Leavens always had a flying school. Thanks to Bill, this rare Pitcairn photo survives. I doubt that few in 2021 have ever before seen this one. Here also is an old b/w print from Bill’s collection showing a JN-4 on the Leavens farm in the late 1920s. One or more of the Leavens may have learned to fly on this old crate.
Bill and Charlie
If the CAHS had two real pals from Day 1, those were Bill Wheeler and Charlie Catalano. While Bill was teaching, Charlie was a fellow who did almost anything. Once, he was managing a theatre where we held some early CAHS meetings, at other times he was repairing radios and TVs, yet again he was tinkering with a system of lights under the wings of his war surplus T-50. He’d fly over Toronto at night with the lights spelling out various advertising messages. Charlie was an innovative fellow. He and Bill were real CAHS stalwarts. There could have been no society without such members. For many years Charlie kept his own little 1945 Aeronca at Buttonville – CF-LVI. He flew it summer and winter. He and Bill made many a flight together. Here are shots that Bill took of Charlie’s “Airknocker” on skis, then towing a banner promoting a CAHS Convention some time in the 1960s. Last heard of in 2018, “LVI” was based in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
A History of Austin Airways
It was a big deal publishing CANAV’s short history of Austin Airways back in 1985, then adding to the details fairly substantially in Air Transport in Canada (1997) and The Noorduyn Norseman (Vol.2, 2013), but there’s much more to know about this great company than CANAV’s efforts. Long before I had a clue about it all, in the 1950s Neil A. Macdougall (1927-2021) of Toronto was covering the Austin story. By this time, Neil, having begun in aviation while in high school in Vancouver during WWII, was well known as a polished, professional aviation journalist.
On assignment from “ESSO Air World”, Neil did an in- depth study of Austin, visiting the company from its base at Toronto Island Airport to Sudbury and other points north. He talked to many of the key Austin people, flew in Austin aircraft, did all the photography, then put together this solid company profile. For the periodical genre, this is as good an air operator istory as you’ll find. If any writer in our so-shallow “social media” era could do half as well, he’d be a winner.
Here’s Neil’s finished product as it appeared in the January – February edition of the prestigious “ESSO Air World”. See what a professional writer and photographer at his peak could do out in the field 60+ years ago. Also, see Neil’s obituary at the end. Talk about a solid Canadian’s life well lived.
Fox Moth Discoveries
It’s always fun to come across any new airplane photo. Out of the blue, these two just popped up lately from Bill Wheeler’s files – a couple of D.H.83 Fox Moths. These planes were from the small batch built at Downsview in 1945-46 as DHC was getting back into civil aviation after its booming war years had come to a sudden halt in August 1945. Right away business in the north started to roll again, so airplanes were needed. While the DHC design team was working on what would evolve into the Chipmunk and Beaver, there was a small market for old pre-war Fox Moths. DHC turned out 53½ of these useful planes. Many went north, including one to Yellowknife for a young pilot, Max Ward.
I wonder who got this lovely air-to-air shot of Fox Moth CF- DIW? Notice the chief detail that makes this a Canadian-built version – its attractive sliding canopy. “DIW” was around Toronto when we were kids. Dave Marshall, a young fellow flying a DC-3 at Malton for the Abitibi Power and Paper Company, sometimes flew “DIW” (that looks like Dave in this shot). In 1959-60 it was based at Maple airstrip just north of Toronto. Its fuselage was red, the wings and tail feathers were yellow. I took a nice landing shot of “DIW” at one of the local fly-ins about 1960. Dave was flying that day. I happily used that shot in my first book, Aviation in Canada.
Fox Moth CF-EVK had a long career but it’s a bit of a complicated story. “EVK” had begun as the very prototype D.H.83 Fox Moth — G- ABUO. It came to Canada in May 1933, became CF-API, and that winter joined General Airways of Rouyn to toil in the northern bush. In 1937-39 it was in BC with Ginger Coote Airways, then returned to Ontario, where it hauled sturgeon in 1939 for Baillie-Maxwell of Nakina. Starting in 1940, it worked for Leavens Brothers from their Larder Lake base in northern Ontario. Damaged in a wind storm at Barker Field in January 1950, it was rebuilt by Leavens to D.H.83C standards, acquiring a new identity — D.H.83C No.54. This transpired when the salvageable parts of “API” were mated with the 54 th and last fuselage built by DHC. Re-registered CF-EVK, it appeared in DOT records as D.H.83C No.54. In 1959 it was listed in the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register to L. Lavoie of Amos, Quebec. Its C of A was current to March 1960, so it’s sometimes described as Canada’s last commercially- operated D.H.83C. After 1960, nothing is known about “EVK”. I once heard that it was destroyed when the shed it was stored in burned. Here, “EVK” looks very spiffy on skis, place and date unknown.
Three More Glorious Les Corness Photos
Northern Aviation in 1977
In 1977 Hugh Whittington, the renowned editor of “Canadian Aviation” magazine, asked three writers to cover Canada’s Northern and Arctic Aviation scenes. Hugh Quigley headed for Yellowknife, Ted Larkin for Resolute Bay, and I for the heart of James Bay country along Quebec’s Great Whale River. This was a super opportunity for us. Besides, it always was a privilege to work for Hugh and Canada’s premier aviation trade magazine.
To start, I connected with SEBJ – la Société d’énergie de la Baie James – in Montreal to make arrangements to fly into its vast hydro development region, get briefed about what was going on up there, and how my transportation and lodging would go. In a few days I was at Dorval, where I met the man running SEBJ’s air transport operation, the legendary Frank Henley. A hardcore aviation fan and renowned aviator/businessman, Frank was keen to fill me in and get my flight north organized. Only recently he had set up an exclusive SEBJ corporate air operation using several Convair 580s. Their main task was to fly personnel, freight and mail back and forth between Dorval and SEBJ, with stops at Quebec and Bagotville.
This assignment was one of my first big breaks in aviation journalism. Even though I was getting published in the aviation press, there rarely was more than a few dollars in it for any piece of work. By comparison, Hugh was offering $750 for the SEBJ assignment. Our stories appeared in his November 1977 edition. My trip really panned out, including some very good flying in the Convairs, a couple of commercial Hercules, and some Bell choppers. I had one heck of an exciting few days. Here’s what I turned out for Hugh:
Forty-four years later? By now, the SEBJ that I saw in 1977 long-since has been producing hydro electricity for Quebec, New York and Ontario. The project has gone on to additional phases and still is on-going. Of course, the aviation scene is much changed. Long gone are the Convairs, DC-3s, Otters and Hercules. Today, such types as the PC-12, King Air and Dash 8 serve the region. Many of the fellows I met also have departed, from Frank Henley to Blake Smiley and Roy Heibel. Frank’s now a member of Quebec’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Roy later died in a helicopter crash.
Some of the SEBJ aircraft came to dramatic endings, including CF-DSX. Following SEBJ and other northern projects, in 1984 it became N39ST with Trans America, then was S9-NAI with Transafrik working in diamond mining regions of South Africa. On April 9, 1989 “NAI” was hauling fuel for the Angolan Air Force when it came under fire near Luena airfield. With two engines ablaze, it crash-landed. The 4-man crew survived, but that was the end of what once had been a famous Canadian Hercules.
The other “Herc” that I flew in on SEBJ, PWA’s CF-PWN, also had a bad ending. As N920ST, by 1989 it was doing shady work for the CIA. On November 27 that year was approaching Jamba airport in Angola. The “Aviation Safety Network” summarizes what happened: “The aircraft, flown by Tepper Aviation’s chief, reportedly was carrying out a flight on behalf of the CIA to provide the Angolan UNITA guerrilla forces with weapons. It crashed while coming in to land at Jamba. These flights were flown at night at a very low altitude to avoid MPLA radar detection. The runway at Jamba was dirt, the approach was over trees, and the portable runway lighting was probably marginally adequate.”
Back in 1995 we published one of the grandest corporate aviation histories – Canadair: The First 50 Years. It really is a lovely book and will be treasured for decades by those who own the 24,000 copies that came off the bindery at Friesen printers in Manitoba. However, there’s always the reality that no matter how we try, we never really can produce the “all singing, all dancing” aviation book. All that our Canadair can do it whet a reader’s appetite for more. Well, today here’s a bit more for the avid fan.
Just like all aerospace companies, Canadair created hundreds of projects “on paper”, few of which ever developed. That’s too bad in some ways, for some of these surely would have made grand successes.
Out in today’s aviation boonies are hundreds of Cessna Caravans, DHC Beavers, Otters and turbo Otters, Kodiaks, AN-2s and other such common workhorses. They serve niche markets in a hundred-and-one ways. They’re absolutely indispensible for isolated northern communities from Labrador to Alaska, across Africa and Latin America, in the Aussie outback, in Siberia, etc. Each type has its general history, even some fame and glory, but who knew, for example, that the Caravan had its beginnings in the late 1970s as a glint in to eyes of Dick Hiscocks and Russ Bannock of De Havilland Canada in Toronto? Strange but true. The fellows envisioned an Otter replacement, took their idea to Wichita, and the rest is history (you might not see this part of the Caravan story in any official Cessna history).
All very interesting, but did you know that the first such brilliant and serious idea for an Otter replacement hailed not from Hiscocks/Bannock, but from Canadair at Cartierville in suburban Montreal? This was the Canadair CL-260 utility plane of 1970. As a builder of Sabres, Argus and CF-104s, who would expect the great Canadair to be dabbling with such a “small fry” project? That I do not know and nearly all the Canadair old boys from that era by now have passed. Does anyone out there know the details? Failing all else, here’s a nifty bit that emerged lately from the depths of the CANAV archives.
CL-260 Turbine Otter Caravan
Wing Span: 54’ 58’ 52’1”
Length: 43’2” 41’10” 37’7”
All-up Weight: 8000 lb 8200 lb 8000 lb
It’s just another fantasy airplane by now, but “what if” Canadair had produced the CL-260? Would it have changed the world long before the ubiquitous Caravan, and the other light utility planes that serve today? It’s always fun to speculate. Anyway, here are the GA drawings direct from Canadair. Who will be the first keen modeller to give this one a try? If you dare try and follow through, please send me some photos for the blog.
Have a look at John Ciesla’s fantastic transportation files. Lots of wonderful Canadian content from the great airliners of the 50s-60s to streetcars, busses, you name it. Many a trip down memory lane!
Bush Caddy Update
The last time I updated the story of the “Ghost” Canso of Gananoque, one of the photos (taken by Nick Wolochatiuk) shows a bit of a sorry-looking yellow Bush Caddy in the hangar beside the Canso. CANAV reader Jim Golz has found the story behind this interesting airplane. It’s a classic “cautionary tale” in detail, including some questions about of aircraft certification competence at Transport Canada. Use the blog search box to find our original story by entering “Bush Caddy”. Here’s the link that reveals this really amazing story … not to be missed by any true history fan, or anyone who aviates in kitplanes: https://www.eaa.org/eaa/news-and-publications/eaa-news-and-aviation-news/bits-and-pieces-newsletter/12-25-2019-wing-spar-failure-on-a-bushcaddy-l-164