Canadian Car & Foundry and the Curtiss SBW Helldiver + Remembrance Day 2011

The impressive Curtiss SB2C/SBW Helldiver final line at Fort William in 1944. Such glorious factory scenes give the impression of stretching to the horizon. The official CCF caption for this photo reads, “Every day three planes come off the line. Those in foreground are checked and inspected. In centre of group at left: W.C. Will, Works Manager, with G.H. Kells, Shop Superintendent, on his right.” Then, a closer view of one of the planes. If there were any identifying serial numbers showing on a Helldiver at this stage (there usually were), as a rule the dark room gurus in CCF’s photography department dodged them out for security reasons. Notice the plane’s massive Wright R-2600 engine. More than 800 Helldivers would roll off this line in 1943-45. Other Helldivers were built by Fairchild of Canada at Longueuil, near Montreal.


The twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur (today’s Thunder Bay) at the head of Lake Superior have a long, proud history as progressive industrial centres. Since the 19th Century, they have manufactured such products as Great Lakes freighters, railway rolling stock, busses and airplanes. They also were vital in Canadian agriculture, with the railroads annually carrying millions of bushels of prairie grain east to the “Lakehead” cities. There it was stored in the elevators lining the waterfront, then shipped down the Great Lakes for Canadian, US and international markets. The Lakehead also had a thriving forest industry, with huge mills turning out paper products and lumber; and supported much of the mining in the vast surrounding hinterland.

You should look into the basic history, geography, etc. of the Lakehead in the published literature (books are your chief source of knowledge if you are as on the ball as I hope you are), then such other sources as Wiki. What about the region’s particular aviation heritage? Your No.1 source is the marvelous Jim Lysun book, Aviation in Thunder Bay, published by the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society This book is much more than a general treatment, but digs below the surface from pre-WWI to modern times. This is a book for any serious follower of Canada’s great aviation heritage. So … track down a copy. Another source? In CANAV’s 2018 book, Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939, I cover how Canadian Car and Foundry, having begun at Fort William in 1912, established an aviation division there in 1936 to assemble the obsolete Grumman G- 23 biplane fighter for foreign sale. The first fighter built in Canada, the G-23 flew initially at Fort William’s Bishopsfield aerodrome in February 1938. CCF also considered building a large passenger plane based on Burnelli’s flying wing concept, but this did not go beyond a mock-up (a smaller version was built in 1945, but that went nowhere, see Air Transport in Canada). CCF did, however, build prototypes of the advanced Gregor biplane fighter, and a biplane trainer known as the Maple Leaf. But, by the eve of WWII only the G-23 had succeeded. According to K.M. Molson in Canadian Aircraft since 1909, CCF turned out 52 G-23s, most of which were exported to Spain for use by communist forces against Franco’s fascists. This illegal transaction caused a political scandal for Ottawa. Later, the RCAF was obliged to accept 15 G-23s that had been embargoed before they could get to Spain. Happily, better days lay ahead for CCF and the RCAF.

Other essential books to support this story are Ken Molson’s and H.A. Taylor’s invaluable Canadian Aircraft since 1909, and Robert Stern’s and Don Greer’s spectacular SB2C Helldiver in Action/Aircraft No.54. Yet another title is Jonathan Kirton’s Canadian Car & Foundry Aircraft Production at Fort William on the Eve of World War II. If you’re persistent, you’ll find copies of these for sale on the web.

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver had been ordered by the US Navy to replace its earlier Douglas SDB Dauntless dive bomber. However, even at the design stage the SB2C had people worrying. The prototype flew at Buffalo, NY in December 1940, just as the SB2C factory was being built in Columbus, Ohio. Accidents and crashes plagued SB2C progress, so the first production plane wasn’t delivered until June 1942. By then, orders were on the books for 4000 planes. Development staggered along, the worst issue being how empty weight had skyrocketed from 7100 lb to 10,000 lb. The SB2C finally went to sea for trials aboard USS Yorkton, but these were disappointing. The ship’s captain reputedly suggested that the SB2C would make a better anchor than a dive bomber. Nonetheless, on entering combat early in 1943, the SB2C – with the help of innumerable modification — met the mark and within a year had replaced most SDBs in the south Pacific carrier fleet.

The daily press in every Canadian town and city reported in amazing detail about what was going on in the war from everything local to the cross-Canada and global scenes. In spite of strict press restrictions, it’s amazing how much detail was officially released or leaked. It takes diligent research to ferret out all of this so many decades later. The press often mentioned Canadian Car and Foundry and its Helldiver program. On February 4, 1944 this was page 19 in the “Toronto Daily Star” Toronto Daily Star Feb. 4 1944. Check out the fascinating report about the Helldiver in production and in action, then the two photos taken at Fort William. The Helldiver shown was for the Royal Navy, but the RN did not like the plane at all, so sent back its consignment to the USN. Regardless, the Helldiver proved its worth in the face of everything the Japanese could throw against it, sinking more enemy ships in the US South Pacific theatre than any other aircraft type. To get the most out of this news report, you need to put yourself back to 1944. There was a war on and we were facing two devilish world dictatorshipsin Germany and Japan  that already had slaughtered millions of innocent civilians. So get into that frame of mind. Also, accept the fact that censorship and propaganda were in force. The “Shorty” Matten mentioned actually is “Shorty” Hatton, one of Canada’s renowned pilots of the 1930s-40s. His 2004 biography is Shorty, An Aviation Pioneer, by author James Glassco Henderson.

Another spectacular photo from my CCF collection. This RCAF Hurricane was converted at Fort William for ski trials. Once the concept was evaluated, it was set aside as impractical. More than 1400 Hurricanes were manufactured at CCF from 1940 to 1943. This set up CCF for the much more sophisticated SBD Helldiver project.

CCF and the Helldiver

Happily, CCF was able to leave its shady G-23 venture behind to undertake wartime contracts to build the Hawker Hurricane for British, Canadian and Soviet forces, then the SB2C (designated “SBW” for CCF purposes) for the US Navy. Certainly, CCF’s experience with 1930s biplanes did help prepare the company for its future wartime challenges, especially in how such projects trained the local labor force in ever more modern skills. According to Canadian Aircraft since 1909, CCF received its first order for Hurricanes in November 1938. The prototype flew at Fort William in January 1940, then production proceeded until the last of 1451 was delivered in June 1943. By then “in the big leagues” of aircraft production, CCF re-tooled to manufacture the Helldiver. Simultaneously, Fairchild of Canada at Longueuil, Quebec won some Helldiver contracts. CCF SB2Cs were designated SBW-1, SBW-3 and SBW-4, while Fairchild’s were SBF-1 and SBF-3. With Orville J. Wieben (CCF chief pilot) at the controls, the first Canadian SBW (US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 21192) flew at Fort William on July 29, 1943, just weeks after CCF’s final Hurricane was delivered. Soon the line was in full swing, but both CCF and Fairchild had to keep up with a flood of modifications demanded by the US Navy. With top management and skilled, dedicated labor, they got the job done.


The bugs gradually were beaten out of the Helldiver, especially when its 1500-hp Wright R-2600 engine was replaced with a 1900-hp version. In the end, the series proved itself in US Navy service. To the last day of the war, Helldivers hounded Japanese targets at sea and on land, even though hundreds were lost to flak, enemy fighters and accidents. The Commemorative Air Force web site observes, “While often maligned by some critics, the SB2Cs were responsible for more ship tonnage sunk during WWII than any other aircraft.” Historian Joe Baugher records the essential details for hundreds of individual SB2Cs. In one case, he mentions how on July 18, 1944 a US Navy PBY-5 of VP-100 Squadron sank at sea off Oahu (Hawaii) after landing hard while trying to pick up the crew of a ditched CCF-built SBW. The survivors of both planes were rescued by the destroyer USS Crouter. The final CCF-built SBW was delivered at Fort William on September 5, 1945, a few weeks after the war ended. Nearly all SB2Cs quickly were struck off US Navy charge. Many were shoved off carrier decks into the deep to save on paperwork (a common end-of- war practice). In 1946 several Canadian-made SBW-3s were among the planes sacrificed aboard the USS Saratoga and USS Independence, when those once-proud carriers were destroyed in atomic bomb test explosions in the south Pacific. Meanwhile, a few Helldivers were gifted to Allies, but it’s not known if any were Canadian-made. In French service, these fought doggedly in 1954 during the last days before Dien Bien Fou fell to Ho Chi Minh’s forces. The last operational Helldivers were those flown by Italy in the anti- submarine role. These were replaced by Trackers in 1959. Few SB2Cs survived their brief post-war days. One belongs to the Hellenic Air Force Museum in Greece, another is with the Royal Thai Air Force Museum. Check out the ever-fascinating SB2C Wiki entry, which lists other survivors, restoration projects and wrecks. Owned by the Commemorative Air Force of Texas, the sole airworthy Helldiver visited Thunder Bay in 1998. Many CCF old timers turned out for the celebration.

The world’s only airworthy SB2C is N92879. I got to photograph it at Washington-Dulles on May 27, 1972. Following a subsequent crash, it again was restored and continues to fly. Befittingly, N92879 visited Thunder Bay in 1992. Really keen fans can take a short flight in this historic warbird for US$995. Read all about N92879 at

SB2C/SBW and SBF Production 1940 – 1945

SB2C-1: Curtiss 200, CCF 38

SB2C-1A: Curtiss 900 for US Army Air Force as A-25A Shrike

SB2C-1C: Curtiss 778, CCF (as SBW-1B) 28, Fairchild of Canada (as SBF-1) 50.
26 of the 28 CCF planes went to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, but were rejected.

SB2C-3: Curtiss 1112, CCF (SBW-3) 413, Fairchild of Canada (SBF-3) 150

SB2C-4: Curtiss 2045, CCF (SBW-4E) 270, Fairchild of Canada (SBF-4E) 100

SB2C-5: Curtiss 970, CCF (SBW-5) 85 (a further 165 cancelled at war’s end)

Canadian Helldiver production according to K.M. Molson: CCF 835 + Fairchild
300. Total 1135.

US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics SBW Series Serial Numbers*

SBW-1: 21192 to 21231

SBW-1B: 60010 to 60035 for Royal Navy

SBW-3: 21233 to 21645

SBW-4E: 21646 to 21741, also, 60036 to 60209

SBW-5: 60210 to 60459 Only 60210 was built, all others cancelled at war’s end (these do not quite tally with the usually stated figure of 835 CCF Helldivers). *These details as per Joe Baugher’s internet list, “US Navy and US Marine Corps BuNos”. It’s well worth your time to have a look.

Typical SBW-1 Helldiver Losses*

21199 (VB-2) shot down by A6M5 Zeke Jun 20, 1944 in Battle of the Phillipine
Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot)

21203 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) shot down by AAA Sep 9,
1944, Mindnao, Philippine

21206 assigned to CASU-35, destroyed on ground by crashing PB4Y-1 38766
Aug 9, 1944, Eniwetok

21210 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) lost from unknown cause,
Palau Island Sep 16, 1944

21211 (VB-2) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) ditched when ran out of fuel Jun
20, 1944, Battle of the Philippine Sea

21216 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) lost to unknown cause Sep
23, 1994, Okinawa

Typical SBW-3 Helldiver Losses

21236 (VB-100) in training accident Oct 20, 1944, Hawaii.

21238 assigned to COMAIRPAC lost to unknown cause, Pearl Harbor May 31,

21263 assigned to CASU(F)-12 lost to unknown cause May 17, 1945, Guam

21267 (VB-18) assigned to USS Intrepid (CV-11) lost to unknown cause Oct 24,
1944, Negros Island Visayas, Philippines

21279 (VB-17) assigned to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost to unknown cause Mar 28,
1945 near Kyushu, Japan

21283 (VB-14) attached to USS Wasp (CV-18) lost off Luzon in Philippines Oct
19, 1944

21287 (VB-18) attached to USS Intrepid (CV-11) lost to unknown cause Nov 25,
1944, Luzon, Philippines

21292 (VB-18) destroyed on deck of carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11) by kamikaze
attack Nov 25, 1944 near Luzon, Philippines

21296 (VB-14) attached to USS Wasp (CV-18) lost to unknown cause Oct 10,
1944, Okinawa

21304 (VB-100) attached to USS Saratoga (CV-3) lost in training accident Nov
17, 1944 near Pearl Harbor

21322 (VB-11) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost in Philippines Nov 13, 1944

21350 lost to unknown cause Dec 7, 1944, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

21351 (CASU(F)-14) lost to unknown cause Jun 21, 1945, Saipan

21353 (VB-4) destroyed on deck of USS Essex by kamikaze attack Nov 25,

21355 damaged on deck of USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88) by typhoon east of
Luzon Dec 18, 1944.

21374 (VB-80) attached to USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) lost at sea on launch off
Luzon in Philippines Dec 16, 1944

21377 (VB-7) attached to USS Hancock (CV-19) shot down by AAA over Hong
Kong, China Jan 16, 1945

21390 (VB-6) attached to USS Hancock (CV-19 shot down by AAA over Kyushu,
Japan Mar 18, 1945

21406 (VB-20) attached to USS Lexington (CV-16) lost to unknown cause Jan
16, 1945 near Hong Kong, China

21438 (VB-17) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost to unknown cause Apr 7,
1945, Okinawa

21710 crashed Jun 19, 1945 in Goose Lake, CA. 2 killed.

60017 (JW107) force landed in sea after taking off from [Naval Air Station]
Squantum Jun 24, 1944, pilot rescued

60023 (JW113) crashed before delivery to RN. Used for spares

60028 (JW118) suffered engine fire while in circuit at Columbus at end of ferry
flight from Minneapolis Jan 25, 1944. Force landed in field and subsequently
used for spares.

60029 (JW119) RN records say sold as scrap Aug 25, 1944, but RAF
records say transferred to them and used at Empire Central Flying School until
SOC Nov 12, 1945

60030 (JW120) flew into ground, caught fire and burned out at Wellesley, MA
Jun 6, 1944, both crew killed

60031 (JW121) misjudged dive on target and flew into sea at Inskip bombing

in England Oct 6, 1944, both crew killed

60032 (JW122) ditched near Squantum following engine fire Jun 24, 1944
* as per Joe Baugher’s list


What got me interested in doing this blog item was perusing a priceless old collection of historic 8 x 10 black-and-white albums that have been around my place for decades. Here and there over the years I’ve dug into these to illustrate one book or another. My history with this collection started with a phone call about 35 years ago from the great Ken Molson. Ken had a tip for me – George Olieux at George’s Trains on Mt. Pleasant Rd. here in Toronto had some original Canadian Car and Foundry photo albums for sale. Ken already had taken his choice of these, but suggested that I get up to see George ASAP and make a deal. That I did and picked up what was left for something like $200 for several hundred gorgeous, linen-backed 8 x 10 glossies. In my mind, I’ve often thanked Ken and George (who both are gone) for this great opportunity.

Here’s the pile of my CCF albums. Talk about a gold mine, eh. Two thick albums dwell exclusively on the Curtiss Helldiver.

My CCF albums are rich in company history at Fort William from the Grumman G-23 to the Gregor fighter, Maple Leaf trainer, Hurricane and Curtiss SB2C.  They include many amazing airplane photos, of course, but where the collection really shines is in what it shows about the plant, the machinery, the processes and — ever so importantly — the people. Whichever decision makers assigned CCF’s photographers to create these incomparable albums back in 1936 to 1944 deserve medals. Of course, at the time most of these photos were “classified”, so would have been under lock and key, other than for a few released for the company newsletter or public relations purposes. How they eventually got out into circulation remains a mystery. Some would have been taken home by keen employees once the war ended. I heard that George found the CCF albums in a much larger collection that he somehow acquired. Here is a small selection for your enjoyment:

A CCF SBW fuselage is about to be mated with its wing centre section. The adjustable and movable stand on which such work was done was known at CCF as a “corvette”. The CCF caption for this photo reads, “Precision tooling and accurate checking gauges assure a perfect fit when the two main components are spliced.” While CCF’s earlier G-23 production run was little more than an assembly job using parts brought in from such US manufacturers as Grumman and Brewster, the SBW airframe was manufactured at Fort William. By that time (1943-45) CCF had become qualified to do such advanced work, having already produced more than 1400 Hurricanes.

Further down the line, the airframe has been fully assembled, Wright R-2600 engine included. The plane has been lifted off its corvette and is ready for the final touches before rolling off the line. This SBW-3 still has to be painted. Its number (390) could represent US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics number 21390 (a CCF Helldiver that finally was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, but was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Kyushu, Japan on March 18, 1945). “390” also might represent CCF’s 390th SBW. So … numbers can be mysterious.

Workers doing Helldiver fine wiring tasks at CCF. This photo collection has many such scenes. Things may look a bit crazy, but there’s nothing chaotic here. The entire CCF Helldiver operation was progressing like a finely-tuned machine. However, just partly through the contract there was news that Canada’s war industries would be slowing. A “Globe and Mail” item of June 12, 1944 (“Cut Contract on Hell-Divers; May Trim Staff”) noted CCF employment at Fort William at 8000. By this time the Allies were succeeding in every theatre. They were so confident of final victory that in June 1944 the RCAF stopped recruiting for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This took place even though the Allies had only just landed in Normandy. It’s not surprising that the same paper was reporting about CCF on September 20, 1944: “There are some 5,500 workers. The Fort William plant has a contract which runs to the middle of next year and calls for more than 1,000 planes. Present output is in the neighbourhood of 56 a month.” In the end, Helldiver contracts at CCF and Fairchild of Canada were cut, CCF from 1000 to 835.

Workers at these benches are mainly finishing wing ribs. At every work station the job at hand had to be co-ordinated with each stage of production. Management and labour had to co-operate and they did. In exchange for their reliable services, workers at CCF took home very good pay.

Whether using small, hand-held tools or such massive ones as these drop hammers, workers had to be safety minded. On the whole, conditions were safe in the CCF plant for this stage of industrial development. Safety was pounded into everyone head day by day. Training was at a serious level (for the day), supervisors were forever watching for infractions, chemicals were handled as safely as possible, and doctors and nurses staffed clinics on site. Naïve people today may be horrified by such a photo and impose their 21st Century view of things upon it, but that is not history. Sad to say, but in today’s schools, much distorted history is taught by ill-educated, agenda-driven teachers. The CCF caption for this grand photo reads: “Drop Hammer Dept. has five hammers of various capacities and form sections up to 8 ft. long. The three in front are air-operated, the other two are electric revolving drum rope hammers. Air hammer at left is used for die-matching purposes only and was designed by our own staff and cast in Kirksite.”

Welders working on small parts. Then, another typical shop floor scene. No doubt the place was noisy and smelly, but people were happy to have such high-paying jobs, to be learning new skills and to be doing something to help the war effort. Notice the “Buy Victory Bonds” poster at the back. Each time one of these grand photos was taken, the photo team would ask everyone to “freeze” for a second or two.

Highly skilled staff work on Helldiver cockpit instrumentation.

Those in stores and warehousing kept supplies and parts moving to the various production lines as much on a “just in time” basis as do today’s modern factories. That as many as three Helldivers were pushed ready-to-fly off the final line every day shows us that. Notice the sign “Smoking Strictly Prohibited in this Building”.

Airframe structures and other components being manufactured. Every piece was being tracked, but by pencil and paper – on charts and graphs — vs today’s computerized everything. Final results? The same – beautiful airplanes – the most modern of the day rolling off the line. And we think we’re so smart. Surely, we must have invented everything, right.

Other shop floor scenes from Helldiver days. The CCF caption for the first of these reads, “Sand Blast chamber and rotating Blast Mill are shown in centre and at rear respectively, also Electric Furnace for normalizing and annealing or ‘Heat Treatment’ purposes.” For the next photo the caption reads: “Plaster Pattern has been removed and Molten Kirksite is poured into sand moulds. Box at the right has plaster pattern still embedded.” Finally, a photo of the open air acid baths used to clean parts before welding. Notice the basket of parts about to be lowered: “Clean contact surfaces are necessary before spot-welding. Oxide film is removed by immersion in etching solution. Etching also removes heat variations in contact surfaces and produces a better weld nugget. Some parts are cleaned by buffing.”

Another astounding factory scene as various parts are manufactured: “Fabricating exhaust manifold and tail wheel fairings, also carburetor air takes and ammunition boxes.”

The CCF receiving department never rested. Trainloads of raw material (steel, lumber, fluids, etc.) and finished items from nails and screws to engines arrived around the clock from suppliers and subcontractors throughout North America. Naturally, the trains ran like clockwork, the transportation system was impeccable. Periodically pulling in at receiving were boxcars full of Wright R-2600 engines from Wright either from Paterson, NJ, or Cincinnatti, Ohio. The mighty R-2600 also powered the Douglas A-20, Grumman Avenger and North American B-25. Wright delivered more than 50,000 R- 2600s. Once unpacked at CCF, the R-2600s were inspected, run on test stands, then installed in the Helldivers. CCF techs such as the fellow here normally wore ID badges. His was 7051. Sometimes these ancient factory IDs turn up these days on ebay. Everything’s collectible, right!

In dozens of other spaces around the plant all sorts of other tasks had to be done simultaneously. Here, for example, one of the busy office spaces where everything had to be done from ordering parts to expediting shipments, paying invoices, doing the payroll and keeping up with individual employee records. Notice the standard Underwood office typewriters – they did the same basic “data entry” work as any computer today – nothing mysterious about them. On the far wall are the typical calendars, notices and photos. Next, all the action underway in the ever-lively drafting room. The CCF caption notes: “Tool Design Dept, prepares drawings of all tools, jigs, assembly fixtures and special machinery used in the Plant. Also controls methods or procedures to be adopted in the fabrication of the plane.” The big poster in the distance includes a stark reminder to the staff: “Your Absence Makes the War Grow Longer … Work for Canada, Don’t Loaf for the Enemy”. Finally, fabric being cut and sewn for such essentials as engine and canopy covers.

All the finely-honed processes and parts manufacturing going on throughout the cavernous CCF Helldiver plant gradually came together as an airplane production line. Shown are fuselages at an early stage. Then, a fuselage section getting its initial coat of preservative paint. Next, Helldivers near the end of the line – not much further to go. Finally, a finished Helldiver being towed from the factory the short distance to Fort William airport for test flying.

At the airport, CCF pilots were swamped with work test flying Helldivers. Says the caption for this photos, “First flights of all planes are made by either of the Company’s three test pilots. Notes are kept on knee pad of each gauge and instrument reading taken during flight. Planes are not turned over for acceptance until performance is perfect.” Likely due to wartime restrictions, few people in such CCF photos are identified. However, I’ve found two names for this photo — Eddie Richards on the left, and chief pilot, Orville J. Wieben, centre.

“OJ” Wieben in the cockpit of an SBW-1 at Fort William. Notice the leading edge slats that were so useful during low- speed flight, especially when landing on the deck of one of a small US Navy aircraft carrier. This is an especially grubby-looking, patched-up Helldiver, so likely was CCF’s “company hack” used for such jobs as testing mods, giving pilots familiarization flights, doing air-to-air photography, etc. It might be 21192, the first CCF SBW-1, which “OJ” Wieben first flew in July 1943.

The US Navy stationed its own pilots at Fort William to monitor production and modifications, do test flights as needed, and manage all the complicated ferrying requirements. The RCAF also was involved, chiefly in aircraft acceptance and “paper pushing” roles. Here, S/L Frank Hems (1898-1985) is in his office with two of his staff. Hems previously had served in RCAF acceptance in Montreal for Stranraers, and Fort Erie for Fleet trainers. After the war, he was 12 years at Avro Canada until the company folded in 1959. He then worked in real estate. Check out the great calendar of the wall. Today, that would get a fellow thrown out on his RCAF head in 2 seconds. But these were more straight-forward times when people had actual lives, wars to win, etc. To balance things off and placate the killjoys there’s a picture on the other wall of a “manly” Helldiver, right.

USN pilots ready to ferry some new Helldivers to Columbus, a distance “as the crow flies” of nearly 700 miles. These young fellows had flown in to Fort William aboard a US Navy ferry service Cessna JRC-1 (a.k.a. T-50). Then, a stirring sight as three Helldivers rumble over the flightline to salute CCF before turning south for Columbus. Here’s a case where we can deduce some USN bureau numbers – 21548, etc., but Joe Baugher to date has no info for these particular Helldivers.

The flight test and acceptance/delivery hangars at Fort William. Then, a good overall view of the airport.

Fort William’s Helldiver story is chiefly about the citizens of Fort William, Port Arthur and surrounding area who hired on at CCF. Some brought useful skills to the job, but most turned up “not having a clue” about all the highly-skilled jobs essential in time of war. However, they trained in class sessions and on the job, quickly learned their roles, and did their part to get 835 Helldivers delivered. Inevitably, victory came and all the excitement of wartime Canada subsided. A “Toronto Daily Star” item of August 18, 1945 painted this blunt picture: “Canadian Car and Foundry Co. management here Friday announced that 3,000 employees of their Fort William plant were being laid off this week owing to the termination of aircraft contracts. The plant has been making Curtiss Hell Diver aircraft for the U.S. navy. W.O. Will, plant works manager, stated that between 1,500 and 2,000 employees will be continued on the payroll until Christmas on bus construction and taking of inventories.” After the war, many returned to CCF to staff the place when large orders came in for urban busses. But there also were aviation projects, including manufacturing Harvard trainers for the RCAF, and subcontracting for the Grumman Tracker being built by De Havilland in Toronto. In modern times CCF was acquired by Bombardier and to this day produces rapid transit trains.

Remembrance Day 2019

We’ve just celebrated the 101st Anniversary of the end of WWI, in which Canada played such a vital role. Canadians are privileged to be living in this great nation. Why have people been emigrating and planting their roots here since the early 1600s? Certainly not because they were leaving happier circumstances or better countries. So … who possibly would not show respect on Remembrance Day to all who have served and died for our freedoms to make Canada the finest and most tolerant nation on Earth.

Here are a few quick snapshots showing our snowy 2019 Remembrance Day ceremony in Toronto’s “Beaches” neighborhood. Things went off nicely, especially with the absence this year (at long last) of speechifying politicos. Keep politics out of Remembrance Day, OK? First, three pictures of the set-up and our crowd of solid citizens getting right into it in true Canadian style. Next, the march-off, then the neighbours at our Kew Park war memorial before they headed for a warmer spot. So it went at Remembrance Day events across Canada on this important day.


Canadian Fighter Pilots Association 1992 + Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC and Bar, Turns 100 + Old Canadair CRJs Go for Scrap

One of Canada’s grand annual aviation highlights in “days of yore” was the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association reunion. Hundreds of veterans used to attend to renew acquaintances and keep alive that old spirit of 1939- 45. By the 1980s the fellows still mainly were in their 60s and hadn’t lost much of the old zip from their heyday. Few were worrying about how time slowly was catching up on them, and there were more and more obits to read and funerals to attend. Inevitably, the CFPA dissolved and today almost none of the “originals” survive. I just came across a few miscellaneous old colour prints from the CFPA reunion at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel in September 1992 – getting to be 3 decades ago. It’s important to be reminded about those fabulous Canadians who, when hardly out of their teens, were flying, fighting and dying in theaters of war from the UK to Europe, “the Med”, North Africa, and eastward to India, Ceylon, Burma and (in the Fleet Air Arm) into Japan’s home waters. You’ve read a lot about these great Canadians in many a book. Here today are some of the “quickie” snapshots I took that weekend back in ‘92.


A.R. “Andy” Mackenzie (left) with his great wartime pals, Eric G. Smith and Fred Evans. Each had the Distinguished Flying Cross (the striped ribbon on the left in these medal groups). A junior writer of RCAF history (as I was) could not have had such wonderful friends and supporters. During WWII Andy (1920-2009) scored 8 confirmed kills while serving on 421, then, 403 squadrons in the UK and European Theatre of Operations. The citation for his DFC noted: “Flying Officer Mackenzie is a skilful and resolute fighter whose determination to destroy the enemy has always been evident.” Postwar, Andy excelled flying Vampires, then Sabres. He commanded 441 Sqn in the UK, then accepted a tour flying Sabres with the USAF in Korea. On his final patrol there, he was shot down by friendly fire. Captured by the enemy, he spent 2 years in North Korean/Chinese captivity. He was brutally tortured by these masters of the art and forced to sign a phony document admitting to being “a baby killer”. Finally repatriated, Andy returned to RCAF service. He once told me that he was never forgiven by RCAF HQ for his “capitulation” while a POW, so never again was promoted. Andy’s own biography is Mayhem to Mayday: The Two Air Wars of Andy Mackenzie, DFC. For you serious readers … occasionally a copy appears for sale at or

I already have featured Eric G. Smith (1921 – 2019) on this blog. You can find that item (with photos) simply by searching for “Eric”. Eric had flown night intruder Mosquitos during the war. The citation for his DFC reads: “This officer has completed a large number of operational sorties. He is a pilot of exceptional ability who has never let either adverse weather or enemy opposition deter him from completing his allotted tasks. He has inflicted considerable damage on the enemy lines of communication, mechanical transport and rolling stock. He has at all times exhibited great determination, initiative and daring and set  inspiring example by his fine fighting spirit and devotion to duty.” That sure sounds like the Eric Smith whom we all knew and loved. Eric also flew Sabres in combat with the USAF in Korea. He then excelled as a Sabre instructor/flight commander at RCAF Station Chatham, but also suffered from RCAF HQ small-mindedness. While CO of 413 Squadron (CF-100s) at Bagotville, one night he “put up a black” (nothing serious) in the mess. As had been Andy Mackenzie, this exceptional Canadian airman then was shunted aside. He soon left air force life to succeed in beef farming and real estate near Oxford Station south of Ottawa. Every summer for many years, the CFPA would enjoy a rip-roaring get together at Andy Mackenzie’s farm in the same neighborhood.

Fred Evans (1919 – 2009) flew Spitfires with 421 Squadron.
Although he tallied just one confirmed kill, he was revered among his
“Red Indian” mates at 421. The citation for his DFC explains: “This
officer has completed a very successful tour of operations. His skill and
resolution to frustrate the enemy on all occasions have set an outstanding example to his fellow pilots. While flying over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, he has destroyed or damaged large numbers of enemy road transport vehicles, five locomotives and fifty railway goods wagons. He has also destroyed one enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of another. Flying Officer Evans’ gallantry and fearlessness have proved him to be a brilliant and capable pilot.” As with Andy and Eric, postwar “civvie” life was not for Fred, so he re- joined the RCAF as a “retread”, flew fighters and also had a USAF Korean Sabre tour fighting the MiG-15. We cover the careers of these wonderful RCAF characters in such books as Sixty Years, The Canadair Sabre and Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations. Also see Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky.

Bob and Crystal Middlemiss with Eric and Andy. Bob (1920 – 2013) excelled as a Spitfire pilot first over the UK beginning in late 1941, then in Malta at the height of the German/Italian campaign to destroy that strategic little island, finally in the ETO. Postwar, he commanded 421 Squadron (Sabres), then pioneered on the F-104, being one of the first in the RCAF to fly it (he also flew the Grumman Super Tiger, the main contender challenging the F-104 for RCAF use – see Sixty Years). Bob commanded 427 Squadron (CF-104s) in NATO, and later in life was 427’s Honourary Colonel. One weekend in 2003 he took me along for 427’s annual “Gathering of Lions” thrash at Petawawa – another memorable event done up to perfection, Twin Huey flights for we VIPs included. Bob died on his 93 rd birthday.

(Above) Bob with his great friend, E.D. “Dean” Kelly. In fact, Dean (1920 – 2000) was beloved to every CFPA member worth his salt. I first was in touch with him in the early 1980s, when researching for CANAV’s project covering the first 60 years of the RCAF. When Hugh Halliday and I later wrote The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945, I talked to Dean about his Spitfire days, which also had included Malta. On a later sortie, he ended “in the drink” in the English Channel. I’d heard that there was a photo of him being fished out by an RAF rescue launch. Sure enough, Dean came up with a copy — here it is. For his efforts during WWII Dean received no DFC, but did receive a “Mention in Despatches”. After the war he excelled on the F-86 with the RCAF Air Division in NATO. Writing to me 35 years ago about those days, the great Sabre pilot, Johnny Greatrix of Winnipeg, noted about those times: “There were so many outstanding pilots, men like Dean Kelly, a superb solo aerobatic star. His shows made our eyes pop out!” Dean next flew the CF-100. When Eric Smith left 413, Dean took over from him. He later became one of the kings of the CF- 101 Voodoo, commanding 416 Squadron 1962-64. His solo Voodoo airshows were also said to be spectacular. He would put the normally non-aerobatic (but noisy and smoky) Voodoo, through its paces all within the tight confines of the airfield.

Dean with Andy Mackenzie. In my experience, all such RCAF wartime fellows were so jolly and positive, always ready to answer a question, come up with a photo, or suggest a good lead.

Another CFPA stalwart was R.D. “Joe” Schultz (1922 – 2011), also known as “Dutch” and “The Big Drifter”. Here’s Joe at the Royal York reunion with former CF-104 pilot, MGen D.R. “Don” Williams, then commanding Canadian Forces Fighter Group. Joe is remembered in many books including Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky. He flew the Beaufighter and Mosquito in the UK and ETO, scoring 8 confirmed kills against German night bombers. Postwar, he pioneered on the CF-100 and commanded Canada’s first Voodoo squadron. I first tracked down Joe while researching for my 1981 book, The Avro CF-100. That’s when Joe told me about almost losing a wing, when he over-stressed an early CF-100 at Toronto’s CNE airshow. Joe later appeared in such other CANAV titles as Sixty Years, The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945 and Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace Vol.2. Too bad, but he never took up my challenge to write his own story. Joe was the best friend to any history researcher – generous of his time, demanding of accuracy, always positive, etc. The citation to Joe’s DFC reads: “As pilot and observer respectively, Flying Officers Schultz and Williams have completed several sorties at night and have displayed a high degree of skill, courage and determination. During one sortie one night in December 1943, they destroyed three Dornier 217s, a feat which well illustrates their fine fighting qualities. In other sorties they have attacked locomotives and bridges.” That to the Bar to his DFC states: “This officer has at all times displayed great skill and courage in air operations. He has completed a large number of sorties and has invariably pressed home his attacks with much success. Flight Lieutenant Schultz has been responsible for the destruction of eight enemy aircraft at night, two of them during a patrol in April 1945. This officer has set a splendid example of keenness, ability and gallantry.”

As young men, Ron MacGarva (1922 – 2009, right) and Norm Howe (1920 -2018) flew Typhoons with 175 Squadron (RAF). Hugh Halliday summarizes a bit about Ron in his book, Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story: “Having joined the RCAF in 1940, he trained at No.16 EFTS (Edmonton) and No.10 SFTS (Dauphin. Overseas, he did his OTU at Crosby on Eden and went for a few weeks to 412 Squadron, before being posted to 175 Squadron at Warmwell in the spring of 1943. There, many of his ops were against shipping targets and enemy airfields across the Channel. MacGarva was tour-expired that autumn and posted to the Far East to instruct on Hurricanes, then flew more ops with 60 Squadron from Agartala [India]. Post-war, he studied agriculture at the University of Manitoba, but the lure of flying drew him back into the RCAF in 1948. He spent several years on Sabres – instructing at Nellis AFB in Nevada and at RCAF Station Chatham, and doing NATO tours. He led the RCAF team, which won the 1959 NATO gunnery trophy [Guynemer Trophy], and finally left the RCAF in 1969 to work for the Department of Transport” For more about this great RCAF fighter pilot, also see The Canadair Sabre and Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3.

Ron MacGarva accepts NATO’s 1959 Guynemer Trophy from A/V/M Larry Wray (Air Officer Commanding of RCAF No.1 Air Division). Looking on are Ron’s teammates Dave Barker and Bill Norm on the left, and Alfie McDonald and Bill “Kiwi” McArthur on the right.

Norm Howe received the DFC on August 8, 1944, the recommendation for which (likely from his CO) reads: “This officer has been with the squadron since March 1942 during which time he has flown 79 hours operationally. He took part in the Dieppe Raid when he led his section in low level attacks on gun positions. He is now a Deputy Flight Commander and has led his flight on a number of occasions. He has displayed great keenness and enthusiasm and throughout has set a magnificent example. During a dive-bombing attack on the Cherbourg area he was very badly shot up by flak and in spite of severe damage he brought his aircraft safely home.” Norm died at age 98 on December 6, 2018. His obituary, describing yet another typical member of “The Greatest Generation”, reads in part: “Decorated Royal Air Force fighter pilot, jazz aficionado, fabulous dresser, champion tennis player, amateur water colour artist, bird watcher and skilled raconteur and joke-teller. He also made a very tasty chili and clam chowder, and his blueberry pancakes were first class. It is next to impossible to come up with any negatives about Normie – except perhaps his penchant for never getting rid of anything that he acquired, ever, and during his heyday making a undrinkable, potent, purple, unfiltered-for-fruit flies concoction that members of his Niagara-on-the-Lake cabal astonishingly termed “wine”. He was intelligent, loving, funny, engaging, generous, witty, empathetic, creative and self-sacrificing. He saw the best in others and gave the best he had. He was just someone you wanted to be around. We will miss him terribly.” See even more about Norm Howe at Go there and search for “Typhoon and Tempest – Reminiscences”. That will take you to some rare coverage of the RCAF’s last few Typhoon pilots.

Norm Howe (right) of Toronto with his pal Duval Wescott of Winnipeg, while they were tempting fate on a daily basis flying Typhoons with 175 Squadron.

Stanley M. Deluce (1923 – 2010, left) and R.A. “Dick” Watson (1923 – 2010) at the 1992 CFPA get together. Born in Chapleau, Ontario, Stan flew RCAF Hurricanes with 126 Squadron (Eastern Air Command). Postwar, he founded White River Air Services, a small bush flying outfit in Northern Ontario. He also was an engineer with the CPR, a job he held for more than 40 years. Meanwhile, the Deluce children became involved with the family business, “learning the ropes” as young bush pilots. White River eventually absorbed such companies as Austin Airways, grew into Air Ontario, and operates today as Porter Airlines – still family run. In 2007 Stan was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Born in Oba, Ontario, Dick Watson joined the RCAF in 1941 and eventually excelled overseas as a Typhoon pilot. A 1944 RCAF statement about Dick reads: “This officer has completed a tour of operational duty during which he has taken part in many sorties against heavily defended ground targets. At Caen, on 18th July, 1944, his aircraft received a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire and exploded in mid-air. He was able to parachute safely to earth and found himself in the midst of a furious tank battle, but he returned to our lines bringing back 139 prisoners with him. He has displayed great presence of mind and gallantry and has been an outstanding example to all those with whom he flies.” Dick received the Croix de Guerre from both France and Belgium (the medals on the right with red ribbons). Postwar, Dick operated a bush flying and tourist operation from Wawa on the Lake Superior shore. For many years it was an annual thing for Dick and his “wild and crazy” Typhoon buddies to gather at one of his lodges to fish, hunt and reminisce.

P/O Dick Watson (then about age 20) about to take his mighty 440 Squadron Typhoon on an operational sortie from one of our advanced fighter bases in France. This has always been one of my favourite Typhoon “action shots”. (RCAF PL40736)

On October 30, 2019 W.C Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC and Bar, was honoured for reaching 100th year. Here, he cuts his cake at the Toronto Cricket Club during Royal Canadian Legion Branch 165’s monthly dinner. Russ is a legendary figure in Canadian aviation, famous originally for his wartime career as a Mosquito night intruder pilot. During his many operations in such roles as CO of 418 “City of Edmonton” Squadron, Russ and his navigators attained ace status, destroying and damaging many enemy aircraft in aerial combat and during daring raids on enemy airfields, and downing 19 V-1 flying bombs (more than any other crew). The citation to Russ’ Distinguished Service Order notes, “As squadron commander, Wing Commander Bannock has proved to be an outstanding success. Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross he has destroyed a further seven enemy aircraft bringing his total victories to at least eleven enemy aircraft destroyed and others damaged. He has also destroyed nineteen flying bombs by night. In addition he has caused considerable disruption to the enemy’s lines of communication. Under this officer’s inspiring leadership his squadron has obtained a fine record of successes and reached a high standard of operational efficiency.” Postwar, Russ joined De Havilland of Canada, where he made the first flight of the DHC-2 Beaver in 1947. Russ eventually rose to be head of sales, then president of DHC. He later founded Bannock Aerospace, which operates to this day. His civil honours include membership in Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Order of Ontario. Russ is featured in many books from Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky to Fred Hotson’s The De Havilland Canada Story to one that Hugh and I did together, The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945.

The famous night intruder team of Russ Bannock (pilot) and Robert Bruce (navigator) under the nose of their Mosquito.

Always supportive of our aviation heritage, Russ Bannock to this day shows up at history events. Here he is (right) ages ago with two other renowned (but late) Canadians at one of CANAV’s famous book launchings. Bob Fowler (left) flew Mitchells over France after D-Day, then excelled postwar as a test pilot at DHC. Centre is K.M. “Ken” Molson, who has done more for Canada’s aviation heritage than anyone. His achievements include founding Canada’s national aviation museum and authoring some of the most prominent Canadian aviation history books. Russ and Bob ever so deservedly are members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. We are hoping that some day the Hall will also admit Ken.

Canadair CRJs Go for Scrap

This year, aviation historian, Jan Fosgren, photographed some early Canadair CRJs consigned for parting out and scrapping in Sweden. Shown are photos taken in January 2019, when these aircraft were complete except for engines, then how they recently ended. Jan noted on January 18, 2019: “Just thought I’d send you some photos of three CRJ200’s that have been stored at Arlanda airport near Stockholm for several years. I took these last Thursday at Arlanda’s ‘Desolation Row’, which also includes two Caravelles (destined for preservation), one ATP, one Saab 340 and one DC-8-62.”

CRJ-200 VP-BMR was Canadair Serial No.7192 delivered initially as N623BR in September 1997 to Atlantic Coast Airlines of Dulles International Airport. In 2004 ACA became Independence Air. In 2009 N623BR was acquired by Air Volga of Volgograd, then (when the airline went bankrupt in April 2010), it joined RusLine of Moscow the following year. By 2019 RusLine is said to have had a fleet in 17 old CRJs. “BMR” flew to Arlanda for storage in February 2014. Jan wrote to me again on October 30 this year with some details: “After a Russian team had removed anything of value, the scrappers moved in two days ago. A sad sight, but a reminder that even 20-year old airliners can be of no value other than as scrap metal. I managed to obtain one item from JA01RJ — a ‘Mind the Steps’ sign in English and Japanese.” Notice that these CRJs are in “ER” (“engines removed”) condition. The GE engines go first as quite often they still have a few years left in them. At least they are good for spare parts.

Japanese-registered CRJ-200 JA-01RJ was a very early CRJ-100 (s/n 7012). In April 1993 it went new from Canadair of Montreal as N914CA to Comair/Delta Connection of Cincinnatti. In 2010 it was in storage at Calgary, where CRJs mainly were meeting their sad endings as piles of mangled aluminum (once anything of value had been stripped). Somehow, 7012 ended with a short reprieve, having been ferried out of Calgary some time after October 2012 (no details presently known). What is the meaning of 7012’s Japanese registration? Sometimes such details are elusive.

Built in Y2K, CRJ-200 s/n 7426 VQ-BBW started with ACA and Independence Air as N651BR. In 2006 it moved to Mesa Airlines of Phoenix and in 2009 went to Rusline of Moscow. In their dying days, such well-worn CRJs often get a quick new paint job. They look fine, but really … quite often they are being “flown into the ground” to squeeze the last few cycles/dollars out of them. In June 2011 “BBW” was consigned to the boneyard at Arlanda. Jan adds this interesting bit of history, “Built by Bombardier, the 50-seat CRJ-100 entered airline service in 1994, with 226 being built. The improved CRJ-200 proved a huge success, with 709 being delivered.” Many of these early CRJs remain in daily use. Most are very well cared for, a few “out in the boonies” are basket cases.

Early Film Footage of the Boeing 707 + Rick Mercer Reports on the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster + Dave Fairbanks Is Honoured at Ithaca

The Boeing 707 — Early Development and Initial Service This is a very worthwhile viewing experience. It’s a 1960 Boeing promotional movie with some very nice footage from around the world, including by one of my earliest correspondents, the great Gordon S. Williams. Have a look and enjoy — just google this link and you should get there:

And … if you have another spare 6 minutes, check out Rick Mercer’s wonderful coverage of his flight in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster!

Dave Fairbanks Honoured in Canada and the United States

While serving the RCAF during WWII, Dave Fairbanks mainly flew the powerful Hawker Tempest V, an advanced British fighter that was greatly feared by the enemy.

Among new members inducted at the Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame annual dinner this year (2019) in Montreal was the great David Charles “Dave” Fairbanks. Born in Ithaca, New York in 1922, early in WWII Dave joined the RCAF, where he excelled as an instructor, then as a fighter pilot. In combat in the European Theatre of Action, Dave gained “ace” status and received the Distinguished Flying Cross three times. Postwar, he led the way with several key projects as a test and demonstration pilot with De Havilland Canada in Toronto. That’s the period when I first met Dave. During the Toronto airshow on September 2, 1961, Dave flew me back and forth between Downsview Airport and Toronto Island Airport in Caribou No.2 CF-LAN. Flipping through some early pages in my passenger logbook, I see that I flew again with Dave on August 28, 1963 (at the same airshow) in Caribou CF-OYE. Those were the years when we local high school aviation buffs often could scrounge such flights from the ever-friendly DHC pilots.


Dave Fairbanks with his Tempest EJ762 following a severe encounter with German flak on November 19, 1944. Commanding 274 Squadron, Dave became the top Tempest ace with at least 11 kills.


Dave Fairbanks was a prominent part of several key De Havilland Canada programs during the height of the STOL (short takeoff and landing) development period. His first big assignment was the DHC-4 Caribou, which he and fellow pilot George Neal flew initially on July 30, 1958. Here they are that day (Dave on the right, George on the left) with flight test engineer Hans Brinkman.

CF-LAN-X was the second prototype Caribou. The US Army became the main Caribou operator.

Pilot’s Progress

Dave Fairbanks certainly made his mark at DHC. Besides Caribou test flying, from October 1959 to May 1960 he and A.W. “Mick” Saunders piloted CF-LVA on the first Caribou round-the-world sales tour. Dave contributed steadily to various on-going and upcoming DHC projects, the Twin Otter, Buffalo and Dash 7 included. He also carried out a lot of routine flying duties. Recently, Darrel Smith told me about one of these. Darrel had been with the Vancouver RCAF air reserve flying everything from Harvards and Vampires to Otters. When his squadron (442 Sqn) received its first Otters in 1960, Dave Fairbanks went west to make himself useful by giving some Otter seminars and flying instruction to 442. Lately, Darrel told me, “Certainly nice that Ithaca’s air event [see below] was dedicated to Dave. I too was really pleased that he was inducted into the CAHF last May. I had the pleasure of flying with Dave when we received our first Otters at 442, He was certainly a very well respected pilot.”

Following the Caribou, Dave did much development flying on the DHC-5 Buffalo and DHC-6 Twin Otter. Here, he does a dramatic Buffalo STOL departure from a baseball park along the East River in New York City. This was part of a grand demonstration to show the potential to city life of STOL aircraft. Then, a Twin Otter is seen landing in a tight spot during the same demonstration. These two wonderful photos were taken by the late, great Howard Levy of New Jersey.

Dave Passes On

Dave Fairbanks during his later years at DHC.

On February 20, 1975, just two weeks after the Dash 7 had been rolled out, Dave died of unexpected heart failure at the young age of 52. Happily, the basic details of his eminent aviation career are recorded in Fred Hotson’s 1995 book, De Havilland in Canada, and in Norman Franks’ 2019 book, Gallantry in Action: Airmen Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Two Bars 1918-1955. There’s also a good summary of Dave’s life on the “Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame” website You can check out these sources for the fuller story.

When you get a chance to visit Canada’s National Air Force Museum in Trenton, Ontario, be sure to look for the wonderful display of F/L Dave Fairbanks’ memorabilia, his wartime logbook and DFC Citations included. (Photo by Ken Swartz)

Getting Dave Inducted

How did the process work to get Dave Fairbanks inducted into the CAHF? The initial push came from longtime DHC pilot, Tom Appleton. Tom had worked under Dave since the mid-1960s as a test and demonstration pilot, excelling especially in Buffalo test and development flying. Tom later was president of the Amphibious Aircraft Division at Bombardier Aerospace, president of Piaggio America, and to this day is active in aerospace. In 2018 he asked if I would second his nomination for Dave to the CAHF. That, of course, was an honour and, happily, Tom’s efforts panned out – Dave was selected. However, the preliminaries had not been “a piece of cake”.

Although Dave was well known in test flying circles around the world, few details about his personal life were known. Tom knew that he had grown up in Ithaca, but Dave seemed to have no known relatives. His wife was believed to have passed away and they had had no children. Dave’s parents had long ago passed on and there was no sign of any siblings. Meanwhile, I had heard that MGen (ret’d) Mike Hall now was airport manager at Ithaca Tomkins Airport. I had known Mike when he commanded the 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a New York Air National Guard A-10 unit based at Syracuse. I connected Tom with Mike, then, one weekend Tom visited Mike to see what more he could learn. This foray paid off, for Tom found some leads about Dave’s youth, etc. through the Ithaca high school, local newspaper archives and other historical sources. Meanwhile, retired Canadian War Museum historian, Hugh Halliday, provided us with all known details about Dave’s wartime RCAF career by reviewing his personnel file at Library and Archives Canada. After filtering through all such material, Tom was able to present the CAHF with a good argument in Dave’s favour. At the CAHF Induction Dinner held in Bombardier’s business jet completion hangar at Dorval (Montreal) in May, we all enjoyed a video covering Dave’s accomplishments. CAHF historian, John Chalmers, CAHF stawald, Mary Oswald, and others at the CAHF in Wetaskiwin, Alberta teamed to create this wonderful piece of history. Mike and Sheela Hall attended from Ithaca. Dave Fairbanks now was formally recognized in the wide world of aviation history. Everyone went home satisfied and the Hall of Fame staff began looking ahead to 2020 and a new group of inductees.


Meanwhile, down in Ithaca other wheels of aviation history were turning. When he took over as airport manager in 2014, Mike Hall had introduced an annual airport open house. For 2019 it seemed important to him that this year’s event should be dedicated in honour of Dave Fairbanks, and so it happened. Tom, his wife, Heather, and I were invited. On September 13 we drove from Toronto to Ithaca, where we enjoyed a wonderful evening in one of the main Ithaca Tomkins Airport hangars. Banquet tables were arranged around the EAA’s fabulous B-17 “Aluminum Overcast” (an impressive backdrop), Mike and Tom spoke, and a fine time was had by all.

The crowd starts to gather in the hangar for the Dave Fairbanks event. Then …  time to eat!

Mike Hall delivers his opening remarks. Through his distinguished USAF career, Mike flew NORAD’s top fighter – the F- 106. He later joined the New York Air National Guard, flying the A-10 and F-16 with the 174th TFS at Syracuse. Eventually, he commanded the squadron.

Tom Appleton outlines the Dave Fairbanks story. Tom worked several years as a test pilot under Dave at De Havilland Canada. Then, Mike Hall chatting with Tom and Heather Appleton.

Ithaca Tomkins Airport

Next morning the airport tarmac was open to the public. It was great fun with many displays of aircraft, collectable cars, and much airport equipment for everyone to enjoy at the “hands on” level. Topping it all off, “Aluminum Overcast” made several passenger flights.

The flying club hosted a pancake breakfast. Visitors packed the hangar. Then, EAA B- 17 N5017N on the tarmac ready for its first of several flights. Happily, the weather was starting to clear. The detail photo of the instrument panel shows a mixture of old and new technology.

N5017N “Aluminum Overcast” as I first saw it at the Canadian Warplane Heritage airshow at Hamilton, Ontario in June 1979. Note that it still was in “stripped down” condition. Originally USAAF tail number 44-85740, N5017N had been delivered too late (1945) to see combat. Instead, in 1947 it was sold for $750 scrap value to Charles Winters, who soon re-sold it for $3500. Registered N5017N, it was converted to haul cargo, so all excess weight (gun turrets, etc.) was removed. It then started freighting between Florida and Puerto Rico. In 1949 N5017N was re-sold for $28,000 (how its market value had exploded!) to Aero Service Corp. and converted for high level aerial photography. Later, N5017N had a life as a bug sprayer, until finally getting into the warbird world in 1978, when acquired by Dr. William Harrison. In 1980 he donated the plane to the EAA, which eventually, re-converted it to look as it would have when rolled off the Boeing production line. For more about “Aluminum Overcast” see Scott A. Thompson’s superb book Final Cut The Post-War B-17 Flying Fortress: The Survivors and B17 Aluminum Overcast Tour – EAA

Lots of car collectors turned out for the Saturday event at Ithaca Tomkins Airport. Here, vintage car aficionado, Tom Appleton, admires a 1937 Packard, and talks it over with the owner.

All sorts of airport equipment were on display, including this 1958 American Lafrance (Dodge Power Wagon) fire truck. Meanwhile, the nearby community of Lansing was taking visitors on “flights” in the bucket of its 100-foot aerial ladder.

Ithaca being in a New York state snow belt, the airport is ready for the worst in winter storms. A variety of exotic snow removal equipment is always at the ready once winter closes in. Everyone had a chance to inspect this amazing technology.

Airport manager, Mike Hall, (right) on duty on the ramp.

Commercial flights came and went during the day. Here, Delta Connection’s Bombardier CRJ-200 N496CA arrives.

Cornell University

Ithaca is renowned as the home of Cornell University. Dave Fairbanks grew up in this rarefied atmosphere and his own father was a Cornell professor. For our weekend visit, our hosts set us up royally in the Statler Hotel on the Cornell campus. Here are a few snapshots taken during my walk-arounds. First, the Ezra Cornell monument, then the famous Cornell clock tower.

This week, Cornell’s renowned art gallery was featuring an interesting “installation” – a beat- up old “hippy” Volvo.

Another typical scene on the historic Cornell campus.

RCAF Nostalgia No.19 Elementary Flying Training School Virden, Manitoba, Course 45 Graduating Class of February 26, 1942

During the Second World War, hundreds of classes and tens of thousands of  pilots graduated from elementary flying training courses held at schools across Canada under the umbrella of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. One such school was 19 EFTS at Virden, Manitoba. The graduating class of February 26, 1942 included 80 proud young men, their draft being mainly from Western Canada, with the exception of a few Americans.

Every graduation featured a program of events and list of graduates. During the day, a parade would be held, followed by the final banquet. The excited young pilots, each with a few flying hours on the De Havilland Tiger Moth, then would be posted to a service flying training school to train to “wings” standards. If destined for fighters, they usually would go on to a Harvard school; if going to bombers or other multi-engine planes, they usually would be posted to a school flying Ansons or Cranes.

Recently, I came across this course graduation program among the vast and endlessly fascinating holdings in the William H.D. “Bill” Meaden, DFC, Collection, which I inherited long ago from the Meaden Estate. Over the decades, readers of CANAV’s RCAF history books have seen quite a bit about Bill Meaden’s illustrious wartime and postwar RCAF careers. From Edmonton, he had begun on Course 45 at Virden on December 29, 1941. He finished on February 26 with 80 hours flying the Tiger Moth. He went on to Cranes at Dauphin, Manitoba; went overseas into the RAF training system, and finally on to operations. He excelled in Bomber Command, coming home with the Distinguished Flying Cross. You can read of Bill’s exploits in such CANAV titles as Sixty YearsThe Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945, and Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations Overseas.

As the war proceeded, many of these young airmen kept in touch. I have many of Bill Meaden’s wartime letters. In these he and his pals often traded war stories (sometimes dreadful ones) and sometimes he received a letter back that he had written to a pal – a letter stamped “deceased”. Yes, these were young men tied up in some very brutal realities.

What about 19 EFTS, Course 45? EFTS was just the first of the flying hurdles that aspiring pilots had to face in the BCATP and later. So what became of these 80 fellows on leaving Virden early in 1942? No one’s fate could be predicted at the time. Certainly, several would have “washed out” at SFTS, where standards were tougher than at Virden. Even a small failure could see a fellow sent home to his mother. Even worse … hundreds at the SFTS stage would be killed or injured in flying accidents. Others would die in traffic accidents, drownings, fatal illnesses, even the occasional murder or suicide. It was not an easy go.

I’ve had a look through the graduate list for Course 45 at Virden and it’s clear that most of the fellows survived the war. Yes, some would not have made it through the rigours of SFTS, being shipped home perhaps for many a reason to work in the war industries, return to school, etc. From what I can see (although my work here has been limited) ten Course 45 fellows were killed either in action (KIA – killed in action) or training (KIFA – killed in flying accident). One man lost in eight is a high casualty rate, especially considering that several others did not even get beyond SFTS.

Interestingly, you can see that a number who had survived at Virden, washed out of pilot training at SFTS, but then selected alternate trades in order to fulfill their dream of serving their country in time of great need. Four of the 10 fatalities from Course 45 were not pilots. Here is my tentative list of those lost. I know of just one (Meaden) who later served in the postwar RCAF. The majority of survivors simply went home after the war to do other things. Notice the scribble on the Course 45 program – “LAC Morgan, J.C.” His bio on Wiki is worth a look. Morgan later transferred from the RCAF to the US Army Air Force, flew on B-17s over Germany, then one day had a horrendous mission. For his determined work that day, he would receive the Congressional Medal of Honour — as good as it gets at the Presidential level.

19 EFTS Course 45 – Wartime Fatalities

P/O Joseph Eloi Bohemier of St. Anne, Manitoba Age 21. KIA January 23, 1945. 441 Squadron, Pilot, Spitfire MK585 lost off Shetland Islands. No known grave. Remembered on the Runnymede War Memorial.

Sgt Douglas Oliver Broughton of Vancouver Age 21. KIA May 13, 1943. 429 Squadron, Air Gunner, Wellington HE913, shot down by a night fighter on operations to Duisberg. Broughton previously badly injured in a crash at 22 OTU (sole survivor of this crash). Buried in Nijmegen, Netherlands

F/O Harry Allan Danniger of San Bernadino, California. Age 26. KIA September 6, 1943. 419 Squadron, Bomb Aimer, Halifax DJ210, shot down, target Mannheim. Buried at Durnback, Germany.

P/O Warren Douglass Hall of Crossfield, Alberta Age 21. KIA May 7, 1944. 211 Squadron. Pilot, Beaufighter TF539, lost on operations. Remembered on the Singapore War Memorial.

FSgt James Douglas Hamilton of Kenaston, Saskatchewan. Age 22. KIA June 23, 1943. 427 Squadron, Pilot, Halifax DK141 shot down by a night fighter during operations to Mulheim. Buried Bergen-Op-Zoom, Netherlands.

FSgt Elmer Charles King of Peace River, Alberta. Age 20. KIA July 16, 1944. 44 Squadron, Air Gunner, Lancaster PB206 lost on mining operations. Remembered on the Runnymede War Memorial.

FSgt James Lawrence McConnell of Calgary, Alberta. Age 22. KIFA January 29, 1943. 22 OTU, Pilot (in training), Wellington HE650, crashed Gloucestershire. Buried Moreton-in-Marsh.

Sgt Samuel Hampton McBryde of Kingsville, Texas. KIFA October 13, 1942. 15 AFU, Pilot (in training), Oxford crashed during night training at Acaster Malbis aerodrome near Leeds.

F/O Robert Jordan Sheen of Owendale, Alberta. Age 26. KIA July 13, 1944. 415 Squadron, Pilot, Wellington MF494, lost on night anti-shipping operations North Sea. Remembered on the Runnymede War Memorial.

FSgt Hugh Phair Spencer of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Age 20  KIA May 1, 1943. 51 Squadron, Air Gunner, Halifax HR733 shot down near Essen. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

Canadian Forces Supports the Former Soviet Union: 1993 Mission to Krasnoyarsk

The aircraft for the first leg of our trip to Krasnoyarsk was CanForces/437 Sqn Boeing 707 13705, operating as Canadian Forces Flight 7356. ‘705 was one of five 707-347Cs ordered (but not taken up by) Western Airlines. Instead, they were delivered to the Canadian Forces in 1970-71. These fantastic aircraft would serve Canada well, until sold in 1995-97 to the USAF, which converted them to E-8C reconnaissance configuration, ‘705 becoming 96-0042. On September 24, 2005 it was damaged by Hurricane Rita in Louisiana, but repairs were made and ‘042 remains in service. I can’t figure where/when I took this long-ago photo of passengers boarding ‘705, but I see my old pals Mike Valenti and John McQuarrie among the mob. (Click on any photo to see it full frame.)

On February 14, 1993 I was one of 11 passengers waiting at CFB Trenton to board CanForces Boeing 707 13705 for Helsinki. By this time, I had been visiting Trenton on this or that interesting project for more than 30 years. So what was going on at Trenton this day? The answer involved the recent collapse of the USSR and how the new country – then (temporarily) referred to as the Former Soviet Union — urgently needed medical supplies from the West. The International Red Cross had identified specific FSU needs and had begun an airlift the previous year. No one knew how the old USSR was going to be “re- imagined”, but the IRC appreciated that it needed basic medical supplies to bridge its grave shortfall. This problem had arisen in part since the FSU could not purchase basic medical needs abroad — suppliers did not want Russian rubles. A Canadian Red Cross Society paper also explained how existing medicines produced by the USSR’s outdated pharmaceutical industry rapidly were disappearing, adding, “The collapse of the pharmaceutical industry makes it impossible for the [FSU] to provide sufficient stocks to meet even rudimentary needs.” Additionally, the FSU faced civil war in some areas, making internal trade difficult. Regardless, through 1992 the finer points about what was needed were worked out between the IRC and Moscow.

Ancient paperwork – my 1993 visa application where “USSR” still was terminology. It wasn’t the easiest thing to get on a trip such as this, but for the Krasnoyarsk mission, BGen Jeff Brace, then commanding Canadian Forces Air Transport Group, knew of my interest. Jeff was the sort of Air Force officer who always had enjoyed RCAF history and appreciated  the books that I was doing. As Operation Boreal II was ramping up, he called personally to invite me on one of the missions. As a young RCAF captain, Jeff had begun with an exciting career flying the C-130 with 436 Squadron, then advanced to the 707 at 437. Eventually, he commanded 437, then was Base Commander, CFB Trenton and, finally, Commander, Air Transport Group itself.

Months of planning resulted in what Canada’s Department of National Defence dubbed “Operation Boreal II”. For 1993 this entailed 20 air transport missions to needy regions in the FSU. The CRCS would supply 44 medical kits valued at $5 million. Weighing about 2500 lb, each kit included basic antibiotics, inhalers, aspirins in bottles of 5000, bandages, needles, antiseptic wipes, rubber gloves – nothing fancy. The CRCS noted that, “One kit provides supplies for 50 hospital beds for one year.” The DND would deliver kits to centres in the Urals, Siberia and Trans-Caucasus.

A wide view of the great Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Happily, on this winter’s day in 1993 the smog was not up to its usual oppressiveness. Massive air pollution has left Krasnoyarsk’s population with a plague of dreadful respiratory and cancer ills. “Op Boreal” brought welcomed relief at a critical moment. Krasnoyarsk had been one of the USSR’s infamous “closed cities”.No one could come or go without strict permission. At the time of our visit, parts of the city remained off limits.

The City

What about Krasnoyarsk? Situated at 56° 10’N, 91° 50’E this is an ancient Russian community founded in 1628. Mining, forestry, agriculture, trade and transportation were early activities. In Stalin’s era Krasnoyarsk also was an major part of the gulag, where Stalin’s “deplorables” were sent to be worked to death and otherwise “to disappear”. The population by 1993 was about 1 million. Mining and forestry remained important, and factories, including massive aluminum and steel works, steadily chugged out pollution. Most products were for the military. Here in the centre of continental Eurasia there even are shipyards along the Yenisei River for, through mighty feats of engineering, the Yenisie River has been made navigable all the way to Arctic tidewater. Krasnoyarsk also produces weapons-grade plutonium. “Worldatlas” observes: “Besides radioactivity, pollution in the form of industrial wastes and sewage, as well as fertilizer and pesticide run-offs from agricultural fields … pollute the Yenisei along its course.” While visiting Krasnoyarsk hospitals, we would learn that childhood leukemia is rampant. The IRC recognized all this, making Krasnoyarsk a priority for “Op Boreal”.

High above the Ob River drainage system at 58° 29’N, 83° 01’E east of the Urals about half way from Helsinki to Krasnoyarsk. I’d never seen such a maze of river bends, cutoffs, oxbow lakes, etc. Our Aircraft Commander, Maj Chris Beaty, commented, “It’s very quiet up here, as if nothing is flying in this country.” True, yet we knew we were being very closely tracked on Russian military radar, and likely shadowed by fighters. I certainly wasn’t supposed to be taking photos out the window, but couldn’t resist when such landscapes came into view. Not that many years earlier, U-2 pilots had been risking their lives doing photo missions over the USSR.

Trenton to Helsinki — The Crew

On the ramp, 13705 (Canadian Forces Flight 7356) weighed 296,400 lb of which 129,700 was fuel and 19,740 the Red Cross payload. The logbook showed that ‘705 had flown 36,723 hours to date. The crew started engines at 1955Z and taxied to Runway 24. The flight plan showed that our trip to Helsinki would take 7:09 hours (that would work out to the minute). Our crew comprised: Capt T.G. “Lou” Paproski (Aircraft Commander), Capt R.J. Weberbauer (First Officer), Capt M.P. “Mike” Leddy (Navigator), MWO R.K. “Bob” Pokeda (Flight Engineer), Sgt George A. Game (Flight Engineer), MWO J.G. “Gus” Loignon (Loadmaster), Cpl R.L. “Livy” Williston (Flight Stewart), Cpl J.L. “Sylvain” Lapierre (Flight Stewart), Sgt Ruth G. Hess (Flight Attendant) and Cpl Penny Darbyson (Flight Attendant). The crew had a mountain of experience. Capt Paproski, for example, had joined the RCAF in 1961. After instructing on Tutors, he had flown C-130s starting at 436 Sqn, then at 429 and 426, before joining 437 in 1989. Capt Mike Leddy had some 1800 flying hours on the 707, 4000 on the C-130, and 4000 on the Argus. MWO Loignon was another typical case. Having enlisted in 1960, he first had served on the North Star at 426 Sqn for 1200 hours. He later crewed on the C-119 at Rivers, the C-130E with 435 Sqn at Namao in 1966, then joined 437 in 1990. Our flight of 3689 nautical miles operated initially via such waypoints as Val d’Or, La Grande, Lake Harbour and Cape Dyer, crossed Greenland, then routed north of Iceland and Scotland, down over Norway at Trondheim, finally into Helsinki. After refueling and making a crew change, we were airborne at 0540Z for Krasnoyarsk, a distance of 2160 nm. Someone pointed out that this was about half way around the world from Thunder Bay. The crew on this leg was Maj C.A. Beaty (Aircraft Commander), Capt S.B. “Blair” Barthel (First Officer), Capt J.F.G.G. “Gilles” Bourgoin (Navigator), Capt G.I. “Gerry” Foyle (Flight Engineer), WO Mike Deegan (Flight Engineer with Airlift Control Element duties), Capt J.D. “Dave” Melanson (Loadmaster), Cpl J.L. “Sylvain” Lapierre (Flight Stewart), Cpl Penny Darbyson (Flight Attendant), Cpl R.L. “Livy” Williston (Flight Stewart) and Capt W.R. “Russ” Wright (ALCE). There were 20 passengers including five Mobile Air Movements personnel, a security officer and a communications specialist – all based at Trenton. As usual, I spent most for my hours quizzing people about their backgrounds, duties, etc. Below lay a vast, mostly wild-looking, snow-covered landscape. Time flew by and soon (it seemed) we landed at Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo Airport on a gloomy late afternoon after a 5-hour trip.

The busy flight deck aboard our “Boeing” (as 437 personnel usually called their 707s). In the left seat is Capt Blair Barthel; right is Aircraft Commander, Maj Chris Beaty, a USAF pilot on exchange with 437. Nearest right is WO Mike Deegan (flight engineer), lower left is Capt Gilles Bourgoin (navigator), finally (reading a map), Alexey P. Frolov, our Aeroflot navigator and translator. Our public affairs escort, Capt Tony White, described Frolov’s role: “His job is to assist in navigation and air traffic control communications, a necessary precaution in a country with one of the most robust air defence systems in the world.” Look at all the ancient equipment in this 1950s analogue cockpit – not a touch screen in sight.

We all were interested in where we were going. Here, Cpl Penny Darbyson, a Red Cross staffer and Capt Dave Melanson discuss a map on the way to Krasnoyarsk This particular trip was the 5th on the “Op Boreal” schedule this year, and the first ever to reach this city.


Our Boeing parked at Krasnoyarsk minutes after arrival. Things were slow to get rolling, since it seemed that we were not expected. First came some serious palaver with local customs, KGB, etc. Paperwork and passports were inspected and collected then, after about an hour, other officials, workers, trucks and loaders began arriving on the tarmac. I found it all to be an amazing experience.

My first view stepping off the plane. Wonderment seemed to be the feeling among the crowd below – Russians and Canadians alike. Who knows who the “spooks” (KGB and cops) in the crowd were, but they surely were there. Our CanForces photographer grabbed this shot just as I came down the stairs – ready for action. From taxiing in to shutdown and stepping off our Boeing, it was amazing being here in the FSU. It was a chilly winter’s day, and mainly what I noticed from the door as I stepped off ‘705 were aged Russia airliners. However, first things first, which meant clearing customs, offloading the cargo and getting into town. Customs was a bit of an experience, since they, the airport management and others were insisting that they had no idea that any foreign plane was due to arrive today. How could the FSU bureaucracy be so clued-out? They must have been putting us on. There was a lot of discussion and checking of papers, as other airport staff rushed around to find equipment for unloading. Before we finally got onto a bus, we were told that not only were we surprise visitors, but ours was the first airplane from the West ever to land at Krasnoyarsk!

I was happy to find that I could wander around on the tarmac freely covering all the action around our Boeing.

A detail of one of our Boeing’s fantastic Pratt & Whitney JT- 3D turbofans. These incomparable engines carried Canada’s fleet of five Boeing all over the world for hundreds of thousands of trouble free service.

Unloading the Red Cross kits. Our young helpers were air force recruits.

Much else was going on around the 437 Boeing. Here, locals inspect some of the Red Cross satellite phone equipment. Then, Capt Rob Wederbauer (437 Sqn, pilot) with Andrey Loginov of Radio Canada International (translator, centre) is interviewed by a Russian reporter.

Here’s a bit of a different local scene. Dogs have no more loyal friends than the entire Russian people. Dogs are treated so royally, that even at such a major airport as Krasnoyarsk, they can roam around the airplanes! You also can see here that the first truck is ready to roll with four hefty Red Cross kits.


Airport Tour

Eventually, we were dropped off at our quarters – rooms at a Krasnoyarsk insane asylum. Nonetheless, we were happy to be squared away. The next couple of days would be super interesting, as many fine local people got us on hospital tours, set up an interesting press conference, took us on sightseeing bus trips, and organized a crazy night out at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel. Although our visit would be brief, it proved to be totally memorable. I even was able to organize an air side photo tour at the airport. This came about when I found someone to introduce me to the airport manager. After I pleaded my case, he personally drove me around the ramp in his falling-apart Lada, stopping almost wherever I wanted to photograph. This was great, even though some areas were off limits – mainly some old bombers in the distance that looked like Tu-16s.

Antonov An-8 (NATO code name “Camp”) CCCP-69301 was my best find at the airport. Some 151 twin turboprop An-8s were manufactured in Tashkent for the USSR military in 1957- 62 (the only other example was the prototype built in Kiev in 1956). Many key policy and operational people pushed for the An-8 to become the standard USSR medium military transport for this era, but it soon was superseded by the 4-engine An-12 (An-8 payload 24,000 lb vs An-12 44,000). Early in the 1970s the An-8 was relegated to civil duties and — due to safety concerns — in 1997 it was banished from the Russian Federation. The handful of survivors then migrated mainly to rogue or backwards Gulf and African states. In 2004 Antonov withdrew the An-8’s airworthiness certification. Little is known about CCCP-69301, but it certainly had a long, productive career. It truly was Krasnoyarsk’s “blast from the past” on February 15, 1993.

This isn’t just a photo of an Il-76 (probably being parted out), but look beyond—some other old clunkers. Looks like some superannuated Red Air Force An-30 Clanks. The An-30 was a version of the An-24 that specialized in aerial photo mapping.

There was a good half-dozen Il-76s at Krasnoyarsk this week, some “between flights”, others awaiting the scrapman. Here sits RA-76752 (I must have just slipped on the ice as my shutter fired), delivered to Aeroflot in 1989. Although in standard Aeroflot markings, it was listed to Krasoyarskie Avialinii. Sadly, it would not end well. On April 5, 1996, ‘752 loaded meat and soap at Novosibirsk on the Ob River in SW Siberia, then set off for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the far distant Kamchatka Peninsula — a distance of more than 2900 miles. On descent to destination, air traffic control instructed ‘752 to continue through cloud to 900m, even though the plane was not on radar. Since it actually was a bit off course (which ATC somehow had not noticed), it flew into a mountain 300 m below the summit.

Il-76 RA-76517 at this time was registered to Krasnoyarsk Airlines. Then, RA-76508 of Aeroflot, which later was registered to Kras Air. It worked for another decade, then went for scrap. I once got to spend a day flying around East Africa in an Il-76. What a super airplane.

In the early 1990s Krasnoyarsk — besides being an key regional airport — was used for heavy aircraft maintenance, long-term storage and parting out/scrapping (i.e., it was an airliner boneyard). Shown is Tu-154 CCCP-85134 gradually being parted out. Then, RA-85124 in Krasnovarskavia colours. It appeared serviceable, but is noted on the web as having been scrapped by the mid-90s. Finally, Tu-154 EP-ITA of Iran Airtour Airlines. Through decades of US trade embargoes, Iran was forced to fly many such hand-me-down USSR aircraft. This greatly retarded Iran’s economy. The Kremlin happily filled the vacuum. “ITA” was back in Krasnoyarsk to be parted out. The fellow walking my way was checking credentials.

Once Russia’s “Queen of the Airways”, the mighty Il-62 was fast fading by 1993. Several had been ferried to Krasnoyarsk – their last hurrah. Included here is RA-86453.

Russia’s first widebody airliner, the Il-86 was grounded in 2006, having been banned from the EU and USA due to noise restrictions. Here are RA-86121 and ‘137 awaiting the scrapman at Krasnoyarsk. What impressive and handsome jetliners, no!

Tu-154s and Il-86s – a long, lonely line.

CanForces 707 13704 came in from Trenton with its Red Cross load on February 15. Local aerospace people would have looked with some envy upon this magnificent, if elderly, jetliner. Now 49 years old, it remains in use as USAF E-8C 97-0201. I notice today (August 15, 2019) that there’s a lovely 1/200 scale diecast model of 97-0201 for sale on the web for 13,175 yen.

Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo terminal building. One interesting thing about this place was how some travellers had to camp here for days awaiting their flights (we were told that some people had been here for weeks).

Another memorable time was our night at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel where good food and too much champagne and vodka were consumed (not a beer to be had for some reason). This hotel was really wild, the lobby jammed with many rough-looking characters milling around (we’d heard that some in this mob were “carrying”). One of my crazy experiences was getting mugged in the men’s room for my cameras. We all knew enough not to go anywhere alone, but my brain had gotten pretty fogged over. Back in Toronto, I had a bit of trouble convincing my insurer about this, but they did come across.

There was much merriment during this whirlwind visit. Usually just some nice quiet dining, but our night out at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel pushed the limits a bit. Here’s some of our gang being property civilized. That familiar face in the second photo is the Ottawa Sun’s world famous roving reporter, Matthew Fisher. Notice the wonderful layout on the tables, talk about A-1. One thing for sure about Siberia – people away out there really know how to enjoy themselves when they get a chance, and they’re magnificent hosts.

Hospital Visits and Press conference

Since Op Boreal’s purpose was to supply hospitals in the FSU, we were invited to visit two Krasnoyarsk hospitals. These were mammoth operations packed with patients suffering especially from respiratory ailments and cancers. Many children here were fighting leukemia and asthma, and hallway medicine was a normal part of the picture:

Hospital staff start inventorying a Red Cross medical kit. Capt Tony White looks on. Then, a mother tends her infant. Russian mothers as a rule reside in hospital with their ailing children throughout their treatment.

Two scenes where our media people interviewed senior medical staff. They were surprised but grateful about the arrival of Red Cross aid, about which they only heard the day after we arrived. We learned how doctors (then earning the equivalent of about US$100 monthly) felt helpless about the region’s environmental “meltdown”, and angry that information about local nuclear contamination was withheld by the state (the same certainly goes on in the West). They also were embarrassed at accepting foreign aid. Some already were pining for the old regime, where supplies at least were plentiful.

I mentioned about Russians and dogs. In these hospitals, dogs rule as they do at the airport. This momma was caring for her brood in a well-travelled hallway – and she wasn’t the only one.

Another interesting event was a press conference where the local media peppered us with questions. This was another side of Siberia. Reporters seemed to know next to nothing about Canada — surely they were putting us on again. One reporter asked why Canada was campaigning to take over Alaska! Devil’s Advocated, Matthew Fisher of the Ottawa Sun, got them really going by commenting (casually) that he doubted that Canada would survive much longer. The press also was amazed that permission had been given to a Canadian military plane to overfly Russia. One reporter wondered if this Red Cross business was just a ploy to enrich Canadian capitalists at Russia’s expense. Another suspected that we were all spies and that our 707 probably was doing espionage. Stalinist/Leninist paranoia still was front and center in Krasnoyarsk. Happily, someone finally changed the subject to hockey.

Canucks in the hot seat, being grilled by the local media, some of whom are shown in the second photo. No doubt the KGB was here as well, and likely shadowing us wherever we went.

The Many Sights Around and About Krasnoyarsk

In four short days we sure took in a lot of Krasnoyarsk – it left our heads swirling. Here are some photos taken at one of the city’s many military memorials.

This park honours the Soviet Union’s and Krasnoyarsk’s magnificent military history. If you google “Krasnoyarsk”, you’ll find much more about this important theme. The book East of the Sun by Benson Bobrick also covers much of Siberia’s history including many reference to Krasnoyarsk. This astoundingly good book is highly recommended (find a cheap copy on the web). Here’s a wide view of the memorial plaza, then the park’s T-34 Stalin tank. By dint of solid WWII technology plus massive weight in numbers, the T-34 was pivotal in driving the Nazis out of the USSR in emphatic manner. Next is a photo of one of the Soviet army’s terrifying artillery pieces, likely one of the types used to pulverize Berlin in the spring of 1945. Finally, the “artifact” that I liked the most – a classic MiG-15, the type that in its own way ruled the skies over Korea in the early 1950s. Sure the F-86 Sabre gets all the glory, but the MiG-15 was a real opponent, greatly feared and respected (in recent years the USAF’s claims of destroying 10 MiG-15s in the Korean War for each Sabre lost have been debunked). In another local park (that we missed) there’s a MiG-21, elsewhere the space program is the theme.

Driving Around Town

On our bus tours we drove through various Krasnoyarsk neighbourhoods. We had to grab our photos on the fly, through the windows. To get a few barely useful pix, I shot plenty. Some residential areas comprise block after block of ancient wooden homes, some centuries old. In contrast are the city’s numerous high rise apartment buildings, where most families reside. These high rises represent the infamous Stalinist concept of urban design and how to keep people down – we’re all equal, yada yada yada.

A couple of typical Krasnoyarsk urban transit busses. Then a view ahead – the streets were always packed with Ladas. The roads also were rough, with major potholes. On returning from such trips I used to tell my little kids about the Krasnoyarsk or the Mogadishu potholes, and we’d get a good laugh. Now? Not so funny, since Toronto today is the city of world class potholes. Even worse, City Hall is 100% OK with that. Meanwhile, we hear that Krasnoyarsk has really cleaned up much that in 1993 was “urbanly” distasteful.

A quickie snapshot of folks set up along the street trying to do a bit of business, now that Communism was on the rocks in the FSU. People were lining the streets hawking anything that they could live without. This was necessary since the government temporarily was dysfunctional, so people weren’t getting their pay and welfare cheques. In this way, millions in the FSU were learning their first lessons in capitalism – that other terrible system. You know, the one that actually works not too badly.

A Few Market Scenes

One of our best times in town was visiting one of Krasnoyarsk’s markets. Some of these are traditional, others are of the “pop-up” type. The set-up here seemed a bit of both. There were the stalls, but there also were many citizens just standing in place one by one trying to sell whatever they had. It was not exactly an inspiring sight.


Street BBQ’ing in the market, the butchers ready to turn a ruble, some fine baked goods on sale, then some ladies with their finery on sale at the curb. Notice the popularity of fur coats, hats, etc. Wouldn’t this just drive our animal rights and vegan terrorist crackpots in Canada nuts. They’d better not try any of their stunts in Krasnoyarsk, eh!

Still keeping an eye everything in 1993 Krasnoyarsk was the master of belittling and controlling everybody – that other evil one, Lenin.

Matthew Fisher discusses a possible deal in the market with one of the local ruble hustlers. Then, Capt Tony White giving a snow machine a test drive. Years later, Matthew reviewed conditions in the CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States (previously referred to as the FSU, also called the Russian Federation). His item in the Toronto Sunday Sun of January 28, 2001 concluded: “Leaving Moscow for almost anywhere else is a revelation. Most Russians lead a frightful Third World existence. How they manage to survive at all defies comprehension.” Another two decades have passed, however, and word is that there has been some improvement. Let’s hope, right!

Having flown in mid-afternoon on the 14th, on the 17th the crew of 13704 under Capt Paproski and their 19 passengers boarded the flight back to Helsinki. Takeoff was at 1010Z hours. CanForces flight CF7357 had 2167 nm to cover in an estimated 5.8 hours. After overnighting, we pushed on for Trenton under the same flight number, covering 3735 nm in 9:00 hours. We had flown some 12,000 nm in 4 days and 26.8 flying hours. For me it proved to be a very big deal – my first visit behind the old Iron Curtain, and a chance to see a bit about the workings of aviation there, and what made the historic city of Krasnoyarsk tick. For an update re. Krasnoyarsk see the excellent Wiki entry and there are some Krasnoyarsk photo sites that also are worth a look.

Heading home in ‘704 there was lots to do until we were back home again in Trenton. These crewmen killed some time playing cards. Matthew Fisher took his turn in the cockpit jump seat, where it was always fascinating for we media types.

RCAF Air Transport Command Nostalgia

With all this talk of Canada’s military Boeing 707s, just for fun I thought we should give a bit of credit to their predecessor, the Canadair CC-106 Yukon. I mentioned about having visited Trenton many times before 1993, so dug out one of my ancient photos from one historic day there long ago. On July 1, 1961, I was at Trenton for the station’s Dominion Day airshow. Here’s a photo taken that day with my old Minolta Autocord twin lens “120”. This was shot (as we kids used to say – since we rarely could afford a roll of colour film) “in glorious black and white”. For our extra enjoyment, 437 Sqn Yukon 15927 made this pass in landing configuration right over the crowd at maybe 200 feet. The good ol’ days, right! The RCAF’s Yukons spent much of their time doing international relief operations similar to “Op Boreal” – it’s a Canadian thing, right. In 1970-71, 437 Squadron’s 10 Yukons were replaced by those 5 glorious 707s.


More good reading … scroll back to read about similar historic ATG missions — Horn of Africa, Nairobi, Rwanda, DRG, etc. Also, I’ve updated the item covering the 2009 restoration of the F-86 on display in Peterborough. Just search for “Peterborough” and that’ll get you there. Well worth a read 10 years later. Cheers … Larry

Books, Books, Books

If you get a spare moment, please check out these aviation booklists. You’re certain to find something you’d like!

Aviation in Canada Series

CANAV Booklist Spring_Summer 2019

Booklist Special Items August 2019

TTC CLRV Recycling Phase in High Gear + A Nifty 3-Minute OSHKOSH 2019 Overview

OSHKOSH 2-19 Overview … worth a quick look:

TTC PCCs and CLRVs — The Scrapman’s Perspective … In service since the 1970s, the Toronto Transit Commission’s famed Canadian Light Rail Vehicles are being phased out of service and sold for scrap. On July 8-9, 2019 I photographed part of the operation at the TTC Russell Carbarns at Queen St. E. and Connaught Ave. Here are a few photos, but first some of my Kodachromes showing earlier scrappings of the TTC’s classic 1930s-80s vintage PCC cars. For some good background about the TTC’s CLRV/ALRVs, see The Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (The CLRVs) – Transit Toronto Also see CLRV on Wiki for loads more info. Same goes for the PCC cars. See, for example, A History of Toronto’s Presidents’ Conference Committee Cars (the…

This was a typical scene I captured at the TTC Russell Barns in April 1969 showing PCCs undergoing daily maintenance. This stalwart type would serve Torontonians into 1982.

By the late 1960s the TTC was reducing its PCC fleet. Cars mainly were being sold for scrap, although some went to other cities, where they continued to serve. On January 3, 1969, I photographed PCC 4294 stored at the Hillcrest Barns on Bathurst St. Then I drove up to the Wychwood Barns on St. Clair Ave. W., where I shot PCC 4166, also awaiting its fate. Next, shown at Wychwood on December 6 of that year are several other superannuated PCCs, 4309 being nearest.

On August 9, 1968 I photographed part of the PCC fleet being cut up for scrap at the Coxwell and Danforth TTC barns. These five photographs cover the end of PCC 4158. As you can see, “those were the days” for any keen photographer. No one hassled me as I spent a couple of hours taking pictures. I was even allowed to board 4158 to get some close-up views as the sparks flew. A pretty ugly sight altogether, but all in the name of progress! You can see 4148 finally loaded and ready for transportation out of Toronto and down 401 Highway to the Intercity Steel & Metal scrapyard in Oshawa. Too bad, but it was a gloomy day, so these shots are on the dark side. But … I’ve always been for content vs form. Don’t forget, it was a different medium back then … film was the name of the game, and film was not idiot proof.

Late the following year I followed up on a tip that some TTC PCCs still were in the Intercity yard. So, on December 6, 1969 I drove to Oshawa to check this out. Being a weekend, there was no one around the yard. Well … you know how it goes with any photographer on a mission. Hoping not to encounter the proverbial (and sometimes actual) junkyard dog, I hopped the fence. Here are three of my shots to delight any hardcore PCC fan.

Also in August 1968 I got another tip that the 16,000-ton MV Mare Tranquillo was in Toronto harbour loading PCCs for Egypt. We never passed up any such tip, so down I hustled to see what was what. Sure enough, there were the PCCs being hoisted as deck cargo aboard the ship. A note on Wiki explains more: “140 cars purchased from Toronto in 1968, but 13 never entered service. Of the 127 cars in service, 85 were converted between 1972 and 1978 into two-car trains or double-ended three-car trains. The entire fleet was withdrawn by 1984 in favor of modern rolling stock.” Whether it was true or not, I once heard that some of these PCCs were destroyed by bombing during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

I remember about 1972 attending a press briefing about the proposed new Toronto streetcars that became the CLRVs. This took place down on the CNE grounds and featured a full-scale CLRV mock-up. Gradually, the CLRVs and their “doubled-up” version, the ALRVs, began appearing and replacing the classic old PCCs.

Fast forward half a century to July 2019 when the TTC is fast getting rid of its 1970s fleet of CLRV streetcars. Getting a tip the other day from a pal who drives for the TTC, I hurried over to the Russell Barns on Queen St. East, not far from my home. Sure enough, the action was hot with CLRVs being stripped out and loaded onto flatbeds destined for the Langille’s Truck Parts yard in Port Perry. “Long story short”, I spent several hours on July 8 and 9 watching and photographing. Here’s a sample “for your edification”. Anyway, it’s quite something, especially realizing (to my horror) that I’ve been taking photos of TTC streetcars being scrapped for more than 50 years (not so edifying).


CLRVs at the TTC Russell Barns – ready for the boneyard. Then, cars 4115 and 4177 being hauled away. Can you imagine the countless double takes as people all along the way suddenly confronted this amazing apparition – streetcars sailing down the road on flatbeds!


Many CLRVs remain in service, Russell being the home for most. But, by the end of 2019 the TTC CLRV may well be no more.

Past and present … car 4022 is made ready, then sets out on its last run through Toronto on July 9, 2019. Meanwhile, all day long shiny new TTC “Flexity” cars were rolling by Russell on the busy Queen “501” line.

Same for car 4029 … off into the sunset on July 9. Be sure to look up some of the great history pages covering the TTC PCCs and CLRVs. It’s a great topic for anyone with an interest in our wonderful transportation heritage. It sure was fun the last two days watching all these goings-on and chitchatting with folks coming and going. Who impressed me the most? A young fellow just heading into Grade 4, who’s totally fired up by TTC streetcar, subway and bus history. With such keen young citizens, I think our country should be just fine. And the TTC itself really shone today. One of the supervisors noticed us taking pictures, etc. Out he came with some TTC handouts, then one of the Russell tech men showed up with a very special gift for my new young friend – a beautiful bronze data plate salvaged from a CLRV truck set. A look at the plate told us that this particular truck had been made in Nuremberg, Germany in 1987 – more CLRV trivia for the diehard fan, right. All the best through the summer … Larry

Doug Burt – Air Engineer and Airplane Photographer

Doug Burt was a keen young fellow when he got into aviation in the late 1920s. However (and too bad), I don’t have any biographical details. In case you might know Doug’s story, please let me know. We do know that he was a very avid amateur photographer, which is the purpose of today’s item – to showcase some of his lovely pictures. These are random, although it’s clear that before joining Consolidate Mining and Smelting Co. (“Cominco”) in Trail, BC, as an airplane mechanic, Doug spent some time at Canadian Pratt & Whitney in Longueuil, Quebec and De Havilland Aircraft of Canada in Toronto — likely doing courses. You’ll love these interesting and well taken old photos. There are more of Doug’s fine images in Vol.1 of Air Transport in Canada.

A fine shop floor scene in the original (1928) Canadian Pratt & Whitney plant at Longueuil, opposite Montreal. Doug Burt immortalized this scene in April 1930. The company (today’s Pratt & Whitney Canada) still makes engines in Longueuil. The whole story is told in detail in Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story – a beautifully-produced book that any fan of Canada’s aviation heritage will enjoy. Nice, affordable copies always can be found at

While likely “on course” at CP&W in May 1930, Doug organized this photo of Canadian Transcontinental Airways Fairchild 71 CF-ACY at nearby St. Hubert airport. That’s Doug on the far left (he got himself into quite a few such photos – half the fun of it, right). “ACY” was one of the latest in air transports plying the Quebec and Ontario airways then being established. It later served Canadian Airways and Quebec Airways, then “faded away” some time during 1939. Ken Molson’s book Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport is the best source for the history of this era. You’d love this wonderful book. I see today that several copies are available cheaply at

April 1930 and Doug Burt is front and centre in this photo of some early CP&W employees. It sure would be nice to have the other names, since there would be some famous fellows here.

Doug Burt at work at CP&W, April 1930.

RCAF D.H.60 Gipsy Moths being assembled at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada in Toronto in 1930. That’s one of the rare D.H.75 Hawk Moths at the top left. It’s the former DH demonstration G-AAFW, by this time re-registered CF-CCA of the Ottawa-based Controller of Civil Aviation fleet. In 1931 “CCA” transferred to the RCAF as C-GYVD. It remained on strength to October 1935.

Here it is — DH Hawk Moth demonstrator G-AAFW a few weeks after reaching DHC in Toronto in February 1930. The skis were a Canadian “mod”. The Hawk Moth was not a great success in Canada — only three were registered here. It certainly was a nice looking plane.

Doug’s shot of the Gipsy engine overhaul shop at DHC in 1930.

In March 1930 Doug photographed the attractive little Blackburn Lincock light fighter while it was at DHC doing demonstrations for the RCAF. However, the RCAF was broke at the time and would have to make do with its dusty old Siskin fighters into the early days of WWII. Blackburn was never able to get the Lincock into production. The Canadian side of this story is covered in Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915- 1939.

Doug shot this unknown RCAF Canadian Vickers Vedette at Great Slave Lake on June 25, 1930. The attractive little Vedette proved to be a versatile and always reliable RCAF workhorse from 1925 into the early war years. The first “all-Canadian” production plane, the Vedette is an important symbol of Canada’s early aircraft industry. A factory-perfect Vedette replica resides in Winnipeg with the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.

Doug would have taken in every airshow that came up wherever he happened to be. Here’s one of his photos from the 1930 Edmonton airshow. “The mobs” certainly came out for this grand event. A big Fokker F.XIV (CF-AIK Western Canada Airways) and a Lockheed Vega can be seen top centre.

Cominco was one of Canada’s giant mining companies of the 1920s onward, which strongly believed in the airplane for mineral exploration. Over the decades the company owned many airplanes from the 2-seat D.H.60 Moth to the lumbering Fokker Super Universal — a “heavy hauler” of its day. Here are three fine views of Cominco’s Fokker CF-AAM taken c.1930 at Trail. “AAM” served Cominco 1929-1934, then finally ended in the Yukon with Northern Airways. On December 5, 1937 it was wrecked taking off at Dawson. In modern years it was restored to flying condition and now resides at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada (which in 2019 is “closed for repairs” awaiting new facilities). The story of the great Fokker bushplanes in Canada currently is being told by Clark Seaborn (one of the “AAM” restoration team) in the Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. See and, while you’re there, why not sign up!

CF-AAM in the Cominco overhaul shop at Trail in January 1931. Curley Summerville is at the right. That looks like the massive 1-piece Super Universal wing behind the fuselage. Then, a fine close-up that Doug took of “AAM” during the same overhaul period. History-wise, here would we be today without such people taking these glorious photos generations ago!

Doug Burt on the float of Cominco Fairchild 71 CF-ABM at Trail in 1930. Having joined Cominco in May 1929, “ABM” later went to Mackenzie Air Service of Edmonton in 1934. Subsequently with Northern Airways in the Yukon, it was wrecked due to engine failure in November 1940. Then, “ABM” at the Columbia Gardens beach in Trail.

Doug photographed his company’s D.H.80 Puss Moth during a flight from Trail to Rossland, BC, on January 31, 1935. Cominco sold “AVA” in 1938, then the plane just faded away during WWII. In recent years, however, it resurfaced after a meticulous restoration and began appearing in the 2010s at fly-ins in its blue and orange Cominco livery. You can see it in restored form farther back on this site (just search for “Puss Moth”).

Cirrus-engined D.H.80 Moth C-GAIY “Bubbles” at Trail in 1932. Doug Burt identifies the fellow by the nose as the well-known bush pilot, Page McPhee. “AIY” faded from the scene in 1938.

Page McPhee with Cominco D.H.80 Puss Moth CF- AGT at Trail in May 1931. One story says that “AGT” — its flying days over — was converted into a snowmobile.

Cominco purchased D.H.89 Rapide CF-BBH from DHC in January 1938. It was sold to Canadian Airways in May 1939. Later with CPA, it gave good service in Quebec. “BBH” crashed on takeoff at Pentecost on the Quebec North Shore on March 19, 1947.

Doug identifies this as D.H.84 Dragon CF-AVD at Trail on July 17, 1935 with (from the left) Ben Harrop, Hamilton Currie and Page McPhee. Records show that “AVD” at this time was a Canadian Airways plane, but it could have been on lease to Cominco. It was wrecked at Baie Comeau on the St. Lawrence River in May 1944. I wonder if there’s a history of all the work done by the early Cominco fleet? There are many good references in such other books at Rex Terpening’s classic Bent Props and Blow Pots – another book that you should have.

You can see that Doug would photograph any airplane. He took this nice set-up shot of a cute little Aeronca C-3 at Trail in 1932. NC12406 was visiting from the US.

In the Burt collection that I have there also are these well-taken photos of more modern airliners at Edmonton. First, CPA Lockheed Lodestar CF-CPA and Boeing 247 CF-BVF with an RCAF Oxford in the background; then, an unknown post-WWII CPA DC-3.