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:     https://youtu.be/JEFjhLwThmc

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 cahf.ca. 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.

Follow-Up

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.

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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.

Arrival

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtPJh4oDJv4

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 www.transit.toronto.on.ca/streetcar/4503.shtml 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… transit.toronto.on.ca/streetcar/4502.shtml

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 www.abebooks.com

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 abebooks.com

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 cahs.ca 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.

 

Happy Canada Day 2019

To start off this year’s Canada Day weekend I took the TTC’s 501 “Flexity” streetcar downtown for a morning of fun out on Toronto Bay. Big attraction? The Tall Ships are in town! “How best to see and photograph the Tall Ships”, was the question. Someone was willing to rent me a small motor boat, but since I’ve had no experience in recent decades, I passed on that. Instead, I talked to the keen fellows at “The Pirate Taxi”, who were happy to take me out for a fair price for half an hour to get some photos.

A classic Toronto skyline scene as we pulled out from Pirate Taxi’s slip.

Away we go.

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A quick glance westward and this was the view of Billy Bishop Airport. No doubt about it … the water is high, comparing the airport breakwall to previous “normal” years.

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Two of the many sightseeing and party boats that run day and night through Toronto’s booming summer tourist season.

Toronto’s anti-everything city councillors groaned for decades about how the Gardiner Expressway allegedly has “ruined” our cityview. Those same funny people invariably have voted for any and every other sort of waterfront development, the higher the better. How do they like the view now? It’s all yours, can’t even see the Gardner anywhere in 2019! But what the heck, eh … Toronto’s a fantastic modern city and city’s cry out to grow. We’re all pretty well good with that. But … those same goofy lefty/anti-everything councillers are still decrying the Gardiner, which nonetheless remains Toronto’s unequalled gem of an east-west transportation corridor along to lake.

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The tall ships start appearing as we turn eastward. To the right is the Toronto ferry dock at the foot of Yonge St. What a beautiful cityscape, hard to beat for any diehard urbanist.

The Milwaukee-based Sailing Vessel Denis Sullivan was launched in 2000. The ship’s website notes: “The schooner is a modern educational sailing vessel with two diesel engines, a scientific laboratory, two computer workstations, and modern communication and navigation equipment… The vessel can carry up to 50 passengers on day sails and 21 participants overnight. She is complemented by a professional crew of ten.” For any of the ships shown here, you can find all the specs, etc. on the various websites.

S/V Bluenose II of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is a near-perfect replica of Canada’s renowned fishing and racing schooner Bluenose (built in 1921, sank in 1946). What a treat to see this beauty in Toronto Bay.

Built as a fishing trawler in 1928 and in Royal Navy service as a minesweeper in WWII, the (now) 3-masted barque S/V Picton Castle is registered in the Cook Islands, but is home-based in Lunenburg. Since 1999 it has circumnavigated the world four times.

The show must go on, holiday of not. Here, the local workboat Esperanza IV barges some essential supplies (kegs of beer, etc. for long weekend needs) to a destination along the bay.

Canada Coast Guard’s Thunder Cape is one of 36 “Cape” class lifeboats built for the CCG in Kingston, Ontario. It’s 47 feet long with an 18-ton displacement. CCGS Thunder Cape is based in Meaford on Georgian Bay.

HMCS Oriole is a Canadian naval sail-training vessel. Built as a civilian vessel in 1921, it was commissioned into the RCN in 1952. The RCN notes: “The Oriole provides sail training to junior officers and noncommissioned officers as part of their introduction to life at sea. She also provides a venue for teamwork exercises and adventure training available to all of the Canadian Forces.”

A short run along Toronto Bay reminds us a little about “days of yore”. The waterfront originally was all about industry, commerce and passenger travel. Of the bay’s once vibrant industrial era, only the great Redpath sugar refinery still serves its original purpose.

Once an industrial-scale cold storage warehouse, this historic property became Toronto’s first upscale waterfront condo a good 40 years ago.

The busy Amsterdam Brew House began life early in the 1900s as a busy Toronto pier. Lake freighters and passenger ships docked here into the 1950s.

A closer view of the ferry docks showing Toronto’s famous island ferries, William Inglis (1935) and Sam McBride (1939). They’re worth looking up to check out their amazing histories. In 1941, for example, Sam McBride was in Toronto Bay when a low-flying Norwegian AF Northrop training plane crashed into it. Two Norwegian fliers lost their lives, but it was Sam McBride’s lucky day.

Launched in 1980, S/V Faire Jeanne is based down Lake Ontario at the famous Seaway port of Brockville. Through the weekend thousands of visitors will walk the waterfront getting a close-up view of these great ships, all of which are open to the public for a small fee.

The brigantines Playfair of Toronto and St. Lawrence II of Kingston have trained thousands of summer students in Great Lakes sailing over the decades.

Another of Toronto’s busy water taxis heads for the offshore islands, where flooding doesn’t seem to deter the weekenders.

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The owner notes about this hard-working old vessel: “Step aboard and experience the finest restored Tall Ship on the Great Lakes.  Launched as the Wilfred in Rendsburg, Germany in 1930, the KAJAMA traded under sail for nearly 70 years. She was a familiar ship in ports from Northwest Spain, through western Europe, and as far north as Norway and Russia. In 1999, KAJAMA was delivered transatlantic to Toronto’s Waterfront and restored to her original profile. Sail aboard the Tall Ship that was seen on the Amazing Race.”

After a great jaunt up and down the bay, we’re pulling back into our slip. This spot happens to be home to Toronto Fire’s main two vessels, Wm Lyon Mackenzie being the “flagship”.

 

Canada’s C-130s to the Rescue – “Operation Preserve” August to December 1991

 

1 Djibouti Title Photo

Good day CANAV supporters … here’s the next action-packed session on the CANAV Books Blog, but before getting into our lead story covering “Operation Preserve”, here is some important information and some fascinating bits of history.

D-Day Celebrations at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton

D-Day was so well covered this year, whether locally in one Canadian community after another, or in Normandy itself. As is a tradition, the fantastic Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton went all-out, especially with its fly-over program. Gus Corujo was there with his cameras – Gus rarely misses any aviation event in his wide-ranging travels around Ontario. Here is his CWHM D-Day 2019 presentation for you to enjoy: http://gusair.com/htdocs/Airshows/2019/19D-DAY/19d-day.html

Book Reviews

Unless someone pulls a mighty impressive new book out of the fire, Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939 will remain Canada’s aviation book of the year through 2019, likely into 2020. “FPO” is a treat for any serious aviation reader. It will you give years of enjoyment and your order will help CANAV to get ahead with Vol.9.

Here’s what the great Denis J. Calvert writes about “FPO” in the May 2019 edition of “The Aeroplane”: “This is volume eight in CANAV’s series detailing Canada’s aviation heritage. Those who have read – or own – earlier volumes will be familiar with author Milberry’s style of writing, which strikes the happy, but all too rare, balance between being easy to read and rigorously detailed … Illustrations are excellent.” Here are two other reviews to check out: “Britain at War” (November 2018) and “Flypast” (March 2019). Don’t sit on your hands, get your order in today! Meanwhile, I also attach CANAV’s current booklist – it’s well worth a look. It’s packed with a best in aviation reading, the sort the will keep your attention span being reduced to 3 minutes (by playing around way too much on the internet, right).
FYI … CANAV’s Curent Booklist is right here: 1 CANAV Booklist Spring_Summer 2019

1 Blog Gibraltar North Star 506

1 Blog Gibraltar Argus 737

The Rock of Gibraltar + Some Alberta Treasures

Next … recently I came across these old photos of RCAF aircraft at Gibraltar in the 1950s-60s. If there isn’t a book full of such “Rock of Gibraltar” airplane photos, someone needs to do one. Shown first is one of RCAF Air Transport Command’s famous Canadair North Stars from the 1940s-60s. Then, a “Wilf White Collection” Kodachrome showing RCAF Argus 20737, likely coming or going re. some Cold War anti-submarine exercise. I wouldn’t be surprised in the 2010s to see photos of RCAF Auroras, CF-18, Hercs, etc. with “The Rock” as backdrop.

1 Blog Gibraltar B-17 in colour

The RCAF had first started using “Gib” in WWII, when it operated a mail service from Ottawa (168 Sqn) all the way through to Cairo, mainly using B-17s converted to transports. This pioneer effort turned into an RCAF gold star success.

As I was writing the history of Canada’s vast air transportation heritage in the 1980s-90s, I decided to include a gallery of original aviation art. Always fascinated by the amazing overseas work of 168 Sqn, I commissioned my great friend, artist and photographer, the late Robert “Bob” Finlayson, to paint a 168 Sqn B-17 over “Gib”, since 168 on the Mediterranean route stopped there countless times going and coming. To this day I count Bob’s painting as one of the treasures in Canadian aviation art. He always seemed to pull a piece together so nicely. He did his research thoroughly, then got his plane, sky and background nicely together on his board. After decades of work, I finally got the book into print – Air Transport in Canada. You can find the details in the CANAV 2019 booklist above. This is another Canadian aviation heritage book that you definitely will treasure.

Alberta Snapshots Surface

Fascinating historic aviation photos keep surfacing as the years pass. This spring Ken Townend of Calgary (one of CANAV’S earliest readers) sent me these b/w prints. First are two photos that he took of RCAF Hurricane 5414 (then with 135 Squadron at Tofino) in Edmonton in April 1945. This was a Victory Loan event on the east side of 101 Street south of Jasper Avenue. People going by could get a close look at a Hurricane, at this time frontline RCAF equipment. You can see that the passersby were keen to have a look. Notice the “Let’s Make a Clean Sweep” propaganda billboard on the street corner. In a few weeks the jig would be up for the Germans, and the Japanese soon would follow. Clean sweep accomplished!

Here’s one of Ken’s shots from a visit to Edmonton airport in the late 1940s. Shown are RCAF Mosquito KA115 and one of the RCAF’s first two Gloster Meteor jet fighters. Next, a closer view of KA115, which was struck off strength in June 1948. Notice the airport elevation on the hangar across the field – 2185 feet above sea level.

American military planes had been passing through Edmonton flying to and from Alaska since the 1920s. One day Ken Townend got to watch a squadron of USAF F-80 Shooting Star jet fighters during their refuelling stopover. Ken notes, “The US F-80s shot up the airfield, then landed from the north. At least two of them were unable to slow down sufficiently to turn off at the end of the runway, so got stuck in the gopher holes and grass. I clambered over the fence and took a couple of photos.” This view is really interesting for the Edmonton background. Since the airport closed a few years ago, nothing much remains of the old hangars, etc. The final shot is another F-80 taken at Edmonton about the same time by Leslie Corness.

Ontario Regiment Royal Canadian Armoured Corps Museum Annual Open House “Aquino Tank Weekend”

On Saturday, June 9 we attended this year’s Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum annual weekend open house at the museum’s Oshawa airport location, about an hour’s drive east of Toronto.. This was one of the most fantastic armoured history events anywhere on the globe for this season. I’m not particularly a tank/armour history follower, but certainly will be showing a lot more interest from now on. For this blog item, I’ll simply show you photos of a few vehicle types that were operating among what must have been 50+. Also … some misc. displays.

    At one point alone there were five operating ex-Canadian Army Leopard I main battle tanks on the field. There were numerous Allied and German tanks, tank destroyers, armoured personnel carriers, jeeps, artillery pieces, etc. all manned by expertly-trained operators, There also was a mass of Gulf War equipment, and Allied and German re-enactors put on a mock battle based on one of the Canadian engagements during the Liri Valley battlefield period in WWII Italy – the Battle of Aquino, May 14, 1944 (see Wiki, etc.). Here are a few photos to whet your appetite for a visit to this magnificent museum. “Impressive” does not begin to describe this museum adequately.

Thousands of these Commonwealth “Bren Gun Carriers” served the Canadian Army in WWII. Some 29,000 alone were built by the Ford Motor Co. in Canada. You can find all the details for such vehicles by checking on Wiki, etc. Besides all the “heavy metal” roaring around on the display grounds, there was at least and acre of fascinating static displays. Above is the artillery piece being towed by the Bren Gun Carrier.

Typical German hardware of WWII. The Allies had to confront such formidable armour wherever they fought from North Africa early in the war on to north Germany into May 1945.

Canada operated the British-built Centurion main battle tank (static view above) through the Cold War. It finally was replaced by the German-designed Leopard I. Next … two of the five operating Leopard Is on the field this day.

A wide view of some of the vehicles that we saw in operation during the morning action.

Several of Canada’s D-Day veterans were present. After being introduced, they made the circuit of the grounds in several types of wartime vehicles.

A German medium tank and tank destroyer on the move. Then, “German” re-enactors dismounting and setting up to drive the Canadians from Aquino airfield. This fellow is ready to create mayhem for the Canadians with his MG42.

A Bren Gun Carrier arrives with Canadian troops.

Stewart and Chaffe tanks roll out, then one of the museum’s mighty Shermans.

Canadians on the defensive. All the weapons here were operable and 100s of rounds were banged off in these realistic demonstrations. Lee Enfield rifles, Thompson submachine guns, Bren guns and side arms all were fired. Then, a German half-track on the attack.

This Canadian Army Chevy truck tows a 25-pound (87.6 mm) artillery piece and ammunition limber. The 25-pounder fired several blank rounds.

This current Leopard II recovery tank came in from CFB Borden. Then, yet another piece of heavy WWII German equipment.

Radio-controlled scale model tanks; then the large battlefield diorama where they were rolling around all day.

Some of the amazing Gulf War armour on show including (last shot) a Russian T-62 main battle tank, the much-feared type still used by Russian client states.

Nearby the tank museum (which is at Oshawa airport) is an important RCAF monument – a sparkling Canadair F-86 Sabre V. (Photos by Shannon and Marin Milberry; Blog Master, Owen Milberry)

 

Now … Djibouti 1991

CanForces C-130 Hercules 130326 taxis through the pigeons at Djibouti (formerly French Somalia) in November 1991. It was headed out on one of hundreds of “Operation Preserve” missions on behalf of the UN World Food Program. Then, Herc 130333 loading at Djibouti for yet another trip into the Ethiopian “outback”. All this food aid arrived in Djibouti by sea, then was trucked to the airport. This brought employment and cash into the local economy and organizers made the most of it. Loading a Herc with as much as 22 tons of grain or corn was never a speedy process, since it was being paid for at an hourly rate. At the offloading end, the locals weren’t in it so much for the money, so could empty a Herc in 10-12 minutes (the record during Operation Preserve was eight minutes).

Region in Turmoil

The Horn of Africa has been in turmoil for centuries. In more modern times, there was a horrendous 3-decades war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 2018 the warring parties finally agreed to a peace. In another infamous case (1977-78) there was all-out war between Ethiopia and Somalia, backed, respectively, by the USSR and USA. The opposite recently had been true, so the Soviet-backed Ethiopian air force went to war with US-made Northrop F-5s, while the US-backed Somali air force flew Soviet MiG-21s. The “MiGs” soon ruled the skies. The main fighting took place in the northern Ogaden region lying between the two countries: Having a dream of a “Greater Somalia”, in 1977 President Siad Barre launched his attack on the Ogaden, looking to annex this ethnically Somali territory, where the main centres were Diradawa and Jijiga. Not far across the border in Somalia was Hargeisa. Barre’s forces ploughed ahead. Just as Ethiopia was near defeat in 1978, however, it was massively reinforced by Cuban, South Yemen and the USSR. Ethiopia now turned the tide, Somalia withdrew and Ethiopia retained the Ogaden (see Wiki, etc., for all the details, e.g. such items as “Somaliland: Hargeisa – The Invisible City”). Humiliated, President Siad Barre punished his own military in the north, having many top officers executed. Like a mini-Stalin or Mao, he also led a campaign to exterminate Somali clan resistance, starving to death and mercilessly bombing his own people. This led to unrest among northern Somalis. A revolution ensued, the north eventually declaring independence as Somaliland, having Hargeisa as its capital. Barre then used his artillery and tactical MiGs to destroying much of Hargeisa. In 1991 Barre was overthrown and eventually replaced by another strongman – Mohamed Farah Aidid. Aidid ushered in his own reign of terror during another ugly period of Somalia clan violence. The United Nations interceded, establishing UNOSOM – United Nations Operations in Somalia, which would count heavily on Canada. For today, however, let’s go back to 1991 when the Horn of Africa was not so much at war (although clans still were at each other’s throats) as it was starving due to crop failure caused by drought.

Operation Preserve

At the UN’s behest, beginning in August 1991 Canada began flying food aid to Ethiopian centres from its ALCE (Airlift Control Element) at Djibouti International Airport. This was known as Operation Preserve. The mandate was to fly four relief missions per day, each carrying as much as 22 tons of food. Three CC-130 “Hercs” from Air Transport Group at CFB Trenton were provided – two for daily operations plus one back-up. The Hercs were crewed from ATG’s various squadrons and supported by about 60 personnel – airframe and engine techs, logistics people, administrative and medical staff, etc. The ALCE “opened for business” on August 7, the first mission being flown five days later. Destinations were in the Ethiopian provinces of Bale, Hararge and Tigre. “Preserve” was planned for three months, but Canada later responded to a UN World Food Program plea for an extension. In November, I was invited to visit the operation to report first hand. I had a week to get everything organized – gathering the paperwork that DND needed, studying about the Horn of Africa (geography, weather, cultures, etc.), checking out camera equipment, stocking up on film, etc. Finally, on November 24, I rendezvoused with the CF public affairs co-ordinator in Ottawa for the first leg of the trip – a 6.5-hour flight to Canada’s airbase at Lahr, Germany on a DND charter. Our transportation was Nationair’s C-GMXY, an old DC-8-62 that had begun with Swissair in 23 years earlier. The trip started in leisurely fashion, since we had some time to enjoy Lahr and the Black Forest area. Then, on November 28 we set off in 436 Sqn C-130 130323 (UN Flight 6165) with Capt Dave Ross and crew. Our destination was Iraklion, Crete, where a few hours later we landed for fuel in the dead on night.

CanForces Herc “323” during our night refuelling stop at Iraklion, Crete. Delivered to the RCAF in 1967, “323” would serve Canada for some 44 years before retiring in 2012. Within an hour we were airborne for Djibouti, where we landed at 0940 (local) after a trip from Lahr of some 3000 nm. Shuttled downtown to the Sheraton Hotel, we started with a detailed briefing from ALCE commander, LCol Marc Dumais, who also organized a bus tour of the city to get we media people oriented.

A aeronautical map section of the general area being supplied by Operation Preserve during its final weeks. The main centres that I visited are to the south – DireDawa, Jijiga and Hargeisa.

Canada’s makeshift ALCE comprised a few sea containers and tents in a grubby corner at Djibouti International Airport. Canada’s military is famous for getting the job done in such barebones set-ups. This goes back at least to the Korean War when the RCAF’s modest fleet of North Stars made hundreds of trans-Pacific supply, passenger and medevac trips with little fanfare. On any day it may have had 10-12 North Stars available. So busy were they that the USAF assumed that the RCAF must have had hundreds. So it usually goes with a Canadian ALCE – no fuss no muss, just get the job done to specs.

The inevitable crazy signpost seems quickly to appear at any distant ALCE.

The ALCE seen from a giraffe that I briefly commandeered. A spare engine (lower right) and prop always are essential for such an operation.

A few steps from the ALCE, CanForces Herc crews chitchat between missions. The Operation Preserve Hercs this week were “326”, which had an airframe time of 30,433.1 hours as of December 1; “333”– 19,325.6 and “337” — 9445.7. There’s plenty of fun on such an operation. Some cocky 429 Sqn graffiti artist sent this message to the other squadrons at Djibouti.

ALCE commander LCol Dumais (right) with some of his staff at Djibouti.

My first trip from Djibouti began at 0400 on November 30 with a bus ride to the airport with the Dave Ross crew. Things were a bit dicey right away, since some rough-looking airport security fellows with AKs pulled me into a guardhouse, while the crew went ahead. Problem? Who was this Canadian not in uniform? After a few minutes, one of my crew returned to straighten things out. Soon I was around the table at the ALCE taking in the briefing. It was still dark as we climbed out of Djibouti en route to Jijiga, a distance of 144nm. This is how most days began – get out of Djibouti ASAP, so as to land with at destination just about sunrise.

Capt Dave Ross (right, aircraft commander) during mission planning about 0500 just before we headed for Jijiga on November 30. Left is S/L John Barras (nav, RAF on exchange with 436 Sqn). Standing is Sgt Dave Preston (ALCE operations), then, Capt Pete Stolz (pilot). Next, three fellows from the other early crew: LCol Jim Skinner (OC 413 Sqn), Capt Frank Costello (nav) and Capt Vince Schurman (pilot). An old joke about flight planning and paperwork noted that a Herc would not be dispatched ‘til the weight of the paperwork equalled the weight of the plane itself!

Under call sign “Canuck 36”, the Dave Ross crew was airborne at 140,000 lb at 0545. We touched down on Jijiga’s rough little strip (Runway 03-21, barely 2500 feet) at 0630. One of the first things that caught my eye was a crowd of local men heading towards us out of the dusk. These fellows were keen to load the trucks with the 19 tons of corn we had just flown in.

Workers get busy offloading 800 x 55-lb bags. Unloading was competitive, each man hustling as many sacks as quickly as possible. Sightseers from nearby were milling around taking in the excitement on which – in a way – their lives depended.

Herc “333” soon joined us at this dusty airstrip.

S/L Barrass and Capt Ross inspect one of the many dud artillery and tank rounds scattered over Jijiga airport, where fighting during the earlier Somali invasion had been intense.

The flight deck of Herc “333”at Jijiga with flight engineer Don Levins, pilots Rich Pittet and John Pedneault of 435 Sqn, plus UN field worker, Tracy Buckenmeyer.

Our visit to Jijiga soon shaped up beautifully for photography. Here are two more views of “326”. In the second, S/L Barrass is monitoring the start-up. We were airborne again at 0700 this time at 98,000 pounds heading back to base to collect another load. The return trip totalled 1.7 flying hours.

Capts Ross and Stolz in their front office – best seats in the house! As a rule, pilots alternated seats on each leg.

Typical desert between Djibouti and Jijiga. In a good season, this land could produce plenty of food, sometimes even a surplus. In 1991, however, draught was the problem, so there was little sign of any crops or anything green. Notice the small family farm enclosures. The homes are rounded huts mostly made of local materials.

Back at base I joined “Canuck 29” 130333 bound for Diredawa with a 429 crew under Capt Vince Schurman with LCol Skinner of 413 Sqn. Here, “333” loads at Djibouti. We departed at 0845, landed at Diredawa (a distance of 135 nm) at 0930, left again at 1005 and were wheels on back at Djibouti at 1045.

LCol Skinner piloting “333”. Our load in this trip was 20 tons of wheat (400×110-lb bags). Then, a grab shot as we scorched across Diredawa, a city (at this time of some 350,000. Notice the Dechatu River and the railroad (one of few in this part of Africa), which connects Diredawa to Djibouti.

Offloading scenes at Diredawa on November 30. It wasn’t always clear where all this food aid ended. Word was that some was regularly siphoned off to local bandidos, according to accepted local customs. Hauling food grains around was not the best thing for the “care and feeding” of a C-130. S/L John Barrass told me one day about how loose grain readily germinated under a Herc’s floorboards. This could cause damage and expensive clean-up. I no longer wondered why loadmasters sometimes were seen vacuuming the heck out of their Hercs. Another issue was insects, which thrived in sacks of grain and inevitably infested airplanes, making fumigation necessary.

Diredawa was another good place to photograph the CanForces at work, but something else caught my eye. The place was a major military base. There were fighters all over the place, but how to get access? Someone got me an escort onto the MiG-21/MiG- 23 tarmac, but no photos allowed. I could see that there was no activity– the MiGs simply were basking in the sun with nobody in sight. I heard that these MiGs had been used on some recent operations flown by Communist Bloc mercenaries. Apparently, the jets were some sort of rentals, and always ready to relocate to the next war or uprising. There’s a story here, but someone “in the know” will have to write it. In the distance I also could see MiG-15s and -17s. What a hot spot for the aviation geek, eh! Here’s a view of 8800×150 foot Runway 15-33. Notice the MiG compound in the mid distance.

It was OK to photograph this abandoned Aeroflot MI-8 at Diredawa. The MI-8 first flew in 1962. Some 7300 of this astoundingly versatile and reliable helicopter were manufactured. Many were exported to USSR client states and still do great work.

On departure in “333” I was able to grab some “quickie” shots of the MiGs. I wonder if those 15s and 17s are still there? Warbird collectors would go wild if there was a chance of an acquisition.

Our shadow rips along a dried river bed around Diredawa. Back at base I quickly teamed with ”Canuck 29” for another trip to Jijiga in “333” with the Dave Ross crew. We departed at 1245, were airborne for home from Jijiga at 1350 and back at “Silo Ops” (the ALCE ops tent) at 1545. Along the way I learned a few interesting bits of trivia, including how Op Preserve’s C-130s had been lightened from a basic empty weight of 82,000 lb to 75,000 lb (so they could carry more payload); and how there was a strict notice that no aircraft enter Djibouti air space below 15,000 feet (without prior notice). Any lower and who knows what might happen. Maybe an intercept by the French AF Mirages based at Djibouti?

Crew do some on-the-spot fix to “326” while we were at Diredawa on December 1. Ingenuity is the mother of invention, as they say, but this was not a job for strict union workers, that’s for sure. I also made a trip this day to Jijiga in “333” with the 435 Sqn crew of Capt John Pedneault. Here they are at day’s end back at “Silo Ops”: Capt Rich Pettet (pilot), Capt Rolly Tassé (loadmaster), Capt John Pedneault (aircraft commander), Maj Tom Whitburn (nav) and Sgt Don Levins (flight engineer). Although I met many young aircrew on this operation, at this time Capt Tassé was one of four ATG commissioned “loadies” and talk about experience. Having joined the RCAF in 1955, he transitioned from the C-119 to the C-130 in 1962. Prior deployments included Biafra, Congo, Gulf War I and Peru on earthquake relief. By now he had 6200 flying hours on Hercs plus about 2000 on Cosmos. He also had been chief loadmaster instructor at the CF Tactical Airlift School in Edmonton. Where could the RCAF get such experience today? Pretty well impossible.

Herc 326 departs Jijiga on December 1, 1991. Aircraft take a good beating on such operations, where landings and takeoffs always are “max” efforts, e.g. full brakes, flaps and reverse props for landing after landing. Once our Hercs finally go home to Canada, you don’t even want to hear about the cost of repairs.

December 2 was an exciting day. At 0525 we were off Djibouti in “326” as “Canuck 36” under LCol Dumais with Capt Jacques Dufort, the rest being from Dave Ross’ crew. At 0600 we landed at Jijiga, where the runway was one long mud puddle after heavy overnight rains (we might have gone through with this landing because of low light masking the ugly runway conditions). A few minutes behind us, along came “Canuck 29” under Capt Vince Schurman, who first did a low pass to inspect conditions. We on the ground all were watching with interest. Would “Canuck 29” give it a go? Someone commented, “We’d be hard-pressed to find anything around here to drag them out of the mud – if worse comes to worse.” Here (in the distance) Vince banks into his downwind leg to try a landing.

Here’s part of the scene as “Canuck 29” splashes down, slithers through a mass of giant birds and mud, then gets squared away and taxies in behind “326”. Nothing to it, right! Someone reported later that several birds had left wings, fuselages, undercarriages, etc. on the runway. These photos were hard to really wire, considering the poor light, also the limits of 25 asa and 64 asa Kodachrome back in these prehistoric days of (actual) photography. Our own departure from Jijiga was briefed as a “soft field takeoff, 95,000 lb” with a proviso: “We’ll only return to this strip if we really, really have to”. On leaving Jijiga, LCol Dumais detoured to Degeh Bur for a low-level inspection and video of the runway re. possible relief flights. We noticed the wreck of an old DC-3 beside the runway. LCol Dumais did a touch-and-go to get a feel for the runway surface, then turned north for Djibouti.

LCol Dumais flies “326” to Degeh Bur on December 2, as RAF S/L John Barrass (nav) looks on. Then, Capt Dufort at the helm on the same trip.

On Day 1 at Djibouti I spent some good time watching the technical staff change an engine on Herc “337”. Here they were in a remote place doing sophisticated work out in the blazing African sun, but this really was no big deal for ATG. After all, what’s it about? Training, experience and dedication, three hallmarks of Canada’s military. First, here’s the big picture with “337” on the ramp. Then, MCpl Bob Gauthier atop the troubled engine, and Cpl Jeff Hamilton gathering some wrenches.

Contemplating the new engine. Then, the prop is readied for installation. Finally, the new 4000-shp Allison T56 engine is run up for the first time as the airport fire brigade stands by. Job in the bag in 12 hours, no sweat!

Djibouti is a fascinating place. Take some time and read up about it in the “interweb” (the world of the 3-minute attention span, right). This is a place where, in the main market, we saw such eye-popping displays as AK-47s for sale for a few American dollars, gold in any form one might desire, and raw elephant tusks stacked up ready for anyone with the cash – save the elephants be damned. It’s also where we enjoyed a pizza one evening where our host was a retired Foreign Legionnaire. On the wall was a pair of snowshoes that, as a young soldier on winter exercise in northern Quebec one year, he had brought home. Yes … Djibouti is “something else”. But it must be much changed today, when the main foreign influence is China, not France. The airport itself is a busy hub with many civil and military aircraft to photograph. Djibouti being a former French colony and still (in 1991) a French Foreign Legion outpost, I wasn’t surprised to see this 747 “Classic” on the ramp. F-BPVA was Air France’s first 747, having been delivered in March 1970. Majestic as it was, it went to the boneyard in 1994.

The French military also was evident in Djibouti, but I couldn’t get permission to visit. Mirage fighters were coming and going on some sort of counter-insurgency missions, and this Breguet Atlantique was present, patrolling the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. There also were some Transals. One day I watched one of these “mini Hercs” take off and disappear into low cloud. Not long afterwards, a large number of Foreign Legionnaires came floating down onto mid-field, having completed a jump in complete “IFR” conditions.

Ethiopian Airlines seemed almost to be Djibouti’s national airline. Seen are 707 freighter ET-AIV, 727 ET-AHM and Lockheed L-100 Hercules ET-AJK. Delivered originally to Braniff in 1967 and later with Trans Mediterranean, “AIV” served EAL 1985-98. Sold then into the DRC, it was wrecked at Kinshasa in Y2K. 727 “AHM” came new to EAL in 1979, serving there into 1992. It migrated to Canada in 1997, where it served Cargojet of Hamilton as C-GUJC into the 2010s. Herc “AJK” was a jack-of-all-trades, frequently doing UN relief operations.

Alyemda was operating scheduled Dash 7 service across the narrow straight from Yemen to Djibouti. 7O-ACM had been sold new to Alyemda in 1980. Dash 7 No.31 (of 113 built in Toronto), “ACM” lasted into the early 2000s, but eventually went for scrap.

Originally delivered to Yemen Airways in 1976, 737 “200 Series” 7O-ACU was seen almost daily at Djibouti. It served into the early 2000s before retiring.

By 1991 the impressive Cessna 208A Caravan was making welcomed inroads throughout Africa. 5Y-ZBZ (s/n 201) had arrived in the region on October 24 for Mission Aviation Fellowship. Using long-range tanks, Tony Pettinger had ferried it across in 46 flying hours. First, he collected “ZBZ” from Cessna in Wichita, then flew it to Bangor, Maine, where two 180 gallon ferry tanks were installed in the cabin. These supplemented the 165-gallon tanks in each wing tank. He next flew to St. John’s, Newfoundland, then to Birmingham in 12:05 hours, finally on to Southend, Luxor and Nairobi. For another Caravan (HB-CKK, Red Cross) also doing relief duty here, the engineer was Anil Patel of Montreal. A graduate of Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Anil previously had worked for Bearskin Airlines and norOntair in NW Ontario, then went to Africa in 1984. He noted that there were about 100 Canadians doing relief work at this time for NGOs in this region. These seemed to be loosely under the “Horn of Africa Committee” of the Canadian International Development Agency in Ottawa.

Another bit of “Canadiana” at Djibouti in 1991 was this clapped out DHC-4 Caribou. Delivered new in 1971 as JW9013 to the Tanzanian Air Wing, nobody around the airport seemed to have any history for it, other than that it had made a very hard landing here one day. The airframe was hopelessly bent, so the Caribou was abandoned. At this time, several local young men were using “9013” for low cost housing.

Off the end of Runway 09 at Djibouti in 1991 lay another off-beat bit of aviation history – some superannuated French Air Force F-100 Super Sabres cooking in the Africa sun. Look at the massiveness of this scrap yard. I wondered why the local government hadn’t turned all this into millions of dollars in scrap business? Since China now holds sway in Djibouti, perhaps it’s finally been shipped off for recycling. You can see that a lot of the photos that I’ve used here are grab shots. As any day unfolded, there were endless subjects to photograph, so I had to have cameras ready. Things could come and go in a flash. This was not a great job for the photographer who is anal about photographic form. For me? I was happy, since I’m mainly content-minded. Shoot first, shoot fast!

Around the pool at the Sheraton one evening I met some fellows from the Mission Aviation Fellowship, a Christian organization doing good works in the Horn of Africa with Caravan 5Y- ZBZ. Eventually, I asked about a flight to see what was doing with the MAF, and this quickly was OK’d. Early on December 3, I met my MAF contacts at the airport – Ramesh Peshavaria (seen at the controls of “ZBZ”), Tony Pettinger and Tad Watts. At 0905 we took off on the 133 nm flight to Hargeisa, capital of the unrecognized state of Somaliland (formerly Italian Somalia). We climbed to 10,000 feet, cruised smoothly along, then landed at 1000. Here “ZBZ” sits at the Hargeisa terminal.

 

What caught my eye instantly as we taxied in at Hargeisa was a row of three Somali AF F-6 tactical fighters (Chinese-built MiG-19s). The story behind these old warbirds was not a pretty one, for they had been “flying artillery” for Siad Bari’s repressive regime, bombing nearby Hargeisa into rubble in recent times. An F-6 could make bomb run after bomb run through the day, since its targets were just a few seconds/minutes away. Nobody was around who could give me any actual details, although a very poor- looking fellow on crutches told me that he had been an F-6 pilot “back in the day”. It’s not always too easy to get people in such countries to talk openly.

MiG and a Mil-17 hulks at Hargeisa. As I polked around this corner, some friendly fellows in the distance yelled for me to clear off, warning that there still were land mines in this patch of the airport. I made my way back to the tarmac taking very long strides!

A bird’s eye view of the airport terminal from “ZBZ”.

General views around Hargeisa on December 3, 1991. The city had been a ghost town since 1988, the main population having fled across the border to Ethiopia. We were told that the population was about 70,000, but this was starting to rise as people began filtering back home. Thousands had died here, but the survivors were set on making a new beginning. First, an aerial view from “ZBZ”. This neighbourhood still looked uninhabited. Today, Hargeisa is home to more than 600,000 and has great prospects.

A local fellow with his camel. Then, two young men employed in Hargeisa’s de-mining “industry”. Many Somalilanders had become land mine victims during the region’s horrible times, as in 1988-91. One-legged people were everywhere, and humans and animals still were been killed by mines in and near Hargeisa. Alf Slingsby of the UK de-mining company Rimfire showed us samples of neutralized mines supplied to Siad Bari’s brutal forces by arms dealers from many nations. His teams were recovering about 1000 mines per month, and there was no end in sight for the process.

While climbing out from Hargeisa bound for home base, we spotted a herder with his goats. Raising and dealing in goats, cattle and camels remains the region’s chief economic activity. Then, a typical scene en route. This area is desert and mountains with the prominent Durdur River system. This is really wild country. We were back at Djibouti at 1415 to face the only glitch of the day – Djibouti customs officials were unhappy that I had “illegally” crossed into the non-existent nation of Somaliland. My passport was confiscated, but was returned later in the day for a small fee.

Another day I joined a convoy driving across the back country to a vast refugee camp in the middle of nowhere – Dharwanaji six miles from the Somaliland border. The place housed 121,000 homeless people, but was overseen by armed hoodlums. Here’s a grab shot looking ahead at our convoy just as there was a panic about a possible ambush. Our “guns-for-hire” suddenly were fanning out, weapons ready.

The panic arose due to a traffic hold-up at this crossing, where a heavy water truck headed for Dharwanji was bogged down. All was well. Note the machine gun atop the pick-up, and the camels in the distance.

Even out in such sparse backcountry there was plenty to see. We passed a battleground littered with Soviet-era tanks destroyed during the recent Ethiopia – Somalia shoot-out. Cameras were not welcomed, so I kept a low profile. Here, we pass a pick-up loaded “to the gunwales” with militiamen.

En route we stopped briefly in the hamlet of Lafaisa. First, a street scene as a local water cart passes on its rounds. Then, typical Lafaisa housing, boys tending cattle, and camels at work. Little wonder that wherever we travelled, people would shout “Canada (or USA) Number One” and sometimes ask what we could do to help them get out of wherever they were stuck.

Finally, we reached Dharwanaji. This is what we saw spread out to the horizon — thousands of grubby little huts called “akuls” or “aqals”, and people mainly just waiting passively for their next meal.

Just inside the gate sat a mountain of thousands of grain and corn sacks. We heard that the camp had formed when refugees poured in from Somalia starting in February 1991. Under the gaze of the “camp mafia”, the UN was feeding the place. There was a daily limit of 500g per person, except for children and pregnant women who received a bit extra. People were dying almost daily of starvation and disease. Armed militiamen guarded the food aid and seemed to have control as to how it all got distributed.

A couple of Dharwanaji honchos guard the entrance to the camp strongman’s office.

Keeping more than 100,000 desperate people alive … this is what it was all about, including what Canada’s Hercs were doing so far from home. This was the scene at one of Dharwanaji’s six feeding centres. Mothers and children are having their turn in this session. But things perpetually were on the edge. In the second photo, an infant has just been declared dead, said to be from malnutrition.

Food prep in the kitchen tent; then a scene in the medical clinic. Among people’s endless health issues at Dharwanaji, tuberculosis was rampant.

Other camp scenes. You can show your kids these pictures next time they start complaining about anything, right! Besides barebones care provided by the UN and NGOs in this region in 1991, there was a longterm effort to resettle the refugees. Most of those at Dharwanaji in 1991 gradually returned to Somaliland, from whence they had come.

My visit to Djibouti ended on December 4 when I boarded Herc “334” at Djibouti (UN Flight 6166, Major Wayne Davidson and crew). First we flew to Larnica on Cyprus (7 hours) to pick up passengers and fuel, then continued to Lahr (Capt Pedneault and crew, 5.5 hours). I continued back to Ottawa on December 6 aboard Nationair 757 C-GNXU.

Operation Preserve summary: flying from their Djibouti ALCE, from August 12 to December 12, 1991 Canada’s C-130 Hercules flew 853 food aid missions to points in hard- pressed north Ethiopia. Some 16,000 tons of grain and corn were delivered. Summarizing things, LCol Marc Dumais noted, “The operation was an overwhelming success thanks to the planning that went into the initial recce and to the professionalism and positive attitude of the personnel who were assigned to the mission”. Canada’s air force would go on to many further such humanitarian mission from the collapse of Somalia, when the warlords took over, to Rwanda, hurricane relief in Honduras … on and on to the present. Through the week of June 3, 2019, RCAF Hercs were busy evacuating forest fire- threatened Pikangikum, a town of 3800 in Northwest Ontario (55 miles north of Red Lake). One of the great aspects about travelling around the world with the Canadian Forces was meeting so many exemplary Canadians proudly wearing the uniform. It’s been fun keeping in touch over the decades and seeing how people finished their careers. LCol Marc Dumais, for example, retired to “Civvie Street” in 2012 as MGen Dumais, Commander of “Canada Command”.