*For copies of the famous CANAV aviation booklists, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org*
The impressive Curtiss SB2C/SBW Helldiver final line at Fort William in 1944. Such glorious factory scenes give the impression of stretching to the horizon. The official CCF caption for this photo reads, “Every day three planes come off the line. Those in foreground are checked and inspected. In centre of group at left: W.C. Will, Works Manager, with G.H. Kells, Shop Superintendent, on his right.” Then, a closer view of one of the planes. If there were any identifying serial numbers showing on a Helldiver at this stage, as a rule the dark room gurus in CCF’s photography department would dodge them out for security reasons. Notice the plane’s massive Wright R-2600 engine. More than 800 Helldivers would roll off this line in 1943-45. Other Helldivers were built by Fairchild of Canada at Longueuil, near Montreal.
Background to the Canadian Car and Foundry Story
The twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur (today’s Thunder Bay) at the head of Lake Superior have a long, proud history as progressive industrial centres. Since the 19th Century, they have manufactured such products as Great Lakes freighters, railway rolling stock, busses and airplanes. They also were vital in Canadian agriculture, with the railroads annually carrying millions of bushels of prairie grain east to the “Lakehead” cities. There it was stored in the elevators lining the waterfront, then shipped down the Great Lakes for Canadian, US and international markets. The Lakehead also had a thriving forest industry, with huge mills turning out paper products and lumber; and supported much of the mining in the vast surrounding hinterland.
You should look into the basic history, geography, etc. of the Lakehead in the published literature (books are your chief source of knowledge if you are as on the ball as I hope you are), then such other sources as Wiki. What about the region’s particular aviation heritage? Your No.1 source is the marvelous Jim Lysun book, Aviation in Thunder Bay, published by the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society email@example.com This book is much more than a general treatment, but digs below the surface from pre-WWI to modern times. This is a book for any serious follower of Canada’s great aviation heritage. So … track down a copy. Other sources? Keep an eye out for Gordon Burkowski’s 1990 book, CanCar History. It’s out of print, but a copy occasionally pops up for sale on the web. Also, in CANAV’s 2018 book, Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939, I cover how Canadian Car and Foundry, having begun at Fort William in 1912, established an aviation division there in 1936 to assemble the obsolete Grumman G- 23 biplane fighter for foreign sale. The first fighter built in Canada, the G-23 flew initially at Fort William’s Bishopsfield aerodrome in February 1938. CCF also considered building a large passenger plane based on Burnelli’s flying wing concept, but this did not go beyond a mock-up (a smaller version was built in 1945, but that went nowhere, see Air Transport in Canada). CCF did, however, build prototypes of the advanced Gregor biplane fighter, and a biplane trainer known as the Maple Leaf. But, by the eve of WWII only the G-23 had succeeded. According to K.M. Molson in Canadian Aircraft since 1909 (another seminal CCF sourcebook), CCF turned out 52 G-23s, most of which were exported to Spain for use by communist forces against Franco’s fascists. This illegal transaction caused a political scandal for Ottawa. Later, the RCAF was obliged to accept 15 G-23s that had been embargoed before they could get to Spain. Happily, better days lay ahead for CCF and the RCAF.
Other essential books to support this story are Ken Molson’s and H.A. Taylor’s invaluable Canadian Aircraft since 1909, and Robert Stern’s and Don Greer’s spectacular SB2C Helldiver in Action/Aircraft No.54. Yet another title is Jonathan Kirton’s Canadian Car & Foundry Aircraft Production at Fort William on the Eve of World War II. If you’re persistent, you’ll find copies of these for sale on the web.
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver had been ordered by the US Navy to replace its earlier Douglas SDB Dauntless dive bomber. However, even at the design stage the SB2C had people worrying. The prototype flew at Buffalo, NY in December 1940, just as the SB2C factory was being built in Columbus, Ohio. Accidents and crashes plagued SB2C progress, so the first production plane wasn’t delivered until June 1942. By then, orders were on the books for 4000 planes. Development staggered along, the worst issue being how empty weight had skyrocketed from 7100 lb to 10,000 lb. The SB2C finally went to sea for trials aboard USS Yorkton, but these were disappointing. The ship’s captain reputedly suggested that the SB2C would make a better anchor than a dive bomber. Nonetheless, on entering combat early in 1943, the SB2C – with the help of innumerable modification — met the mark and within a year had replaced most SDBs in the south Pacific carrier fleet.
The daily press in every Canadian town and city reported in amazing detail about what was going on in the war from everything local to the cross-Canada and global scenes. In spite of strict press restrictions, it’s amazing how much detail was officially released or leaked. It takes diligent research to ferret out all of this so many decades later. The press often mentioned Canadian Car and Foundry and its Helldiver program. On February 4, 1944 this was page 19 in the “Toronto Daily Star” Toronto Daily Star Feb. 4 1944. Check out the fascinating report about the Helldiver in production and in action, then the two photos taken at Fort William. The Helldiver shown was for the Royal Navy, but the RN did not like the plane at all, so sent back its consignment to the USN. Regardless, the Helldiver proved its worth in the face of everything the Japanese could throw against it, sinking more enemy ships in the US South Pacific theatre than any other aircraft type. To get the most out of this news report, you need to put yourself back to 1944. There was a war on and we were facing two devilish world dictatorships in Germany and Japan that already had slaughtered millions of innocent civilians. So get into that frame of mind. Also, accept the fact that censorship and propaganda were in force. The “Shorty” Matten mentioned actually is “Shorty” Hatton, one of Canada’s renowned pilots of the 1930s-40s. His 2004 biography is Shorty, An Aviation Pioneer, by author James Glassco Henderson.
Another spectacular photo from my CCF collection. This RCAF Hurricane was converted at Fort William for ski trials. Once the concept was evaluated, it was set aside as impractical. More than 1400 Hurricanes were manufactured at CCF from 1940 to 1943. This set up CCF for the much more sophisticated SBD Helldiver project.
CCF and the Helldiver
Happily, CCF was able to leave its shady G-23 venture behind to undertake wartime contracts to build the Hawker Hurricane for British, Canadian and Soviet forces, then the SB2C (designated “SBW” for CCF purposes) for the US Navy. Certainly, CCF’s experience with 1930s biplanes did help prepare the company for its future wartime challenges, especially in how such projects trained the local labor force in ever more modern skills. According to Canadian Aircraft since 1909, CCF received its first order for Hurricanes in November 1938. The prototype flew at Fort William in January 1940, then production proceeded until the last of 1451 was delivered in June 1943. By then “in the big leagues” of aircraft production, CCF re-tooled to manufacture the Helldiver. Simultaneously, Fairchild of Canada at Longueuil, Quebec won some Helldiver contracts. CCF SB2Cs were designated SBW-1, SBW-3 and SBW-4, while Fairchild’s were SBF-1 and SBF-3. With Orville J. Wieben (CCF chief pilot) at the controls, the first Canadian SBW (US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 21192) flew at Fort William on July 29, 1943, just weeks after CCF’s final Hurricane was delivered. Soon the line was in full swing, but both CCF and Fairchild had to keep up with a flood of modifications demanded by the US Navy. With top management and skilled, dedicated labor, they got the job done.
The bugs gradually were beaten out of the Helldiver, especially when its 1500-hp Wright R-2600 engine was replaced with a 1900-hp version. In the end, the series proved itself in US Navy service. To the last day of the war, Helldivers hounded Japanese targets at sea and on land, even though hundreds were lost to flak, enemy fighters and accidents. The Commemorative Air Force web site observes, “While often maligned by some critics, the SB2Cs were responsible for more ship tonnage sunk during WWII than any other aircraft.” Historian Joe Baugher records the essential details for hundreds of individual SB2Cs. In one case, he mentions how on July 18, 1944 a US Navy PBY-5 of VP-100 Squadron sank at sea off Oahu (Hawaii) after landing hard while trying to pick up the crew of a ditched CCF-built SBW. The survivors of both planes were rescued by the destroyer USS Crouter. The final CCF-built SBW was delivered at Fort William on September 5, 1945, a few weeks after the war ended. Nearly all SB2Cs quickly were struck off US Navy charge. Many were shoved off carrier decks into the deep to save on paperwork (a common end-of- war practice). In 1946 several Canadian-made SBW-3s were among the planes sacrificed aboard the USS Saratoga and USS Independence, when those once-proud carriers were destroyed in atomic bomb test explosions in the south Pacific. Meanwhile, a few Helldivers were gifted to Allies, but it’s not known if any were Canadian-made. In French service, these fought doggedly in 1954 during the last days before Dien Bien Fou fell to Ho Chi Minh’s forces. The last operational Helldivers were those flown by Italy in the anti- submarine role. These were replaced by Trackers in 1959. Few SB2Cs survived their brief post-war days. One belongs to the Hellenic Air Force Museum in Greece, another is with the Royal Thai Air Force Museum. Check out the ever-fascinating SB2C Wiki entry, which lists other survivors, restoration projects and wrecks. Owned by the Commemorative Air Force of Texas, the sole airworthy Helldiver visited Thunder Bay in 1998. Many CCF old timers turned out for the celebration.
The world’s only airworthy SB2C is N92879. I photographed it at Washington-Dulles on May 27, 1972. Following a subsequent crash, it again was restored and continues to fly. Befittingly, N92879 visited Thunder Bay in 1992. Really keen fans can take a short flight in this historic warbird for US$995. Read all about N92879 at http://sb2chelldiver.com/
SB2C/SBW and SBF Production 1940 – 1945
SB2C-1: Curtiss 200, CCF 38
SB2C-1A: Curtiss 900 for US Army Air Force as A-25A Shrike
SB2C-1C: Curtiss 778, CCF (as SBW-1B) 28, Fairchild of Canada (as SBF-1) 50.
26 of the 28 CCF planes went to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, but were rejected.
SB2C-3: Curtiss 1112, CCF (SBW-3) 413, Fairchild of Canada (SBF-3) 150
SB2C-4: Curtiss 2045, CCF (SBW-4E) 270, Fairchild of Canada (SBF-4E) 100
SB2C-5: Curtiss 970, CCF (SBW-5) 85 (a further 165 cancelled at war’s end)
Canadian Helldiver production according to K.M. Molson: CCF 835 + Fairchild
300. Total 1135.
US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics SBW Series Serial Numbers*
SBW-1: 21192 to 21231
SBW-1B: 60010 to 60035 for Royal Navy
SBW-3: 21233 to 21645
SBW-4E: 21646 to 21741, also, 60036 to 60209
SBW-5: 60210 to 60459 Only 60210 was built, all others cancelled at war’s end (these do not quite tally with the usually stated figure of 835 CCF Helldivers). *These details as per Joe Baugher’s internet list, “US Navy and US Marine Corps BuNos”. It’s well worth your time to have a look.
Typical SBW-1 Helldiver Losses*
21199 (VB-2) shot down by A6M5 Zeke Jun 20, 1944 in Battle of the Phillipine
Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot)
21203 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) shot down by AAA Sep 9,
1944, Mindnao, Philippine
21206 assigned to CASU-35, destroyed on ground by crashing PB4Y-1 38766
Aug 9, 1944, Eniwetok
21210 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) lost from unknown cause,
Palau Island Sep 16, 1944
21211 (VB-2) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) ditched when ran out of fuel Jun
20, 1944, Battle of the Philippine Sea
21216 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) lost to unknown cause Sep
23, 1994, Okinawa
Typical SBW-3 Helldiver Losses
21236 (VB-100) in training accident Oct 20, 1944, Hawaii.
21238 assigned to COMAIRPAC lost to unknown cause, Pearl Harbor May 31,
21263 assigned to CASU(F)-12 lost to unknown cause May 17, 1945, Guam
21267 (VB-18) assigned to USS Intrepid (CV-11) lost to unknown cause Oct 24,
1944, Negros Island Visayas, Philippines
21279 (VB-17) assigned to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost to unknown cause Mar 28,
1945 near Kyushu, Japan
21283 (VB-14) attached to USS Wasp (CV-18) lost off Luzon in Philippines Oct
21287 (VB-18) attached to USS Intrepid (CV-11) lost to unknown cause Nov 25,
1944, Luzon, Philippines
21292 (VB-18) destroyed on deck of carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11) by kamikaze
attack Nov 25, 1944 near Luzon, Philippines
21296 (VB-14) attached to USS Wasp (CV-18) lost to unknown cause Oct 10,
21304 (VB-100) attached to USS Saratoga (CV-3) lost in training accident Nov
17, 1944 near Pearl Harbor
21322 (VB-11) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost in Philippines Nov 13, 1944
21350 lost to unknown cause Dec 7, 1944, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea
21351 (CASU(F)-14) lost to unknown cause Jun 21, 1945, Saipan
21353 (VB-4) destroyed on deck of USS Essex by kamikaze attack Nov 25,
21355 damaged on deck of USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88) by typhoon east of
Luzon Dec 18, 1944.
21374 (VB-80) attached to USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) lost at sea on launch off
Luzon in Philippines Dec 16, 1944
21377 (VB-7) attached to USS Hancock (CV-19) shot down by AAA over Hong
Kong, China Jan 16, 1945
21390 (VB-6) attached to USS Hancock (CV-19 shot down by AAA over Kyushu,
Japan Mar 18, 1945
21406 (VB-20) attached to USS Lexington (CV-16) lost to unknown cause Jan
16, 1945 near Hong Kong, China
21438 (VB-17) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost to unknown cause Apr 7,
21710 crashed Jun 19, 1945 in Goose Lake, CA. 2 killed.
60017 (JW107) force landed in sea after taking off from [Naval Air Station]
Squantum Jun 24, 1944, pilot rescued
60023 (JW113) crashed before delivery to RN. Used for spares
60028 (JW118) suffered engine fire while in circuit at Columbus at end of ferry
flight from Minneapolis Jan 25, 1944. Force landed in field and subsequently
used for spares.
60029 (JW119) RN records say sold as scrap Aug 25, 1944, but RAF
records say transferred to them and used at Empire Central Flying School until
SOC Nov 12, 1945
60030 (JW120) flew into ground, caught fire and burned out at Wellesley, MA
Jun 6, 1944, both crew killed
60031 (JW121) misjudged dive on target and flew into sea at Inskip bombing
in England Oct 6, 1944, both crew killed
60032 (JW122) ditched near Squantum following engine fire Jun 24, 1944
* as per Joe Baugher’s list
GENESIS OF A BLOG ITEM
What got me interested in doing this blog item was perusing a priceless old collection of historic 8 x 10 black-and-white albums that have been around my place for decades. Here and there over the years I’ve dug into these to illustrate one book or another. My history with this collection started with a phone call about 35 years ago from the great Ken Molson. Ken had a tip for me – George Olieux at George’s Trains on Mt. Pleasant Rd. here in Toronto had some original Canadian Car and Foundry photo albums for sale. Ken already had taken his choice of these, but suggested that I get up to see George ASAP and make a deal. That I did and picked up what was left for something like $200 for several hundred gorgeous, linen-backed 8 x 10 glossies. In my mind, I’ve often thanked Ken and George (who both are gone) for this great opportunity.
Here’s the pile of my CCF albums. Talk about a gold mine, eh. Two thick albums dwell exclusively on the Curtiss Helldiver.
My CCF albums are rich in company history at Fort William from the Grumman G-23 to the Gregor fighter, Maple Leaf trainer, Hurricane and Curtiss SB2C. They include many amazing airplane photos, of course, but where the collection really shines is in what it shows about the plant, the machinery, the processes and — ever so importantly — the people. Whichever decision makers assigned CCF’s photographers to create these incomparable albums back in 1936 to 1944 deserve medals. Of course, at the time most of these photos were “classified”, so would have been under lock and key, other than for a few released for the company newsletter or public relations purposes. How they eventually got out into circulation remains a mystery. Some would have been taken home by keen employees once the war ended. I heard that George found these CCF albums in a much larger collection that he somehow acquired. Here is a small selection for your enjoyment:
A CCF SBW fuselage is about to be mated with its wing centre section. The adjustable and movable stand on which such work was done was known at CCF as a “corvette”. The CCF caption for this photo reads, “Precision tooling and accurate checking gauges assure a perfect fit when the two main components are spliced.” While CCF’s earlier G-23 production run was little more than an assembly job using parts brought in from such US manufacturers as Grumman and Brewster, the SBW airframe was manufactured at Fort William. By that time (1943-45) CCF had become qualified to do such advanced work, having already produced more than 1400 Hurricanes.
Further down the line, the airframe has been fully assembled, Wright R-2600 engine included. The plane has been lifted off its corvette and is ready for the final touches before rolling off the line. This SBW-3 still has to be painted. Its number (390) could represent US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics number 21390 (a CCF Helldiver that finally was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, but was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Kyushu, Japan on March 18, 1945). “390” also might represent CCF’s 390th SBW. So … numbers can be mysterious.
Workers doing Helldiver fine wiring tasks at CCF. This photo collection has many such scenes. Things may look a bit crazy, but there’s nothing chaotic here. The entire CCF Helldiver operation was progressing like a finely-tuned machine. However, just partly through the contract there was news that Canada’s war industries would be slowing. A “Globe and Mail” item of June 12, 1944 (“Cut Contract on Hell-Divers; May Trim Staff”) noted CCF employment at Fort William at 8000. By this time the Allies were succeeding in every theatre. They were so confident of final victory that in June 1944 the RCAF stopped recruiting for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This took place even though the Allies had only just landed in Normandy. It’s not surprising that the same paper was reporting about CCF on September 20, 1944: “There are some 5,500 workers. The Fort William plant has a contract which runs to the middle of next year and calls for more than 1,000 planes. Present output is in the neighbourhood of 56 a month.” In the end, Helldiver contracts at CCF and Fairchild of Canada were cut, CCF from 1000 to 835.
Workers at these benches are mainly finishing wing ribs. At every work station the job at hand had to be co-ordinated with each stage of production. Management and labour had to co-operate and they did. In exchange for their reliable services, workers at CCF took home very good pay.
Whether using small, hand-held tools or such massive ones as these drop hammers, workers had to be safety minded. On the whole, conditions were safe in the CCF plant for this stage of industrial development. Safety was pounded into everyone head day by day. Training was at a serious level (for the day), supervisors were forever watching for infractions, chemicals were handled as safely as possible, and doctors and nurses staffed clinics on site. Naïve people today may be horrified by such a photo and impose their 21st Century view of things upon it, but that is not history. Sad to say, but in today’s schools, much distorted history is taught by ill-educated, agenda-driven teachers. The CCF caption for this grand photo reads: “Drop Hammer Dept. has five hammers of various capacities and form sections up to 8 ft. long. The three in front are air-operated, the other two are electric revolving drum rope hammers. Air hammer at left is used for die-matching purposes only and was designed by our own staff and cast in Kirksite.”
Welders working on small parts. Then, another typical shop floor scene. No doubt the place was noisy and smelly, but people were happy to have such high-paying jobs, to be learning new skills and to be doing something to help the war effort. Notice the “Buy Victory Bonds” poster at the back. Each time one of these grand photos was taken, the photo team would ask everyone to “freeze” for a second or two.
Highly skilled staff work on Helldiver cockpit instrumentation.
Those in stores and warehousing kept supplies and parts moving to the various production lines as much on a “just in time” basis as do today’s modern factories. That as many as three Helldivers were pushed ready-to-fly off the final line every day shows us that. Notice the sign “Smoking Strictly Prohibited in this Building”.
Airframe structures and other components being manufactured. Every piece was being tracked, but by pencil and paper – on charts and graphs — vs today’s computerized everything. Final results? The same – beautiful airplanes – the most modern of the day rolling off the line. And we think we’re so smart. Surely, we must have invented everything, right.
Other shop floor scenes from Helldiver days. The CCF caption for the first of these reads, “Sand Blast chamber and rotating Blast Mill are shown in centre and at rear respectively, also Electric Furnace for normalizing and annealing or ‘Heat Treatment’ purposes.” For the next photo the caption reads: “Plaster Pattern has been removed and Molten Kirksite is poured into sand moulds. Box at the right has plaster pattern still embedded.” Finally, a photo of the open air acid baths used to clean parts before welding. Notice the basket of parts about to be lowered: “Clean contact surfaces are necessary before spot-welding. Oxide film is removed by immersion in etching solution. Etching also removes heat variations in contact surfaces and produces a better weld nugget. Some parts are cleaned by buffing.”
Another astounding factory scene as various parts are manufactured: “Fabricating exhaust manifold and tail wheel fairings, also carburetor air takes and ammunition boxes.”
The CCF receiving department never rested. Trainloads of raw material (steel, lumber, fluids, etc.) and finished items from nails and screws to engines arrived around the clock from suppliers and subcontractors throughout North America. Naturally, the trains ran like clockwork, the transportation system was impeccable. Periodically pulling in at receiving were boxcars full of Wright R-2600 engines from Wright either from Paterson, NJ, or Cincinnatti, Ohio. The mighty R-2600 also powered the Douglas A-20, Grumman Avenger and North American B-25. Wright delivered more than 50,000 R- 2600s. Once unpacked at CCF, the R-2600s were inspected, run on test stands, then installed in the Helldivers. CCF techs such as the fellow here normally wore ID badges. His was 7051. Sometimes these ancient factory IDs turn up these days on ebay. Everything’s collectible, right!
In dozens of other spaces around the plant all sorts of other tasks had to be done simultaneously. Here, for example, one of the busy office spaces where everything had to be done from ordering parts to expediting shipments, paying invoices, doing the payroll and keeping up with individual employee records. Notice the standard Underwood office typewriters – they did the same basic “data entry” work as any computer today – nothing mysterious about them. On the far wall are the typical calendars, notices and photos. Next, all the action underway in the ever-lively drafting room. The CCF caption notes: “Tool Design Dept, prepares drawings of all tools, jigs, assembly fixtures and special machinery used in the Plant. Also controls methods or procedures to be adopted in the fabrication of the plane.” The big poster in the distance includes a stark reminder to the staff: “Your Absence Makes the War Grow Longer … Work for Canada, Don’t Loaf for the Enemy”. Finally, fabric being cut and sewn for such essentials as engine and canopy covers.
All the finely-honed processes and parts manufacturing going on throughout the cavernous CCF Helldiver plant gradually came together as an airplane production line. Shown are fuselages at an early stage. Then, a fuselage section getting its initial coat of preservative paint. Next, Helldivers near the end of the line – not much further to go. Finally, a finished Helldiver being towed from the factory the short distance to Fort William airport for test flying.
At the airport, CCF pilots were swamped with work test flying Helldivers. Says the caption for this photos, “First flights of all planes are made by either of the Company’s three test pilots. Notes are kept on knee pad of each gauge and instrument reading taken during flight. Planes are not turned over for acceptance until performance is perfect.” Likely due to wartime restrictions, few people in such CCF photos are identified. However, I’ve found two names for this photo — Eddie Richards on the left, and chief pilot, Orville J. Wieben, centre.
“OJ” Wieben in the cockpit of an SBW-1 at Fort William. Notice the leading edge slats that were so useful during low- speed flight, especially when landing on the deck of one of a small US Navy aircraft carrier. This is an especially grubby-looking, patched-up Helldiver, so likely was CCF’s “company hack” used for such jobs as testing mods, giving pilots familiarization flights, doing air-to-air photography, etc. It might be 21192, the first CCF SBW-1, which “OJ” Wieben first flew in July 1943.
The US Navy stationed its own pilots at Fort William to monitor production and modifications, do test flights as needed, and manage all the complicated ferrying requirements. The RCAF also was involved, chiefly in aircraft acceptance and “paper pushing” roles. Here, S/L Frank Hems (1898-1985) is in his office with two of his staff. Hems previously had served in RCAF acceptance in Montreal for Stranraers, and Fort Erie for Fleet trainers. After the war, he was 12 years at Avro Canada until the company folded in 1959. He then worked in real estate. Check out the great calendar of the wall. Today, that would get a fellow thrown out on his RCAF head in 2 seconds. But these were more straight-forward times when people had actual lives, wars to win, etc. To balance things off and placate the killjoys there’s a picture on the other wall of a “manly” Helldiver, right.
USN pilots ready to ferry some new Helldivers to Columbus, a distance “as the crow flies” of nearly 700 miles. These young fellows had flown in to Fort William aboard a US Navy ferry service Cessna JRC-1 (a.k.a. T-50). Then, a stirring sight as three Helldivers rumble over the flightline to salute CCF before turning south for Columbus. Here’s a case where we can deduce some USN bureau numbers – 21548, etc., but Joe Baugher to date has no info for these particular Helldivers.
The flight test and acceptance/delivery hangars at Fort William. Then, a good overall view of the airport.
Fort William’s Helldiver story is chiefly about the citizens of Fort William, Port Arthur and surrounding area who hired on at CCF. Some brought useful skills to the job, but most turned up “not having a clue” about all the highly-skilled jobs essential in time of war. However, they trained in class sessions and on the job, quickly learned their roles, and did their part to get 835 Helldivers delivered. Inevitably, victory came and all the excitement of wartime Canada subsided. A “Toronto Daily Star” item of August 18, 1945 painted this blunt picture: “Canadian Car and Foundry Co. management here Friday announced that 3,000 employees of their Fort William plant were being laid off this week owing to the termination of aircraft contracts. The plant has been making Curtiss Hell Diver aircraft for the U.S. navy. W.O. Will, plant works manager, stated that between 1,500 and 2,000 employees will be continued on the payroll until Christmas on bus construction and taking of inventories.” After the war, many returned to CCF to staff the place when large orders came in for urban busses. But there also were aviation projects, including manufacturing Harvard trainers for the RCAF, and subcontracting for the Grumman Tracker being built by De Havilland in Toronto. In modern times CCF was acquired by Bombardier and to this day produces rapid transit trains.
Remembrance Day 2019
We’ve just celebrated the 101st Anniversary of the end of WWI, in which Canada played such a vital role. Canadians are privileged to be living in this great nation. Why have people been emigrating and planting their roots here since the early 1600s? Certainly not because they were leaving happier circumstances or better countries. So … who possibly would not show respect on Remembrance Day to all who have served and died for our freedoms to make Canada the finest and most tolerant nation on Earth.
Here are a few quick snapshots showing our snowy 2019 Remembrance Day ceremony in Toronto’s “Beaches” neighborhood. Things went off nicely, especially with the absence this year (at long last) of speechifying politicos. Keep politics out of Remembrance Day, OK? First, three pictures of the set-up and our crowd of solid citizens getting right into it in true Canadian style. Next, the march-off, then the neighbours at our Kew Park war memorial before they headed for a warmer spot. So it went at Remembrance Day events across Canada on this important day.
Keeping the History Alive — Canada and USA Aviation Halls of Fame 2020 Inductees
We need to keep in touch with what’s going on in aviation history in and beyond Canada. Here’s something possibly new for you. Have you ever heard of “The Living Legends of Aviation”? My old pal since back in the 1960s, Walter Eichhorn, is the only Canadian member of this honourable society. Do you know about the Canada and USA Aviation Halls of Fame? Both recently have announced their 2020 inductees. It’s interesting that the CAHF includes some aviation heroes who worked both in Canada and the United States, but I don’t see any such members in the US hall. The CAHF has honoured Alexander Graham Bell and Rogers Smith, who worked in both countries. With scientific, financial and moral support Bell, for example, made possible the first powered airplane flight in Canada in 1909. From Toronto and formerly in the RCAF, Smith became a NASA test pilot with many hours flying the SR-71 (see their profiles at cahf.ca). Here are our 2020 CAHF inductees:
Clifford MacKay McEwen, MC, DFC and Bar Born in Griswald, Manitoba in 1898, Clifford MacKay McEwen enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916 before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. He flew the majority of his war in Italy, distinguishing himself as a scout pilot. McEwen then joined the fledgling Canadian Air Force in England and remained in uniform after war’s end, serving as part of the Air Board and the inter-war Royal Canadian Air Force. Holding the rank of group captain when war again broke out, McEwen was promoted to the rank of air commodore working to establish Canadian authority over aerial operations in the northwest Atlantic while conducting anti-submarine warfare. A disciplined leader, he was transferred to England and further promoted to air vice-marshal, taking command of No. 6 (RCAF) Group, part of Bomber Command. Facing low morale and lacklustre performance, McEwen instituted a rigorous training regimen that achieved results; by the end of 1944, 6 Group was considered a premier force, sustaining the fewest losses of the heavy bomber groups. In recognition of his outstanding leadership, McEwen was appointed to command of the RCAF’s contribution to Tiger Force in preparation for the Pacific theatre. McEwen supported veterans’ causes in his postwar career, working with both the Royal Canadian Legion and the Last Post Fund. He died in Montréal in 1967, having made a lasting mark on Canadian aviation. (We feature C.M. “Black Mike” McEwen in our 2018 book Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939. In fact, McEwen is on the book’s cover.)
Joseph D. Randell President and Chief Executive Officer of Chorus Aviation Inc, Joseph Randell was born in Curling, Newfoundland in 1954. He has been devoted to Canadian aviation, and the regional airline market especially, for more than three decades. In 1984, Randell pursued an MBA that examined the airline industry – work that led to the founding of Air Nova two years later. Recognizing that Canada’s vast geography was ideally suited to regional carriers, his company, which had previously relied on a fleet of turboprop aircraft, pioneered the use of regional jets. Success with Air Nova led to its eventual purchase by Air Canada, after which he oversaw a series of regional carrier mergers. In 2002, having overcome significant regulatory challenges, Air Canada Jazz was launched. A successful re-organization stemming from Air Canada’s filing for bankruptcy protection soon followed and, in 2006, Jazz was brought public. Renegotiation of its relationship with Air Canada has continued apace, as has the airline’s profitability. Chorus Aviation, Randell’s next venture, which acquired the regional operation Voyageur Airways in 2015, has become a global player in aircraft leasing. A widely-respected leader in Canadian aviation, Joseph Randell is a strong supporter of his alma mater, Dalhousie University, and his professional and philanthropic support for the aviation and broader community more generally has earned him well-deserved awards of recognition.
Shirley Linda Render One of Canada’s foremost aviation historians and a leader in the stewardship of this country’s aviation heritage, Shirley Render, born 1943 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, earned her wings in 1973 and shortly after began volunteering at the Western Canada Aviation Museum. Soon, Render was sitting on the Museum’s board, writing for and editing its quarterly magazine, and curating its exhibits. After earning an MA in History, she undertook two influential books: No Place for a Lady, the first on Canada’s women pilots, and Double Cross, about James A. Richardson and his importance to Canadian aviation. Render held multiple positions of leadership at the museum and was critical to its growth. In 1990, she entered politics, being elected as the member of the Legislative Assembly for St. Vital. She served as legislative assistant to Premier Gary Filmon and as minister of consumer and corporate affairs. With the museum in difficulty, Render, no longer in government, was asked to return as executive director and curator in 2002. Her leadership, which has been recognized with her appointment as executive director emeritus, helped revitalize the museum, a process that culminated in its redesignation as the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. A recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a YM-YW Women of Distinction Award, and a University of Winnipeg Distinguished Alumni Award, among many others, Shirley is a role model for young people across Canada.
Bjarni Valdimar Tryggvason Bjarni Tryggvason was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1945. Captivated by aviation at a young age in Richmond, British Columbia, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and earned his commercial pilot wings by age 20. He has been involved in Canadian aviation ever since. Tryggvason completed a degree in engineering physics and, despite his goal to become a commercial airline pilot, he accepted a position with the Atmospheric Environmental Service. His work as a researcher then took him to the University of Western Ontario at the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel, to Kyoto, Japan, and to North Queensland, Australia. Keen to add to his piloting skills, he earned his instructor rating. In 1982, Tryggvason joined the National Research Council’s Low Speed Aerodynamics Laboratory. A year later, he applied for and was accepted to Canada’s first astronaut corps. With the NRC and the Canadian Space Agency, he helped design and develop satellites and fluid dynamics projects, but his primary focus was vibration isolation systems. In 1997, as part of STS-85, Tryggvason served as payload specialist aboard the shuttle Discovery. Since returning to earth, he has remained active in Canadian aviation. But, having been at the forefront of Canada’s aerospace program, this more recent work involves Canada’s aviation heritage and the flying of vintage aircraft, notably his 2009 flight of the replica Silver Dart – the first powered, heavier-than-air aircraft to fly in Canadian skies.
Belt of Orion inductee … The Red Knight The Royal Canadian Air Force Training Command’s solo performer between 1958 and 1969, the Red Knight flew more than 600 air show appearances – making it second only to the Snowbirds for the number of performances flown by a Canadian military aerobatic display team. During its 12-year run, seventeen different pilots flew as the Red Knight, beginning with Roy Windover, an RCAF Central Flying School instructor. Equipped with their venerable Canadair CT-133 Silver Star and later with Canadair CT-114 Tutors, decked out in Day-Glo red, various Knights flew alongside the Golden Hawks and the Golden Centennaires. But the solo display is best remembered for performing in smaller communities unable to accommodate larger, established teams. Notably, all the Red Knight’s manoeuvres were performed within the airfield’s boundaries. All told, the team performed in each of Canada’s ten provinces and in the Yukon. It also made appearances in the Bahamas and in the United States, flying in Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington. The Red Knight was awarded the Centennial Medal in 1967. As a testament to its lasting impact and as a tribute to the influence of the Red Knight’s displays, the team’s distinctive paint scheme has been revived by civilian operations across North America.These are are the new CAHF members:
Here’s the recent NAHF news from south of the border:
The National Aviation Hall of Fame has revealed the individuals who have been selected for its enshrinement in 2020 … Each year, the NAHF Board of Nominations, a voting body comprised of more than 120 aviation professionals nationwide, selects from a prestigious group of previously-nominated air and space pioneers to be recognized for their achievements with induction into the NAHF. Since its founding in 1962, 246 men and women have been honored with enshrinement into the Congressionally-chartered, non-profit National Aviation Hall of Fame. “We believe that this is an excellent class and we are already looking forward to their induction in our home, the Birthplace of Aviation, Dayton, Ohio,” NAHF Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Quiello said. “From pioneer Bullard, to visionaries Faget, Sullivan Garrett and Kaminski, to aerospace hero Gordon, the NAHF’s Class of 2020 represents the best in aviation.” The NAHF Class of 2020 will be inducted at the 58th Enshrinement Dinner & Ceremony on Sept. 26, 2020, in Dayton, Ohio:
Second Lieutenant Eugene J. Bullard, USAF. World War I pilot, first African American combat pilot, denied in the U.S., flew for France, and is one of the highest decorated pilots, including the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur.
The late Dr. Maxime “Max” A. Faget, Ph.D. Mechanical Engineer. Developed rockets, missiles and aircraft, designed the Mercury Spacecraft and was part of the design team for Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle.
Joan Sullivan Garrett . Medical Professional, founder of MedAire, established the first aviation global medical emergency response and directs real-time safety services to thousands annually throughout aviation.
The late Captain Richard “Dick” F. Gordon, USN. Naval Aviator, Test Pilot, Bendix Trophy Winner;,Gemini 11 Pilot, Command Module Pilot Apollo 12, back-up Commander Apollo 12 and part of design team for the Space Shuttle.
Colonel/Dr. Paul G. Kaminski, USAF (Ret). Ph.D. Aeronautical Engineer, led many technical aerospace programs, including guided munitions, lead developer of Stealth Technology, and directed F-117 and B-2 programs.
Norm Avery 1929 – 2019
I’ve often been asked by readers about this or that title by Norm Avery. Over the years, I listed Norm’s four books, but eventually lost contact – I hadn’t heard that he had moved into a seniors residence in recent years, then passed away on July 7, 2019. Norm’s aviation titles are Altimeter Rising (autobiographical, by Al MacNutt), then three by himself — Whiskey Whiskey Papa, Spartan: Seven Letters that Spanned the Globe, and Mayhem to Mayday. See https://normanavery.blogspot.com/ for more info about these books. Norm’s fascinating obituary summarizes his many achievements:
Born in Parry Sound to Sydney and Hazel Avery, the family moved to Huntsville when he was 2. He had four siblings – survived by Lois and predeceased by Ken, James (Mac), and Harold. He was married for 55 years to Ruth (nee Robinson) – deceased (2011). He is survived by two children – Dean (Colleen) and Joel (Catherine) and two grandchildren – Shannon and James.
When he was 19, he earned his pilot’s licence. When he was 20, he left the grist mill behind and joined the Air Force where he was stationed in St Bruno, Quebec as a public relations specialist. Within a couple of years, he was promoted and then served in France as part of 2 Wing where his work with NATO was rewarded with a special service medal. He took the time to travel extensively in Europe and only stopped travelling until a few years ago. After ten years in the force, he left the force with a new wife to pursue a second career and start a family.
When he was 30, an Air Force colleague provided a lead which resulted in an eight year stint at the Ottawa Citizen where he was a staff writer, columnist, reporter and eventually assistant city editor. He specialized in aviation writing and began winning national awards after just one year on the job. Historical pictures show he interviewed PM candidate Robert Stanfield, Governor General Roland Michener, and, in 1966 while being escorted by the UN, Archbishop Makarios III – the president of Cyprus. He also fathered two children while at the Citizen.
Working at the Citizen spawned many freelancing engagements (including the publicity for the Paris air show in 1965). In 1967, he made freelancing his full time job and again was responsible for the publicity of the Paris air show in 1967. It was all good with the Citizen as he continued to write the aviation column for a few more years – however he no longer had to write the column in the smoke filled rooms at the Citizen. In this period he served as a correspondent for CBC Northern Services and also found time to be the founding editor of the monthly Armed Forces Review. In 1968 he formed a PR firm with his Air Force squadron friend Doug Harvey and famed photographer Malak Karch (brother of the other famous Karch photographer, Yousef Karsh). While they predominantly had aviation related clients, the firm of Harvey, Avery and Malak were the PR force involved in the resumption of the CFL all star game in 1970. They also represented IMAX which was founded in part by his cousin Robert Kerr; A & W and FTD florists. In 1970, he began his third career in the Federal public service in Fisheries and Forestry; the Canadian Forestry Service; Environment Canada; and Energy, Mines and Resources.
He rose through the ranks and several MPs specifically thanked him for making them sound intelligent. He travelled quite a bit across the country and had friends everywhere it seemed. He also went on an expedition to the Arctic. Through all of this, he found time to be a director of the Ottawa Flying Club; an executive in the camera club of Ottawa; and teach a PR course at Algonquin. With 26 years of service in the federal government, he retired in 1987, he began his fourth career as an author. He wrote and self published four historical aviation books (available in the lobby on the way out). His books were: Altimeter Rising; Whiskey, Whiskey, Papa; Spartan: Seven Letters that Spanned the Globe; and Mayhem to Mayday.
His true writing love was fiction for which he won several short story writing awards. Throughout his life, he could be found sailing, travelling, golfing, skiing, taking pictures and telling stories. He could also be found in front of the computer writing, researching, playing games and sleeping.
*For copies of the famous CANAV aviation booklists, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org*