Where Are They Now? Canada’s Enduring DC-3s


Here are a few of the beautiful DC-3s I photographed ages ago. Andrew Yee has polished these for presentation. Click on each photo to fill the screen. CF-ESO (now restored and earning a living in the aerial survey business in Texas) is seen on the tarmac at Imperial Oil’s Malton on a dull May 14, 1966. The nice thing about shooting on such a day was that there were no harsh shadows.

Beginning early in WWII, hundreds of C-47 “Dakotas” and DC-3s served the RCAF and Canadian civil operators. A few have survived as working planes, especially with Buffalo Airways in the NWT. Others are with air museums in Comox, Edmonton, Hamilton, Greenwood, etc.

Two of my first plane rides were in RCAF “Daks”, while I was with 117 Squadron (Air Cadets) in Toronto 1956-57. One flight was from RCAF Stn. Downsview, the other from RCAF Stn. Clinton during Air Cadet summer camp. Since then the great Douglas propliner has been one of my favourites. In our days hitchhiking around in those years, my pals and I would track down many DC-3s to photograph.

Decades later it’s fun going over those old pix, looking up individual planes in J. Gradidge’s incredible DC-3 The First Seventy Years, finding them on the web, etc. Lately, Warbird Information Exchange popped up with an update about N583V. Having begun in 1942 with the USAAC, it went to the Royal Air Force as KG360. In mid-1944 it was at RAF Melton Mowbray with 107 Operational Training Unit. The war over, it became one of some 300 Dakotas corralled by newly-formed Canadair Ltd. at Montreal’s Cartierville airport.

To get some cash rolling in, Canadair hustled C-47s to civil operators from Sweden to Venezuela. Trans-Canada Airlines bought a fleet of them and many ended in business aviation, KG360 included. As Canadair began cleaning it up (some such “Daks” had arrived at Cartierville with combat scars), KG360 was sold to Imperial Oil of Toronto, then reorganizing after a long period of wartime restrictions. Modified for executive use, KG360 was delivered with “CF-ESO” stenciled on its tail. It usually was based in Calgary, while a second Imperial Oil DC-3, CF-IOC, worked from Toronto alongside Convair 240 CF-IOK and Lodestar CF-TDB.

In May 1966 Imperial Oil sold “ESO” in the US, where it became N583V. A list of other US operators followed. Reportedly, N583V spent the past 30 years sunning itself at Fort Worth’s Sycamore airfield. Then, in 2012 some keen folks appeared, checked out the rusting bird, changed the engines and ferried it a few miles to a strip called Mid-way (Check out these amazing shots as well as this video).

People from Airborne Imaging organized a lot of serious restoration work to bring N583V back to its former glory. As of last November it was working on an aerial survey contract in Mississippi. Of this, someone recently commented on the web: “I remember an article in Wings/Airpower way back when. Someone made a comment like ‘The C-130 will be the DC-3 of the 21stcentury’. Someone else promptly replied ‘The DC-3 will be the DC-3 of the 21st century!’”


On a June 23, 1960 visit to Toronto Island Airport, I was happy to find CF-KCI of the Irving Oil Co. in from Saint John, New Brunswick. In my notepad I noted that the colour scheme was “white tan and maroon”. Registered in honour of the great K.C. Irving, this DC-3 certainly made for fine subject matter. Note the panoramic windows, a desirable “mod” often seen on a corporate DC-3, Invader or Lodestar. CF-KCI had begun in the US military as 42-100970. Records show that in September 1944 it took part in Operation Market Garden, the greatest airborne operation of the war in Europe. By 1952 it was home in the US as N59U with a firm called Beldex Corp., then joined Irving Oil in 1959. Following a sojourn in the US 1968-70, it returned to Irving as CF-XPK, then in 1973 went to Pete Lazarenko’s Northland Fisheries of Winnipeg. In 1981 it moved to Barney Lamm’s Ontario Central Airlines, thence to DC-3 heaven Colombia, where it last was heard of in the early 2000s as HK-2664.


Another classic Canadian civil DC-3 from 50 or so years ago was CF-BZI. Having begun as 42-108960, it served the USAAC to war’s end on the home front. In November 1945 it was purchased from the US government Reconstruction Finance Corp (similar to Canada’s War Assets Disposal Corp) by Carl Burke of upstart Maritime Central Airways. There it toiled until sold in 1953 to the Interprovincial Pipe Line Co. Besides flying company executives, it likely also ferried around supplies, parts and workers needed on pipeline construction jobs across Canada. In 1965 it went to Bob Engle’s Northwest Territorial Airways of Yellowknife. Once NWT Air re-equipped with the Boeing 737, the DC-3 faded from the fleet. CF-BZI ended with Joe McBryan’s Buffalo Airways and today is with the Calgary Air and Space Museum.


This lovely looking DC-3 served the USAAF as 42-100576. At war’s end Canadair acquired it from the RFC at Walnut Ridge, a vast aircraft disposal base in Arkansas. Rebuilt at Cartierville, it next served Maritime Central Airways as CF-DJT, until sold in 1953 to AVRO Aircraft of Canada at Malton. In this period it modified with such speed features as wheel doors. Hanging around Malton airport as we did in the 1950s-60s, we heard many tidbits, including how such DC-3s were described as being “maximized”. With Avro it criss-crossed North America on company business and for the pleasure of the company’s top dogs. In 1959, soon after AVRO folded due to the Arrow debacle, CF-DJT was sold to the Robert Simpson Co., which ran one of Canada’s leading department stores. In 1966 it moved to the US with Sears Roebuck Co., becoming N34110. Re-sold yet again, it became N181SB in 1973, then was exported in 1980 to Colombia and, seemingly, disappeared from the planet.


In the 1950s-60s Ottawa’s Department of Transport had a flashy fleet of planes doing type check rides for pilots, airways inspection and VIP work. Such types as the Apache. Beech 18, DC-3 and Heron were in use. These were always choice subjects to see in our twin-lens viewfinders. In this case, it was fun on August 28, 1963 to snap off a frame on DC-3 CF-DOT at Toronto Island Airport. Note the Beech Super 18 and RCAF Albatross beyond. This early USAAC C-47 served in Australia as early as mid-1942. It returned to the US in the fall of 1944, then joined the DOT in 1950. In the 1980s-90s it served the Canada Coast Guard. In 1995 it was sold in the US, becoming N1XP. By 2010 it was on the fly-in and airshow circuit in a shocking orange scheme christened “Duggy – Smile in the Sky” (see duggy.com).

DC-3 No.3 CF-IKD_sm

One of Canada’s “maximized” DC-3s (with such speed mods as wheel doors, sometimes bigger engines) was CF-IKD of the Ontario Paper Co. Having served in India with the RAF during the war, it became a war surplus leftover, ending at Remmert-Werner in St. Louis. There it was converted for OPC in 1954-55 into a lavish executive plane (it’s said that two airframes were combined to make the final product). Flown from Malton by pilots Fred Hotson and Ken Irwin (who also flew OPC’s beloved Grumman Mallard), “IKD” operated on business to Chicago and New York for the Chicago Tribune, frequently went down the St. Lawrence via Dorval to the OPC mill at Baie Comeau and, for the edification of company “big wigs”, down to the Bahamas. Here CF-IKD sits at Malton on April 9, 1961. Then it’s seen in Winnipeg on August 23, 1976, knocked down a few rungs and “de-maximized” for hauling freight and fish for Pete Lazarenko’s Northland Air Manitoba. In 1993 “IKD” migrated to the US where today it is beautifully restored as N103NA. Based at Chino, California, it swans around to fly-ins and airshows as the “Flabob Express”. Lots of photos of it can be found on “The Web” (see
www.flabobairport.org › flabob-dc-3-experiences)


 In January 2020, Ken Irwin’s son, Kevin, added some important details to the story of CF-IKD and its famous captain, Ken Irwin: “I was delighted to hear that CF-IKD, now N103NA, is still airworthy and with such a history. My father had me on his lap flying that plane when I was about 6 years old. When CF-IKD was sold, my father became the company’s chief pilot and flew the first DH-125 in Canada. Registered CF-OPC, it was sold to Canada Packers when C-FQNS, another 125, was purchased by OPC. All the while, my father also was flying the paper company’s other aircraft, Grumman Mallard CF-BKE, which was his passion. Eventually he took an early semi-retirement to sail his boat to the Caribbean with my mother, Nora, for the winter for many years. He continued flying the Mallard for the summer trips up to the company’s private fishing camps in Northern Quebec. My dad originally had flown for the RNZAF, only to end up later with the RCAF. In WWII he was put on special duty flying Prime Minister Churchill on a C-54. That didn’t last long, as the British weren’t keen on having a Kiwi pilot flying an American-built airplane with their Prime Minister. Dad flew the Mallard until he was 73. He was well respected by the aviation community.”

5 responses to “Where Are They Now? Canada’s Enduring DC-3s

  1. Great post and very interesting pictures ! Thanks Larry.

  2. I grew up in Saint John and remember the Irving DC-3 at the airport, parked near my Father’s Republic Seabee at the flying club just behind the Irving Hangar.

  3. I had my first airplane ride on CF ESO in 1958. My father worked for Imperial Oil and was briefly transferred from Edmonton to Toronto and the family accompanied him there is the summer of 1958. We flew Edmonton to Winnipeg, over-night in Winnipeg, on the Muskoka Lakes and then into Toronto. What a thrill !

  4. CF-TER is now restored by Avialogs in Saint-Hubert. (Today C-FDTD)

  5. CF-DJT went to Colombia as HK-1512E with TANA then HK-1512 with TAVINA in the 1970s.

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