The Bonanza also captured Canadian civil aviation headlines and scooped covers. Featured on the May 1948 cover of Canadian Aviation magazine is Lome Airways Beech 35 CF-FKI (serial number D-55) at Toronto Island Airport, while busy flying Miss Canada around the country. After 57 years of service, in 2016 “FKI” was N1599V based at Genoa, NY. (Click on any picture to see it full size.)
With the end of WWII in sight in 1944, the Allied nations started planning to eventually get their economies back into peacetime mode. The aviation industry was enthusiastic, yet, unsure about what the future held. One assumption made by manufactures was that thousands of returning airmen, pumped up by the thrill of flight, were sure to soon be shopping for their personal planes. Accordingly, each company from Beech to Cessna, Grumman, Piper, Republic, Ryan, Stinson, etc., began designing their own version of an attractive, affordable, 2- or 4-seat light plane. Excellent aircraft emerged from the Cessna 170 to the Globe Swift, Grumman Kitten, Piper Pacer, Ryan Navion, Republic Seabee and Stinson 108. However, 3 or 4 years into peacetime there were so many new airplane type that the market was swamped, especially by the industry’s “Big 2” in light planes – Cessna and Piper.
There wasn’t going to be room for every contender, so by 1950 production had petered out for most, as with the Navion (about 1200 built), Seabee (1060) and Swift (1521). Only two Kittens were built. Chief factors explaining what happened were 1) relatively few airman really wanted or could afford a new plane 2) airman were more likely to buy a cheaper war surplus plane, thousands of which flooded the postwar market.
Determined to win a market share was the renowned Wichita manufacturer, Beechcraft, run by Walter and Olive Ann Beech. Beechcraft had made its name in the 1920s-30s, especially with its upscale Model 17 Staggerwing 4/5-seat personal plane, first flown in 1932. With the war, Staggerwing production continued for the military, while the twin-engine Beech Model 18 crew trainer was mass-produced.
This beautiful, 200-mph Beech D17S Staggerwing was photographed at Oshawa in June 1965. Begun in 1932, Staggerwing production eventually totalled 785, the final 20 being G17Ss built in 1946, when the sticker price was $29,000. That same year Beech was offering its shiny new Bonanza at a quarter the price. Even so it must have been a sad moment for Beech’s old timers when the gavel came down on Staggerwing production. These classics still regularly appear all around North America during fly-in season. (Larry Milberry)
The brainwave of Beech designer Frank Harmon, the 180-mph Bonanza at first was pooh-poohed by Walter Beech, so Harmon and some associates (according to legend) designed the Bonanza on their own time. Then, they made a new and successful run at Mr. Beech. The prototype flew on December 22, 1945, by which time Beech had deposits in the bank for the first 500 aircraft. In the February 1947 issue of Flying Magazine, chief editor Max Karant (already with six flying hours on the still-experimental Bonanza) thoroughly reviewed the new plane, commenting, in part:
As this is written, three Bonanzas are being flown 16 hours a day, seven days a week in an exhaustive accelerated service test. Eighteen pilots fly the planes in shifts, their sole job being to do everything the average private owner would do, and get 1,000 hours on each plane. Any design change indicated by a failure is made immediately … the test airplane is quickly repaired and sent back into the air. The result, Beech officials hope, will be a bug-free airplane. No airplanes have yet been delivered … although the company already has over $2,000,000 invested in the design. Engineers call this basic design “good for 10 years”. Contrary to rumors, the price still is $7,345 … I must admit frankly that the Bonanza is one of the best personal planes I’ve ever flown.
In his 1982 book, Beechcraft: Fifty Years of Excellence, William H. McDaniel added: “A wholly new Beechcraft also made its way from the drawing boards … into the skies over Wichita soon after the war ended. It was the Model 35, a four-place, all-metal monoplane powered with a 165 hp Continental engine, and using a fully-retractable, tricycle type landing gear. Among its features were the two-element ‘V-tail’ and the Beechcraft controllable pitch propeller. In addition, it was perhaps the only airplane in its class to be offered with all instruments and equipment necessary for cross-country and night flying operation including two-way radio”. Bonanzas Nos.1 and 2 were non-flying airframes. The first to fly was No.3 and No.4 made it onto the cover of Aviation Week. While most of the new postwar personal planes were affordably priced at $3000 – $5000, Beechcraft gambled on the market’s higher end at about $7500 ($97,500 today) which panned out. The Bonanza instantly appealed to the professional classes. Flying physicians, for example, couldn’t resist a Bonanza – its looks and performance suited them and price was no impediment.
The initial six Canadian Bonanzas arrived via Beech’s distributor, Page Aviation of Canada. These were CF-FKI through CF-FKM, including Shell Aviation’s CF-FKM D-218, and the Royal Canadian Flying Club Association’s CF-FKK D-140. Gross weight for this early version was 2550 pounds. “FKM” was delivered in July 1947. Having served Shell reliably, it was sold in 1956 to Arcade Electric Co. of Toronto. Various others enjoyed this classic plane over the years, especially Clifford Watson of Elora, Ontario, who operated it from 1976 to 2014. In 2016 “FKM” was residing in Revelstoke, BC. Note the two side windows. Later Bonanzas had three. Many earlier machines eventually had the third window retrofitted (see C-GZAY below). Both these photos were snapped by the (late) great Toronto aviation fan, Al Martin. In 1963 Al was a founding member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society and twisted my arm that year to join. Putting down my $2.00, I received CAHS membership No.11, for which I owe Al Martin a great deal!
Don McVicar of Worldwide Airways in Dorval and Lome Airways at Toronto Island Airport were two early Bonanza operators. McVicar bought CF-FZC in 1947 as a company utility plane, e.g., to speed his pilots back and forth as they ferried war surplus planes around the continent. Don also loved the pizazz of the Bonanza, how it always turned heads when he arrived anywhere in “FZC”. Other early Canadian Bonanzas were CF-FAC (Aero Club of Vancouver), CF-FAS (Crown Coal Co. of Edmonton), CF-FKJ (Roy Staniland of Edmonton), CF-FKK (Royal Canadian Flying Clubs of Ottawa), CF-FKM (Shell Aviation Co. of Toronto), CF-FLW (Intercontinental Packers of Saskatoon), CF-FYE (Gayport Shipping Ltd. of Toronto) and CF-FYF (Chilliwack Finance Corp. of Chilliwack.
This scene at Regina during the 1953 Trans Canada Air Tour couldn’t illustrate better the predominance of the Bonanza as a private plane. At least nine V-tails can be counted. (Canadian Aviation)
From the outset the Bonanza in Canada was ordered by sport aviators wanting the flashiest in a single-engine, light plane, and by companies needing speedy, comfortable travel on short business hops. This profile never really changed, although small charter operators sometimes had a Bonanza for air taxi business. By 2016 some 18,000 Bonanzas have been manufactured in a great variety of models and sub-models. Roughly 12,000 remain in service, including about 140 listed in 2016 by Transport Canada. Listed are such 1947 “oldies” as serial number D-64 C-GZAY in Castlegar, s/n D-95 C-GLMZ in Edmonton, s/n D-218 C-FFKM (the old Shell Bonanza) in Revelstoke, s/n D-294 CF-UVV in Waterloo and s/n D-320 CF-IDJ in Medicine Hat.
Bonanza owners are a loyal bunch – once a pilot gets to know one, it’s bound to be a long-term relationship. In 2015 Ian Coull in BC wanted a Bonanza for more reasons than one. He previously had owned one, so had come to appreciate its comfort, speed, range and economy – it was in a class of its own giving 20 miles to the US gallon. When Ian found Bonanza D-64, a 1947 Beech 35, on ebay, he looked into it, liked the general deal, so bought D-64 for US$25,000. The plane looked great with a modern paint job and even had the third window mod. It also had a recommended wing spar mod, and the airframe was low time at about 4000 hours. Once in Canada, D-64 became C-GKAY. Ian added some further upgrades – two yokes, electric fuel pump, and long range tank (giving a 5 ½-hour range). Just starting a new life, in 2016 D-64 is Canada’s oldest Bonanza.
C-GZAY is Canada’s oldest Bonanza. It’s seen at home base in Castlegar, BC, looking mighty fine for its 69 years! (Ian Coull)
The current edition of the Bonanza is the G36, of which only a few dozen are produced annually. In 2016 the CCAR lists five, the newest (registered in 2014) being Edmonton-based C-FGWD, a 2006 model. Flying Magazine flew a new G36 in December 2013, reporting: “When the subject of legendary light airplanes comes up, one of the names certain to be mentioned early in the conversation is the Beechcraft Bonanza. The latest model, the G36, bears a passing resemblance to the revolutionary original, which Beech Aircraft began selling way back in 1947. But today’s Bonanza is a very sophisticated platform, one that has enjoyed a wealth of improvements, from spinner to tail, over its 65-year production span. No other airplane has been able to achieve such a lengthy production record. Beech launched the G36 in 2005 to usher in the era of flat panel avionics, including the Garmin G1000 (the “G” in G36 is for Garmin)” From 1947 to the present, Flying clearly has been impressed by this (by now) 70-year-old beauty!
Some Specs for the 1947 Prototype Beech 35 Bonanza:
- Length 25’2”
- Height 6’6.5”
- Wing span 32’10”
- Seating 4
- Max takeoff weight 2650 lb
- Useful load 1075 lb
- Fuel 40 US gal (60 gal with aux. tank)
- Max cruise speed 150 ktas
- Max range (with aux fuel) 775 mi.
- Ceiling 18,100’
- Engine Continental 165 hp
- New price about CDN$7000
Some specs for the 2016 G36 Bonanza:
- Length 27’6”
- Height 8’7”
- Wing span 33’6”
- Seating 6
- Max takeoff weight 3650 lb
- Useful load 1033 lb
- Fuel 74 US gal
- Max cruise speed 176 ktas
- Max range 920 mi.
- Ceiling 18,500’
- Engine Continental IO-550-B 300 hp
- New price about CDN$950,000
CF-KVL was B35 Bonanza D-2650 built in 1950. Until 1958 it had been N5258C, then came to Winnipeg for Wallace C. Hanaway, who sold it to Teal Air, a Northern Manitoba tourist operator. In August 1959 “KVL” migrated to Hamilton for John Knapp, then R.F. Mitten of nearby Galt took over in 1963. The following year it was sold to Air Taxi Service of Cincinnati, becoming N8724R. On June 2, 1967 it was damaged at Lunken Airport, Ohio, when the pilot inadvertently landed wheels-up. In 2016 N8724R was flying from Frankfort in northern Michigan. I spotted “KVL” at Hamilton’s Mount Hope Airport on April 30, 1961.
Bonanza CF-LUT was 1950-built K35 D-5726. Bob Finlayson photographed it at Hamilton’s Mount Hope Airport on May 6, 1967. Having begun as N620T, it came to Canada for Beech dealer Field Aviation in August 1959. It soon was sold to John W. Combs Ltd. of Toronto. Actress Joan Fairfax had it in 1961-62, then it was based in Regina until sold in 1967 to Toronto aircraft dealer, Bob Quigley. He sold “LUT” to D.V. Brown of Manitoulin Island. On March 4, 1979 Brown and his wife died when “LUT” flew into a West Virginia mountain while flying from Toronto to Florida. Canada’s worst Bonanza accident occurred on February 13, 1949, when legendary Canadian aviator, Wally Siple of Montreal, his wife and five children all died when their (4-seat) Bonanza CF-FYC crashed in foul weather en route Montreal – Ottawa.
When the V-tail left production in 1982, the straight tail Model 33 Bonanza (at first called the Debonair) still was a great plane. It did, however, lose an aesthetic something in the redesign. Here F33 CF-CWW, one of only 20 built, sits at Toronto YYZ on May 15, 1971. (Larry Milberry)
The Bonanza gave rise to some natural spin-offs, starting with the Model 50 Twin Bonanza. Seen at Toronto Island on July 16, 1963 is F50 Twin Bonanza CF-OIP s/n FH96, recently bought from the Milwaukee Braves, and soon in use with Sarnia-based upstart charter company, Great Lakes Air Services. From 1950-63 almost 900 Twin Bonanzas were built in several versions. Initially, they were top-line executive planes and small feeder liners. Eventually, they filtered down the line to end in such unglamorous roles as hauling fish in northern Canada. Then, Super V N4530V in its spiffy white and blue paint job at Toronto Island Airport on May 14, 1961. The Super V was an oddball 2-engine Bonanza conversion that began with Bay Aviation in Oakland in the mid-1950s, then migrated to Fleet Aircraft at Fort Erie (see Air Transport in Canada, Vol.2 for this story). However, the Super V did not find a market. Only 14 were turned out, at least eight of which ended in crashes. Three or four survive including N4530V based in 2016 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. (Larry Milberry)
Another staple is Edward Phillips’ 1992 Beechcraft: Pursuit of Excellence. Copies of these books usually can be found on the web, including at abebooks.com, where I often shop.
My all-in-one info source for any earlier plane with a US Air Transport Certificate (the Bonanza has ATC 777) is the great Joseph P. Juptner’s U.S. Civil Aircraft Series, published in 1962 and subsequently revised. A serious aviation library is incomplete without Juptner’s 9 volumes. I suggest investing in a set almost at any price. And no … Juptner’s life’s work is not “on the web” as the internet yahoos always say everything must be. Instead, it’s in paper, ink and glue, something call a book, which intelligent people avidly collect and love (nincompoops need not bother even to look, right).
A Crowded Field — Other Early Postwar Light Planes
Too many types flooded the early post-war small plane market. Canada’s entry into these risky waters was the Fleet Model 80 Canuck 2-seater. First flown in 1946, orders at first poured from flying clubs and sport aviators eager to get away from the wartime Tiger Moths and Finches (a Canuck then cost about $5000 taxes in, while an airworthy ex-RCAF Tiger Moth could be picked up for a few hundred dollars). When reality struck, Fleet abandonned the Canuck in face of competition from such cheaper US types as the Cessna 140, Aeronca Champion and Globe Swift. Carl Millard of Toronto bought the last 28 Canucks from Fleet for $1500 each, then quickly re-sold them at $2500. Today the Canuck is sought after by collectors (in 2016 CF-ENM was for sale at $60,000 — about $5000 in 1946 dollars). Here sits Central Airways Canuck CF-EBE at Toronto Island Airport c1960. First flown at Fleet on November 6, 1946, it was sold in September 1949 to Roger Watson of Stayner, Ontario, who leased it to Bob and Tom Wong of Central Airways at Toronto Island (the Wongs bought it in 1953). Hundreds of students would learn to fly in “EBE”. Finally, in 1971 Central Airways sold “EBE” to Dr. J.D. Robinson, who flew it from Collingwood. Others took their turn until 1974, when Ernest Weller of Port Loring sold “EBE” to Canada’s national aviation museum in Ottawa, where today it enjoys a deserved place of honour.
Two especially beloved, all-metal, 2-seat light planes mass-produced in the 1940s are the ERCO Ercoupe and Globe Swift. The Ercoupe first flew in 1937. It went on sale in 1940, but the advent of war delayed production until 1946, when the Model 415 appeared with a $2665 sticker price ($35,500 in 2016 dollars). When the postwar light plane boon faltered, ERCO ceased production, having turned out an astounding 4311 Ercoupes. Happily, others took an interest and, over the decades, more were built under such banners as Forney, Alon, even Mooney. Some 5700 Ercoupes eventually flew. The natty Globe GC-1 Swift also was a pre-war US design, which had to wait for 1945 to get going. After rushing out more than 1200 Swifts, however, Globe ran out of money and was sold to Temco. Temco added just 260 more, before ceasing production in 1951. Shown is ERCO 415C Ercoupe CF-LUV s/n 1016 and Toronto Flying Club GC-1A CF-DLD. “LUV” was photographed at the Kitchener-Waterloo breakfast fly-in on July 9, 1961. It then was owned by Heinz Asmussen of Sarnia. “DLD” had been sold by Globe in Texas to McDonald Aviation in Edmonton, which immediately re-sold it to Carl Millard in Toronto, where it first reached Canada in April 1946. In June, Carl sold it to the flying club. Beginning in May 1950 came a long list of Quebec owners, until in 1957 “DLD” returned to Toronto. In 1967 it went to a buyer in Michigan then, on January 15, 1977, was lost in a fatal accident near El Paso, Texas. (Larry Milberry, Al Martin)
Cessna got off to a strong postwar start with its 2-seat Ce.120/140 personal planes and trainers, and glitzy Ce.170 and 190/195 4/5-seaters. The 1948 Ce.170 had an all-metal fuselage with fabric-covered, metal-framed wing and tail. Fabric was traditional and practical enough, but buyers now were eyeing all-metal construction, where Beech was excelling. Cessna closed the gap in 1949 with the all-metal Ce.170A, then the Ce.170B with improved wing/flaps. But these aircraft all were tail draggers, while the Bonanza had begun futuristically (as far as personal light planes then went) with a steerable nose wheel. Ultimately, in 1956 Cessna brought out its nose wheel “172”. Cessna turned out more than 5000 Ce.170s plus some 1200 of its higher-end, Ce.190/195s, introduced in 1947 at $12,750. Shown is Cessna 170B CF-HVY departing the Oshawa Breakfast Fly-In on June 16, 1963. Richard Pagani of Guelph owned “HVY” at this time. Ce.195B CF-FRO is seen at Vancouver on September 25, 1956. Following an accident of October 23, 1972, when it was owned by Gary Bell of White Rock, BC, “FRO” was sold to Robert Payne of Kent, Washington. The last heard of “FRO” was a 1996 notice in the Ce.195 club newsletter that a few of its bits and pieces were for sale. Parked behind and to the right of “FRO” in this fine view is a 1951 Nash Ambassador. (Larry Milberry, Al Martin)
Piper’s main entry right after the war was the PA-20 Pacer 4-seat tail dragger, first flown in 1949. After building more than 1100 Pacers, in 1951 Piper transformed it into the tricycle gear PA-22 Tri-Pacer, of which more than 8000 were built by the time production ended in 1960 (plus 2000+ 2-seater PA-22 Colts). Here is CF-HHF, which in 2016 was one of 69 Pacers still listed by Transport Canada. You can see by the great looks of this natty little beauty why the Pacer always has been in demand by sport aviators. This scene is at Welland, Ontario on March 26, 1961, the day I hitchhiked to Welland from Toronto to meet the great WWI ace, Tommy Williams, and photograph his Fleet 21. But “HHF” also caught my eye, sitting handsomely in its tan paint job with red trim. When last heard of “HHF” was domiciled in Carleton Place, Ontario. Then, CF-PKO, a standard Tri-Pacer, is seen at Hamilton in 1967. (Larry Milberry, Bob Finlayson)
In 1947 Aeronca introduced its own 4-seater, the attractive Model 15AC Sedan. Framed in metal and wood and covered in fabric, the Sedan proved a durable type with good performance and cabin spaciousness to the point that small bush operators were quick to buy. Production ended in 1951 at 561 Sedans. Not only are the survivors now collectable (they sell in the US$60,000 range), but newly-built Sedans can be ordered in Alaska from Burl’s Aircraft (base price US$235,000). Shown is Sedan CF-FNS s/n 328 at St. Catharines on May 18, 1963. “FNS” went new in 1949 to W.N. Dalzeg of Morson, a remote Lake-of-the-Woods hamlet accessible only by boat or plane. Next, it called Whitedog Falls (NW of Minaki) its home after Henry Zuzek bought it in 1958. Ten years later it moved to Terrace Bay on Lake Superior, then to Timmins, finally Matheson. In 1997 retired Air Canada pilot Ron Dennis bought “FNS” from Cec Tomlinson, a mining man in Matheson. In 2016 Ron was getting his wing rebuilt at Parry Sound to keep “FNS” fit for many more good years of flying. (Larry Milberry)
Of all the new light planes of the mid-to-late 1940s one of the most representative is the Republic RC-3 Seabee. Invariably referred to as “an ugly duckling”, it’s endured admirably and is greatly sought after by sport aviators. Being all-metal, rugged and amphibious, the Seabee originally found eager fans among sportsmen, cottagers, and bush and coast air taxi services. Designed in 1940 by Percival Spencer, who first had flown in his own hang glider in 1911, the Seabee first flew in December 1945. It immediately entered production at Republic, which recently had been churning out P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. Production suddenly ceased in October 1947 at 1060 aircraft, many of which were sold in Canada. Republic then concentrated on mass-producing F-84 Thunder Jets for the USAF. Subsequently, many Seabee survivors have been restored, especially with modern engines, e.g., Eric B. Robinson of Lindsay, Ontario has turned out several “new” Seabees powered by the 425-hp Corvette V-8 engine (the Seabee originally came with a 165-hp Franklin), plus other upgrades. Shown at Toronto Island c1950 is Orillia Air Service Seabee CF-GAF. For all the latest Seabee news visit http://www.seabee.info. (Al Martin)
The historic Bellanca company also was in the postwar running with a new design – the Model 14-13, first flown in 1946. Dubbed the Cruisair, this attractive plane had a fabric-covered, metal-tube fuselage with wooden wings. About 600 were built until 1956, when it was replaced by the Model 14-19 Cruisemaster. Shown at Hamilton’s Mount Hope Airport on April 30, 1961 is Donald Hawkin’s Cruisemaster CF-LGV. Although speedy at about 200 mph (max), its wood and fabric features limited the appeal of this otherwise alluring 4-seater. By this time Cruisemaster production was under the Downer Aircraft banner, but Downer (of Alexandria, Minnesota) soon ceased making Bellancas. However, in 2016 Alexandria Aircraft (same town) was manufacturing and rebuilding Bellanca wings (see firstname.lastname@example.org). (Larry Milberry)
In November 1945 the historic Stinson Aircraft Co. of Wayne, Michigan introduced its Model 108 Voyageur, priced initially at $5489. In his quintessential study, US Civil Aircraft, Joseph Juptner notes: “Dealers were having no trouble selling this airplane and by the end of 1946 some 1436 were built and sold”. By 1948 Stinson had turned out more than 5000 in three main models. Then the company also was clobbered by the 1948 slump. Piper swooshed in to buy Stinson, but had no enthusiasm for the 108, so production ended. Happily, hundreds of these lovely postwar “family planes” survive all over the US and Canada. Here, Stinson 108-3 CF-HJE, owned by Arcade Electric Co., bobs at its buoy at Toronto Island Airport c1955. Beyond are Toronto’s only two skyscrapers of the day – the 32-storey Bank of Commerce on the right, and the Royal York Hotel. Today, these can barely be picked out among the crush of skyscrapers. In 2016 Transport Canada still listed 279 Stinson 108s, CF-HJE included. (Al Martin)
Also keen on the personal plane market was Ryan, which built the high-end 4-seat Navion. Designed by North American, the Navion looked reminiscently like the beloved wartime P-51 Mustang. But North American decided not to challenge the postwar civil market after all, selling the Navion to Ryan in 1948. About 1200 were produced before Tusco took over and kept the Navion alive for several more years, modernizing it along the way mainly in the form of the very handsome Rangemaster, which endured into 1976. In the 2000s there still was interest in this fabulous design from Sierra Hotel Aero Inc. Inc. in Minnesota. SHA’s website notes: “As holder of the type certificate for the Navion, Sierra Hotel Aero, is dedicated to improving the safety, support, performance and preservation of all Navions worldwide.” See email@example.com. As with most of the great light planes of the 1940s, there also is a Navion owners club. See navionx.org and look for the many other Navion-related sites. Shown is 1947 Navion CF-HJI of the St. Catharines Flying Club. Originally N8957H, the club acquired it in December 1953, then flew it until an accident three years later. Rebuilt by Trans Aircraft of Hamilton, “HJI” then had a succession of owners across Canada and in 2016 still is listed (along with 35 others) in Transport Canada’s Canadian Civil Aircraft Register. Special thanks to astronomer Andrew Yee for processing these old negatives and slides. (Al Martin)
SPECIAL NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHER
** Dear readers** … As of March 17, 2016 CANAV is out of stock of its world-famous title, De Havilland in Canada. Having begun in 1983 as The De Havilland Canada Story by Fred Hotson, the book morphed in 1999 into De Havilland in Canada. Should you need a new copy, contact Viking Aircraft in Victoria, BC, or search some of the internet’s many used book sites — abebooks.com, bookfinder.com, ebay, etc. All the best … Larry