Be sure to check out Pierre Gillard’s wonderful aviation blog. Keep up to date with what’s going on anywhere from St. Hubert to points around the world where Pierre travels: http://www.pierregillard.com/blog/index.html
How are the airlines doing these days? Here is a very good overview: OPINION: Aviation is being reshaped, and governments are in control
How is the book doing these days? “Good question”, as the typical radio host would reply, right. Here’s one very nice little piece that helps explain: Mike Valenti sent along this interesting bit of “history of civilization” today (April 7). One of the fathers of the internet back in the 1960s was J.C.R. Licklider. Wiki describes him as “an American psychologist and computer scientist who is considered one of the most important figures in computer science and general computing history“. While he was envisioning the internet away back then, Licklider also correctly envisioned the future of the book, penning this succinct summary. This has proven to be true, at least for the brighter members of civilized society: “As a medium for display of information, the printed page is superb. It affords enough resolution to meet the eye’s demand. It presents enough information to occupy the reader for a convenient quantum of time. It offers great flexibility of font and format. It lets the reader control the mode and rate of inspection. It is small, light, movable, cuttable, clippable, pastable, replicable, disposable, and inexpensive.” Would Marshal McLuhan — along with CANAV’s advanced thinkers/readers — ever cheer at this brilliant little prophecy. Something to think about, as our mothers used to say.
There always are projects in the works at CANAV Books. Most eventually surface as books, while others are delayed (sometimes the holding pattern lasts for years). Other brilliant CANAV ideas fade into the sunset, although the raw research gathered for them often appears in later books. Meanwhile, our classic “old tyme” CANAV titles mostly soldier on. Today (April 14) I heard from one of my readers in Finland, reminiscing about The Canadair North Star, published in 1982 “I still remember when I finally got your North Star book. I was in Victoria BC visiting friends. We went to Tanner’s book store in Sidney to see if there was a copy available. There was and I was extremely happy! That was back in 1992. A beautiful book about beautiful aircraft!”
These days, CANAV has two big projects on the go: (1)Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1939-1945 and (2) a grand history for the RCAF 100th Anniversary. The former, obviously, is the sequel to Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939.
Ancient history: CANAV is a serious publishing house that does not exist — as do most Canadian book publishers — chiefly to collect government grants. Having published 37 titles since 1981, CANAV has yet to apply for any such government handouts. It’s just not in my nature to figure that my neighbours should be paying for my projects. Instead, CANAV survives by publishing good books for which serious readers actually will pay. For pretty well 40 years this has worked, but staying above water has been a dicey little game and the game gets no easier.
Many of you have our world famous RCAF 60th Anniversary title, Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924-1984. This is the very best, single-volume, general history of the RCAF ever published. So, you know what you can look forward to with our sequel in 2024. Sixty Years comprises 480 pages of in-depth RCAF history, including something like 800 photos. It also has an aviation art gallery the likes of which has never been seen in any Canadian book. Noted the UK’s “Aircraft Illustrated” about Sixty Years: “One of those all-too rare aviation books … a delight to read and a joy to possess and to treasure… superbly produced and printed and is likely to become a classic collectors’ item … a masterpiece.” Added another renowned UK journal, “Air International”: “An outstanding product combining a fascinating, deeply researched text … the photographs alone are worth the price…” What aviation publisher receives such plaudits, so what RCAF fan couldn’t be won over?
It’s Up Hill A Lot of the Way
Over the decades I’ve seen many a dog-eared copy of Sixty Years. Readers sometimes contact me for a new copy, having worn out their 1984 “original”. With some 20,000 in print over 36 years, I call Sixty Years CANAV’s flagship book. Ironically, it’s sad how RCAF HQ remains fairly oblivious about such a downright glorious RCAF history book. I’m not making this up, but I never receive an order for any of CANAV’s RCAF books from anywhere at DND/RCAF, save maybe for a lonely, single copy when a book is new. CANAV survives, regardless, but sure could use some substantive actual air force support after our 40 year grind. Another Ottawa bureaucracy, the Canada Council, is just as discouraging. I’m not making this up either, but the Canada Council does not recognize CANAV Books as an actual book publisher. It has declared our beautiful books, that are applauded by serious aviation historians worldwide, to be inadmissible for a Governor General’s book award, explaining that CANAV has not published enough authors to be consider a “real” book publisher. What? Can you imagine such utter Ottawa arrogance/stupidity? CANAV has published 10 authors to date. How many are needed to be considered a “legitimate” Canadian book publisher? This gets more offensive when one looks at the annual Governor General’s book awards and notices how many are awarded to authors who have American publishers.
I once wrote (nicely) to the Governor General about this travesty. His reply was for me to contact the Canada Council. Fun and games with Ottawa, eh. This is all the more reason why your personal order for even a single book is extra appreciated these days. It directly helps CANAV to keep publishing. Now, let’s get “down to the nubbins”. If you don’t yet have Fighter Pilots and Observers or Sixty Years, or if you could use spare copies to use as gifts, this is your chance.
Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939
CANAV published Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939 in 2018. It’s Volume 8 and the latest in our on-going series (would I ever like to sell you a complete set, if you don’t have one). With its in-depth and original content, and magnificent photo collection, this is another grand CANAV effort. Both you and our always critical book reviewers tell me this, so I’m satisfied about this side of the business. Some readers comments about “FPO” include:
“Yours is the most amazing treatment of Canadian fighter pilots in World War I ever, and people will thank you for years to come for the photographic research, and the captions. What a great Christmas present it will make.”
“Rich, nutritious, satisfying.”
“I want to express my appreciation and that of my colleagues for your championing Canadian aviation history. Thank you for your dedication.”
“Your latest book is a treasure. Congratulations!”
The last of these comments is from General (Ret’d) Paul Manson, former commander of the Canadian air force in Air Command times. Paul has been a solid supporter since 1981, and in 1984 contributed the final paragraphs that you’ll read in Sixty Years (“What the Future Holds”) on pp455-6. Such support has helped CANAV squeak by in the tightest of times.
Besides all such wonderful personal comments, Fighter Pilots and Observers has been beautifully reviewed in the aviation press. In the prime UK journal, “Flypast”, historian Andy Thomas describes “FPO” as, “beautifully-produced”, then Andy adds: “This very readable volume features good quality photographs that will appeal to Great War ‘buffs’ as well as the more general historian, and as a reference for modellers. Highly recommended.” The renowned WWI aerial warfare journal, “Over the Front” observes: “This new book’s unassuming title modestly hides the treasure of photographic and text material stored within its large-format pages … One of the true joys of this volume is the wealth of original photographs, drawn from official and many private sources. These images portray the breadth of aircraft types and the variety of squadrons manned by Canadian fliers.” Finally, writing in the USAF “Air University Press”, Dr. J.A. Boyless concludes: “The authors’ information and anecdotes convey the glory and pain of flying … The book is a window of the past … The stories of the men and machines that fought the war came alive as I read … I don’t hesitate to recommend this volume … Understanding the past assists in applying the best to the future.”
Here’s a bit more “from the trenches” … A few weeks ago I heard about Fighter Pilots and Observers from John Wiseman, one of my long-time Québecois readers:
Your book has been open full time at the kitchen table where I get reading sessions at breakfast and lunch. Wonderful photos we see so rarely of this period and fascinating reading. Being more a student of WW II era aviation, I have limited knowledge of Canada’s participation in the aerial warfare of WWI, other than the classics, like Bishop. So it is somewhat of a revelation to read about Canada’s contributions to the air war and the efforts expended — and so much tragic loss of life. Incredible to think of the wild escapades so many young guys had flying those rickety early flying contraptions. Life expectancy was in very delicate balance and it seems just the luck of the draw for any that came out alive. If a fellow wasn’t being picked off by the enemy, his wings could be just as likely fall off!
Recently, Rob Henry, emailed from Alberta with some general thoughts about aviation books and history. Wow … talk about food for thought:
One tends to forget how sparse the Canadian aviation history scene was in book form before you started producing. While there have been some very good individual stories, there really weren’t the photographic histories (and no interweb back then). Computers have definitely brought a lot to light, but I am old enough that there is no satisfaction in punching keys and looking at a screen that even comes close to holding a book and reading it. I appreciate what you (and others) have done and enjoy every word and picture in the books and journals I have collected over the years.
So … in case you are in a mood to build up your personal aviation library, or just to treat yourself to a lovely autographed aviation tome, give this offer a thought. Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939 is $50.00 ++ (all-in $65.10), while Sixty Years is $60.00, but on special at $25.00++ (all-in $38.85). Still not interested? How about both books all-in for $100.00? These two beauties give you 664 pages/3kg of the best in Canadian aviation reading. If ordering … you can pay using PayPal to this email address email@example.com, or, mail your cheque to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto ON M4E3B6
The Bell 47 Helicopter Story … here’s a reminder about this extra special book. To be savoured by anyone with the remotest interest in aviation. Here’s a summary. For the full story, just search for the title (or … scroll back a mile): This landmark book has been very nicely printed and bound by Friesens of Altona, Manitoba. Bare bones it weighs an amazing 2.9 kg. It’s a hardcover with dust jacket. There are 730 pages with 1200 b/w and colour photos. Sincere fans of aviation history owe it to themselves to get hold of a copy … If you have not yet delved into helicopter history, a fast flip through this book will make a convert of you, so long as you have the least bit of gumption. Order your copy at helicopterheritagecanada.com or e-mail author Bob Petite in Leduc at firstname.lastname@example.org
Something else exciting to watch … South African Airways recently folded. Here’s some wonderful footage of two SA A340s doing some very impressive formation flying in 2019: https://youtu.be/SN5ORNXlSqw
Al Martin Photo Collection — Reader Input
One of our more popular recent blog items features the wonderful 1950s b/w photos of Al Martin. One reader sums up his impressions:
I enjoyed reading your blog and looking at Al Martin’s photos. I actually had to spread it out over 72 hours and finished last night. I certainly see why you published them and enjoyed the commentary … What I really like is how the B&W photos seem to capture not only the aircraft, but a point in time. Years ago I read an article about a modern landscape photographer who chose the B&W medium because it forces the viewer to think. Normally, I wouldn’t have looked any further at Tiger Moth CF-CHM and noticed the distant A.V. Roe hangars, if you hadn’t noted that – but there they are clear as day!
We do really need fundamental Coronavirus info. Happily, we receive good daily updates – there’s no shortage of news. Ironically, we also can get pretty maxed out with all this. To level things out a bit, maybe some historical context about “C-Virus” will be of interest. Here’s the thing — for centuries we’ve had to face epidemics. Nothing new, right. Once you’ve read this over, you may wonder a bit about a few things, such as Ottawa’s slackness in warning and protecting us in the early days of C-Virus. Of course, Ottawa already has absolved itself, and gets rewarded for its incompetence with a pay raise. Leave it to the MPs to take good care of themselves. The Toronto Sun’s Brian Lilley explains. “Well, add another roughly $2,800 to their annual salaries. For the Prime Minister, who earns double what an MP makes, his annual salary of $357,800 is about to go up by almost $5,700. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, it makes no sense and has them all looking a little out of touch.” Lilley is very kind,
Get Yourself Informed
Back to some history … if I can recommend a book for understanding today’s predicament, it’s John M. Barry’s bestseller The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. Barry covers the horrible 1918-19 epidemic in tiny detail. You’ll absolutely revel at his in-depth treatment, although you may be frustrated that pretty well no one in Ottawa actually knows beans about this quite recent pandemic. Besides the book (your No.1 source), see the Smithsonian documentary series “America’s Hidden Stories”, then scroll for the episode “Pandemic 1918”. Well worth a look. This is the bumph for this episode: “The Spanish flu was one of the most devastating natural disasters in history, an unstoppable virus that swept the planet in 1918, killing tens of millions of people. New evidence suggests the possible birthplace was actually in America’s heartland. Witness a globe-spanning story of death and denial on an epic scale, as we visit a mass gravesite, pore over old medical records and diaries, and use cutting edge scientific research to reveal the horrific truth behind this deadly pandemic.” The 1918-19 plague ought to be the “model” and what every federal, provincial and municipal health department should have been studying since January this year. They’ve all missed this boat — big surprise.
Decades ago Canada could design, build and fly something astounding like the Avro Arrow. Now look where we’ve ended? Here we are a supposed “First World” country that’s incapable of producing something as simple as a fabric face cover. Talk about a national a disgrace! Happily, someCanadian tech companies have been scurrying to close this gap. Anyway … you can find an affordable copy of The Great Infuenza at www.bookfinder.com or at www.abebooks.com. Well worth your time and minor investment. You’ll be amazed at what Brown covers. For example, it’s shocking, but US Army high command tended to belittle its own Surgeon Generals in the early 1900s. Washington starved Army medical development well into the WWI years. One interesting point Brown makes contrasts this with Canada. While the US Army was establishing huge training camps on the edges of disease-infested swamps, and sending trainloads of infected recruits cross-country on packed trains, then aboard troopships for already-beleaguered France, look what Brown says about Canada: “Since 1916 the Canadian army had segregated all troops arriving in Britain for twenty-eight days, to prevent their infecting any trained troops ready to go to the front.” US Army Medical Corps kingpin, William Henry Welsh, urged the US Army to do likewise. Sadly, the Medical Corps still was not being taken seriously by US Army command. This book is hugely recommended.
Plagues have been written about for millennia and the story from one to the next is similar. I’ve been reading Jonathan Bastable’s wonderful book, Voices from the World of Samuel Pepys. Included is much excellent coverage of the Great Plague of London in 1665. This is another book that you can find on the web, usually cheaply (under CDN$10 today April 3). You’ll learn here how similar were the problems and solutions to an epidemic in London 350+ years ago, compared to C-Virus today. People stayed at home, used whatever “medicine” was available, practiced social distancing, left town for their summer homes, even washed their hands if they knew about this practice. However, the quarantine was rather brutal. If the plague appeared in a family, its house was marked with a red cross and an armed guard was posted to prevent any comings or goings. Often, all within died horribly and alone. Here’s a brief excerpt written in 1665 by a London churchman, Thomas Vincent. Sound in any way familiar?
Now the highways are thronged with passengers and goods, and London doth empty itself into the country. Great are the stirs and hurries in London by the removal of so many families. Fear puts many thousands on the wing, and those think themselves most safe that can fly furthest off from the city. In July the plague increaseth and prevailest exceedingly. The number of 470, which died in one week by the disease, ariseth to 725 the next week, to 1089 the next, the 1843 the next, to 2010 the next. Now the plague compasseth the walls of the city like a flood, and poureth in upon it … Now the countries [country people] keep guards lest infectious people from the city bring the disease unto them … the poor are forced through poverty to stay and abide the storm.
Canada and the 1918-19 Epidemic
A final note … the Canadian newspapers from 1918-19 covered the rise and gradual decline of the horrendous flu epidemic in that period. With my Toronto Library card I can access (free) the “Toronto Daily Star” and “The Globe and Mail” archives to see each day’s news in 1918-19. Perhaps where you live, some similar public library free access to local newspaper archives exists?
It’s interesting to see how (as a rule) little epidemic news existed in 1918-19. Attached, however, is one very open account of the flu as it started to decimate Toronto in October 1918. Most of the page is devoted to the epidemic. Normally, however, all one finds in the newspapers is a tiny squib that overnight another 65 died of the flu in Toronto, etc. This was wartime-level censorship in action, and this continued for a year after the Armistice of November 1918. Have a look at the attached excerpt. Notice how familiar this all sounds, including the gutless waffling of the politicians and even some medical people; then the grassroots concerns of regular citizens about school closures and everyday issues. Thanks again and all the best … Larry
PS … failing all else, please take a look at CANAV’s great (attached) list of misc. books. It’s the best you’ll find in Canada and you probably have a bit of spare time for reading these days. No? CANAV needs and appreciates your support as always.