Gananoque’s “Ghost” Canso + AN-225 Hotline + Conair from Stearman to Q400 + A Little-Remembered but Dramatic Episode of “Canada at War” + Reminder: “A Tradition of Excellence” — A Spectacular Canadian Book

For decades, many a keen member of “the aviation circle” has dropped in to the former British Commonwealth Air Training Plan aerodrome north of Gananoque, Ontario. The place had been built in the early 1940s as a relief, or, secondary field to serve No.31 service Flying Training School at Kingston (see “RCAF Station Kingston” on wiki). “Back in the day” No.31 SFTS was doing advance training mainly for RAF student pilots on the Battle, initially, then, on the Harvard, once they were available.

A relief field served several roles. Instructors could take students there from the busy Kingston circuit to practice “touch-and-goes” and other procedures; advanced solo students could do the same. If a runway incident closed a runway at Kingston, Gananoque would save the day, the same if local weather conditions closed Kingston, while Gananoque still was open. Such fields were bare bones. They had the standard BCATP runway layout, but usually just one small hangar, a few other basic buildings and a skeleton staff.

After the war most relief fields soon disappeared. Local farmers often bought the buildings and equipment (even some airplanes, if any were lying about), then the place normally reverted to agricultural use. It’s a bit of a miracle that Gananoque survived, certainly passed 1960. I don’t know how this happened, but a few such aerodromes did have temporary RCAF use postwar. Carman, Manitoba, for example, was used for aircraft storage into the 1960s. Does anyone know what purpose Gananoque served from 1945 into the 1960s?

One thing we do know is that – subsequently — the place was taken over for skydiving in 1971 when the Gananoque Sport Parachuting Centre opened. The company website is sparse about history, but does mention that in 2020 the founding family remains in charge. My last visit was in 2015, but Richard Mallory Allnutt visited in 2018, so has some more current info. His follow-up article is published on the web in “Warbird Digest”.  ere it is:
news/the-ghost-of-gananoque-a-flying-boat-in-a-barn.html This is really tops — well research and smoothly written. Richard polished up his story with some good solid photography, so be sure to have a close read. You’ll love it! I like his reference to the old Hitchcock “North by Northwest” – the dusty road leading to the field would remind any film buff of that great classic flick.

Over the decades, owner Dave Dorosh has visited Gananoque most years from Alberta to inspect and clean up his beloved Canso. He made the trek as recently as this fall — 2020. Here are a few Gananoque photos from my August 23, 2015. Hope you enjoy them and the general story … Larry

Gananoque Photo Tour

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Here’s your first general look at present day Gananoque once you pull in. This is the standard BCATP 2-bay aircraft hangar. After nearly 80 years not much has changed. Even the cladding is standard wartime cedar shingles. The ancient control tower really “makes” the scene. I suspect that most aircraft comings and goings at such a field were handled by controllers using an Aldis Lamp. It’s great how this wonderful WWII tower has survived. The tarmac at a glance appears to be original.
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Judging from the sign on the hangar, the club goes back a year or two (1971).
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Of course, what mainly draws the history buffs here is the Canso. I remember first visiting in the 1970s following up on a rumour about a possible Canso. This panned out – there it was, as Richard describes. Its original ID was RCAF 11093, which was built by Canadian Vickers at Cartierville in 1944. Richard outlines its basic military history. Very little has change here over the decades. Hard to believe, no! On earlier visits I always found the Canso inside with no lighting for photography. This time, however, I hit the jackpot, for 11093 was out in the air. This was a scenario that called for a series of photos.
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Postwar, the RCAF retained a fleet of Cansos for such duties as search and rescue, and supporting Northern and Arctic operations. As kids we always loved to see a Canso at the airshows, especially if a JATO take-off was on the program. In 1960, however, the Grumman Albatross entered RCAF service – the Canso was on its way out. The last went into storage in 1962, but soon were in demand by commercial operators, especially when the Canso’s usefulness as a water bomber was understood. The government’s surplus sales corporation, Crown Assets of Ottawa, quickly sold off the Cansos stored at such bases as Dunnville. It was a buyers’ market. Old time Canso man, Joe Reed, once told me that he flew a Canso out of Dunnville in the early Sixties, having paid a mere $1500.
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11093 close-up shots. Note how the wartime aft observation blisters have been removed and replaced on both sides by cargo doors with small blisters.
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Anyone dropping in to see the Canso can’t resist spending an easy hour watching all the jump club activity. Jumpers are known for their hospitality, so no fear of being rousted off the ramp, etc. Here are some typical scenes. Sometimes 3 or 4 ‘chutes will be in the sky, if the single Cessna is the jump plane, but if the King Air or Skyvan are at work, the sky will be crowded with parachutes.
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Gananoque’s jump planes in August 2015 included this vintage 1965 workhorse in “Cabotair” colours. A Cessna 182H Skylane, “GDJ” looked about as well-worn as any typical jump plane. It came to Canada from the USA in 1991. Notice – pilot’s seat only, the rest stripped out to make room for the jumpers.
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Jump plane N32BA getting set for a circuit. It’s a 1969 Model B90 sn LJ475 with a pair of PWC PT6A-60A turbine engines. Then, Skyvan N192WW. Both planes were chartered from US owners and equipped for the para role. The pilots were very experienced at this demanding sport aviation specialty.
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The spacious Skyvan cabin. Then, jumpers heading out ready for their one-way Skyvan flight.
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The Skyvan back at base and taxiing by the Canso after another drop.
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Watching some happy jumpers on the way down.
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Some final views from 2015. I look forward to dropping by again to see “what gives” with Gananoque’s trademark Canso (there sometimes are rumours that it has been sold, etc.) and to enjoy all the jump school fun and games. Notice the tired old 1973 Piper PA-31 (C-GIRU) Chieftain in one photo. It has gradually been fading into the weeds. PS … yet another little know fact about Gananoque: if you drive downtown to the waterfront, you can see the old Link Trainer factory, now a condo development. Link manufactured some 5000 of its basic flight simulators here in the 1930s and through WWII.

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It’s printed off a bit of a dirty old “120” negative, but here’s a shot I took of “NJL” in the early 1960s when it was dormant at Ottawa “YOW”, before going into long-term storage at Gananoque

AN-225 … World’s Most Amazing Airplane!

AN-225 Hotline … Check out this world-class, one-of-a-kind, astounding airplane visiting YYZ Toronto 30 May 2020 . A couple of weeks ago the “225” was at Montreal Mirabel via Anchorage. Notice how and are equally shameless in their self-promotional efforts! But … at least CANAV has flown a couple of AN-124 global trips, so all you poor little critics who don’t know the joys of a real Antonov adventure kindly bow your heads respectfully!

The great Gus Corujo also covered the AN-225 at YYZ this day. Few are able to capture such an event better than Gus. You really need to have a look:

Conair — A Great Canadian Company’s History in Fire Bombing & Aerial Application. Stearman to Q400 in 5 minutes:

A Little Remembered but Dramatic Episode of “Canada at War”. How Canadian Paratroops Helped Save Denmark in May 1945. See e  

A Tradition of Excellence: Canada’s Airshow Team Heritage CANAV’s pleased to re-introduce you to Dan Dampsey’s ace of a book. Here at CANAV HQ, I have my autographed copy on a shelf with what I call “the finest aviation books in the world”. This truly is the most magnificently-produced Canadian aviation book, a treasure deserving a place of honour in your library. “TradEx” will give you decades of fabulous reading. Full coverage from 1919 into the 2010s of such great teams as Bishop-Barker, the Siskins, Golden Hawks, Golden Centennaires and Snowbirds. Everything from the Fokker D.VII to the Harvard, CF-100, Banshee, Sabre, T-33, Tutor, CF-104, CF-18, Kiowa – even such surprises as the Argus & Sea King in “demo” mode! Fascinating civil types also pop up. Some 2000 photos + 42 original paintings by the great Peter Mossman. You’ll revel in every page. Treat yourself & show your support for someone who put it on the line for Canada’s aviation heritage! 766pp, 4 kg, hc, 9.5×12 in., app’x, biblio, index. Your signed copy: all-in just $130.00 Order directly from Dan at

6 responses to “Gananoque’s “Ghost” Canso + AN-225 Hotline + Conair from Stearman to Q400 + A Little-Remembered but Dramatic Episode of “Canada at War” + Reminder: “A Tradition of Excellence” — A Spectacular Canadian Book

  1. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and commented:
    Intermission – The Mysterious Canso – Larry is preserving the past…

  2. George C. Warren

    The Skyvan looked familiar so I checked my photos. I photographed a Skyvan in the same colours but the registration was N193WW (Win Win Aviation) and was used by the Canadian army sky jumping team in 2017 when I photographed it at Greenwood Airshow on August 26, 2017.

    I enjoy your periodic updates.
    George (Halifax)

  3. Hi Larry

    Perry Robinson here. Hope all is well.

    I am writing to invite you to a FaceBook site called Austin Airways/ Air Ontario. There are some amazing pictures and stories shared there…and your book is a topic of conversation as well…with people expressing wishes that any of us who might know you invite you to join. The fact that you are the only person who ever wrote a book about Austins…of such fine quality…is something many feel would make you a valued member of the forum. I am in the process of trying to put some more of Dad’s pics on. Please consider joining, Larry. You would be welcomed.

    Kindest and friendliest regards


  4. A fascinating insight into this little time capsule. It looks a great place to ‘drop’ into. Thanks for Bringing it to our attention.

  5. P Scott Hughes

    I would love to see Canso 11093!! My Father was F/O Hughie Earl Hughes. He was the WAG on this beautiful aircraft when stationed in Reykjavik Iceland in WWII. My Dad flew with 162 Squadron out of Reykjavik Iceland. I’d love to see this aircraft one day. Crew was:F/O Roy Garrard, Sgt Bob Gordon, F/O Norm Chubb, F/ O Hughie Earl Hughes, F/O G Swift, F/O Cec Fenn, F/O Bob Neal, F/O Bill Gibson.

  6. I was just telling a colleague at work about the Canso at Gan and was looking for pictures and stumbled upon this page. Amazingly, I made my first skydive at Gan the day before your visit. The Skyvan was there that weekend because Will McCarthy, son of the owner Tom McCarthy (who started GSPC in 1971) was married on the Friday and all the guests being skydivers it made sense to bring in a bigger plane. Quite the cool aircraft to make one’s first tandem jump from. I later realized while jumping in Lake Elsinore, California, that it was same the plane.

    The Canso is still there, though the wings have now been removed (this was done in the summer of 2019) because the hangar doors no longer fully open and it would be impossible to move the Canso out with the wings attached at this point. The King Air is now at Skydive Ontario near Cayuga. The two Cessnas, a 182 and 206, continue to fly for jumpers at Gan weekends in the summer.

    We still have no idea what Canso Dave plans to do with it, but he comes out every summer to take it out and clean it, and usually will give tours to anyone who is curious. The interior is pretty immaculate.

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