July 20, 2021 … Here’s a superb summary of the Blue Origin project & its first space tourism mission. What incredible technology, great to see all the pieces coming together:
Please take a good look at our current booklist. You’re sure to find some enticing titles for your home bookshelves.
The Canadair North Star
Here’s a book for any avid aviation history fan and keen reader — The Canadair North Star. Most of our “regulars” know this one and treasure their copies. But some more recent readers may have missed out.
In case you don’t yet have your copy of this CANAV Books classic, here’s a quick introduction and offer. You can start by taking a look at our CANAV Blog coverage of our book launching – one of our most famous book events over our 40+ years. You can find this coverage by using the search box on the blog www.canavbooks.wordpress.com and entering “North Star Nostalgia”.
Our history of the North Star to this day is considered to be the model for any detailed aircraft history. It’s the story of Canada’s first airliner from conception to demise.
The Canadair North Star begins with the exciting details of how Canadair and TCA in Montreal engineered the North Star by somewhat crazily combining the DC-4 with the Rolls-Royce Merlin wartime engine. All things considered, the plan eventually came together. TCA, CPA the RCAF and BOAC adopted the North Star for their main postwar routes, especially the international ones. BOAC would operate its “Argonauts” (as it dubbed its version) to such distant destinations from London as Hong Kong, Cape Town, Sydney, New York and Buenos Aires (it took several days to make such a trip). The RCAF would be lauded for its incredible North Star operations on the Korean War airlift, while CPA even flew into Shanghai in 1949 as Mao’s artillery could be heard in the distance.
The book covers all this mainline history, then picks up the excitement, as these aging propliners were replaced by such types as the Vanguard and Yukon, then were relegated to the smaller charter and freight operators. The story comes into the 1980s, as the last North Stars fade. Today, a solo North Star survives. After decades of rusting outside at Canada’s national aviation museum in Ottawa, it’s now slowly being brought back to its glory.
Our book has 100s of photos and diagrams, plus glorious original artwork, foldouts included. There’s a detailed appendix and index. The North Star still inspires readers to contact me. Lately, one satisfied CANAV fan emailed: “I have started re-reading your North Star book. What a contribution to Canada’s aviation history.” Noted the late, great Air Pictorial, “A magnificent book in every respect.” It just takes a few words, right!
Lovely autographed copies are available for you at these all-in prices: Canada $60, USA CAD$70, International CAD$80. You can order by paying straight to firstname.lastname@example.org by PayPal, Interac, etc., or by posting your cheque or money order to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Canada M4E3B6
Here’s your chance to pick up one of Canada’s grandest aviation books before the last new copies disappear. Also, The Canadair North Star makes the perfect gift for any relative, pal, employee, etc., who enjoys the best aviation history you can find on the printed page.
All for now and enjoy your summer … Larry Milberry
More Lockheed Twins
Today’s blog offerings are headlined by a few more of my ancient b/w photos of Lodestars Twins operating in the corporate role. As noted in Part 1, 60 years ago we high school aviation fans always considered it a good day at the airport if we saw a new Lockheed, especially if we got to photograph it.
Looking in my airport notes, we sure saw a lot of Lockheeds. We photographed some of them, but, why did we pass on so many others? Sometimes a Lockheed was taxiing out at a distance, or, it could be jammed in among other planes on the ramp. Maybe it was in a hangar, or, the light didn’t seen right, we were short on film, etc., so, we’d either miss the “photo op”, or, decide to pass on it. Too bad, but as teens, we didn’t appreciate the concept of taking a particular shot for posterity, or, as we used to say, “for the record”. It was all about the here and now. We never thought, “Years from now even a poor photo of this Lodestar is going to be really important.”
Otherwise, if a chance to take a photo didn’t “look right”, we’d turn up our noses at it. In our narrow little view of photography, we were looking for a shot with the airplane in the clear (no obstructions in the foreground or background, no people in sight, etc.), and just the right lighting, i.e., with the sun at our backs. I wish now that I had photographed a lot more of those Lockheeds by breaking our dumb little rules.
Another thing about our spotting days was how we kept our notes. Happily, we often would note a plane’s colour scheme. Since those were the days of b/w film, how else (six decades later) would we have a clue about a paint job? I was emailing about this lately with the great Norman Franks in the UK. I had a question about the checkerboard scheme on the Sopwith Camel flown in Italy in 1918 by the great Canadian ace, C.M. “Black Mike” McEwen. Getting a definitive confirmation about such details is rare a hundred years later. Thankfully, sometimes there are casual remarks in a squadron’s daily diary about the colour scheme of a particular Camel. Also, maybe someone mentioned it in a letter home, a letter that has found its way into an archive. Norman mentioned that red paint was usually in better supply at RAF squadrons at the front c.1918 than other colours, so, failing all else, an assumption might be made about a checkerboard paint job. Hence, over the years, it’s been pretty well assumed that McEwen’s checkboard was red and white. So keeping of even brief notes about a plane’s colour can be useful in 2021, if colour photos can’t be found. Another interesting thing about my Lockheed notes is that I often listed the plane’s c/n (constructor’s number). I don’t recall, but this must have been on a data plate somewhere on the exterior, the way it was on the Beech E18 – under the stabilizer. Since these were the days when we (mostly) could get close to a plane on the ramp, if we knew where to look, we could read the data plate. I recall how crew and airport workers sometimes asked what we were doing snooping closely around some plane, making notes, but no one ever rousted us. Rambling asides for now, here’s “the good gen” about today’s photos:
While the Lockheed Twins Have Faded Away, The DC-3 Soldiers On
Our blog have several items featuring Canada’s DC-3s. You can enjoy these by scrolling back or using the search box. For today, here’s an important update, an ace of a story for any true aviation history fan. In this detailed “AeroTime News” item, Valius Vencknas covers the DC-3 and its refusal to go away. At least 200 of these classic propliners remain in worldwide use, especially in Columbia where, over the decades, several former Canadian DC-3s have resurfaced. Naturally, some have come to grief. Enjoy Valius’ DC-3 report. Also, become an “AeroTime News” subscriber to receive important daily aviation news stories: go to
World Aviation News, Aerospace Industry News | AeroTime Hubhttps://www.aerotime.aero
Why Colombia Still Loves the Douglas DC-3
By Valius Venckunas Share this news
On July 8, 2021, a Douglas DC-3 registered as *HK-2820 of Aliansa went missing in Colombia. The aircraft disappeared from radars five minutes after taking off for a training flight and, reportedly, was found in a riverbed. Read more: “Douglas DC-3 goes missing minutes after takeoff in Colombia”. Yes, the DC-3 is a WW2-vintage aircraft. In fact, the crashed one was built either in 1943 or 1944 (depending on the source) and may have very well participated in the closing actions of the war, before being sold off by the US Air Force in the 50s.
Some might remember that in 2019 Colombia already had a prominent incident involving a DC-3 – an aircraft, built in 1945 crashed killing 14 people. Later that year, the same DC-3 of Aliansa was damaged in a runway excursion. In total, according to the Aviation Safety Network, the country had eight accidents involving the type in the last decade, not including the ones that remained unreported. How come Colombia has so many accidents involving vintage aircraft?
Airliner-sized bush plane
The reason, obviously, is that Colombia has a lot of these vintage aircraft. Before July 8th, Aliansa alone operated four of them, not including three more that crashed since the airline commenced operations in 1995. According to Steve Hide – a journalist who had a chance to experience the Colombian DC-3 culture a few years ago – it is virtually impossible to establish how many aircraft of this type are operated in the country. By any estimate, it is dozens.
The DC-3 itself is quite definitely the only war-time aircraft that is flown around the world in a significant number. According to the DC-3 Appreciation Society – because such a group obviously exists – there were 172 aircraft of this type in active operation in mid-2020. The number of airworthy examples is estimated at over 600, although it is impossible to say for sure. A part of this number belongs to enthusiasts (mostly in the US and Canada) who operate the aircraft as a historic piece, flying them at airshows and trying to preserve an important part of aviation history. But another significant part is commercial operators: companies, such as Aliansa, fly them because, well, there is no alternative.
A turboprop-converted DC-3 belonging to Colombian police. Private companies are not the only ones operating this aircraft; in fact, just hours after the DC-3 crash on July 8, a Colombian Air Force DC-3 was circling in the region, possibly as a part of the search effort. (Image: Markus Mainka / Shutterstock)
The aircraft has a number of crucial advantages that are well known to anybody who ever came in contact with it. It is sturdy and reliable; it is easy and not too expensive to fly; it is simple to maintain and, thanks to the fact that a lot of them were manufactured, there is a steady stream of spare parts – even though the production stopped in 1950. It also can land on short and unprepared runways, basically being a bush plane in an airliner form.
A result of that is a sort of “DC-3 culture” that formed around the aircraft in countries that are in dire need of connecting geographically distant population centers through the air, mostly in South America. Colombia is a hotspot of that culture. In 2018, Al Jazeera filmed a short documentary about it, highlighting the romanticism and above all – the danger of flying vintage planes in tropical conditions of the country: https://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xr74kx
DC-3 – a departing legend
The underside of such dangerous operations is the high toll they take. With the latest crash, more than half of Aliansa’s fleet have already perished in fatal accidents in the span of two-and-a-half decades.
There is a well-known saying among the enthusiasts of the plane – “the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3”, as, supposedly, no other aircraft can take on the job. Outskirts of small Colombian airports usually house several non-operational DC-3s with the explicit purpose of being cannibalized. Nevertheless, at that rate, the country is going to run out of the type sooner or later.
To be fair, retirement is a thing that does not really apply to the DC-3 – most of the operating aircraft of this type have already been retired at one point or another, only to be sold off and proceed with operations. Nevertheless, as no new DC-3s have been manufactured in over seven decades and the existing ones do not multiply, from time to the tragic time they have to be replaced by something.
It appears old Antonovs – mostly the An-24 and its derivatives – are pretty much the only ones that can take on the role. The ex-Soviet planes have already established their reputation in Africa, proving to be reliable, simple to maintain, and well-suited to extreme climates. It is only a question of time before the Colombian routes operated by DC-3s from the 40s will be replaced by Antonovs from the 60s and 70s. A small upgrade, but an interesting – and unprecedented one – indeed.
- Here’s the report about this sad event as per the Aviation Safety Network:
|Date:||Thursday 8 July 2021|
|Crew:||Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3|
|Passengers:||Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 0|
|Total:||Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3|
|Aircraft fate:||Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||Guatiquia ( Colombia)|
|Departure airport:||Villavicencio-La Vanguardia Airport (VVC/SKVV), Colombia|
A Douglas DC-3 crashed in a mountainous area after takeoff from Villavicencio-La Vanguardia Airport, Colombia. The aircraft was performing a training flight. All three occupants suffered fatal injuries.
Ethiopian L.100 Hercules Update
The civil and military strife in the Horn of Africa never ends. Century after century, one ethnic group or another there is at brutal odds with the next (Ethiopia alone has 10 major ethnic groups and 75 languages). In 2020, war erupted between Ethiopia and its rebellious Tigray region, which borders Ethiopia’s long-time enemy, Eritrea, one of the world’s most despotic and closed societies. In recent months, the Ethiopian military rolled into Tigray, bolstered, ironically, by Eritrea. The plan was to break up the rebellious Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front.
Ethiopia again seems on the verge of collapsing into the hopeless state it experienced in the 1980s-90s, when chaos and famine ruled and more than a million died. For a good back-grounder, google this item in the “New York Times”: “Why Is Ethiopia at War With Itself?” Also, see the report right here on the CANAV blog about my 1991 trip to Ethiopia with the Canadian air force: Canada’s C-130s to the Rescue – “Operation Preserve” August to December 1991. During this trip, one of the aircraft that I photographed was Ethiopian Airlines L-100-30 Hercules ET-AJK (a civil version of the C-130H). Here’s my shot of “AJK” loading at Djibouti. Subsequently, it was acquired by the Ethiopian military, but its new ID isn’t known to this date. The loss of “AJK” was first reported at the “Aviation Safety Network” — one the the best internet aviation history sites
(Aviation Safety Network >https://aviation-safety.net) This is the ASN’s initial report:
A Lockheed Hercules of the Ethiopian Air Force has been destroyed in an accident near Gijet, Ethiopia. Unconfirmed reports suggest the aircraft was downed by the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) during the armed conflict known as the Tigray War that started in November 2020 between Ethiopia and the Tigray Region. The aircraft was a Hercules, formerly operated by Ethiopian Airlines as ET-AJK, was seen in an all white colour scheme at Addis Ababa – Bole International Airport in 2006 without any serial number.
A Great Offer for an Incomparably Wonderful Aviation Book — “The Bell 47 Story”
Book Review Dec. 2013: Long Awaited Bell 47 History Now in Print
The appearance of a stand-out aviation history book was commonplace in decades gone by. Progressing into the 21st Century, however, not many such books are making it beyond the concept stage. Even worse, knowledgeable and sympathetic “book people” are a dying breed. These days if I happen to mention about working on a new book, it’s possible for someone to interject, “I guess he means an iBook, right?” Well … not really, buddyboy. What I mean is an actual book made of actual paper, ink and glue, that’s full of actual information that you will not find on the great seducer of feeble minds – the internet. But that’s another story.
Right now I want to talk to you about something real, not fanciful, definitely not a video game. I’d like to introduce you to the Grand Champion 2013 example of a fabulous new aviation book — The Bell 47 Helicopter Story. The creators are long-time CAHS and AAHS members Robert S. Petite from Alberta and Jeffery C. Evans from California. Bob and Jeff have devoted decades studying everything imaginable about the Bell 47, history’s most famous light helicopter, a type that’s been familiar on the Canadian scene for nearly 70 years. Our authors have their credits — they’ve been honoured by such groups as the American Helicopter Society International and by the Twirly Birds. Not surprisingly, they’re rarely missed a Helicopter Association International annual convention.
Whatever high award there might be for aviation history authorship in 2013-14, these fellows own it. To start, they thoughtfully explain how they did their research. Basically, they used all possible ways and means, from plowing through archival documents and personal records, to travelling all over doing face-to-face interviews, attending conferences, etc. Few aviation researchers would go a fraction of the distance. Here’s what they tell us: “Data used … came from early handwritten and typed Bell production records, sales records, Bell flight reports for the preproduction Bell 47s, early Bell brochures, Bell press releases, actual typed progress reports to Larry Bell, Bell accident reports, Bell Rotor Breeze first edition … Bell 47 Customer Service Maintenance Clinics, Bell Helicopter Mechanics School and early Bell Ringer newsletters.” So … we’re guaranteed to be getting the solid goods about this mighty little piece of mid-20th Century technology called the Bell 47 and everything it has meant on the worldwide aviation scene. Bob and Jeff sought out the info and have beautifully laid out their final results in one of the most impressive aviation publications in a hundred years.
Any aviation fan over age 30 knows the Bell 47. Failing all else, millions have seen one doing joyrides at local town fairs. Somewhat older folks know the bubble-canopy little bumblebee from episodes of MASH. I first met the Bell 47 in the headlines during Hurricane Hazel in October 1954. Toronto’s “Tely” and the “Star” ran photos of an Ontario Hydro Bell 47 saving stranded victims following Hazel’s rampage along the city’s Humber River. Being a Tely paperboy, I eagerly watched the story unfold. Decades later I met that very Bell 47 pilot, the astounding Bruce Best, later a CAHS Toronto Chapter stalwart. Over the years I had great fun photographing Bell 47s all across Canada.
Bob and Jeff open their massive tome with an in-depth history of how the Bell 47 came about under two geniuses — Larry Bell and Arthur Young. The story starts in 1942 with “Ship No.1” at the Bell facility in Buffalo, NY. All the trials and tribulations are described, enough to discourage anyone from a career in aviation. Yet, Bell, Young and their solid team persevered. In March 1946 Bell 47 NC-1H won the world’s first commercial helicopter licence. From there the book carefully traces developments through endless R&D, modifications and certified models.
Canada’s first Bell 47 was CF-FJA, imported by Kenting of Oshawa. Carl Agar, whose company, “Okanagan”, would become one of the world’s great helicopter operators, soon brought in CF-FZX. Toronto- based prospector Sten Lundberg pioneered with a Bell 47 doing aerial electromagnetic mineral exploration. Other Canadian operators appear as you turn pages loaded with incredible anecdotes and photos. The Bell 47 explores in the Arctic, goes aboard ship with the Canadian Coast Guard, supports mineral exploration, does forest seeding and fire suppression, crop dusting, hydro and pipe line patrols, search and rescue, etc. Its military career is covered under fire in Korea, but everywhere else, including with the RCAF. Bob and Jeff cover it all in depth and so enchantingly that you just have to keep turning the pages. Their book also has the essential technical gen, including many illustrations from the engineering manuals.
The authors cover every imaginable version from the earliest 2- seat Bell 47B to the 4-seat Bell 47J Ranger. The transition to turbine power is described, so we see how the Bell Cobra gunship and Bell 206 Jet Ranger series had their beginnings. The last word explains how the Bell 47 is back in the headlines through the efforts in the US of Scott’s Helicopters, which in 2014 will be producing new Bell 47s. It all brings an interesting thought to mind: We all know about the Renaissance Man, now it seems there’s an argument for the Renaissance Helicopter — the Bell 47. Besides everything else, The Bell 47 Helicopter Story has a valuable appendix with such detailed content as production history and the specs for each version. Interestingly, of some 5000 aircraft manufactured from 1945 – 1974, more than 1000 remain.
The book has been very nicely printed and bound by Friesens of Altona, Manitoba. Bare bones it weighs 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 of The Bell 47 Helicopter Story. If you have not yet delved into helicopter history, a fast flip through this book will make a convert of you. Order your copy at helicopterheritagecanada.com or e-mail author Bob Petite at email@example.com . Cheers and good reading to you all … Larry
While you’re at it, don’t forget that Air Transport in Canada is for sale at CANAV these days at the lowest price ever – CAD$65 all-in for Canada, $80 USA, $160 international. Order by direct payment (PayPal, Interac) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Storm Damages Bushplanes at Sioux Lookout
Oldest 747s Still in Service?
According to AeroTime aviation news, the oldest commercial Boeing 747 still in use is a 32-year-old 747-400 with Iranian carrier Mahan Airlines. The oldest Boeing 747s of all still flting are with the Iranian and United States air forces:
The Iranian Air Force still operates a 50.8-year-old Boeing 747-100, which is considered the oldest jumbo jet used for non-commercial passenger operations. The oldie, carrying the N93113 registration at the time, used to fly the major American air carrier Trans World Airlines’ routes since October 1970. Then, in March 1975, it was converted into a freighter and was taken over by the Iranian Air Force two months later. Ever since 1975, the jumbo jet has served the new owner’s operations.
The United States Air Force also has four of the oldest Boeing 747s in service. All four Queens of the Skies are the -200 variant and their ages vary from 48.1 years in service to 46.2 years in service. The government of the United States has been the only owner of the four planes.
The 48.1 years-old jumbo jet, registered as 73-1676, has been flying governmental flights since July 1973, according to Planespotters.net. The 47.8-year-old 73-1677 joined the fleet in October the same year. The government-owned 74-0787, which currently counts more than 47 years in active operations, was delivered to the states in October 1974. The youngest of the four, the 46.2-year-old 75-0125, entered service in August 1975.