Here’s the CANAV Books Blog for September 2021: Some Exotic Flying Test Beds; Canada’s 414 Sqn & the Vermont ANG in Electronic Warfare + Vermont’s Scorpions; 49th FIS F-106 Air-to-Air; and Not To Be Missed — 3 Books for the Avid Aviation Reader. Enjoy!

One of the best sources for news and developments for Canadian aviation fans is Paul Squires’ monthly “News Round Up” blog-0-paul-squires. You can get on Paul’s list by checking in with him at paul.capa@aol.com or paul.squires.capa@mattamatic

Save DRD – Red Lake’s Norseman icon

Check in here to see the latest progress on Red Lake Norseman CF-DRD. See photos of the wings and fuselage recently coming together again. Here’s your chance to send your gofundme bit along to help with this very important (and expensive) Canadian aviation heritage project.

Some Exotic Flying Test Beds of the Fifties

When it comes to old airplane photos, treasures keep popping up in dusty files, boxes and forgotten albums. Recently, in sorting some things, I found this exotic black-and-white by aviation photographer, Ira Ward, of Needham Heights, Massachusetts. In 1964 Ira had mailed this one to his pal in Toronto, the great M.L. “Mac” McIntyre, an early member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Subject matter? The one-off Curtiss Wright B-17 engine test bed N6694C, which Ira had shot at Woodbridge, Connecticut. Built as a B- 17G by Lockheed-Vega in Burbank in May 1945, it originally rolled out as USAAF 44-85813, but would not see military service. Instead, it went straight to Curtiss Wright that October for engine testing as a civil B-17. The major mods were done at Wichita by Boeing. N6694C’s initial “5 th ” engine was the 5500-shp Wright XT35 Typhoon turbine. First flight was in September 1947, but the T65 proved to be a dud. Not everything has been published about N6694C’s career, but its second big assignment seems to have been testing Curtiss Wright’s licence-built version of the UK’s Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojet. In the US, this became the J65, widely used in such fighters as the FJ-4 Fury and Grumman Tiger.

In 1966 Curtiss Wright sold its exotic test bed to Ewing Aviation. It then was ferried to South Dakota for conversion back to a more usual B-17 for fire bombing. On April 16, 1980 it crashed while working a fire at Bear Pen, North Carolina. For further details see Scott A. Thompson’s essential book, Final Cut — The Post-War Flying Fortresses: The Survivors. Having a chance to catch such a nice set-up of N6694C would certainly have made Ira Ward’s day. Mac, of course, would have delighted in getting Ira’s print in the mail – those were the days when most of us swapped airplane photos using the always-efficient postal services of the day. We never followed the Curtiss Wright B-17, but as kids used to delight in seeing any B-17. In the late 50s we often saw Kenting’s aero survey “Forts”, CF-HBP and CF-ICB at their base in Oshawa, then at Malton, starting around 1960, once Field Aviation had built its new hangar at the north end of the airport. The Kenting fleet then started using Field for mods and servicing.

Local Flying Test Beds

This is mostly forgotten history, but Toronto had some flying test beds of its own. In the early 1950s Avro Canada was using a Lancaster to test the jet engines being developed by its Malton subsidiary, Orenda Engines. These were produced initially for the CF- 100, but they later powered hundreds of Canadair-built F-86s. I never saw this “Lanc”, since it was destroyed when Avro’s flight test hangar burned on July 24, 1956 – a bit before my time at Malton.

Avro Canada’s Lancaster FM209 was on loan from the RCAF. It first flew as a test bed for the early Orenda jet engine in July 1949, then served usefully until the fire. Also seen here is the USAF F-86A on loan to Avro for testing early Orendas. USAF tail number 47-616, this Saber was the first airplane to fly solely under Orenda power.

In 1956, when Orenda was developing the Iroquois engine for the Avro CF-105 Arrow, USAF B-47 51-2059 was borrowed from the USAF to use as a test bed. For this program the B-47 was taken on RCAF strength as X059. Its first destination in Canada was Canadair at Cartierville, near Montreal, where the mods were installed to accommodate the 30-foot-long Orenda engine. This made X059 one of the rare 7-engine B-47s (a second was used to test fly the GE TF34). For Canadair purposes, the B-47 was designated the CL-52.

Here’s an excerpt from our book, Canadair: The First 50 Years, that explains a bit about the B-47 Orenda Iroquois test bed. The Iroquois eventually flew 31 running hours in flight on X059.
X059 flying gear down near Malton during the Iroquois program. Test pilots Mike Cooper-Slipper of Avro Canada and Len Hobbs from the UK, and Avro flight test engineer, Johnny McLaughlin, spent 10 weeks training on the B-47 with the USAF in Wichita. This made the trio very exclusive airmen, since the B-47 was ultra-secret. It almost was anathema for the Americans to allow such “foreign aliens” to get so close to the B-47. However, it was in their interest, since the Iroquois was destined for the Arrow, which was to be a key NORAD fighter. Besides, along the way the Americans certainly would have gleaned some worthwhile technical “intel” about the Iroquois. There might even have been an information sharing agreement. Long ago Mike Cooper-Slipper told me about what a dicey plane this exotic test bed was to fly. It was a slide rule operation all the way. Landings were especially tricky, since the huge engine pod at the tail created its own ground effect just as the pilot flared to touch down. At the end of the test program (February 20, 1959, when the Arrow suddenly was cancelled) the B-47 was re-converted to standard configuration, then the Avro crew ferried the plane to Davis Monthan Air Force Base near Tuscon. “DM” was the USAF’s main storage and scrapping facility. There, X059 soon was unceremoniously chopped to pieces and melted down. History bites, right!
The P&WC Beech Expeditor flying test bed. Then, the fine crew of Fowler and MacNeil who first flew HB109 from Downsview in 1961. When the Arrow and Iroquois were cancelled, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth throughout the land. How could there not be, since something like 15,000 people instantly were out of work on that February 20 – “Black Friday”. This soon worked itself out, however, since pretty well anyone of the 15,000 who wanted a job soon had one somewhere in Canadian industry. A few even moved south, finding jobs in the US aircraft industry and NASA. In this bubbling atmosphere, a number of Orenda engineers got wind that Pratt & Whitney Canada at Longueuil, near Montreal, was looking for engineers. These fellows packed their bags and, as they used to say, “went downstream” to join “Pratt”. There, they eagerly started work on an exciting new project to develop a revolutionary small gas turbine engine that became the PT6. Soon the PT6 needed a flying test bed. The RCAF obliged, lending Pratt its Beech C-45 Expeditor HB109 for the duration. The contract to modify HB109 to 3-engine configuration went to De Havilland of Canada at Downsview. On May 30, 1961 DHC test pilot, R.H. “Bob” Fowler, and P&WC ‘s John MacNeil flew HB109 initially with the PT6. Soon the program was under way. Although it was a long learning curve, MacNeil eventually was satisfied, commenting in a report of September 7, 1961: “I am very pleased with our engine operation to date. It starts quickly both in the air and on the ground, and makes its thrust very obvious from the surface to 25,000 feet. The engineers and technicians who have made this possible have my humble respect and heartiest congratulations.” As we all know, the PT6 has become a world class engine. More than 41,000 have been delivered. The wee engine that started its flying days on the nose of an Expeditor by today has logged an astonishing 335 million flying hours in a host of versions on thousands airplanes. After more than 60 years the PT6 remains in development and production. As to Pratt’s faithful test bed, it’s been saved for museum purposed by L’École nationale d’aérotechnique St. Hubert airport, Longueuil. For more info about this P&WC Expeditor (also about Pratt’s 3-engine CF-100) see   https://www.pierregillard.com/blog/page65.html#20211555
HB109 in a classic in-flight portrait. See more about Canada’s flying test beds in such books as Canadair: The First 50 Years, De Havilland in Canada and Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story. This is a fascinating and important bit of our aviation heritage. I wonder if there’s “someone” out there willing to research this important subject in proper detail? The story is certainly worthy of a book.

NORAD ECM/EW – The Story of 414 Squadron and the 134th DSES of the Vermont ANG

Beginning in the 1950s, the RCAF began experimenting with a new concept – electronic counter measures (ECM). This eventually became known more commonly as electronic warfare (EW). The first I wrote about this was a 1980 feature item in Carl Vincent’s superb journal, “High Flight”. The topic was enticing, especially since NORAD was using some interesting airplane types.

In Canada, the first RCAF EW unit was 104KU (Composite Unit) at St. Hubert. Using Dakotas and C-119s, “104” trained ground radar stations to deal with airborne radar jamming using electronic means and chaffe dispersal. In 1956, 104 added its first CF-100 equipped for the same tasks. Communications jamming soon was added. In April 1959 the RCAF stood up its Electronic Warfare Unit at St. Hubert with C-119s and CF-100s. The CF-100 pilots came from existing NORAD squadrons, while their “back seaters” – the electronic warfare officers (EWOs) — usually had been CF-100 navigators, trained later in EW by the USAF. The EWU came to be a busy operation, always in demand to fly ECM exercises across North America. In September 1967 the EWU became 414 (EW) Squadron. For all the details of the famous RCAF EW unit see the detailed history in my 1980 book The Avro CF- 100.

While the RCAF was perfecting its EW capabilities, the USAF had a similar but much grander operation, comprising several squadrons flying the EB-57 Canberra. In the early 1980s I was getting deeper into this special NORAD topic. Having covered the EWU/414 closely and flown with 414 in 1980 (by then at North Bay), I needed to learn about the USAF operation. This led me to spend a few days in Burlington, Vermont with the 134 th Defense Systems Evaluation Group of the Vermont Air National Guard (part of the 158 th Defense Systems Evaluation Group). This really solid field trip (the 134 th was all in with me for this project) culminated on March 17, 1980 with a 2-hour flight in a B-57. To my delight this included shooting air- to-air Kodachromes of EB-57s. Under the heading “The Black Knights and the Green Mountain Boys: Electronic Warfare in NORAD”, my story appeared in October 1980 in the lead UK aviation journal, “Air International”. Here it is for your enjoyment.

By 2021 NORAD’s EW training role is very different from CF-100 and EB-57 days. To a large degree, such training is done by commercial contractors flying civil-registered types including the Lear Jet, Alpha Jet and MU-2. Much training also is done using simulators. Such types as the USN EA-6B and EA-18G are important EW operational assets. Electronic warfare has become a huge specialty by comparison to 1980.

134th Scorpion Nostalgia

My first meeting with the 134th was one of the most exciting that a 16-year-old aviation fan could have. The date was May 16 1959 and my sidekick Merlin “Mo” Reddy and I were visiting the USAF base at Niagara Falls, NY. It was “Air Force Day” and turned out to be one of the highlights of our airplane spotting hobby. We drove down from Toronto early to make sure we got as many photos before the place got too crowded. Naturally, the sight as we arrived of such aircraft as the B-47, KC-97 and H-21 got us fired up.

Then various visitors started arriving, the highlight for me being a flight of five gorgeous F-89D Scorpions of the Vermont ANG. This was really something and there we were wandering around the ramp with our cameras. Can you imagine? An F-89 taxiing in but no one yelling at you to clear off. Talk about the good ol’ days, right! As you can see, Scorpion 54-0193 was magnificent as I photographed it. Doesn’t it look 100% operational with its wingtip rocket pods, long- range fuel tanks and VTANG markings. (Aircraft of the 134th VTANG: P-47D 1947-51, P-51D 1951-54, F-94A/B 1954-58, F-89D 1958-65, F-102A/B 1965-74, EB-57 1974-81, F-4 1981-86, F-16 1986-2019, F- 35 2019-XX. For an excellent history of the 134 th … google “Vermont Air National Guard” to get on the unit’s excellent website.)

“The Six”

In our last blog session, I wrote a bit about the Convair F-106, one of NORAD’s greatest interceptors. Here’s one of the Kodachromes that I shot off on January 6, 1985, when the 49 th FIS took me up in a 2-seater “Six” from Griffis AFB, New York. Talk about a golden opportunity for any aviation writer/historian, but these did arise back in the day, if a fellow was giving something worthwhile back to the airforce, navy, etc. I remember, for example, when my (late) UK pal, Roger Lindsay, crowned his many long years compiling the history of the RAF’s Lightning interceptor with a flight in that exotic Mach 2 fighter. Happily, the USAF, RCAF, etc. have always fairly recognized we aviation historians, writers and publishers.

This Month’s Reads … Three Books for the Avid Reader

Three aviation books are on my list this time around. To start there’s the incomparable Fate is the Hunter. This is the great Ernest Gann’s 1961 in-depth history covering his days starting back in the “Golden Years” of aviation when he started into his career at the very bottom. You absolutely will be spellbound by this gem of a classic. Inch by inch Gann progresses, at first spending years as a lowly American Airlines co-pilot on the DC-2, then DC-3. He learns the ropes and eats a lot of crow, as captains and other superiors show their distain for his nothingness as an aviator. His captaincy finally arrives, but he’s still at the bottom.

Along the way Gann describes in his inimitable style all the adventures of flying, the many close calls in those early years, the sheer joy of being in the flying game, yet its all-too-many tragedies. A stint delivering Lodestars to South America ensues – the details will make you squirm. With WWII, Gann flies the global airways on the DC-4 and C-87. The adventures multiply, then the war ends and he strikes out to make his way (rather than returning to American Airlines with his low seniority number) with a new trans-Pacific carrier using DC-4s. This soon falls apart and the once proud captain of the airways finds himself scrounging for jobs.

All along, Gann his weaving his story in wonderful prose, just the best you’ll find anywhere, while philosophizing about aviation and life. How have things panned out? How is it that so many of his aviation friends have given their lives? How is it that fate in the hunter? If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this aviation beauty, here you go! 390 pages, paperback. $38.00 all-in

A Wrench in the Wings is a fantastic book covering Sam Longo’s busy and productive aviation career on the technical side. One of the early graduates in the 70s of the unique Centennial College aviation technicians course in Toronto, Sam works far and wide in aviation, maintaining everything from DC-3s to Electras and Twin Otters . He has but 3 words for the Twin Otter – “Simple, rugged and reliable.” He also covers his years at De Havilland Canada and Air Canada, so you’ll be reading a lot of history and inside stuff about anything from the Dash 7 to the DC-8 and L-1010 (how about the shift at Air Canada when some tech retracted the nose gear on a 747). Sam even has a few pages about his most favourite aviation book Fate is the Hunter – fancy that! He also has some choice things to say about his 22 years teaching aviation mechanics at Centennial College. This book is one fantastic page after another. You’ll love it, guaranteed. (Sam has over 40 years’ experience as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer and Professor-Coordinator at Centennial Colleges Aerospace Department. He holds an FAA A&P rating as well as a Certificate in Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University. He’s a qualified trainer in Aviation Human Factors and is the past president of both the AME Association of Ontario and Aircraft Maintenance Engineers of Canada. His extensive writing has been published in aviation and motorcycle publications across Canada. What’s the bottom line about Sam’s book? Cheap at twice the price. $32.00 all-in
Sprog is the very close-in story of young men enlisting early in the RCAF during WWII. Author Malcolm Kelly is a former sports columnist turned broadcast professor at Centennial College. Somewhere along the line, he became fascinated by the story of RCAF wartime training. He started reading voraciously. He read everything he could find, even a bunch of CANAV books, then started envisioning the daily, weekly, monthly lives of all those kids “joining up” to do their wartime bit. Sprog (the RCAF slang term for a raw recruit) covers some keen young fellows, including the inevitable “Tex”, who came up from the States to try his luck in the RCAF. It takes the readers from enlisting to the fellows starting their indoctrination at RCAF No.1 Manning Depot in Toronto. Of course, there are all sorts of shenanigans, and every day is an adventure. From manning depot the fellows progress through the predictable stages – guard duty at Camp Borden, ITS (Initial Training School) back in Toronto, etc. Malcolm introduces a host of sprogs, delving deeply into each fellow’s character and experiences. Definitely a book for anyone with a yen for RCAF WWII history. Something really quite different. 592 pages paperback. $35.00 all-in

*Any two of these $60.00 all-in. Buy the three for $95.00 all-in. You can order via PayPal or Interac paying straight to larry@canavbooks.com Any questions? Email me at the same address. Good reading to one and all. Cheers … Larry Milberry

PS … Scroll back for loads of other Canadian aviation history coverage. CanForces readers will be interested in some of these stories:

Canadian Forces Supports the Former Soviet Union: 1993 Mission to Krasnoyarsk

Canada’s C-130s to the Rescue – “Operation Preserve” August to December 1991

East Africa Adventure, Summer 1994

Also … you can google this item about Canada’s military assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras: Canada to the Rescue in Honduras

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