BC Aviation Museum News
Have a quick look here https://www.timescolonist.com/local-news/bc-aviation-museum-lands-both-a-retired-air-tanker-and-its-long-time-pilot-5865648 for news of the Convair 580 acquisition by the BC Aviation Museum. Then look in our search box for Following the classic Convairliner This item will fascinate any Convair or Propliner fan. Much history included about Canada’s own many Convairs since the 1950s, beginning with Imperial Oil’s CF-IOK. For more about the BC Aviation Museum (its Lancaster project, etc.) see bcam.net
The Last 617 Squadron “Dam Buster” Passes On
George “Johnny” Johnson, the last of the famed 617 “Dam Buster” Squadron aircrew, recently died. Check here for the details. Many Canadians crewed on the famous dams raids of May 16/17, 1943. Here’s Johnson’s obit: Tributes paid as last surviving Dambuster Johnny Johnson dies – BBC News
Fort Worth: New F-35 Crashes during Test Flight December 15, 2022
Here’s some video showing the incident. Happily, the ejection technology worked as advertised, the pilot is unhurt: @CBSDFW pic.twitter.com/BeERIeyhtO
Canada’s Ancient 737-200s Still Carrying the Load
In its current issue, the great John Wegg’s old magazine, “Airways”, runs a story headlined “Why Are There Boeing 737-200s Still Flying in Canada”. You can find this on line, but also take a look at the historic item at our blog canavbooks.wordpress.com Just go there and search for Ancient CAE 737-200 Flight Simulator Still Doing Valuable Work after 45 years This rare wee bit of history also includes an important photo album of historic (and colourful) Canadian-registered 737-200s. You’ll love it!
Stop the press … here’s an update about the famous 737-200 full flight simulator (FFS) at YVR: it’s finally gone: Some time ago, Nolinor Aviation in Mirabel wanted to purchase Air Canada’s Vancouver-based B.737-200 FFS — that same unit built for EPA by CAE in 1976. The plan was to move it to Mirabel along with a second -200 sim from the Pan Am Academy in Miami, then consolidate its -200 training at Mirabel. However, the YVR -200 turned out to be under an exemption: if it moved from YVR, it could not be recertified. Sadly, it became spare parts. The same restriction applied to the Pan Am’s unit.
Full flight -200 sims now so rare, Miami and South Africa possibly being the final two locations. Presently, Firstair/Canadian North train their 737-200 pilots under an exemption on its -300 FFS at Edmonton. This note appears on the Pan Am Miami website: “Pan Am Flight Academy has more Boeing 737-200 Full Flight Simulators than any other simulator training provider. Pan Am provides 737-200 simulator training for airlines and individuals including dry simulator leasing as well as 737-200 Initial Type Rating Courses and 737-200 Differences and Recurrent Training.”
Exotic Airbus Photo Shoot
Want to sit in on a fantastic formation shoot? If yes, use the search box to find this item on our blog: “Hey, girls and boys, are we aviating yet?” This will get you right in the middle of one of the most exotic formation photo shoots of recent years, with Airbus launching 5 massive A350s. You’ll be in on the pilot briefing, then fly along to watch some breath-taking formation changes.
Of extra interest, the main photo ship used was Aerospatiale SN601 Corvette bizjet F-GPLA. An early bizjet, the Corvette was one of the first designs to use the Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D engine. However, the Corvette failed miserably, only 27 being manufactured, while its chief rival, the Cessna Citation, also with the JT15D, totalled some 1900.
Lockheed Lodestar, Ventura, etc.
Look Up “Lockheed Twins” in the Search Box and You Won’t Be Disappointed! See exclusive coverage of Canada’s great Lockheeds of the 50s.
In his latest (November 25) editorial on his blog “SHuSH”, Canadian literary guru, Ken Whyte, discusses Indigo and some Canadian bookselling machinations. Have a look … we need to know what’s happening to Canada’s bookselling industry.
Welcome to the 174th edition of SHuSH, the official newsletter of The Sutherland House Inc. If you’re new here, hit the button: Subscribe
A SHuSH update: at the end of May (SHuSH 150) we mentioned that after three years of operation, SHuSH had 2,132 subscribers and was averaging 4,000 readers a week. We anticipated continued steady growth that would bring us to 2,800 subscribers by SHuSH 200 next June. We’re happy to report that we hit 3,000 subscribers this week, well ahead of schedule. We are now averaging 5,000 readers a week.
We need to talk about Indigo. As you know, it’s Canada’s biggest bookstore chain, with 88 superstores and 85 small-format stores. It sells well over half the books that are bought in stores in Canada, with Walmart, Costco, and independent bookstores accounting for most of the rest.
One problem with Indigo is that it’s failing. The other problem is that it’s abandoning bookselling. Yes, that sounds like a Woody Allen joke, but it’s not funny from a publishing perspective. We depend on Indigo.
The company’s finances have been ugly for some time. It lost $37 million in 2019, $185 million in 2020, and $57 million in 2021. Things looked somewhat better in 2022 with a $3 million profit, but the first two quarters of 2023 are now in the books (it has a March 28 year end) and Indigo has already dropped $41.3 million.
That the company lost money in its first two quarters isn’t the end of the world. Indigo is a third-quarter business. All the magic happens over the holidays. The trouble is that the $41.3-million loss is about $10 million more than the 2022 loss over the same period. That’s the wrong direction; things were supposed to improve with COVID’s foot lifted from the neck of the retail sector. The company’s share price, which seemed ready to recover in June, has since dropped 30 percent, down to $2 (from a high of about $20). Without an absolute blockbuster of a holiday season, Indigo is likely to be back in the red on the year.
While all this is going on, Indigo has been backing out of the book business. If you follow the firm’s marketing, it’s all about “intentional” and “purposeful” living (its press releases sound like Gwyneth Paltrow circa 2008). Indigo is intentionally and purposefully attempting to re-establish itself as a general merchandise supplier to youngish women.
This is not news. As far back as its 2013 annual report, Indigo said it was in “the early stages of a journey that is taking us from our position as Canada’s leading bookseller to our vision of becoming the world’s first cultural department store.” It saw toys, paper, home decor, fashion accessories, and gift sales as the future of the business.
As far as I can tell, 2014 was the first year Indigo reported its book and general merchandise sales separately. Books, once practically the whole of its business, were by then down to 67.4 percent of total sales, with general merchandise accounting for 28 percent. By last June, books were down to 53.6 percent and general merchandise was 41.5 percent.
Indigo has made roughly half of its retail space devoted to books go poof and the transformation is far from finished. At its showcase New Jersey location, the mix is 40 percent books and 60 percent general merchandise, and it’s specializing in a particular kind of book. “We found a niche,” said an Indigo executive. “We became the preferred destination for New Yorkers for coffee table books. In fact, every decorator in New York comes to that store to buy these big format coffee table books for their clients’ homes. So we go from books about décor to books as décor… That store has had an incredible year.”
In July, Indigo released this publicity photo for a new flagship store at Ottawa’s Rideau Centre. See any books there? All the company’s flagship stores are being refitted in this direction.
And, over here, a few books, bestsellers only.
That’s pretty much it for literature on the main floor and even in this corner, the book tables share space with general merchandise. I didn’t pull out my tape measure, but I’d guess well under 20 percent of high-traffic space is devoted to reading material. If you want more books, you have to journey up to the dark and forbidding second floor. At least you avoid the crowds.
Two weeks ago, Indigo announced a deal with Adidas to bring sportswear into the stores. Last year, it held a contest where kids-and-baby businesses competed for the right to open their own stores within Indigo stores.
The fastest-growing category of general merchandise at Indigo is its house brands, stuff it makes itself, cutting out the middlemen. Walk around an Indigo and you’ll see products labeled OUI, Nóta, The Littlest, Mini Maison, IndigoScents, Love, and Lore. All house brands; none have anything to do with books. This is a business that owner Heather Reisman learned in the last century, making private-label soft drinks for grocery chains. She’s returning to it now.
Indigo hasn’t come right out and said we’re through with books. It can’t, given that Heather has spent the last twenty-five years building herself up as the queen of reading in Canada. Also, the Indigo brand is still associated with books in most people’s minds and that won’t change overnight no matter how many cheeseboards it stocks. So Heather talks about a gradual, natural transition: “We built a wonderful connection with our customers in the book business. Then, organically, certain products became less relevant and others were opportunities.” To be clear, books are irrelevant; general merchandise is the opportunity. Heather recently appointed as CEO a guy named Peter Ruis who has no experience in books. He comes from fashion retail, most recently the Anthropologie chain, which sells clothing, shoes, accessories, home furnishings, furniture, and beauty products. Anthropologie was hot in 2008, and it seems to be where Indigo wants to go today.
Fair enough. You own a company, you can take it in any direction you want, so long as your shareholders will follow. I don’t blame Heather for having second thoughts about the book business. (I have them every week. It’s a tough business.) But where does that leave readers, writers, agents, publishers, and everyone else who remains committed to books?
You’ll recall that Indigo and Chapters, between them, decimated the independent bookselling sector in Canada in the nineties. They are the principal reason Canada has so few independent bookstores today. You could probably fit the combined stock of all our independents into a handful of Heather’s stores. The federal government let Heather’s Indigo buy Larry Stevenson’s Chapters in 2001, which gave her a ridiculously large share of the market. That shouldn’t have happened.
At the same time, with the help of some lobbying by Heather, the federal government made it clear that the US chains, Borders and Barnes & Noble, weren’t welcome up here. The argument was that bookselling was a crucial part of our cultural sector and needed to be protected from foreign domination by the Canadian government. In that spirit, Indigo also asked the federal government to prevent Amazon from opening warehouses in Canada. That request was denied in 2010, which is about when Indigo began its transition out of books.
One can see how Heather might feel betrayed by the federal government. Instead of protecting bookselling, it swung the door wide open for Amazon. You said I wouldn’t have to compete! All the same, one can also see how Canadian readers and the Canadian literary sector might feel betrayed by Heather and Indigo. They bought control of the Canadian bookselling market; now they’re washing their hands of it. I put more onus on the feds—you intervene in a market, you own it—but assigning blame is a useless exercise when none of the parties will accept it.
We’re left with a bookselling sector dominated in its bricks-and-mortar dimension by one firm spewing red ink and running for the exit, and in its online dimension by an international platform that could care less about anything Canadian and is also deprioritizing books.
Publisher’s Weekly reported last week that Amazon was eliminating roles in its books division, a decision that follows a summers-long effort by the company to reduce the number of books it was keeping in inventory and adds “more fuel to the feeling within publishing that Amazon is losing interest in its book business.”
Where this ends is anyone’s guess. It is interesting that Heather stepped down as CEO at Indigo a couple of months back (she remains executive chairman). This was followed by her husband and bankroll, Gerry Schwartz, retiring as head of Onex this month. Might be a lifestyle choice. Might be a sign that she’s about to unload Indigo. My dream is that she sells, preferably to Elliott Advisors, the same private equity bunch that owns Waterstones in the UK and Barnes & Noble in the US. They seem to have figured out how to make a book chain work. Meanwhile, as I said at the outset, the publishing sector needs Indigo. I wish the company a robust and highly profitable holiday season, and I hope books outperform for them.
Fate is the Hunter
A book to savour … Fate Is the Hunter is Ernie Gann’s legendary bio. His magnificent tale begins with his early years searching for a career, then he finds aviation. He describes it all in his edge-of-your-seat style. He learns the ropes, but eats a lot of crow, as his seniors exude disdain for lowly co-pilots. His captaincy arrives (DC-4, C-87, etc.), but postwar most such men become aviation has-beens. Gann weaves his story in wonderful prose, while philosophizing about aviation and life – all his pals lost tragically along the way, etc. What is it about fate being the hunter? Gann’s literary and Hollywood careers then emerge. On November 28, 2022 the CBC radio series ”Ideas” aired Neil Sandell’s “Fate is the Hunter” retrospective. I was happy to answer a few of Neil’s questions and steer him to some solid contacts, while he was doing his research. If you get a chance, look up this program on the CBC “Ideas” website (or try here How ‘good fortune’ helped aviator Ernest Gann escape near-death | CBC Radio) and have a listen. This great Ernie Gann book is 390 pages, softcover. CAD$45.00 all in from CANAV Books for Canada and USA orders. You can use paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org (overseas orders enquire about a shipping rate).
A Sad Day, Warbirds Lost
Update for December 1, 2022-11-30 … Rytis Beresnevicius Reports in AeroTime News: No Altitude Deconflictions Brief Before Mid-Air Collision in Dallas
The National Safety Transportation Board released its preliminary findings from the Wings Over Dallas historic air show, summarizing the events that happened prior to the mid-air collision.
The accident, which took place on November 12, 2022, resulted in the death of six people onboard the two aircraft, namely a Boeing B-17 and a Bell P-63. The two aircraft collided in the air when the P-63 was banking to the left, hitting the left-side aft wing section of the B-17, sending the pair of planes into the ground.
“Both airplanes were operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 in the Wings Over Dallas Airshow,” the NTSB’s report noted. Additionally, the government agency indicated that the aircraft were part of two different airship formations, as the Bell P-63 fighter and Boeing B-17 bomber were flying in three and five-ship formations, respectively. Following an analysis of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and radio transmission data, the NTSB indicated that the air boss at Wings Over Dallas was directing the two formations to fly southwest of the runway at Dallas Executive Airport (RBD). Subsequently, they were ordered to return to the flight display area.
“He directed the fighter formation to transition to a trail formation, fly in front of the bomber formation, and proceed near the 500 ft show line. The bombers were directed to fly down the 1,000 ft show line,” continued the report. Both show lines kept a distance of 500 and 1,000 feet from the viewing line … However, the NTSB’s report stated that there was no altitude deconfliction brief neither in the air nor on the ground: “There were no altitude deconflictions briefed before the flight or while the airplanes were in the air. When the fighter formation approached the flying display area, the P-63F was in a left bank and it collided with the left side of the B-17G, just aft of the wing section,” the preliminary accident report continued. Following the mid-air collision, both aircraft broke up while in the air and hit the terrain on the airport’s property just south of the approach area of one of the field’s runways. The B-17 was on fire while still in the air and exploded as it impacted the ground.
“Both airplanes were equipped with ADS-B. An Avidyne IFD540 unit from the B-17G and a Garmin GPSMAP 496 unit from the P-63F were recovered and submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorders Laboratory,” the report stated. However, the P-63F’s mini-multi-function display (MFD) did not record any data for the flight that resulted in the accident. “The wreckage of both airplanes was retained for further examination,” the report concluded. The weather conditions, per the information provided by the NTSB, provided 10 miles (16 kilometers) of visibility, while the wind speed was 14 knots, with gusts up to 18 knots at 350°.