Advertising normally is in symbiosis with daily wants, needs, events and trends. Together, they drive and nourish each other. But “ads” are fleeting, because the universe of buying and selling changes so whimsically. That’s why it’s fun and eye-opening to peruse old aviation periodicals just to take in the ads (click on any image to see it full screen).
With the defeat of Germany and Japan in 1945, the world had to re-make itself by transitioning from war to peace. Ironically, wars’ end was a jolt, since people had become so used to fighting. Overnight, great militaries had to be dismantled – swords to ploughshares. In Canada something like a million men and women quickly were demobilized and sent home. Under War Assets Disposal Corporation, established by Ottawa to get rid of Canada’s tools of war, ships and tanks were sent for pots and pans, and by August 1947, 2157 airplanes already had been sold. Ottawa couldn’t act fast enough to dismantle what had been one of the most important Allied fighting machines.
Meanwhile, sprawling aircraft factories closed their doors, leaving great manufacturers like Boeing of Canada, Canadian Vickers, de Havilland Canada, Fairchild of Canada, Fleet and Victory Aircraft with nothing to do but send home tens of thousands of workers. Just as fast, however, these same companies were striving to come up with new ideas to stay alive. After all, Canada’s airlines, bush operators, and flying clubs mainly had been without new equipment since 1939. Meanwhile, there were ominous signs of trouble between the USSR and the West, then war erupted in Korea. Canada’s aircraft industry suddenly was producing again
Lately, I started flipping through my set of Canadian Aviation magazine to see just what was going in the early postwar years. What a treasure of history these crumbing old magazines turn out to be. Here are some of the ads that caught my eye – they spotlight how Canada was starting to roll in the aftermath of WWII. All these come from the 1947 editions of this forgotten gem of a monthly.
Some of Canada’s most fascinating postwar ads cover War Assets. These informed the buying public about aircraft and associated equipment for sale at give-away prices. No sooner was the war over than Canadians were buying such planes as Hurricanes and Kittyhawks for $50 a piece. Although it was illegal to fly then, this did not deter some keen fellows operating in the countryside, beyond the prying eyes of Department of Transport inspectors. How do you like this ad … a fine Harvard for $800, a lovely Cessna T-50 Crane for $600, etc. In these brief years, huge fortunes were made by the more energetic of the war surplus hustlers.
Bob Kashower of Oshawa, near Toronto, became a serious war surplus dealer, assembling hundreds of aircraft to scrap or re-sell. He ran goofy-sounding ads far and wide, but these worked – he sold anything from Tiger Moths to Ansons. Here he’s pushing Anson Vs, which he converted for civil use. Most had low time airframes, some with not even a hundred flying hours. Also flogging Ansons was Joe Lucas’ Aircraft Industries of Canada, which had taken over the RCAF training base at St. Jean, Quebec. Besides finding local buyers, AIC exported Ansons throughout the US and Latin America, even a few to Norway. For the War Assets surge, which pretty well had petered out by 1950, many pilots looking for a flying job could count on the war surplus industry for a bit of income delivering all these ex-RCAF aircraft. The Noorduyn Norseman covers a great story of four Norsemans being ferried to Argentina by a bunch of adventuresome young fellows. The Anson shown in the AIC ad bears Peruvian registration. All throughout Latin America ex-RCAF Norsemans, Cranes, Ansons and Cansos would give years of valuable service, until operators could get re-establsihed and afford more suitable equipment.
Charles Babb of California was the “King of War Surplus”. Eventually, he brokered a large share of RCAF home-based surplus aircraft. In Harvards and Cansos alone he supplied air forces around the world. Here, Babb lays out the basics of the versatile Canso, of which he sold many. He listed these from $9000 to $15,000, and they sold readily. In another case, the enterprising Found brothers of Edmonton bought 44 Lancasters ( 2½ squadrons worth) at $325 a piece. With a great deal of backbreaking work, these were parted out, a good profit being made on the bits and pieces. Then the Founds re-sold several airframes plus 165 Merlin engines back to Ottawa for a fortune, when the RCAF realized it had let too many Lancasters go! I initially told this story in my 1979 book, Aviation in Canada (also see some great details and photos in Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3).
Meanwhile, commercial aviation was springing back to life, whether those rugged little bush operators, or the nation’s “Flag Carrier” — Trans-Canada Air Lines. Bush operators were looking for new equipment … they hadn’t seen a new plane since before the war. Noorduyn thought it had the answer for local carriers in its updated Norseman V. But it wasn’t catching on and Noorduyn was having trouble paying the bills. The Norseman V was sold to Canadian Car and Foundry, which had some spare cash. However, nothing much happened. Problem? Come the peace and the US Army had several hundred Norsemans to get rid off. These flooded the market – mainly good, low time planes for as cheap as $5000. Meanwhile, a Norseman V started at $30,000. So … ironically, the war surplus market could be detrimental to the postwar aircraft industry.
A great new postwar Canadian idea was the Husky, designed at war’s end by Fairchild of Canada at Longueuil, Quebec. Fairchild’s thinking also was, “Hey … the war’s over, all the bush operators are going to be scrambling to re-equip.” Fairchild, however, learned the same lesson as Noorduyn. Even before the war, few bush operators ever had spare money for a new plane. They just kept patching up their old crates. On top of this, in 1947 De Havilland in Toronto was introducing the Beaver, which swept the market , forcing Fairchild to close its doors. Notice the basic means of communications mentioned in such ads. In this case not even a phone number, just a straight forward “Why not write today” – they don’t even give a PO box number! But everyone knew back then that the post office would get any letter through and speedily so. Only a few Huskys were sold. Nonetheless, they made their mark as one of Canada’s great bushplanes, the final 2 or 3 lasting in service more than 30 years. The Husky story is told best in Air Transport in Canada and A Life in Canadian Aerospace. Periodically, a rumour floats around that someone’s planning a Husky revival, but we’ll believe that one when we see it.
Great things developed for Trans-Canada Air Lines early after the war. New aircraft like the DC-3 and North Star were the biggest change, allowing for a much expanded route structure. More than 20 newly rebuilt DC-3s were delivered by Canadair starting in 1945, so the well-worn fleet of Lockheeds was sold. This basic “advert” tells the story. No doubt the planes went at give-away prices. Toronto-based buyers alone included Imperial Oil, which took CF-TDB, BA Oil– CF-TCH and CF-TDE, Massey Harris farm equipment company in Toronto -CF-TDG and Noranda Mines – CF-TCV. For their new role as corporate planes, the basic old TCA Lockheeds were gutted, then rebuilt with swish interiors. As such, they served into the early 1960s – Rolls-Royces of the airways, the granddaddies of today’s Global Express. The route map shows how TCA, recently having added Canadair C-4 North Stars, was eagerly expanding domestically and on the Atlantic. As you can see, 1947 advert graphics could be quite basic.
New airliners such as the North Star were entering the market even before war’s end. Meanwhile, surplus C-54s and C-69s were becoming available as the DC-4 and Constellation. Meanwhile, new designs were starting to roll off the lines, the UK’s Avro Tudor included. Britain’s industry was especially anxious to win market share in order to help jumpstart its rock-bottom economy. The Avro York was ordered for the RAF, BOAC and other UK carriers, but it was nothing but a transport versions of the Lancaster – nothing very new. Then Avro produced the Tudor, but it soon was plagued by technical woes and accidents. The Handley Page Hermes also faltered. Happily, Canadair had the C-4 coming down the line at Cartierville. BOAC ordered a fleet, which would give more than a decade of solid service. Dubbed the Argonaut, it became BOAC’s salvation on long-range services.
Another of the many British aircraft pushed in the Canadian press in 1947 was the Bristol Freighter. Bristol quickly sent a couple to drum up business in Canada. At first little happened, even though operators were impressed. Finally, TCA and the RCAF ordered small fleets. The story is told in Air Transport in Canada. Eventually, the Freighter made a real mark in Canada’s north. Even in the 1990s there were a couple earning their keep in the BC mining industry. Museum examples of this rugged postwar workhorse may be seen in Winnipeg and Wetaskiwin.
Great Britain also introduced the de Havilland Dove in the 1940s, de Havilland of Canada being its distributor. There was an initial flurry of sales to such companies as Federal Equipment, Massey Harris and Shell Oil – the Dove provided comfortable, speedy transportation on short runs. However, US competition in the form of the superior Beech 18 made the Dove a tough sell. DHC adapted the Dove to floats – it worked OK during trials, but never saw service. In these years the Dominions were doing everything they could to support the UK aircraft industry — times were tough in Great Britain, where food still was rationed and unemployment was high. However, at every turn there were problems selling British planes in the face of (usually) better US types, and the flood of cheap war surplus planes. The concept of the “feeder liner”, as mentioned in this ad, was a pipe dream in Canada in the 1940s. The feeder liner didn’t really emerge for another 25-30 years, when it became reality with such types as the Beech 99, Beech 1900 and (ultimately) the Dash 8 and ATR.
The UK turned out one new type after another, few of which had a hope of becoming “best sellers”. Several were almost in the “oddball” category, as was the Miles Aerovan. Built largely of plywood, it had decent specs, and flew well with a ton of cargo, etc. However, it couldn’t even get rolling in the UK, so the campaign to sell it in Canada, as represented by this 1947 advert in Canadian Aviation magazine, went nowhere. The great Ron Pickler, DFC, of Canadair had flown the Aerovan in the UK before moving to Canada. Years ago he told me how much he had enjoyed this quaint little freighter. In the fullness of time, the Aerovan concept attained success under the Short Skyvan banner.
In 1946-47 it also was a tough go for Canada’s once thriving aircraft industry. However, Canadian Pratt & Whitney Aircraft (today’s Pratt & Whitney Canada) adapted well, finding jobs and sales no matter how small by turning over every stone. It sent its great wartime tech reps out on trains and busses to bang on doors from Debert to Senneterre, Timmins, Fort William Flin Flon, Prince Albert, Edmonton, Prince George, Vancouver and Campbell River – any place where there might be spare parts to sell, a propeller to straighten, or an engine to overhaul. CP&W corralled the war surplus R-985 and R-1340 markets by buying up Ansons and Harvards just for their engines, then scrounged up buyers whether in Canada or abroad. By great good fortune, de Havilland Canada suddenly was looking for R-985s for its new Beaver – CP&W got right in on that opportunity. Meanwhile, it became Canadian rep for another of its US parent company branches – Sikorsky. It brought the revolutionary S-51 into Canada for a demo tour, sold a small fleet to the RCAF, then introduced the larger S-55, placing the first with Hudson Bay Air Transport and Okanagan Helicopters. See Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story, Air Transport in Canada, the Aviation in Canada: Noorduyn Norseman, etc. for these seminal Canadian stories. In ads such as this, you can see that CP&W demanded a higher-than-usual graphic design standard.
At war’s end Northwest Industries took over the vast Aircraft Repair facilities in Edmonton to get on the war surplus bandwagon and do who knows what else “to make a million” in postwar Canada. However, few were surprised when NWI’s attempt to remanufacture a 1920s Bellanca bushplane (the Skyrocket, shown in this cheap-looking ad) flopped. However, NWI did get a dealership for the snappy new Bellanca 4-seat sport plane. But the plumb for NWI was landing some long-term RCAF overhaul contracts for such types as the C-119. The NWI story is detailed for the first time in Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story.
In 1945 Standard Aero of Winnipeg turned its wartime engine overhaul plant into a much-reduced operation serving the light airplane market, which was making a comeback. In this ad it’s promoting a line of small Continental engines that powered many pre-war 2-seaters. Nearly all those planes had been in storage through the war, now private flying again was allowed. Standard Aero gradually made its comeback, also overhauling RCAF engines and P&W engines used by bush operators and airlines. The company today does more business than ever, as its website explains: “StandardAero offers extensive MRO services and custom solutions for business aviation, commercial aviation, military and industrial power customers in more than 80 nations around the world. More than 3,500 professional, administrative and technical employees work in a dozen major facilities in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia …” What a story, eh. The advert below is for Weston Aircraft Ltd. of Oshawa, another busy postwar surplus dealer. Sold to Air Gagnon in northern Quebec, Norseman CF-FDP (ex-RCAF 491) was wrecked at Mistassini Post in May 1947.
Endless new products poured onto the market in the late 1940s, parachutes for airliners and private planes included. Irvine Air Chute Co. of Fort Erie and Buffalo was selling these, but there were few takers. The chutes were packed as tightly as possible into seat backs, but their cost and use of scarce space soon saw this idea fade. Interestingly, Cirrus aircraft today equips each of its aircraft with a parachute to lower the entire plane to the ground in case of dire emergency.
North America’s light plane market was incredible in the postwar 1940s. You can scroll back to our earlier blog item “The Beech Bonanza at 70 and the Golden Age of Post-WWII Light Planes” to review this story. Stinson got off the mark with its lovely Flying Station Wagon and Voyageur series (Piper soon bought out Stinson). Cessna was right in there rolling out 30 new Ce.120s a day. Check out their “Mr. and Mrs. Farmer” advert, eh! Think this one would go over in today’s advertising world? Next, here’s yet another beautiful Beech ad for its incomparable new Bonanza. Finally, enjoy this timepiece from Luscombe, promoting its spiffy little Silvaire 2-seater. Thousands of these 1940-50s US alight planes soon would be in the sky. In Canada, Fleet of Fort Erie also got into this game, producing its Canuck 2-seater. Meanwhile, in the UK there was little opportunity to develop such new sport planes. No money, no market, so worn out pre-war Austers, Moths, etc. had to endure. The occasional new type like the Miles Gemini had no hope of North American sales mainly because of too much use of wood and fabric, and British engines for which there was little technical support in booming North American.
In 1946-47 there were few ads in Canadian magazines for military aircraft. However, production of such types as the Avro CF-100 was just around the corner.