Category Archives: Bombardier

Dash 8 No.1000 Is Delivered

There were historic doings at Bombardier in Downsview on November 12, 2010, as staff and visitors gathered for a red letter event. This double-header included celebrating delivery of the 1000th Dash 8 (a Q400 going to United Express/Continental/Colgan) and the 400th Global Express (going to China).

Following Remembrance Day ceremonies on the 11th, Fred Hotson and I headed up to the Canadian Aerospace Museum at Downsview to attend a dinner honouring many of the old-time de Havilland Canada people who had helped the Dash 8 along during its bumpy formative years.

Ken Swartz, Barry Hubbard (pilot, DHC, etc.) and John Shaw (DHC, engineer), with Bob Fowler and Fred Hotson in the background. (Larry Milberry)

There were people from design engineering, test flight, marketing, etc., as well as several of today’s leaders at Bombardier in the high stakes Q400 and Global Express game.

Next morning we joined hundreds of guests and employees in one of the vast production bays at Downsview to formally honour two great airplanes and all those past and present who have been involved.

Front row fans Larry Milberry (CANAV Books), Bob Fowler (pilot, Dash 8 first flight), George Neal (pilot, Otter first flight) and Fred Hotson (pilot, Ferry Command, DHC, etc., author De Havilland in Canada). All are members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, Bob and George have the McKee Trophy and Bob has the Order of Canada. (Ken Swartz Aeromedia Communications)

Robert Deluce, President of Porter Airlines, chats with Russ Bannock, a wartime Mosquito ace, pilot on the first Beaver flight and former President of DHC. Porter operates a fleet of Q400s from Toronto’s waterfront airport. Russ and Bob’s famous father, Stanley Deluce (White River Air Service, Austin Airways, Air Ontaro) also are members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. (Larry Milberry)

Following some presentations, we all enjoyed watching a Q200, Q400 and Global Express take off on a magnificent autumn day to do their individual fly-bys. Then it was back to work for the Bombardier people. But they’ll long be remembering this great day in Canadian aviation history.

A United Express/Continental Q400 does its fly-by. Soon after, it was delivered to its US base. (Ken Swartz Aeromedia Communications)

The Dash 8 evolved as a natural offspring of the Dash 7. Both had begun “on thin ice”. The Dash 7 had been tentatively supported by Ottawa in an era when many were skeptical that Canada could succeed with such a sophisticated product, especially since the global economy was in a slump and the regional airline market in its infancy. Sales and marketing had a painful time getting commitments from the airlines, so the order book sat almost empty for ages. Meanwhile, millions were being gambled at DHC in design of the Dash 7 and at P&WC in developing a unique new power plant, the P&WC PT6A-50.

Q400s on the production line

Q400s on the production line at Bombardier Downsview on November 12. (Ken Swartz Aeromedia Communications)

Unfortunately, only 113 Dash 7s were built and the whole concept of a modern 40/50-seat turboprop airliner was in doubt. In his book De Havilland in Canada, author Fred Hotson refers to this as “the most traumatic period in the history of de Havilland Canada”. Yet, from such troubled times would emerge one of the finest commuter airliners in aviation history. Things finally got rolling when DHC president John Sandford sided with his engineering and marketing people in pursuing an improved design, the Dash 8, to be paired with another new P&WC engine — the PW100. Ottawa went along and on April 19, 1983 the Dash 8 was rolled out at Downsview. Fred Hotson and I were there, having three days earlier delivered to John Sandford 3000 copies of The De Havilland Canada Story. A year earlier, John had given Fred the go-ahead to finish writing the book, and me the green light to publish it. To his great credit, John agreed to steer clear of the history-writing process, so Fred had a clear path to do his job. Sandford’s only words to me were to deliver the book in time for the Dash 8 rollout — or else.

Getting the Dash 8 built and the book finished both were touch-and-go, but we pulled it off. The beautiful Dash 8 came off the line on time, and The De Havilland Canada Story squeaked through. At a VIP event in the plant, a leather-bound copy of our book was presented to Prime Minister Trudeau and, as far as CANAV was concerned, a dream project was “in the bag”.

A Global Express and Q400 on the ramp at Downsview (Larry Milberry)

New Downsview-built beauties ready for delivery. The Q400s are for US, Ethiopian and Greek operators. Each Global Express departs “green”. Meaning? They fly away in bare bones condition to the customer’s finishing centre for all their specific cockpit equipment, cabin decor, exterior paint, etc. (Larry Milberry)

Downsview has witnessed four “1000th” roll-outs over the decades. First came the 1000th Tiger Moth in June 1942, then the 1000th Mosquito in June 1945. Circa November 1956 came the 1000th Beaver, which was kept by DHC for general duties. Truth be known, Beaver 1000 CF-PCG was P.C. “Phil” Garratt’s personal aircraft, while he was DHC’s president. Finally, came the 1000th Dash 8 in November 2010.

CF-PCG, the 1000th Beaver, during a photo session over Toronto Island Airport. CF-PCG is still in service, these days with Vancouver air carrier SeaAir. (DHC Archive/

In 1997 we attended other roll-outs at Downsview — the Global Express on August 26 and the Q400 on November 22. Airplanes that the pundits had panned years earlier, went on to bring honour and glory to DHC/Canadair, Bombardier and, perhaps above all, Canada.

If you still don’t have a copy of Fred Hotson’s latest version of the DHC book, De Havilland in Canada, check with me at  — sometimes I have a used copy available. Otherwise, go on the web to such used book sites as  You’ll congratulate yourself for landing a copy of this world-class beauty!

All the best … Larry Milberry, publisher

History is where it pops up

C-FETE is Beaver No.1204, delivered new circa 1959 to Father W. Leising of the missionary order Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Fort Smith, NWT. Later owners included North Coast Air of Prince Rupert and Odyssey Air of Richmond, BC. Several accidents marred the career of  OMI/ETE through the years, but each time it returned to the air better than before. You can find the history of nearly every Beaver at Neil Aird's amazing website (Larry Milberry)

C-FETE is Beaver No.1204, delivered new circa 1959 to Father W. Leising of the missionary order Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Fort Smith, NWT. Later owners included North Coast Air of Prince Rupert and Odyssey Air of Richmond, BC. Several accidents marred the career of OMI/ETE through the years, but each time it returned to the air spiffier than before. Here, it takes off on September 8, 2009 from Downsview, the place of its birth decades earlier. You can find the history of nearly every Beaver at Neil Aird's amazing website (Larry Milberry)

While the photogs were fussing about getting their Arrow-Snowbirds pix this day, a few realized that there was another bit of good history cooking at Downsview. As some beautiful Q400 regional airliners and Global Express bizjets waited on Bombardier’s flight test ramp, a solitary Beaver came rumbling out for takeoff. Minutes later it took off nonchalantly behind a fresh-off-the-line Global Express. Two fabulous airplanes manufactured at Downsview, but half a century apart.

 A "green" Global Express (the 363rd example) blasts off on a test flight from Downsview on September 8. This grand bizjet contrasted totally with our pair of iconic Canadian "time machines" -- the Avro Arrow and the DHC-2 Beaver. (Larry Milberry)

A "green" Global Express (the 363rd example) blasts off on a test flight from Downsview on September 8. This grand bizjet contrasted totally with our pair of iconic Canadian "time machines" -- the Avro Arrow and the DHC-2 Beaver. (Larry Milberry)

Editors…Please check your facts and grammar!

airforce-magazineLast fall Air Force Magazine asked me to write a guest editorial in praise of Canada’s upcoming Centennial of Flight.

Any writer understands that such a piece will be edited. The editor has a tough job making sure that content meets standards, getting things to fit on the page, meeting the deadline, all sorts of things. When AFM hit the street, however, there were a few bugs in the guest editorial, as with the AEA being called the “Aeronautical Experiment Association”, which it was not – it’s the Aerial Experiment Association. Readers notice these thing. A few other glitches popped up, such as my word “airplanes” being changed to the odd form “aircrafts”. Such gaffs can be avoided if an editor gives the writer a chance to review an item before sending it to press.

We know that Air Force Magazine is short-staffed, but proof reading isn’t rocket science. Local volunteer proof readers easily could be found in the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, among Canadian War Museum retirees, folks at the Canada Aviation Museum, etc. With a bit of extra effort, a cleaner “product” would result.

For the record, here is what I originally submitted to AFM. You can read the published version in Vol.32 No.4.

Have fun! Larry Milberry

Editorial for Air Force Magazine 12-08

Any 100th anniversary calls for a celebration and that certainly goes for 2009—Canada’s Centennial of Flight. All through the year there will be opportunities to get involved and enjoy Canada’s coast-to-coast aviation heritage gala.

Although balloons had been flying in Canada since 1840, our first powered, heavier-than-air flight would have to await a particular “alignment” of such terms as AEA, J.A.D. McCurdy, Silver Dart and Baddeck. McCurdy belonged to the Aerial Experiment Association, established in Halifax in 1907. Heading the AEA was Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, whose other hand-picked associates were John “Casey” Baldwin and two important Americans — Glenn Hammond Curtiss and Thomas Selfridge.

In 1908 the AEA’s four unique airplanes made many flights at Curtiss’ Hammondsport, New York base. On March 12, 1908 Baldwin had become the first Canadian to fly any powered airplane, when he took up the Red Wing. McCurdy flew the Silver Dart on December 6. (We now appreciate how seminal Curtiss’ role was in all this — there would have been no Silver Dart without him.)

In February 1909 the Silver Dart was shipped to Beinn Bhreagh, Dr. Bell’s Cape Breton Island home on Bras d’Or Lake near Baddeck. Here, on February 23 McCurdy would make Canadian history. That frosty afternoon, he took his seat on the Silver Dart – his handsome but frail little biplane. Within minutes he had successfully completed a short flight off the ice before a crowd of onlookers. Dr. Bell immediately sent out a telegram: “McCurdy flew Silver Dart one mile and a half in great style.” As simple an event as this may have seemed, the following century in aviation would be Canada’s.

On April 29, 1909 Casey Baldwin spoke at the University of Toronto about the AEA, how flying really was no more dangerous than driving a motor car, and how aviation was sure to find its place. Soon he and McCurdy had the Silver Dart at Camp Petawawa to give the Canadian Militia its first airplane demonstration. After three successful flights on August 2, the pair decided to fly together. Unhappily, they cracked up on landing. One reporter explained how “The plucky aviators were not dangerously injured and are full of enthusiasm.” Baldwin added, “We are immensely pleased with our morning’s work, although we are sorry to lose the Silver Dart… It was our first machine and we had come to regard it in a personal light.” The ruins of the Silver Dart were picked over by souvenir hunters, Baldwin lamenting,  “Every Tommy in camp has a souvenir splinter.” What remained of the plane was burned.

The Baddeck team now assembled its back-up machine, Baddeck No.1. When Baldwin and McCurdy announced that they would fly it across the nearby Ottawa River, the press called this “perilous”. When the 42-hp engine recovered from the Silver Dart was tested on Baddeck No.1, the Toronto Daily Star demonstrated how everything is relative: “When the great engine commenced to work last night, it could be heard for miles… The strength of four men was required to hold the machine down while the propeller was working.”

On August 12 the Militia gathered at Petawawa to watch Baddeck No.1 perform. In his public comments, Colonel Fiset was skeptical, describing airplanes as  “too expensive a luxury”, adding that Canada would wait “to see what England will do … you cannot expect a young country like Canada to strike out and adopt an airship policy.” Fiset may have felt vindicated when, that same evening, McCurdy pranged Baddeck No.1. Soon McCurdy and company were back in Baddeck contemplating their futures. As it turned out, Baldwin would continue doing test and development in Dr. Bell’s laboratory and shops. McCurdy went into exhibition flying, racing and setting records. In January 1911, for instance, he made the first flight from Florida to Havana.

The AEA had put Canada on the aeronautical map. Come the First World War and its reputation grew further, 22,000 Canadians serving in the British air services. Many died in training and combat, and the nation’s first great air heroes became household names. Postwar, Canada adapted airplanes for many peaceful uses, then had to go to war again in 1939.

Over the decades Canada’s aircraft industry has introduced many renowned designs. Beginning in 1924 with the Vedette, it progressed to the Norseman, Beaver, CF-105, Argus and Challenger. Today, Canada is revelling in a “Golden Age” of aerospace with such incomparable products as the Bombardier Q400 and CRJ-1000, the Canadarm at work on the International Space Station, and Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines powering aircraft all around the world.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of their predecessors, Canadian aviators continue to stand out. At any moment they might be doing circuits in a “One Fifty” at the flying club, monitoring CRT displays on the flight deck of a long-haul “Triple Seven”, bucking crosswinds in a Twin Otter on final at some Arctic strip, going at each other in Hornets out of Bagotville, delivering a C-17 load of supplies to Kandahar, flying a Cormorant on a dangerous SAR mission, even training in Houston for an ISS mission. Simply put, the historic “Day One” that we return to in explaining all this good stuff is February 23, 1909. So … this year be sure to enjoy some of Canada’s Centennial of Flight events. If you get the chance, see the Silver Dart replica in the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa, and all the displays at the superb Curtiss Museum in Hammonsport. You won’t be disappointed.

Larry Milberry,
Member, Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame