Category Archives: Canadair Sabre

Three top aviation book choices for year’s end 2016 and heading into the New Year.

In case you don’t happen to have a really good new book at your elbow this time of year, here are three wonderful titles. Pick one up and you’ll be a happy camper.

Canadair SabreThe Canadair Sabre is respected far and wide as the loveliest book ever produced about the F-86 Sabre. This beauty is the story of Canadair turning out 1815 North American Sabres in the 1950s, mainly for RCAF NATO squadrons. It starts with all the background from early postwar days when Mustangs and Vampires equipped the RCAF at home. With a better day fighter needed in the face of the USSR’s MiG-15, Canadair proves itself up to the task, setting up the production line at Cartierville. Soon the RCAF is known as No.1 in the NATO day fighter game. Sixty Canadian Sabres even fight in Korea with the USAF, where they account for several MiGs.

The Canadair Sabre covers the development story, then operations at the famous Sabre OTU at Chatham, details of NATO operations from the four Leapfrogs to daily patrols right up to the NATO/Warsaw Pact buffer zone, service back home with the home front squadrons in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and much more. Then come South Africa and Colombia, and there’s even a failed deal with Israel. As earlier Canadair Sabres are replaced by the hotter Orenda-powered models, earlier examples go down the line to such allies as Italy, Greece and Turkey. Some even end in Yugoslavia. A large number of ex-Luftwaffe Sabres end clandestinely in Pakistan, where they down India AF MiG-21s in a brutal 1971 air war. Talk about Sabre coverage, eh!

With 372 pages and some 600 photos, production and accident lists, fold-out line drawings, maps, index, etc., you won’t find a much more impressive or beautifully-produced aviation hardcover. Air Fan called The Canadair Sabre “The aviation literary event of the year.” Air International added, “There seems scant prospect of a better history”, and Greece’s aviation monthly Ptisi concluded: “A real oasis for F-86 fans and anyone interested in the Golden Years of the 1950s-60s.” You can have your own copy autographed by author Larry Milberry at the all-in special price (book, shipping, tax) of CDN$44.00 (USA & Int’l CDN$56.00). Cheque or MO by mail OK, or pay via PayPal to

LostLost: Unsolved Mysteries of Canadian Aviation offers top coverage of this theme including such famous crashes and disappearances as the Flying Bank Robber, Johnny Bourassa & Chuck McAvoy in mysterious NWT cases, and hockey star Bill Barilko. Other episodes include long-distance Russian flier Levanevsky, and TCA’s tragic Lodestar and North Star crashes in the BC mountains. 224 pages, softcover, photos, index. CANAV’s all-in price (book, shipping, tax) CDN$33.00 (USA & Int’l CDN$36.00). Cheque or MO by mail OK, or pay via PayPal to

CotliffeUnder the Maple Leaf by Kenneth Cothliff recounts the remarkable adventures of four young Canadians in Bomber Command during WWII. Four lads from different backgrounds fight overseas in deadly night skies punctuated by flak and crawling with heavily armed, radar-directed night fighters. Somehow, they beat the survival odds and get home, but each is much changed from the innocent fellow who had enlisted back in Canada. Says one reviewer, “Ken Cothliff’s book is extremely valuable in telling of Canada’s vital contribution to the air war against Germany.” 240pp, hard cover, photos. CANAV’s all-in price (book, shipping, tax) $60.00 (USA & Int’l CDN$68.00). Cheque or MO by mail OK, or pay via PayPal to

Click here for CANAV’s complete list for more great titles tailor-made for any serious reader:

Canadian Aeorplanes Ltd. marks 100th anniversary!

December 15. 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd. CAL was the first company in Canada to have an aircraft production line. Its operations in west Toronto (1917-18) turned out more than 2000 Curtiss JN-4 Canucks. These were used by the Royal Flying Corps (Canada) to train Canadians to fly. Many of the RFC (C) graduates would fight overseas with the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service, then the Royal Air Force (once the RFC and RNAS merged in 1918).

JN 4s in productionIn these two fine photos from CANAV’s archives JN-4s (above) are seen on the CAL line. JN-4 C142 (below) is seen dormant in a typical Southern Ontario winter scene. The RFC (C) operated training bases from Leaside and Armour Heights in suburban Toronto, to Camp Borden, Beamsville, Deseronto and Texas. Flying continued in the toughest of winter weather in the rugged wood-wire-and-fabric JN-4C.


Aviation in Canada: Evolution of an Air Force: Launched and in Orbit!


After dozens of book launches, such events sure can be predicable but, in CANAV’s experience, every one has turned out to be a blast. I sometimes am asked about book launches of yore, and those days sure race back to mind. The first was with McGraw Hill-Ryerson’s Aviation in Canada back in 1979. That one I held in the back yard at 51 Balsam, which then became the venue for several similar excellent thrashes — Sixty Years and Austin Airways are memorable.

The first all-CANAV event was held at Pete Mossman’s great uptown domicile in the summer of ’81. There we launched The Avro CF-100, for which Pete had done the fabulous artwork. November 2, 1982 came next — my first $3000 hotel splash, held at the Cambridge Inn out by what we used to call Malton Airport (today’s YYZ). The idea was to kick off The Canadair North Star, but the weather closed in — IFR all the way and I could foresee disaster. Astoundingly, things panned out beautifully. Piles of North Star fans from Canadair, TCA and RCAF times suddenly materialized. Through the efforts of Canadair exec Dick Richmond, the company Lear flew to Malton with several senior Canadair retirees, Dick included; other folks turned up wearing old time TCA stewardess and pilot outfits and, miracle of miracles, a good few North Star books were sold.

John McQuarrie and old team mate Larry Milberry have just exchanged their new books at The Brogue. John got his start in publishing after a conversation with Larry back around 1990. That day he showed out of the blue with a series of questions starting with, "I think I'd like to get into publishing. Where does a fellow start?" He began by producing some world-class Canadian military titles, branched off into a series on ranching, then got into cities, canals, etc.

A 1986 Ottawa launch for The Canadair Sabre brought out a fabulous crowd of Sabre pilots and groundcrew. Included were several who had fought in Sabres in Korea — Ernie Glover (3 MiG-15 kills), Andy Mackenzie, Omer Levesque (1st RCAF MiG-15 kill), Claude LaFrance, Eric Smith, Bruce Fleming. Talk about the cream of the crop. There also were Golden Hawks milling around and Vic Johnson screened a fine team video. It was either here or at our Ottawa launch for Sixty Years that the Soviet air attaché showed up — some former MiG-21 pilot who pretended not to speak English. A CanForces general in the crowd explained that such fellows attend any such Ottawa event just to check on who’s in town, in this way getting some “intel” to pad their reports back to Moscow! Sadly, no one seemed to be taking photos that night in Ottawa — I don’t have a one.

The De Havilland Canada Story was launched at the roll-out of the Dash 8 in 1983, Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story at Hart House at the University of Toronto, and Canadair: The First 50 Years took flight at a glitzy affair down in old Montreal. That was an amazing one with hundreds of Canadair retirees and VIPs, including three CanForces generals. At each of these affairs, books were given out by the hundreds, so what a way to spread the good word at your clients’ expense!

Another zany book launch was for Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story held at 410 Wing RCAFA at Rockcliffe (Ottawa). As Hugh Halliday and I were setting up in mid-afternoon, a blizzard descended. By the time we had been hoping to see a crowd, only a few old 410 regulars were on hand. They’d been sitting all afternoon at the bar, so weren’t much interested in books. Never mind, however, for people gradually started to filter in, storm or not. About 8 o’clock there was a clatter outside. I looked but could only see snow streaking by horizontally. Then, out of this cloud entered 438 Sqn Hon. Colonel Andy Lord, a former 438 Typhoon pilot. Andy had commandeered a 438 Kiowa helicopter to fly up weather-be-damned from St. Hubert. Naturally, he looked ready to party or take on the Hun, but not so his young pilots — they were white as sheets!

Book launch show-and-tell: John Hymers, Dennis, Rick, Kelly and Andrew look over a photo album put together by John showing WWII PR photos taken by Goodyear Rubber in Toronto. No one had seen these since the war. Happily, John had rescued the negs from the trash one day ... such amazing scenes as a Bolingbroke on show at the CNE.

Tony (Aviation World), Rick and John looking to be in decent form.

So what happened on the book launch scene last week — August 19, 2010? It was as predicted — a super bunch of supporters, old friends, some of whom have been there for CANAV since Day 1. Renowned author Fred Hotson (age 95 or so) made it with  his chauffeur, Dave Clark, an old-time Canadair type. A few other vintage CAHS members turned up — Bill Wheeler, Shel Benner, Pete Mossman, Gord McNulty, etc. Rae Simpson, with whom I used to photograph planes in boyhood days, showed, fresh in on a King Air flight from The Soo. Photographer-publisher John McQuarrie blew in from an assignment in Kingston, showing off the glitziest book of the day — his magnificent new “Spirit of Place” title — Muskoka: Then and Now. Ace photographer Rick Radell and Aviation World stalwarts Tony Cassanova and Andy Cline showed with all their great support — lugging boxes and such. Two other fine party guys on the scene? AC 767 and CWH Canso driver John McClenaghan and geologist George Werniuk. John Timmins, of Timmins Aviation fame, was taking in his first CANAV event. Milberrys Matt and Simon/Amanda (plus wee ones) arrived as per usual.

Fred, Sheldon and Gord. Fred spent years as national president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, was an early member of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. A former DHC employee, Sheldon became an early CAHS member. Gord followed his famous father, Jack, into the hobby aviation world and in recent years has been an indispensable member of the CAHS Toronto Chapter.

Larry makes a sale to Gord as ex-RCAF radar tech and military policemen Al Gay watches. Al and some friends have been developing a flight simulator series based on all 100+ aerodromes of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. (Tony Cassanova)

Rick wants a book but is having trouble letting go of his $50 bill. The aviation gang ... what a bunch, eh! This joke is no laughing matter to anyone publishing aviation books: "Question: Who invented the world's thinnest copper wire? Answer: Two airline pilots fighting over a penny!" Sad to say, but this seems to be true. As a group, airline pilots religiously avoid CANAV book launchings. (Tony Cassanova)

Wartime-wise? Well, due to time doing what it does so efficiently, there were few on hand from 39-45 times. John Coleman (Lancaster pilot 405 and 433) and Jack McCreight (Lancaster nav) were the sole RCAF reps, whereas in days gone by dozens of such super Canadians used to show. Fred Hotson of Ferry Command was the Methuselah of the wartime bunch on this day. Other friendly folks came and went as the afternoon passed — just A-1 all the way.

Lancaster pilot John Coleman chats with renowned aviation artist Pete Mossman at The Brogue. Pete's artwork helped CANAV's early books gain fame -- our CF-100, North Star, DHC and Austin Airways titles. In recent times Pete painted dozens of magnificent aircraft profiles for Dan Dempsey's incomparable book A Tradition of Excellence.

Rae Simpson and Jack McCreight had lots to talk over through the afternoon. Rae flew CF-104s during the RCAF's NATO heyday in the mid-1960s, then rose to be the CanForces chief test pilot. Jack's wartime training story is told in our new book.

The staff at The Brogue in Port Credit supplied the yummy food and whatever liquid refreshments we needed, so the whole effort came off as finely as a publisher could wish. Toronto’s summer nightmare traffic scenario sure tried to put the kibosh on things, but CANAV’s “solid citizens” toughed it out, battling off the worst that the QEW and 427 threw at them. Thanks to everyone for making it all another gem of a day — Book No.31, if my count is on. Cheers … Larry

CANAV fans at The Brogue: banking man Tony Hine, geologist George Werniuk, computer guy Matt Milberry and astronomer Andrew Yee.

John, Bill Wheeler and Larry shooting the breeze about RCAF history, books and publishing. Bill edited and published the CAHS Journal for more than 40 years. (Tony Cassanova)

While we were partying at The Brogue, Andy Cline was sweating it out at Aviation World, but after work he joined us anyway. If you haven't yet visited Aviation World on Carlingview Dr. near YYZ, in Richmond, BC near YVR, or in Chicago near Midway MDW, make a point of it. (Tony Cassanova)

Blast from the past: The Canadair Sabre

Since attending Marc-André Valiquette’s book launch in Toronto on February 20, Robert St-Pierre has been looking at old photos at home in Pointe-Claire. He sends along this one taken at the July 25, 1986 Dorval launch of The Canadair Sabre. That night we had a room full of Canadair retirees, former RCAF Sabre pilots, aviation photo fans, book collectors, etc. Talk about being surrounded by history! In this ancient photo from that memorable evening are Robert St-Pierre (air traffic controller), Jean Gaudry (Sabre pilot, 441 Sqn, North Luffenham 1952), Bob McIntyre (pilot, Nordair), Larry Milberry (author), Richard Beaudet (pilot, Bradley Air Service), and J.T.Price (Sabre pilot, Golden Hawks).

We’re all still here today, except for the fabulous “JT”. The Canadair Sabre has gone down as the world’s best ever Sabre book and is still holding its pride of place after nearly 25 years. If you don’t have a copy, order one today. If you’re any kind of aviation history fan, this book will knock you out. Read more about The Canadair Sabre at Be sure to ask Larry to autograph your copy. Presently (September 2013) the Sabre book is on sale at $20.00 — a 50% saving. Canadian orders $33.60 delivered, US & overseas Cdn$44.00 “all in”. Any cheque drawn on any Cdn or US bank, or use PalPay. E-mail for a PayPal invoice.

Centennial Phoenix: The Canadair Sabre: Historic Peterborough Event in 2009, then a 2019 Retrospective … Have a Read!

Riverview Park in Peterborough on June 6 as 428 Wing unveiled its beautifully refurbished Sabre.

Riverview Park in Peterborough on June 6 as 428 Wing unveiled its beautifully refurbished Sabre.

One of CANAV’s landmark publications is The Canadair Sabre, praised internationally as the finest F-86 book ever published. No.8 of our 30 titles to date, the book appeared in August 1986 and chronicles Sabre history from first flight in the US in 1947, to the RCAF getting involved less than two years later. In these early postwar days Canada was under pressure to support the UK by equipping with Vampire jet fighters. RCAF HQ, however, knew that the West’s new threat, the mighty USSR, already had such fighters as the MiG-15 (no one at RCAF HQ wanted to send a Vampire out to tangle with a MiG-15).

The Vintage Wings Sabre taxies arrives at Hamilton on June 3. Then, pilot Tim Leslie steps from his cockpit. Even as he was unstrapping, Tim was taking questions from the crowd. Talk about interactive!

The Vintage Wings Sabre arrives at the CWH at Hamilton on June 3, 2009. Even as he was unstrapping, pilot Tim Leslie was taking questions from the crowd. Talk about interactive!

So it was that Ottawa committed to the Sabre as its postwar day fighter. The RCAF quickly began sending technical staff and pilots on course to the US, as Canadair began setting up for production. Canadair test pilot A.J. “Al” Lilly was the first Canadian to fly a Sabre (August 3, 1950 at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio), and the first Canadian to go supersonic (two days later). At Dorval on August 8 he flew the first Canadair Sabre. Meanwhile, F/L Omer Levesque became the first RCAF pilot to fly a Sabre (November 1950). In May 1951, 410 at St. Hubert became the first RCAF Sabre squadron.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage and Vintage Wings Sabres nose-to-nose at Hamilton on June 3. The CWH jet is 23651 and still wears its original Golden Hawks paint scheme circa 1960 .

The Canadian Warplane Heritage and Vintage Wings Sabres nose-to-nose at Hamilton on June 3. The CWH jet is 23651 and still wears its original Golden Hawks paint scheme circa 1960 .

As they say, “the rest is history”, much of which is covered in The Canadair Sabre. CANAV’s print run totalled 10,422 copies, the job being done by the Bryant Press in Toronto. The whole creative and production job was in the ancient style – roughing out design page-by-page, then getting everything laid out in cut-and-paste style by hand, making film and plates, then rolling Bryant’s huge, dinosauric Harris presses. Somehow it all came together and, 23 years later, only a few unopened boxes of gorgeous Sabre books remain.

The ex-RCAF Sabre pilots who attended the Peterborough event.

The ex-RCAF Sabre pilots who attended the Peterborough event.

Book selling “experts” always scoff at a publisher who won’t remainder books after so many years. But CANAV did not go into business to remainder its beautiful books. Other publishers would call my stock of Sabre books a  “toxic asset”. Shows you how little they know. Those very books sitting on pallets in the warehouse are far from toxic. For example, Sabre sales each year cover the storage costs for CANAV’s entire inventory. How toxic is that! No … instead of being dumped, a nice book needs a nice home and in the near future that’s where the 10,422nd copy of The Canadair Sabre will surely reside, making the publisher a happy boy indeed.
What’s that they say about “What goes around comes around?” Well … doesn’t it just! Canada’s Centennial of Flight has turned into not just the year of the AEA2005 Silver Dart replica, but it’s also a sort of Year of the Phoenix, which is to say, a year of resurrected Sabres. Under Michael Potter, Vintage Wings of Gatineau, Quebec has restored to flying condition Canadair Sabre 23314, which is wowing fans at airshows from coast to coast. I first saw it at Comox in April, then in June at Hamilton.

The Vintage Wings Sabre formates with the Centennial of Flight CF-18 and a Snowbird Tutor at Comox on April 25, 2009.

The Vintage Wings Sabre formates with the Centennial of Flight CF-18 and a Snowbird Tutor at Comox on April 25, 2009.

Having begun in 1954, the Vintage Wings Sabre served with illustrious 441 Squadron at Marville, France and later with such outfits as the Sabre Transition Unit at Chatham, New Brunswick. Following retirement of the Sabre from Canadian service in 1968, 23314 rusted at Mountainview (near Trenton, Ontario) until sold in the US, where it flew with various owners as N8687D, until coming home in 2007.
23314 isn’t Canada’s only 2009 “Phoenix” Sabre. For $4500 in 1970, 428 Wing, Royal Canadian Air Force Association of Peterborough, Ontario acquired 23245. This Sabre did not get to serve overseas on NATO duty, but flew at No.1 (Fighter) OTU at Chatham, then was a ground training aid. Mounted on a pylon at Peterborough’s Riverview Park and Zoo, it sat for decades until 428 decided to give it a Centennial of Flight makeover. Peterborough’s renowned Flying Colours aircraft refurbishing company undertook the job, along with many other contributors from crane to trucking experts.

On June 6, 2009 – the 65th anniversary of D-Day – 428 Wing re-dedicated its freshly-restored Sabre. Hundreds of keen supporters turned out at Riverview Park to marvel at one of aviation’s grandest sights – an F-86 “flying low and fast” over the trees, now in the NATO colours of 430 “Silver Falcon” Squadron. On hand for the historic event was the Wing in force, then 534 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadets, old-time Sabre pilots, Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn (former CF-104 and CF-18 pilot), Col Mike Hood (Wing Commander Trenton) and many others. This was one of Canada’s great Centennial of Flight events and I sure wasn’t surprised to learn that 428 has been named Canada’s top Air Force Association wing for 2009. Canada has other Sabres – at the Canadian Warplane Heritage, Reynolds-Alberta Museum, Western Canada Aviation Museum, etc. But the special dedication shown by Vintage Wings and 428 Wing has helped put this classic fighter back in the limelight and has turned 2009 into a bit of a “Year of the Sabre”.

If you don’t yet have The Canadair Sabre in your library, get moving and let CANAV know, before the last copy flies into the sunset. While it goes for $114 on Ebay, you can order a shiny new, autographed copy from CANAV for only $32. Click here to order your copy today!

Cheers … Larry Milberry

In August 2019 reporter/photographer Lance Anderson took a new slant on the “Peterborough Sabre”. This is well worth a read, so have a look:

Retired Norwood pilot recalls flying Peterborough zoo’s supersonic jet

Mac Danford says serial numbers on the jet match those in his flight log books from the mid 1950s

NewsAug 26, 2019by Lance Anderson Peterborough This Week



Norwood’s Mac Danford, 82, stands in front of the Mark 5 Sabre jet perched on a pedestal at the Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough. Danford flew this very jet as a NATO defence pilot with ‘Tomahawk’ Squadron 422 while stationed in Europe.  Danford says serial numbers in his flight logs match those on the Mark 5 Sabre jet that rests on a pedestal at the Riverview Park and Zoo. Danford, 82, flew this very jet as a NATO defence pilot with ‘Tomahawk’ Squadron 422 while stationed in Europe. – Lance Anderson/Torstar

From diving at supersonic speeds to precisely manoeuvring the F86 Sabre Mark 5 through the clouds, Danford said when he was in the cockpit it seemed the jet became an extension of himself. “It was more responsive than anything else I’ve ever seen,” he added. “It was almost like it was in tune with your mind.” He flew that jet for about three months before he was given other Sabres to fly while he was a NATO defence pilot with “Tomahawk” Squadron 422 while stationed in Europe. It was a time in his life Danford looks back on quite fondly and one that he would never have been awarded if it wasn’t for a plowing match in Cobourg. It was there, when he was just 12-years-old, when Danford first soared with the birds. His parents had moved there from Madoc after the Second World War. “It was a $5 fare to go for a flight and if I was going to spend all of my money I wanted to get in the front,” recalled Danford. The pilot agreed and took the wide-eyed youngster on a tour of the countryside not once, but twice. “I fell in love with aviation then,” said Danford.

Advanced for his age, Danford excelled in school, finishing Grade 9 by the time he was 12. One day, when he was a little older he found himself in principal Herb Caskey’s office at Norwood high school. “He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I’m going to fly,” said Danford. Caskey set Danford on a path to become a pilot by suggesting courses he should take in school. One February day in the early 1950s Danford was greeted by Caskey when he got off the bus at school. “He asked me if I could be in Peterborough by 9:30 a.m. that day because (Air Force) recruiters were there,” said Danford.

Danford left school and hitchhiked his way to Peterborough. That morning he wrote three general knowledge exams and was asked to come to Toronto for additional testing. But he had to wait until he was 17 and when his birthday rolled around, Danford hitched a ride to Toronto on a milk truck and went to the recruiting station. He was later accepted into the flight-training program, first piloting a Harvard. “It felt like you were the king of the world,” said Danford of the first time he piloted the Harvard plane. That feeling was eclipsed by an even greater rush when he first took flight in the Mark 5 sabre a year later flying air defence for NATO.


“At the time the Sabre was the fastest, most lethal fighter,” said Danford, adding he never flew a combat mission. He flew Sabres for four-and-a-half years, logging more than 1,000 hours. But government cutbacks made Danford take pause. Five hundred pilots were cancelled he said, prompting him to pursue other avenues.

“I didn’t see a future for myself, and I wasn’t a devoted solider. I (joined the Air Force) to have fun and believe me I did,” said Danford. Regardless, he ended up joining the army for a chance to return to Canada with his wife Marie. Eventually he was promoted to lieutenant to train members in the service corp. But no matter what he did, that love affair Danford had with flying couldn’t be ignored. “I was with the service corp when they brought in helicopters. The first unit, I was assigned as a pilot,” said Danford. “I flew helicopters for the rest of my (working) life.”

After he left the military following 24 years of service, Danford worked in the civil aviation sector. He said he was one of the first pilots to fly an air ambulance when they were introduced in Ontario. He also worked for Transport Canada as a helicopter inspector and worked as a flight trainer and instructor for private firms. All the while he lived on a farm in Dummer Township, until moving into a house in Norwood in 1999.

“I retired in 2001 from a helicopter company as a trainer in Newmarket,” said Danford. “That was the last time I was in the sky.” Danford admits that his flying career seems like a lifetime ago; almost like it took place in a different world. But regardless, he added the memories don’t go away, adding he still dreams about soaring above the clouds. “I tell myself I don’t miss it because if I went for another (flight), I’d be back flying full time.”

Lance Anderson

Lance Anderson is a photographer/reporter with Peterborough This Week and