Category Archives: Centennial of Flight

Aviation in Canada – The Formative Years at the printer!

Aviation in Canada - The Formative Years book coverAviation in Canada: The Formative Years is now at the printer and books will be delivered in early August. Feel free to order any time. Formative Years is a hefty, beautifully-illustrated, 224 page, large-format hardcover. If you already have Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades, you’ll know what to expect from Formative Years. It’s made up largely of material that’ll be new and tantalizing for the average Canadiana reader. Even those oddballs in the “I dare you to show me anything new” category will find loads of eye-popping history, never seen in any Canadian aviation book. So here’s the latest blurb about Formative Years:

Following right behind Vol.1 Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades, CANAV is excited to introduce you to Vol.2 – Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years. Here is another “must have” book for any sincere fan of Canada’s great aviation heritage. Make sure you have a copy of each of these beauties to enjoy in the years ahead! And don’t be buying into all the babble about the book being dead … you’ll know that civilization is on the brink when the anti-book internet yahoos win you over with that bunk!

So what’s with Formative Years? This lovely assemblage of paper, ink and glue picks up where Pioneer Decades finishes: 1918 — the end of WWI. No sooner are Canada’s wartime airmen back home than they start carving out niches in the peacetime aviation environment. You’ll read how they start by barnstorming in war surplus JN-4s and how, when planes start crashing, Ottawa gets wise to the need for Canada’s first air regulations.

Chapter 1 features the exciting 1919 New York-Toronto air race, organized to get Canada-US aviation interests moving. More than 50 wartime planes take part, flown by such vets as Barker, VC. Chapter 2 is an overview of global developments where Canadians needed to be informed. Ottawa watched events by the moment, making very careful notes. The first aerial crossing of the Atlantic is made by the airship R.34, then the US Navy NC-4 stages through Halifax and Newfoundland on a successful Atlantic trip. Disastrous British attempts follow, two airmen are rescued at sea after being given up as lost, then Alcock and Brown make their incredible flight from Newfoundland. The 2005 re-enactment of that great event, the first trans-Canada flight in 1920 and other important events are all covered.

Chapter 3 gets into the rise of commercial aviation, as the airplane finds more sophisticated roles. The first airliner visits Canada in 1921, then forestry becomes the catalyst for the rise of important Quebec and Ontario operations, especially Laurentide Air Service. The strange case of the Keng Wah flying school (training Chinese nationals in Saskatoon) is told. Further chapters detail the earliest plans for air service down the Mackenzie Valley and the famous Imperial Oil expedition to Fort Norman in 1921.

Chapter 6 deals with the famous 1926 McKee-Godfrey trans-Canada flight, the Red Lake gold rush, and the rise of Western Canada Airways and other air carriers. War surplus planes give way to newer types, especially the revolutionary Fairchilds, Fokkers and Junkers. The first great Arctic expeditions are described in fresh detail, including the 1929 MacAlpine expedition missing for weeks on the tundra. Many key personalities and companies are covered as never before, using new data from log books and diaries. Typical are the biographies of such mammoth aviation figures as W.J. McDonough and J.P. Culliton, airmen about whom few so far have heard. A chapter is set aside for McDonough, whose archive recently surfaced after decades in the shadows – his career is described from WWI to postwar days on the US Air Mail, trail-blazing  in the Arabian desert, pioneering in UK civil aviation, air racing and, finally, making his mark over Canadian bush and tundra. Another chapter deals with the achievements of the Ontario Provincial Air Service so, if the great flying boats like the HS-2L appeal to you, here’s a chapter in which to revel.

Formative Years deals with every other facet of the rise of aviation in post-WWI Canada — the first airports, such great companies as Canadian Airways, General Airways, Mackenzie Air Service and Wings Ltd., the impact of the Great Depression, the ups and downs of the air mail, all the famous aircraft including such giants of the day as the Ford Trimotor and Ju.52, and the ever-present dangers — harrowing crashes, strandings and rescues from James Bay to mountainous BC.

You have come to expect only the best from CANAV, and Formative Years maintains the standard. Besides its vast text with charts, lists, maps, bibliography and index, the book is a vibrant gallery of 450 photographs — aircraft, people, incidents and places galore. Anyone with the remotest appreciation of Canada’s astonishing past will revel in this unique Centennial of Flight publication. Order your autographed copy today!

Now it’s on to Aviation in Canada Vol.3 — The Royal Canadian Air Force 1924 – 1945. Earliest date for it looks like February-March 2010. If you have any interesting photos that might fit in for this CANAV blockbuster, please send them along. They’ll be far better off getting into circulation via CANAV, than collecting dust and totally inaccessible in some museum or archive. Thanks as usual for your interest in Canada’s aviation heritage and for supporting CANAV in its efforts!

Larry Milberry, publisher

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

 

EMMA:55437195

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.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE SABRE JET AT THE PETERBOROUGH ZOO

“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 mykawartha.com.

Canada’s Centennial of Flight in the printed word

These CAHS "old timers" were honoured at the May 9 meeting with Toronto Chapter Centennial of Flight awards: George Topple, Sheldon Benner, Bill Wheeler, Larry Milberry and Fred Hotson. (Ken Swartz)

These CAHS "old timers" were honoured at the May 9 meeting with Toronto Chapter Centennial of Flight awards: George Topple, Sheldon Benner, Bill Wheeler, Larry Milberry and Fred Hotson. (Ken Swartz)

On May 9, 2009 Larry Milberry delivered this brief “Centennial of Aviation” talk to the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. The venue was the Canadian Air and Space Museum.

Considering how this is Canada’s Centennial of Flight, today I’ll be taking a wide look at our aviation heritage and what’s been done in the printed word, etc., to preserve and further it. So far this year there have been some decent efforts to generate serious Centennial interest. There’s the ace of a model display by the Aero Buffs right here in the lobby, a showing of aviation nose art at the WCAM, the CAHS Calgary chapter’s next speaker will be reviving a local story — the sad tale of Mosquito “F for Freddie” and lots more is upcoming across the country. Locally, Sheldon Benner and CAHS friends have visited the Buffalo Aero Club, having in mind to spruce up Toronto CAHS chapter operations. I’m assuming that the CAHS national conventionthis year will be focusing on Centennial topics.

There recently have been some significant Canadian aircraft restoration projects, especially that of the AEA2005 – construction to flight status of a fine Silver Dart replica. I went down to Baddeck to check out that action, at the end of which it was announced that the replica would be housed permanently in a wing to be added to the magnificent Bell Museum in Baddeck. Put the Bell museum on your list of great museums to visit and while you’re at it; also add the incomparable Curtiss museum found just across Lake Ontario from us. In Montreal next week the Canadian Aviation Heritage Centre at Ste. Anne de Bellevue will roll out a near-perfect replica of a Bleriot, very similar to the pair that flew during the Montreal and Toronto aviation meets of 1910. The museum is also restoring a Fairchild bushplane and a Bolingbroke, so that folks there sure have plenty of enthusiasm and it’s well directed.

In June the CWH will fly its Lysander for the first time, a project that has been underway for many years. Meanwhile, Michael Potter’s Vintage Wings of Gatineau continues its whirlwind schedule of activities, especially regarding its Canadair Sabre. Painted in Golden Hawks colours, the Sabre began its round of appearances at Baddeck. Two weeks ago at Comox I saw the Sabre in the air with the Snowbirds. Elsewhere, members of the Alberta Aviation Museum have conducted some commemorative re-enactments of famous flights.

Upcoming are several glitzy airshows, as at Trenton and Bagotville, so everyone should have a chance to get in on the fun. What I’d like to do for the next few minutes is give a brief overview of some of the lasting efforts made in former years to lay a foundation for Canada’s aviation heritage. The original material from which our knowledge today emanates include such resources as the records of the AEA itself. Alexander Graham Bell insisted on recording and preserving in print everything that the AEA accomplished — its goals, successes, failures. Meanwhile, the contemporary press back then usually was doing a decent job covering anything to do with flight, beginning with Canada’s first manned balloon ascent at Saint John, New Brunswick 169 years ago. Although copies of most 19th Century local newspapers have not survived, there are enough in our archives coast to coast, so that we know about pretty well all the pioneer balloon events and other flight developments that followed to 1909. Contrary to what some of our “PhD” aviation researchers would say, it’s my contention that such contemporary newspapers by now should be viewed as a primary source for any serious history researcher. More and more archival newspapers are coming available on line every day. Through the Toronto Public Library, for example, the Toronto Globe and Toronto Daily Star are freely available from Day 1. All one needs to access them is a library card, and using the search options available, it’s a fair breeze to find all the aviation coverage from any year and on whatever topic you might be researching.

Beyond the local press, even before WWI there were specialized international publications covering flight. The first such in Canada likely appeared during WWI – newsletters and magazines published by the RFC training stations in Ontario. Then, just at war’s end, Lt Alan Sullivan was commissioned to write an resumé of the RFC training plan. This resulted in Sullivan’s 1918 title, Aviation in Canada. This is Canada’s first aviation book and Sullivan certainly did an excellent job telling the story using mountains of source material and illustrating the book with a wide selection of top-drawer photos. Copies of Sullivan’s book usually are for sale any day of the week on such internet sites as abebooks.com. One day this week I noticed that there were 36 on offer on “abe” ranging from $20 to $90. Any serious aviation reader should have a copy.

Meanwhile, in post-WWI days Canadians were reading from a host of UK and US aviation monthlies, getting all the immediate gen — in-depth articles covering technology, flying clubs, air regulations, military developments, biographical information and so on. All this is exceedingly valuable material for us to tap today. Canadian Air Review, the voice of the Aerial League of Canada, and Canadian Aviation Magazine, the voice of the Canadian Flying Clubs Association, both were circulating by 1928. Also by this time our first serious aviation history delvings were under way, led by Frank H. Ellis, one of the few Canadian members of the “Early Birds” – someone who had piloted a plane before December 17, 1913 (the 13th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight). Frank Ellis seems to have been born with a love for history in his veins.

By the mid 1930s Canadian Aviation was publishing his articles. In due course, he turned these into an in-depth book manuscript. But book publishing was a costly undertaking, so how was an ordinary little working man like Ellis going to get his dream into print? The problem was solved when Imperial Oil agreed to fund the project. This was likely due to the special interest of pioneer bush and Arctic pilot T.M. “Pat” Reid, then in sales at Imperial Oil. At the same time an arrangement was made with the University of Toronto Press and Ellis’ book was published in 1954. Entitled Canada’s Flying Heritage, this amazingly fine work remains in print 55 years later. “CFH”, as we call it, is where anyone who really cares about the subject must begin to read. I see that there are many copies for sale any day of the week on the internet. CFH certainly is our aviation history bible, yet its great author Frank Ellis remains unrecognized by Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. There always seem to be such ironies.

Others have since done great work getting our aviation heritage into print. Next to Ellis, I would name Kenneth M. Molson. His seminal works Canadian Aircraft since 1909 and Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport also should be in every self-respecting fan’s library. Like Ellis, Molson followed the aviation scene since he was a boy. He learned to fly pre-war, studied aeronautic science and worked at Victory Aircraft and Avro Canada before he became head the National Aeronautical Collection in Ottawa. There, Ken set the tone in establishing the world class museum that thousands visit annually. His special love was the bushplanes of the interwar years, so he set out to collect as many relevant examples as he could. Today you can enjoy the results of Ken’s efforts in such beautifully-restored types as the Bellanca, Fairchild, HS-2L and Junkers.

He also collaborated with such great history-minded men in Ottawa as W/C Ralph Manning in establishing a collection of WWI and WWII aircraft, especially those of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Ken later gave us another seminal book — Canada’s National Aeronautical Museum: Its History and Collections, then collaborated with another leading aviation history professional, Fred Shortt, to write the Curtiss HS Flying Boats. These are two further gems that eminently deserve to be on your library shelf. The “HS” book is exceptional and was supposed to be the first of a series. However, once Ken, then his successor, Bob Bradford, had retired from the museum, serious publishing there ceased and the tone changed, sad to say, from high enthusiasm for our aviation heritage, to the humdrum of a well-tuned Ottawa civil service operation. Nonetheless, the museum remains a monument of the finest order to its first great curators, Molson and Bradford.

Toronto Chapter member Neil McGavock showed up at the meeting to have his treasured Fred Hotson books The Bremen and De Havilland in Canada autographed by the renowned author himself. (Larry Milberry)

Toronto Chapter member Neil McGavock showed up at the meeting to have his treasured Fred Hotson books The Bremen and De Havilland in Canada autographed by the renowned author himself. (Larry Milberry)

Along the way other researchers and authors have produced some very solid and enduring books. The bibliography by now is vast, but I’ll mention some of the true highlights: the CAHS’s own 1983 125 Years of Canadian Aeronautics, the great John Griffin’s 1969 Canadian Military Aircraft Serials and Photographs, the incredibly useful 1977 Griffin-Kostenuk title RCAF Squadrons and Aircraft, Fred Hatch’s indispensable 1983 Aerodrome of Democracy, Fred Hotson’s 1983 De Havilland Canada Story, Donald Bain’s 1987 Canadian Pacific Air Lines: Its History and Aircraft, John Blatherwick’s 1989 A History of Airlines in Canada and Tom McGrath’s 1991 History of Canadian Airports. With these books on your shelf, you have the absolute core of a fine Canadian aviation library.

There also are by now hundreds of Canadian aviation biographies and autobiographies. Most are decent if not excellent contributions to the body of knowledge that interests us. I think here of such titles as Jack Lamb’s My Life in the North, Rex Terpening’s Bent Props and Blowpots, Wess McIntosh’s Permission Granted or Hap Kennedy’s Black Crosses of My Wingtips. The advent of “just in time” print technology has enabled many to economically produce small runs of their own aviation histories. While in Campbell River two weeks ago I met retired airline pilot Danny Bereza. He told me about his own book The Big Dipper Route. Luckily he had a copy to sell. Danny’s book turns out to be a top-notch story about a young pilot’s rights of passage in Arctic aviation. Well written and professionally edited, done in a readable type and so on, it’s a solid piece of work that begins to tell Danny’s story and that of Great Northern Airlines of Whitehorse.

At this point I have to recognize what probably is the grandest published source of all Canadian aviation history – our own CAHS Journal. Begun in 1963 and published faithfully at the rate of four per year, there are nearly 200 Journals in print. Each one is rock solid as to excellence in format and in content. Responsible for each and every one of them has been our own amazing Bill Wheeler. Having put some 6000 – 7000 pages of Canadian aviation history onto the printed page, it’s fair to say that no individual has done more to advance our important cause. Knowledgeable historians all over the world have lauded the Journal, so we sure can all be proud of it and of our amiable, unflappable editor. Sad to say, but Bill recently announced that he was retiring as Journal editor.

Finally, I have few words about the aviation book publishing process, something that people are always asking about. Presently, I’m trying to get a series going as to the Centennial of Flight. Volume 1 came out last November – Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades. Volume 2 Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years should be in print by late June. What people usually ask most about is the history process as I pursue it. In gathering material, I follow a tried and true system that began while developing my first book, Aviation in Canada, published exactly 30 years ago. It was by interviewing face to face and corresponding voluminously with the likes of Russ Bannock, Jack Charleson, Bud Found, Bob Fowler, Tommy Fox, Lewie Leigh, Wess McIntosh, Al Soutar and Harry Whereatt that I became a proponent of the personal interview. The way that a productive interview goes is straight forward. I sit down with an aviator who has on the table before us his log book, scrap books, photos, official documents, correspondence and such like. By going through all this material, while asking a series of very direct questions, the researcher starts to get a good history going. Recently I interviewed Typhoon pilot John Porter in Parksville, BC, then drove up to Campbell River to put Bomber Command air gunner Ted Turner under the microscope. What resulted is two pieces of solid history that will get nicely refined over the next few months, starting by having John and Ted tear apart my initial drafts. Naturally, I also use all the official sources that I can get my hands on, from the ORBs to personnel files, accident reports, official photo files and the like. Eventually, several qualified people also will read the manuscript – maybe a former crewmate, employer or CO. Qualified proof readers also will have a go at the manuscript, then at the galley proofs. The final result is a historically reliable piece of work.

Another topic often queried is marketing – who really wants books badly enough to lay out the cash? That’s the great conundrum. Sales wise, CANAV long ago decided to specialize in mail order. This came about following my initial experiences with Canada’s book sellers, whom I refer to as “the people who pretend to buy books, then pretend to pay for them.” Sad to say, but nearly the entire retail book business is that way. So … CANAV survives by selling directly to those readers seriously interested in aviation books and, roughly speaking, that approach works. Other than that, I still have a handful of trade outlets — solid, well run operators such as Aviation World, and a few of our aviation museum giftshops (such as this very one) that appreciate the important role that book sales have in the museum fund-raising game.

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

CANAV’s Select Spring Mailing

To you diehard readers left out there in the Canadian book-loving underground … here’s a great new book list. Good reading at great prices!

If you don’t yet have Vol.1 Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades in CANAV’s Centennial of Flight project, get a move on! Vol.2 Aviation in Canada: The Bush Flying Years is in production. See the full booklist at canavbooks.com and … take note that CANAV’s book sale is extended to May 15.

Here by way of tidbits is what our ever-intelligent reviewers have been saying about Pioneer Decades:

Air Force Magazine (Fall 2008) “A treasure for anyone with an interest in Canada’s wonderful heritage in the air … The wartime chapters deliver in-depth coverage of the rapid advances engendered by world conflict at the dawn of modern aviation.”

Bob Merrick in COPA Flight (January 2009) “The abundant black and white photographs on virtually every page are astonishing … the colour gallery … in itself is worth the price of the book. The spectacular pictures perfectly supplement the tight, well-written, heavily researched narrative …”

David Baker in Aviation News (February 2009): “The narrative story is well written and easy to follow, logically connecting the images with the text – not always the case with history books .. a story that is both inspiring and worthy of expansive publication … to be welcomed and treasured.”

Pierre Gillard in Magazine Plain Vol (Février 2009): “… cet ouvrage devrait devenir une réfèrence incontournable et, par le fait même, se trouver dans toutes bibliothèque d’amateur d’aviation qui se respecte.”

Well, check out the great just-added titles in the CANAV cataogue:

[ ] For the Love of Flying (Metcalfe-Chenail). If you’ve enjoyed Austin Airways, Grumman Mallard, Bush to Boardroom, My Life in the North and other such Canadian bush flying classics, you need this new book about Ottawa-based Laurentian Air Service. From earliest times on Wacos and Norseman, FLOF covers the evolution of a great company. Beavers, Otters, Goose, Beech 18s and DC-3 follow along. All the key personnel and activities are covered, from sport fishing, hunting and air ambulance charters of early days, then into the bush on prospecting & forestry work, surveying, supporting megaprojects like the James Bay hydro development … nothing is missed. This book belongs in your aviation library! 224pp, sc, photos, maps, biblio, index. $30.95 $28.50 A (Available May ’09).

[ ] Camp Borden: Birthplace of the RCAF Here is one of the best base or squadron histories — Canada’s premier flying station from 1917 to the present. Camp Borden initially trains 100s of airmen to fight “over the front” in France. Students learn on Curtiss JN-4s, then soon are fighting in Camels, SE5s, HP100s, flying boats, etc. The story moves into early post-war Canadian Air Force days, then “Borden” becomes the first great RCAF station. All the details of the interwar years, then comes WWII. Again, Borden is the training heart of the RCAF, as eager students get their wings on Yales & Harvards. The post-WWII era is covered vividly right to the present, with 16 Wing Borden still a vital CanForces training centre. The great personalities and all the aircraft types are included, as is 400 Sqn, presently at Borden with Griffin helicopters. 202pp, hc, lf, photos (b/w + colour), art, biblio, index. A gem of a Canadian aviation book and a solid bargain! $37.50 A

[ ] In the Footsteps of First Canadian Army: Northwest Europe 1943-1945 (Brown & Gimblett). Important new book covering Canada’s largest WWII field command. Solid text supported by photos and maps. All the details as the Army takes part in the liberation phase of the war — from Normandy, through France, the terrible Scheldt, then the Rhineland. It’s all here for anyone interested in this incredible era for Canada. Complements Battle Zone Normandy (see next). 160pp, sc,. $25.00 $22.50 A (Available June ’09)

[ ] Battle Zone Normandy series. Don’t miss these top-notch titles detailing what took place on the beaches and at later hot-spots 65 years ago! Each book gives all the solid background to planning and executing each landing/operation, then come the details on the field, the outcomes and aftermaths. Much Canadian content. Wonderful “after the battle” treatment, including then and now photos. Very special books, not to be missed. Here are the subtitles and get them while they last: Juno Beach, Gold Beach, Sword Beach, Utah Beach, Caen, Orne Bridgehead, Falaise Pocket, Op’n Epsom, Op’n Cobra. Perfect complement to Footsteps (above)! Ea. 196pp, hc, photos, maps, battlefield tour tips, index. Ea. $34.95. CANAV Spec. $14.50 A

[ ] Dancing in the Sky:The Royal Flying Corps in Canada C.W. Hunt’s excellent new coverage of a major Canadian theme. How 20,000+ Canadians trained as pilots, observers and technicians at such bases as Camp Borden in 1917-18. The impact of this vital program in the air war “over the trenches” in all theatres. Includes the RFC (Canada) exchange program with the US in Texas. Perfectly complements Pioneer Decades and Camp Borden! 352pp, sc, photos, index. $25.00 B

[ ] Great Circles: The Keith Greenaway Story A young man’s WWII years in the RCAF, then how he becomes a key postwar R&D figure. He flies on USAF B-29s on top-secret Arctic LORAN missions. A stint at the Defence Research Board follows, he publishes ground-breaking works such as Arctic Canada from the Air, receives the 1952 McKee Trophy, then is involved developing the world’s first airborne, self-contained GPS. In 1954 he goes on exchange with SAC, crewing on the B-47, B-52 and KC-97, and taking part in mass aerial exercises practicing for WWIII. In 1958 he crews on a US Navy blimp to the Arctic. Later postings include top-level instructing, station commander and overseas air adviser. The Order of Canada and membership in Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame follow. Solid RCAF history for any true fan and a bargain at that! 314pp, hc, photos, endnotes, index. $30.00 B

[ ] Strange Fatality: The Battle of Stony Creek 1813 (Elliott). Many of you have been enjoying the War of 1812 series from Robin Brass Studio. Last season came Capital in Flames. Now here’s Strange Fatality, another that you’ll be pleased to add… all the gen about how 700 British and Canadian troops routed 3500 US invaders. 300pp, sc, ill, maps, biblio, index. $24.95 $22.50 B (Available May ’09)

[ ] Airline Confidential:Lifting the Lid of the Airline Industry Insiders Havers & Tiffney analyze the modern airline scene. Get informed & entertained at the same time with this excellent perspective taken over two long airline careers. 296pp, sc. $24.95 $12.50 B

[ ] The First World War Strachan. Every reader should have a good handy reference book covering WWI. Here is your chance to add the very book. This one covers all the background, theatres, each great battle, etc. Highly touted by the great John Keegan himself, so you should have a copy, esp. at today’s price! 362pp, pb, photos, notes, index. $17.95 $12.50 B

[ ] No Prouder Place: Canadians and the Bomber Command Experience 1939 – 1945 (Bashow). One of the best all-round titles covering an important RCAF era. Required for anyone seeking the solid facts — the groups and squadrons, the great and the ordinary airmen, the operations, the aircraft. Immense detail. 600pp, hc, lf, photos, art. $60.00 $25.00 A

[ ] Commando: Illustrated History of Britain’s Green Berets from Dieppe to Afghanistan (Harclerode & Reynolds). Carefully researched and beautifully presented history of these classic military specialists, a n elite group that has counted 1000s of Canadians over the decades. 272pp, sc, lf, photos, biblio, chron, index. $24.95 $15.50 A

[ ] Secrets of D-Day (Collins). As it says, with such topics covered as the planning, German advance preparations for an invasion, De Gaulle, Rommel, SAS, impact on civilian life, etc. 202pp, hc, photos. $22.95 $12.50 B [ ] Behind the Lines Miller. The inside story of British, Canadian and US special operations personnel 1939-45. From trains (Camp X included) to deployment, often to the agent’s doom – all topics are covered in this highly-rated title. 286pp, hc, notes, biblio, index. $23.95 $15.00 B

[ ] S.O.E.’s Ultimate Deception (Boyce). The story revealed – how the SOE planned near war’s end to destabilize Hitler’s regime by lies, deception and weakening it from the inside. A vital operation pulled off by the ever-secret SOE. 244pp, hc, photos, notes, biblio, index. $42.95 $16.50 B (both SOEs $28.50 B)

[ ] Letting the Side Down (Murphy). The story of British traitors of WWII. How some 200 misfits and losers “went over”, the damage they did, how they ended. Fascinating reading! 258pp, pb, photos, notes, biblio, index. $20.95 $12.50 B

[ ] British Warships of the Second World War Roberts. For the dedicated naval history reader. All the naval architectural info about RN ship classes from MTBs on up to Capital Ships. Blueprints are the heart of the book, then comes detailed narratives and all the fine details as to specifications. Many specific vessels included. 160pp, hc, ill, biblio, notes, index. $55.00 $18.50 A

[ ] Battle of the Atlantic Marc Miller’s award-winning history of this vital WWII theatre of action and the key role played by the RCN and RCAF in winning the U-boat war. On the RCAF side, top coverage of ops on the Hudson, Stranraer, Canso, Liberator. All the U-boat kills. 254pp, hc, photos, maps, gloss, biblio, index. $39.95 $24.50 B

[ ] Hunter-Killer:US Escort Carriers in the Battle of the Atlantic (W.T. Blood). Scholarly, in-depth coverage of this key element in controlling these waters and fending of the U-boat menace. Perfect complement to the Miller book. Details of kills (TBMs, etc.), lists. 320pp, sc, photos, app’x, notes, biblio, index. $18.95 $10.50 B

[ ] The Royal Navy Day by Day (Sainsbury & Phillips). A magnificent chronology of the RN from earliest times (as far back as the 1200s!) to the present. Absolutely required for any RN history buff, but a new treasure for anyone with a general yen for military history. Beautifully ill., vast index. A useful and lovely book! $81.95 $27.50 A

[ ] Mavericks of the Sky Fabulous history covering the pioneer years of the US air mail. Solid coverage by Rosenberg & Macauley. The start of it all in 1918 with D.H.4s and such war surplus planes. Establishing the routes, all the great pilots, then the many disasters. Any reader will love this one, esp. the aero philatelic folks and fans of the Golden Years. 340pp, hc, photos, notes, index. $25.95 $14.50 B

[ ] The Harrier Story The great Peter March has done this A-1, compact history of one of the world’s most unique & successful fighters. From earliest days of jet VTOL, birth of the Harrier, to the latest models. At war from the Falklands to Iraq. All versions + specs & chron. 122pp, hc, photos, chron. $18.95 $9.50 B

[ ] Carnegie:The Richest Man Alive (Lamont-Brown). A bio that everyone should read. The story of the great Andrew Carnegie. From boyhood in Scotland to his stellar rise as a captain of industry in America. His rail & steel empire, incalculable wealth and incomparable charity that extends globally to this day. $14.95 $9.50 B

Order Info Sticker price usually appears first, but you pay the discounted price shown in bold Enclose your cheque/MO + $9.00 shipping for titles coded “A”, $7.00 for “B”, then add 5%. Two or more books (a good idea): flat shipping rate $15.00. (sorry … no plastic).

Mail your order with shipping info to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Canada M4E 3B6 Tel (416) 698-7559, E-mail: larry at canavbooks dot com

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Inside CANAV: “Aviation in Canada” project update

Here’s a wee update about what’s doing with CANAV’s Aviation in Canada project, and how we are faring these days.

Launched in November 2008, Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades is off to a solid start. If this title is news to you, it’s the first book dedicated solely to the beginnings of flight in Canada. You can see some of the reviews and book specs at canavbooks.com.

First on the Pioneer Decades bandwagon last fall were CANAV’s stalwart regulars. These are the loyal fans standing by for whichever new CANAV title. Mainly 1920s-60s-vintage aviation people, they go back with me to, as the great Wilf White used to say, the Year Dot. Sad to say, though, they’ve been fast fading from the radar screen in recent years. Time does that, eh.

The heart of sales at CANAV remains its mail order biz. Fans get my paper mailouts, then reply with a paper cheque. These keen readers get the books they love and CANAV gets to stay alive a bit longer. Besides mailings, CANAV also has its much enjoyed website, and this new blog. The website is the brainchild of my son Matthew, a computer programmer; the blog’s been created by daughter Kate, one of those dreaded PhD candidate types.

Other than the mail order side of things, if you’re lucky, you’ll find CANAV’s titles on sale in the odd retail bookstore or museum gift shop. You don’t find them in many independent bookstores (which in most cases are the folks whom I describe as pretending to buy books, then pretending to pay for them). Neither do you find CANAV anywhere in the book-selling chains — Canada’s chains simply explain how “We don’t deal with small publishers”, then list my books on their computer as “Out of Print”. As to museums, they sure are a varied bunch. Some operate in business-like fashion. Others, well…

Lately grandson Owen and I had a terrific outing to the Royal Ontario Museum. On the way home we picked up a few books in the ROM’s top-drawer gift shop. Wow, I thought, for Canada’s Centennial of Flight here’s just the spot for Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades. Knowing the business as I do, this book would easily sell here by the case, fitting in beautifully with the many popular titles that the ROM features.

The manager on duty T’d me up regarding whom to contact to maybe make a deal. Well guess what? I find out that the folks who run the ROM gift shop are “event network”. Hold on to your hat — they’re an American outfit in San Diego, California!

Getting curious, I fired off the good info to event network’s Helen Holmes, “Director of Inventory Management and Purchasing Operations” down there far away in the USA. Who would be surprised, though — I never heard back. God forbid, eh! “San Diego and the ROM Connection” … good grief!

There are tons of these stories in the CANAV archives. These will be the subject of a future best-seller: CANAV — It’s Been a Laugh a Minute. Included will be such great quotes as the Canadian aviation museum gift shop manager who tells me “We don’t think aviation books will sell”, or another bright light who ceased stocking CANAV titles, complaining that they were so popular that shoppers were over-looking the rest of his merchandise! I am not making up this stuff, really!

So what’s with Volume 2 of Aviation in Canada: The Bush Flying Era? This week Chapters 6 and 7 are in layout. The overall subject is the birth of civil aviation in Canada from 1919 through the interwar years. This one will really knock out anyone seriously keen on general  Canadiana, especially transportation. It’ll be a huge tribute to our great post-WWI nation builders, risk-takers, and the aviators who led the way when the whole prospect of commercial flying seemed unlikely to get much beyond first base.

Research-wise, as usual I’ve uncovered a goldmine of new material for Vol.2. This great stuff will all be interwoven with the well-loved stories (highlighted with new details). You’ll get an enriched perspective on how, immediately after WWI, aviation opened the Canadian North in forestry, mining, mapping, etc. The photos alone will bowl you over. Many are gems that you’ve enjoyed over the decades in the original Aviation in Canada (McGraw Hill-Ryerson 1979). I’m re-introducing them simply because they’re so fabulous. A few others are drawn from previous CANAV titles such as Air Transport in Canada. True believers will revel at seeing them again in their new context. Added to this fabulous visual foundation will be loads of photos never seen in any popular Canadian aviation history book.

I like that term “popular” —  I do these books for my general, popular readership (known to the Illuminati of Canadian aviation history as the peasantry — you and I). Unfortunately, our PhD and wanna-be PhD history types (who scoff at anything CANAV publishes) have another interpretation for the word. They use it as a put-down, as in “Milberry publishes popular history”, which is to say crapola that they wouldn’t touch for fear of catching the plague.

So long as our iffy economic times don’t worsen too much, watch for The Bush Flying Era ( or whatever the final title is) by mid-June. This will be CANAV’s 30th title in 28 years. Not too bad, eh, for a publisher who has yet to apply for his first government handout?

Have fun!

Larry Milberry

Whirlwind Trip to Baddeck: Canada’s Centennial of Flight 1909-2009

Canada's Chief of the Air Staff, LGen Angus Watt, chatting in the msueum with Canadian astronaut/Silver Dart test pilot Bjarni Tryggvason.

Canada’s Chief of the Air Staff, LGen Angus Watt, chatting in the museum with Canadian astronaut/Silver Dart test pilot Bjarni Tryggvason.

November 2011 Silver Dart update: Since we posted this item more than two years ago, much has happened or little has happened (depending on your point of view) regarding Canada’s Centennial of Flight, the Silver Dart flying replica and the Bell Museum. The Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto became the temporary home of the Silver Dart, but this fall the CASM was served notice to vacate its premises. Before long, the Silver Dart crew disassembled their lovely airplane and moved it away.

Meanwhile, there has not been a peep about the $3 million promised by Ottawa flunkies at Baddeck that day back in 2009. We were there and heard all the promises, but we sure knew enough not to hold our breath for cheques to be written.

In some ways, sad to say, Canada’s Centennial of Flight turned out to be a bit of a bust. The best things were getting the Silver Dart flying, the Vintage Wings Golden Hawks Sabre whizzing around the country, and a coast-to-coast air rally. Otherwise, what you had was one huge amount of hot air that saw Ottawa manadrins with zero knowledge of, or, interest in Canada’s aviation heritage jetting all around the country to events, swooshing in, scarfing down all the shrimp, cheese ‘n crackers and booze, then jetting their way back to Ottawa never to give another thought to the subject of aviation history.

From what I can see, there have been few lasting results. I hope at least that there were some aeronautical scholarships created in 2009. CANAV produced the only permanent record in book form celebrating the Centennial of Flight — Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades. Needless to say, the Centennial of Flight noise makers, everyone at 101 Colonel By Drive and all my other great supporters in Ottawa showed no interest in it, zilch. I know of only one member of the top-heavy Centennial of Flight Committee who ordered a copy — just as I had predicted. So … interesting food for thought for bone fide history fans. Here’s what I originally blogged …

Canada’s Centennial of Flight commenced royally in February with several days of celebrating in the fabulous community of Baddeck on Cape Breton Island. Events came one after another, culminating on February 22, when Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason made several short flights in a magnificent replica of the Silver Dart.

Why would the Silver Dart replica fly the day before the precise 100th anniversary – February 23? It was a nature thing – Atlantic Canada weather was iffy, and predicted to be absolutely rotten on the 23rd. So … when the 22nd looked good, the Silver Dart was rolled out of its hangar on the ice of Brad d’Or Lake, and soon was airborne before a crowd of enthusiastic locals and out-of-towners.

The replica is the result of years of dedicated volunteer effort headed by Doug Jermyn, a retired engineer from Pratt & Whitney Canada. His group is called “AEA 2005”, in honour the Aerial Experiment Association, the original group formed in 1907 in Halifax to conduct powered airplane experiments. Headed by Alexander Graham Bell and funded by his wife, Mabel, the AEA also included Canadians F.W. Baldwin, J.A.D. McCurdy, and Americans Glenn H. Curtiss and Thomas Selfridge. The group conducted nearly all its work at Curtiss’ facilities in Hammondsport, New York. There they designed and flew several airplanes, the last being the Silver Dart, designed by McCurdy.

Once most of the work had been done at Hammondsport, Bell, wishing to put a Canadian spin on the AEA flight experiments, shipped the Silver Dart to Baddeck. There on February 23, 1909 McCurdy made his famous Canadian first flight (all the details of the AEA are best covered in J.H. Parkin’s seminal 1964 book, Bell and Baldwin).

The gorgeous little Bell Museum in winter, when hardly normally shows up. This year was different, as hundreds arrived to take part in the Centennial of Flight fun. No one was worrying about the weather.

The gorgeous little Bell Museum in winter, when hardly anybody shows up. This year was different, as hundreds arrived to take part in the Centennial of Flight fun. No one was worrying about the weather.

Baddeck this February was in full flight in more ways than one. A banquet on the evening of the 22nd was a highlight, with tables of Maritimers; people related to the Bells, McCurdys and Baldwins; all sorts of top-notch locals and such others as the Vintage Wings contingent — in Baddeck to show off their magnificent F-86 Sabre in Golden Hawks colours. Astronaut Chris Hadfield flew the Sabre over Bras d’Or Lake on the 22nd, then Paul Kissman took it home to Gatineau on the 24th. VW Sabre pilots Tim Leslie and Dan Dempsey also were present, as were other history fans from the Chief of the Air Staff to contingents from the Atlantic Canada and Greenwood aviation museums, Carl and Sonia Mills (Carl did a Silver Dart PowerPoint lecture) and a group of Air Canada Pilots Association enthusiasts. It was great meeting everyone, and renewing acquaintances with people whom I had met decades ago. The latter included an ACPA pilot whom I had first met when he was a sprog flying a Norseman in Red Lake, another who was a junior C-130 pilot struggling through CF Staff College about 20 years back.

Good news was announced on the 23rd — the AEA 2005 was donating the Silver Dart to the Bell Museum at Baddeck, and $3 million would be provided for an addition to house the plane. Canada Post at the same time unveiled its Silver Dart postage stamp. This is a dramatic-looking collectors’ item, so be sure to get some while they last. This in spite of the fact that the artist seems to have missed the rear empennage altogether. (This reminds one of the great Canada Post stamp featuring an Air Canada 767 that has no engines! People chuckle about this. At Air Canada they told us “No sweat … that’s one of our extended-range 767 ERs.” Except that for Canada Post reasons it’s a 767 ER as in “engines removed”. Maybe Canada Post should consider checking with the experts before they do their next aviation commemorative.

If you ever get the chance, there are two spectacular museums which you should visit … the Bell Museum in Baddeck and the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York. They’ll knock you out! Larry Milberry, publisher