(Click on the photos to see them full size.) Factory fresh RCAF Consolidated PBY-5 9806 “Princess Alice” is rolled out midst fanfare at Canadian Vickers in March 1943. After its wartime RCAF service, 9806 was sold in Brazil as PP-PCX. With the fall of Germany and Japan in 1945, this great PBY factory became home to a new company — Canadair.
Historic photographs steadily surface in the CANAV Books archives. There’ll never be enough time to use but a fraction more of these in books. Happily, our blog provides a nice outlet. Here are a few recent finds – original Kodak 4 x 5 colour transparencies plus some lovely first generation b/w prints all taken by Canadair’s photographers at Cartierville in the late 1940s. Cartierville was booming at this period. In the factories along the north airport boundary (the Bois Franc Rd. side), CanCar was turning out new Norseman Vs and developing the Burnelli CBY-3 Cargomaster, a twin-engine transport in the DC-3 category. Things were hopping at the old Curtiss Reid Flying School along St. Laurent Blvd., with lots of war surplus airplanes buzzing around — Tiger Moths and Cornells, Ansons and Cranes. But the real action was at Canadair, a new company formed at war’s end in the suddenly dormant Canadian Vickers facility, where hundreds of PBY-5s had been manufactured for the war effort. With a big push from Ottawa bulldozed through by C.D. Howe, and promoted by company founder, Benjamin Franklin, Canadair began manufacturing North Star transports for TCA, the RCAF and BOAC. A less glitzy yet very important second big enterprise was refurbishing hundreds of war-weary C-47s for the airlines and for “Corporate Canada”. Here are a few samples from my vintage Canadair photo files bolstered by other relevant b/w pix, which I took back around 1960 (serious bibliophiles will have enjoyed many other such photos in CANAV titles over the decades).
Wouldn’t you just love to slide back in time to spend a lovely summer’s day picnicking at postwar Cartierville! Here sits CF-TFC “Champlain”, a sparkling new Canadair North Star ready for hand-over to TCA in the summer of 1947. In the distance under the engines are the Curtiss Reid flying school hangars. Over by the looming billboard on St. Laurent Blvd. are some of the barrack blocks that accommodated wartime workers. This is one of the Canadair original 4x5s in my collection where the colours got compromised over 60-70 years. Getting them back in 2015 was a challenge. On the whole, however, these big Kodak transparencies have weathered the decades well.
The booming DC-3 line at Cartierville circa 1946. This enterprise brought in a plane load of much-needed cash just as Canadair was trying to get a foothold in the worldwide aviation market. Benjamin Franklin played his cards very sharply in the war surplus materiel game., scooping up trainloads of DC-3 and DC-4 components at Douglas plants in the US at 10 cents a pound.
Ready for delivery, gleaming DC-3 CF-GJZ taxies in the snow at Cartierville in 1948. “GJZ” had begun off the Douglas production line in 1943 as USAAC C-47 42-92400. In 1944 it went to the RAF as Dakota FZ639, did its wartime service, then was acquired dirt cheap by Canadair at war’s end. Fully rejuvenated, it was sold to the Algoma Steel Company of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Christened “Victoria”, it operated into 1964, when it was replaced by Gulfstream CF-ASC. From then into 1977, it flew as N510Z and N766VM (mostly based in Florida). Finally, it migrated to Guatemala with military tail number “510”. In 2015 it reportedly was a museum piece somewhere in Guatemala.
“Victoria” during a 1959 visit to Toronto/Malton. Legendary pilot Allan Coggan of Algoma Steel usually was in the captain’s seat on such a visit.
In 2012 David Osborn came across Canadair DC-3 CF-GJZ/FAG510 at La Aurora airport in Guatemala City. How the mighty have fallen, one might observe! La Aurora is a fairly typical Central American airport. Take a look at the satellite view of it on Google. See if you can spot a B-25, a T-33 and at least two DC-3s, along with a wide collection of other types big and small, old and new.
Canadair’s own DC-3 CF-DXU at Malton on May 19, 1960. Originally 42-93060 delivered to the USAAF in early 1944, it soon was transferred to the RCAF as KG526 for domestic use. It was converted for TCA as CF-TED in 1945, but a few months later returned to Canadair. As “DXU” it served the company into 1968, by which time the company had a Convair 240 and a Mallard. “DXU” then worked for many Canadian operators (mainly in the north) into the early 1980s, when it went for pots and pans.
Before there was “DXU” there very briefly was “DXT”. Formerly RAF KP216, it was dormant at Dorval when the war ended. Benjamin Franklin quickly latched on to it, getting it serviceable in 1946 and looking very flashy in glitzy Canadair markings. Then an Argentine buyer cropped up to whom “DXT” was just as quickly sold. As LV-ADG it seems to have endured in Argentina into the early 1970s.
One of the choice photo ops in which we school-age fans would revel at Malton Airport in the 1950s would be a DC-3 parked in the clear. This magnificent example had been USAAC 42-9228. Delivered in October 1943, it soon was handed over to the RAF as FL596. Canadair snagged it for peanuts in the UK in 1947, had it ferried across the pond (ferry pilots were lucky to get $50 for such a trip), then fitted it luxuriously for the prominent Eaton family of Toronto. The Eatons flew “ETE” into 1963, when it was replaced with Canada’s first Lockheed Jetstar, CF-ETN. Thereafter, “ETE” served the Hudson’s Bay Co. in Winnipeg for a dozen years, then laboured in the north for Ilford Riverton, etc., before migrating to Florida in 1979 as N62WS. Sadly, ol’ “ETE” could only get into trouble in its new environment. For starters, in 1980 it was impounded in Indiana for a drugs infraction. Slithering out of that jam, it moved to Central America to smuggle more drugs and run guns. On March 24, 1984 it mysteriously was shot down along the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border, while illegally carrying a load of weapons. All 7 aboard died. At the time, the plane falsely was flying its once proud identity – CF-ETE.
Story time … CF-TDJ began as USAAC C-49J 43-1985. Acquired by Canadair in 1945, it was converted as one of TCA’s original DC-3s. However, “TDJ” soon was re-sold to Goodyear Tire and Rubber of Toronto. Canadair installed the deluxe interior, then “TDJ” faithfully served Goodyear into 1984, when it was replaced by a Learjet. In October 1982 I had a memorable flight in “TDJ”. This was connected to my pal, Steve Piercey, being in town to do an air-to-air shoot with “TDJ” for an article in his beloved Propliner magazine. Steve worked that day from an Aztec, provided gratis by the great Carl Millard (see Steve’s “TDJ” item in Propliner, Winter 1982). Some time later, I mentioned to Captain Don Murray (who had flown “TDJ” from the day it joined Goodyear) that instead of dumping its beloved DC-3 for far less than it was worth, Goodyear could try donating it to Canada’s National Aviation Museum in Ottawa in exchange for a decent tax receipt. Being a history-minded and penny-wise fellow, Don listened, then jumped on my suggestion. A deal was arranged with the NAM at Rockcliffe. On December 19, 1983 Bob Bradford (head of the NAM) and several guests, myself and Ken Molson included, boarded “TDJ” for its nostalgic last flight. In perfect weather we cruised up to Rockcliffe, made a ceremonial flypast on arrival, landed, then watched as CF-TDJ was pushed into the main hangar. There it sits to this day just as you see it here.
TCA received more than 20 Canadair DC-3 rebuilds. Here CF-TEG sits in its polished glory at Cartierville, ready for customer acceptance. “TEG” served TCA 1945-57, then Canada’s Dept. of Transport as CF-GXW to 1985. In 1986 it flew around the world promoting Vancouver’s Expo 86. Last heard of in the 2010s it was N173RD with Algonquin Airlines.
Having begun in 1944 as USAAF 43-15079, this DC-3 was acquired by Canadair for conversion and sold circa 1947 to Aeroposta Argentina. Little is known of its later career, but there is a mention that it may have been wrecked soon after migrating to the Southern Hemisphere.
Originally USAAC 42-93418, this C-47 mainly served the RAF as KG598. It reached Cartierville for rebuild in July 1946, then was sold as a virtually new DC-3 to Aviateka of Guatemala. There, it operated until a landing mishap some 30 years later.
This Canadair DC-3 was done up for Colonial Airlines, predecessor of American Airlines. Note the pristine appearance of the airplane fresh off the Cartierville line, and how it flies the Canada Post Office emblem.
Canadair sold a number of DC-3s to Colonial. Here is NC86591, which served the US Army during the war, including in the “Market Garden” disaster over Holland in September 1944, where dozens of C-47s were shot down. Many of Canadair’s C-47s had seen combat. The old timers used to tell me how some arrived at Cartierville bearing the scars of battle. NC86591 well might have been one of these “Gooney Birds” with bullet holes and patches. Canadair handed it over to Colonial in May 1946, but it soon was sold on to Aerolineas Argentinas, becoming LV-AGE. On June 3, 1951 it crashed at Puerto Deseado, happily without casualties.
One of the “Great Silver Fleet” DC-3s which Canadair delivered to Eastern Airlines. NC15667 had begun as USAAC C-49J 43-1986. Sold by EAL in 1952, it had numerous subsequent owners and last was heard of in 1988 as N211TA at Miami.
A tragic tale … DC-3 DT990 began as USAAC 42-93170. Its wartime years were spent on the home front, then it retired for disposal at the vast military airplane “graveyard” at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Next stop was Cartierville, where Canadair refurbished it for the Netherlands East Indies military. Later, it joined Indonesian airline Garuda as PK-GDY. While on a flight of February 3, 1964, “GDY” disappeared forever with all 26 passengers and crew. The fanatical spotter will note the shiny Burnelli CBY-3 Cargomaster sitting far across the field.
Canadair also did such non-DC-3 conversions as an Anson Mk.5 for Goodyear Tire and Rubber of Toronto (this Anson soon was replaced by CF-TDJ). In another case, in April 1948 BA Oil of Toronto purchased ex-TCA Lockheed 18 Lodestar CF-TDE, which went to Canadair for executive conversion. Re-registered CF-BAO, here it is ready for delivery. “BAO” served BA Oil from Toronto’s Malton Airport into 1960. It next was sold in the US, then to a Peruvian company for aerial survey duties.
The interior of a typical Canadair VIP DC-3 conversion. Oversized comfy seats were de rigeur. Note the other furnishings of the day — curtains, telephone, cabinetry, lamp, etc. This view looks aft toward the door into the biffy.
One of the more exotic VIP conversions done by Canadair was the C-5 for the RCAF. A DC-4/DC-6 hybrid, only one C-5 was built. It was delivered to Ottawa as the RCAF’s premier VIP airplane. Here is the aft cabin with typical 1950s-style furnishings. The curtains are RCAF tartan. Tales of the C-5 are related in CANAV’s classic title The Canadair North Star.
A view of Cartierville looking northwest with St. Laurent Blvd going off toward to right (north). The main plant was built during the war for PBY-5 production, then was converted in 1945 to build North Stars. This view is circa 1960 — the CL-44 and CL-66 (Convair 540) era. Across the field is the old Noorduyn Norseman factory, where Harvards and Norsemans were built, then T-33s, Sabres, CF-5s, CL-41s and F-104s in the 1950s-60s. Many more details of this historic landscape are recorded in Canadair: The First 50 Years, The Canadair North Star and Air Transport in Canada. Today, Cartierville airport is gone, replaced by residential neighbourhoods. However, the main plant, where Bombardier still manufactures aircraft structures, survives. For more about the DC-3 in Canada, scroll back and enjoy “Where Are They Now? Canada’s Enduring DC-3s”.