Category Archives: Helicopter

News From CANAV

RCAF 435 Squadron C-130H 130336 on the ramp at 17 Wing Winnipeg on September 28, 2022. This is one of the “H-models” delivered in 1986 as aerial tankers, but also to do the other many duties demanded of Canada’s Herc fleet. This day ‘336 was slated for a search and rescue training exercise in the Lake Winnipeg area. Also shown is the crew for the day. 435’s five Hercs have logged more than 100,000 flying hours, including 27,000+ for ‘336 when I photographed it this day.

It’s been so long since we’ve had the time to post anything new. Finally, here’s a bit of an update. First of all, I hope you will have a close look at our new Fall/Winter 2022-23 newsletter & booklist. It’s packed with outstanding reading for all those having a serious interest in our great aviation heritage. I really appreciate that most of you are long-term CANAV fans, but in order to survive, any such small aviation publisher needs more of its fans to turn into actual supporters (i.e., fans who buy a book once in a while). CANAV needs you both, but can’t survive without a few more more fans becoming supporters. Please give it a thought, if it won’t break the bank.

CANAV introduces its latest booklist

Canada’s premier aviation book publisher presents its Fall/Winter 2022/23 list. Have a close look and you’ll find many important titles old and new including some exceptional bargain books. Please get in touch with any questions about ordering, etc.
Cheers … Larry Milberry, Publisher, larry@canavbooks.com

RCAF Centennial Book Project

Most of my 2022 efforts have been in basic research and writing for CANAV’s next book, its grand history of the RCAF 1924. After four years of this so far, the groundwork is done covering from the background to 1924 and into the 1980s. The next year mainly will be covering the modern RCAF, including visiting as many bases as possible. I started this lately with visits to Borden and Winnipeg to cover such squadrons as 400, 402 and 435, and such other important organizations such as CFSATE at Borden and Barker College at 17 Wing Winnipeg. In November I’ll cover 8 Wing Trenton and Petawawa. This fieldwork lets me see the RCAF in action, before finishing the final chapters. This is the recipe for a book that will be worth having on your shelves.

Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada

The RAMWA’s magnificent Canadian Vickers Vedette replica. Several of the men who worked on this project had worked on Vedettes in the 20s and 30s. This spectacular display shows the results.

While visiting 17 Wing, I squeezed in a sidetrip to Winnipeg’s wonderful new aviation museum, the former Western Canada Aviation Museum. There, Gord Crossley (17 Wing Heritage Officer) and Bob Arnold (long-time museum member, restorer, scrounger, etc.) showed me all the super work that’s been done to bring the museum from its roots in the 1970s, through its decades jammed into an old TCA hangar, to today’s magnificent museum. Here are a few of my quickie photos to give you an idea of why you need to make an aviation history pilgrimage to Winnipeg. At the end, I include a few images from Winnipeg’s other important aviation history collection at 17 Wing Winnipeg across the field from the RAMWC.

Another of the museum’s premier displays is the restored Froebe brothers’ experimental helicopter from the late 1930s. The story of Canada’s first serious helicopter project first was told in my 1979 book Aviation in Canada. In that period, Doug Froebe had written to me, “The first time it left the ground, I was at the stick. The tail lifted off first, I’d say two or three feet. Then I pulled back and the front wheels left the ground one at a time. My two brothers were very excited, but I was sort of scared.” Interest in the Froebe story then slowly developed, as often happens once a story gets a bit of initial coverage. Others pursued this one until the original Froebe airframe was acquired by the WCAM. Here is sits in its glory in the new museum.
Restored to flying condition over many years by a team led by Bob Cameron of Whitehorse, Fokker Super Universal CF-AAM now is permanently on display at the RAMWC.
CF-AAM also graces the dust jacket of our by-now famous book, Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years.
Another of the museum’s many world-class restorations is “Big Bellanca” CF-AWR. Brought to Canada in 1935, “AWR” (in its day Canada’s biggest airplane) toiled on many northern projects until crashing near Sioux Lookout in January 1947. Eventually, the WCAM’s stalwart recovery team hauled “AWR” out of the bush. Then began its multi-decade restoration to Bellanca perfection.
From the same era of the classic bushplane is the museum’s Fairchild FC-2W2, CF-AKT. Imported from the US for Canadian Airways in 1930, it eventually (1934) was brought up to Fairchild 71C standards. It then served in the bush until a serious accident near Watson Lake, Yukon in August 1943. Then, Canada’s only civil Fairchild Super 71 CF-AUJ. First flown at Longueuil in 1935, “AUJ” did much heavy lifting in the bush, until an October 1940 accident at Lost Bay south of today’s Red Lake. Again, the always forward-thinking WCAM recovery team salvaged the wreck, which the museum turned into this magnificent restoration.
Beautifully restored cabin Waco YKC-S CF-AYS came to Canada for Arrow Airways in 1935, then served many other operators in the bush. Finally, it joined Central Northern in 1947, a company that soon became Transair of Winnipeg. “AYS” was withdrawn from use in 1953, but somehow survived to end in the RAMWC as another premier example of aviation in Canada during the “Golden Years” of the 1930s.
Sometimes touted as the WCAM’s premier bushplane is this Junkers 52. Originally a tri-motor Ju.52s, long ago the museum converted it to represent CF-ARM, Canada’s famous single-engine Junkers “Flying Box Car” of the 1930s. The details of this and most of the museum’s classic bushplanes are best found in the seminal K.M. Molson book, Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport. This is a book you all should have. See if you can track down a copy at www.bookfinder.com Otherwise (seriously), you should find yourself a copy of Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years and one of Air Transport in Canada.
Representing the RCAF in WWII and the BCATP is this lovely Tiger Moth restoration. 1122 had served at 34 EFTS at Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, piling up some 1242 flying hours before being sold as war surplus equipment in 1945 and becoming CF- COU.
Beaver No.1500 … DHC-2 Beaver C-FMAA served the Manitoba Government Air Service 1962-84, before landing at the WCAM. Today, it’s one of many aircraft seen “flying” from the rafters of the new museum.
No.703 is the RAMWC’s example of the RCAF’s great CF-104. Beside it is one of the CF-104 flight simulators manufactured by CAE of Montreal. In the background of some of these photos you can see other museum aircraft. In this case … the Beaver and Air Canada Viscount.
The museum’s Canadair CL-41 Tutor climbs away above the Viscount and Canadair CL-84.
Two experimental types of which the museum is proud – its Avrocar (the so-called Avro “flying saucer”, actually a simple hovercraft) and the Canadair CL-84. The CL-84 held great promise until defunded by the US government. One wonders about its potential back in the 1960s and how it might have influenced today’s V-22 Osprey. Note how the museum maximizes its wall space.
Two fascinating cockpits to be viewed at the museum: the Viscount airliner and CF-101 Voodoo fighter.
The museum has a giftshop with many products on sales, but books only get a tiny corner. Nothing here from CANAV, sad to say, but … c’est la guerre, right. Then, a look at a tiny part of the museum’s important research library and archive.
On the west side of Winnipeg International Airport resides RCAF 17 Wing. Beginning decades ago, the base decided to display a few of the classic post WWII types that served here. The first three were the Expeditor, Dakota and Mitchell, mainly of No.1 Air Navigation School fame. These have weathered the decades fairly well. Here are “the Dak” and the Mitchell shot during my September 2022 visit.
The Expeditor was in the 17 Wing aircraft restoration shop for a clean-up and new paint. The other big project here is a Bolingbroke being restored using parts from various hulks recovered from prairie farms over the decades.
The RCAF air park’s CF-104, T-bird and Sabre. Under the scaffolding to the right is the CF-100, then getting a clean-up, new decals included.
Voodoo 101008 in 425 Squadron colours, then ex- AETE Challenger 144612.
Part of the air park’s tribute to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan includes a Harvard and several displays of memorial bricks. Among the latter I spotted several fellows about whom we’ve written over the decades, Ron Breeden included. Ron’s career included a first tour on CF-100s, where he was known on squadron as “the boy pilot” on account of his youthful appearance.
The air park also includes a Musketeer, Kiowa and Tracker. All things considered, you can see why a trip to Winnipeg should be in the cards for any serious fan of Canadian aviation history!

Norseman Update … Antti Hyvarinen from Finland recently visited the Dutch aviation museum where ex-Canadian Norseman CF-GLI is being restored. Here are his photos. Thanks, Antti! See the attached special offer for our two beautiful Norseman books. For outside Canada drop a note ref. shipping costs to larry@canavbooks.com

Norseman lists … Northern pilot, Rodney Kozar, keeps close track of Norseman “facts and figures”. Here are his two basic lists for 2022. Please contact Rodney if you have any updates.

Old Hamilton Airport Update

If you search here on the blog for Old Hamilton Airport, you’ll see a fascinating bit of Canadian aviation history. Airports, of course, are not of huge interest to the typical aviation fan, but they are an indispensable part of our aviation heritage. By far the best source book for the topic is T.M. “Tom” McGrath’s 1991 gem, History of Canadian Airports. If you’re ever lucky enough to find a copy, pay whatever they’re asking. You’ll soon have this one on your shelf of favourite aviation books.

While filing material lately, I came across some other really top photos of old Hamilton Airport — the one opened  in 1930 to replace the original 1926 J.V. Elliot Airport in the Beach Road neighbourhood. In 1951 Hamilton Airport closed, once the wartime airport at nearby Mount Hope became Hamilton’s main aviation hub.

If you search here on the blog for Old Hamilton Airport, you’ll see a fascinating bit of Canadian aviation history. Airports, of course, are not of huge interest to the typical aviation fan, but they are an indispensable part of our aviation heritage. By far the best source book for the topic is T.M. “Tom” McGrath’s 1991 gem, History of Canadian Airports. If you’re ever lucky enough to find a copy, pay whatever they’re asking. You’ll soon have this one on your shelf of favourite aviation books.

While filing material lately, I came across some other really top photos of old Hamilton Airport — the one opened  in 1930 to replace the original 1926 J.V. Elliot Airport in the Beach Road neighbourhood. In 1951 Hamilton Airport closed, once the wartime airport at nearby Mount Hope became Hamilton’s main aviation hub. These historic photos came to me decades ago in the Robert “Bob” Finlayson Collection. Bob had been CANAV’s darkroom man for many years. You can find earlier blog mentions of him

Canada Post in the Crosshairs … Again

Canada Post riles Canadians with its Mafia-like rates. It cost me $74 today (November 1, 2022) to mail 3 small packages (inside Canada, cheapest rate) each with one book. Too bad Canadians are so wimpy when it comes to such things. We just take whatever Canada Post sticks to us.
 
The latest Canada Post brouhaha is around the new stamp honouring the DHC-2 Beaver on its 75th anniversary. Problem is that they’ve incurred the wrath of the aficionados who object that the Beaver on the stamp has an American registration. Good point, you eagle-eyed folks, and shame on Canada Post. Their design gurus certainly are not sweating the small stuff!
 
My own beef with this stamp (and the series of 5 in the booklet) is their overall brownishness. Isn’t aviation all about the blue sky and bright clouds? If I had been asked, I’d have suggested simplicity — bright aviation colours. Brown? Forget it!
When Canada Post brought out my own stamp showing the RCAF Vampire, which I had photographed from a 442 Sqn Buffalo, it was just perfect. Take a look. How could Canada Post have done so well?

Besides the Vampire, compare today’s brown Beaver with the beauty of a Beaver that Canada Post issued ages ago based on one of the great Robert Bradford’s magnificent paintings. Now that’s a philatelic Beaver for you!

Canada Post, feel free to call me next time you have an aviation stamp in mind. I’ll be happy to get you on the right track and save you from shooting yourselves in the foot again. Meanwhile, start sweatin’ the small stuff!

Cemetery Studies

Following up on some earlier cemetery coverage, here is a bit more RCAF history from St. John’s Norway Cemetery. I spotted these two graves during a walk on September 11.

With 11 men killed, January 26, 1942 was a dark day for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, its darkest to date. Included among the dead was Sgt Alfred C. Cornell, age 26. Having attended Danforth Technical School in Toronto, before enlisting in the RCAF he had been an optician at Robert Simpson Co. in Toronto. He was married and had two small children. Killed with Cornell when they crashed in Harvard 3237 was Sgt Gordon F. Clark, age 23 of Kingston. They had been on a flight from No.2 Service Flying Training School at Uplands, Ottawa. Cornell’s funeral took place on January 30. Clark is buried in Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston.
Memorialized on his family marker in St. John’s Norway is navigator, WO2 John W. Dickson, a pioneer night fighter airborne intercept navigator with RCAF 409 Squadron. Flying in a Beaufighter IIF from Colby Grange, on August 3, 1941 he and F/O Bruce A. Hanbury, a former TCA pilot, made 409’s first GCI (ground controlled intercept). Tragedy struck on March 27, 1942 when S/L Hanbury (age 21 from Vancouver, a 1 Squadron RCAF Battle of Britain veteran), P/O Philip M. Sweet (age 21 from Huron, South Dakota) and FSgt Dickson died in a Beaufighter training accident. Suddenly, Beaufighter T3142 had entered  a flat spin from which Hanbury could not recover. The crew was laid to rest in Scopwick Church Burial Ground, England. Often, such airmen are remembered on the stone marking their family burial plot in Canada.

Long Awaited Bell 47 History Now in Print

ImageThe appearance of a stand-out aviation history book was commonplace in decades gone by. Progressing into the 21st Century, however, not many such books make it beyond the concept stage. Even worse, knowledgeable and sympathetic “book people” are a dying breed. These days if I happen to mention about working on a new book, it’s possible for someone to interject, “I guess he means an iBook, right?” Well … not really, Buddyboy. What I mean is an actual book made of actual paper, ink and glue, that’s full of actual information that you will not find on that great seducer of feeble minds – the internet. But that’s another story and “way” over your head, Buddyboy.

Right now I want to talk to you about something real, not fanciful, definitely not a video game. I’d like to introduce you to the Grand Champion 2013 example of a fabulous new aviation book — The Bell 47 Helicopter Story. The creators are long-time CAHS and AAHS members Robert S. Petite from Alberta and Jeffery C. Evans from California. Bob and Jeff have devoted decades studying everything imaginable about the Bell 47, history’s most famous light helicopter, a type that’s been familiar on the Canadian scene for nearly 70 years. Our authors have their credits — they’ve been honoured by such groups as the American Helicopter Society International and by the Twirly Birds. Not surprisingly, rarely have Bob and Jeff missed a Helicopter Association International annual convention.

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Whatever high award there might be for aviation history authorship in 2013-14, these fellows own it. To start, they thoughtfully explain how they did their research. Basically, they used all possible ways and means, from plowing through archival documents and personal records, to travelling all over doing face-to-face interviews, attending conferences, etc. Few (supposed) aviation researchers would go a fraction of the distance. Here’s what they tell us: “Data used … came from early handwritten and typed Bell production records, sales records, Bell flight reports for the preproduction Bell 47s, early Bell brochures, Bell press releases, actual typed progress reports to Larry Bell, Bell accident reports, Bell Rotor Breeze first edition … Bell 47 Customer Service Maintenance Clinics, Bell Helicopter Mechanics School and early Bell Ringer newsletters.” So … we’re guaranteed to be getting the solid goods about this mighty little piece of mid-20th Century technology called the Bell 47 and everything it has meant on the worldwide aviation scene. Bob and Jeff sought out the info, then beautifully laid out their final results in one of the most impressive aviation publications in a hundred years.

Any aviation fan over age 30 knows this fantastic flying machine. Failing all else, millions have seen Bell 47s doing joyrides at local town fairs. Somewhat older folks know the bubble-canopy little bumblebee from episodes of “MASH”, and that distinct Bell 47 sound still is dubbed in to helicopter scenes of TV shows and movies, whether the chopper shown is a Bell 47 or a Chinook!

I first met the Bell 47 in the headlines during Hurricane Hazel in October 1954. At that time, Toronto’s “Tely” and the “Star” ran photos of an Ontario Hydro Bell 47 saving stranded victims following Hazel’s rampage along the city’s Humber River. Being a Tely paperboy, I eagerly watched the story unfold. Decades later I met that very Bell 47’s pilot, the wonderful Bruce Best, who later was a CAHS Toronto Chapter stalwart. Over the years I’ve had great fun photographing Bell 47s all across Canada.

Bob and Jeff open their massive tome with an in-depth history of how the Bell 47 came about under two geniuses — Larry Bell and Arthur Young. The story starts in 1942 with “Ship No.1” at the Bell facility in Buffalo, NY. All the trials and tribulations are described, enough to discourage anyone from a career in aviation. Yet, Bell, Young and their solid team persevered. In March 1946 Bell 47 NC-1H won the world’s first commercial helicopter licence. From there the book carefully traces developments through endless R&D, modifications and certified models.

Canada’s first Bell 47 was CF-FJA, imported by Kenting of Oshawa in 1946. Carl Agar, whose company, “Okanagan”, would become one of the world’s great helicopter operators, soon brought in CF-FZX. Toronto-based prospector Sten Lundberg pioneered with a Bell 47 doing aerial electro-magnetic mineral exploration. Other Canadian operators appear as you turn pages loaded with incredible anecdotes and photos. The Bell 47 explores in the Arctic, goes aboard ship with the Canadian Coast Guard, supports mineral exploration, does forest seeding and fire suppression, crop dusting, hydro and pipe line patrols, search and rescue, etc. Its military career is covered under fire in Korea, but everywhere else, including with the RCAF. Bob and Jeff cover it all in depth, and so enchantingly that you just have to keep turning the pages. Their book also has the essential technical gen, including many illustrations from the engineering manuals.

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The authors cover every imaginable version from the earliest 2-seat Bell 47B to the 4-seat Bell 47J Ranger. The transition to turbine power is described, so we see how the Bell Cobra gunship and Bell 206 Jet Ranger series had their beginnings. The last word explains how the Bell 47 is back in the headlines through the efforts in the US of Scott’s Helicopters, which in 2014 will be producing new Bell 47s. It all brings an interesting thought to mind: We all know about the Renaissance Man, now it seems there might be an argument for the Renaissance Helicopter — the Bell 47. Besides everything else, The Bell 47 Helicopter Story has a valuable appendix with such detailed content as production history and the specs for each version. Interestingly, of some 5000 aircraft manufactured from 1945 – 1974, more than 1000 remain.

This landmark book has been very nicely printed and bound by Friesens of Altona, Manitoba. Bare bones it weighs an amazing 2.9 kg. It’s a hardcover with dust jacket. There are 730 pages with 1200 b/w and colour photos. Sincere fans of aviation history owe it to themselves to get hold of a copy of The Bell 47 Helicopter Story. If you have not yet delved into helicopter history, a fast flip through this book will make a convert of you, so long as you have the least bit of gumption. Order your copy at helicopterheritagecanada.com or e-mail author Bob Petite in Leduc at bpetite@telusplanet.net.

Cheers and good reading to you all. CANAV’s supporters are the best! Larry