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The Travels of Nick and Larry — Chasing the Fairchild C-119

Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar 22104 of 436 Sqn approaches to land on Runway 33 at Downsview (Toronto) on a frigid February 6, 1960. Having joined the RCAF in 1952, by 1967 the C-119 had been replaced by a fleet of new C-130E Hercules. The C-119 always was a favourite for the few kids around Toronto chasing airplanes in the 1950s-60s. With its high wing, twin booms and massive R-3350s, it was an exciting sight. We were lucky to have 436 Sqn at nearby Downsview. It was close enough to hitchhike or cycle (about 15 miles, no sweat). There we photographed the Boxcars taxying by or landing. This series of historic Larry Milberry photos has been subtly sharpened up for presentation by astronomer Andrew Yee, whom many of you know from The Weather Channel.

Boxcar 22101looking pristine on the tarmac at Trenton on August 31, 1961. Nick and I hitchhiked to Trenton this day to photograph aircraft taking part in Toronto’s CNE airshow. There was no trouble getting home later in the day, as Nick used his magic to get us aboard Dakota 663 for a pleasant 42-minute flight back to Downsview. Struck off strength in 1967, 22101 was sold by Crown Assets Disposal Corp. to Hawkins and Power of Grey Bull, Wyoming. HP owned 21 ex-RCAF C-119s, which fought fires from California to Alaska into the 1980s. 22101 served the HP fleet as N15505. Some say that it later joined the Pratt Museum at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, but there is a great debate about this (see

Back in the 1960s Nick Wolochatiuk and I spent a lot of time driving around Canada and the US in Nick’s VW Bug. Those were our fanatical photography days, when we were shooting all things natural (wildflowers were a specialty), industrial and transportation (land, sea and air). Sometimes our route in the Bug was a complete circuit of the Great Lakes, which we could do in about two weeks. Nick drove, I supposedly navigated. In summer we’d have Nick’s canoe strapped to the roof, lest we come across a float base with interesting planes, or a harbour with ships to shoot.

Flying Boxcar 22131 of 436 Squadron performs at RCAF Station Trenton during the open house on Dominion Day (July 1) 1961. The RCAF had two frontline C-119 squadrons — 435 at Namao (Edmonton) and 436 at Downsview (Toronto). Both were famous for their intrepid work in the High Arctic and on UN duties overseas. Otherwise, the work-a-day stuff involved training with the Army on para duties, etc., and doing weekly domestic milkrun “skeds”. 22131 ended with Hawkins and Power as N5216R. Years later is was dormant at Battle Mountain, Nevada. Much debate continues as to which RCAF C-119s became which N-numbers carrying which tanker numbers, and which ones resided where by 2012. This is part of the fun of being an “aviation archaeologist”.

C-119G 51-8099 of the 403rd Troop Carrier Wing at home at Selfridge AFB, Michigan on May 21, 1966. About three years later this aircraft went to the Taiwanese air force, which operated C-119s into the mid-1980s. Nick and I had ended at Selfridge during a Great Lakes tour. It was a weekend and very quiet. Who knows why, but some decent USAF fellow decided to let us onto the base to photograph. The C-119 looked great. We also shot some F-106s.

Mostly, Nick and I were looking for anything with wings. One stop on a typical trip was the Airdale base at Sault Ste. Marie to shoot a beautiful Stinson Reliant and Norseman. From there we crossed into Michigan to visit the local SAC base to photograph B-52s, EB-57s and F-106s. (Fortunately, we never fell into the useless state of being airplane specialists. No one would ever hear us make such a pitiful claim as “I only shoot F-4s”, or, “I only shoot airliners”, etc. Nick saved me from that gloomy fate. We could talk enthusiastically one moment about the Joel D-9 Bébé, then next about the B-52.) We loved everything about our trips. Especially nifty to photograph were the big, ugly, rumbling transports. We shot KC-97s in Minneapolis, C-119s at Niagara Falls, Trenton and Downsview, C-123s at Malton and Stewart AFB, C-124s and C-133s at Charleston, R5Ds at Glenview and Andrews, R4Qs at Minneapolis, etc. To this day those old classics bring back special memories.

The C-119 served in many guises over the decades. Its most exotic role was as the C-119 “Shadow” and “Stinger” gunships during the war in Southeast Asia. This Shadow (52-5898, one of 26 AC-119Gs) was at Lockbourne AFB near Columbus, Ohio, on May 18, 1969. Nick and I visited Lockbourne on a quiet Sunday morning. Amazingly, the main gate was unmanned, so we tested the waters and drove on through. We were on the watch as we photographed, but in half an hour encountered no one. We considered ourselves lucky getting away so easily, when we could have been hauled in and raked over the coals.

52-5898 is in the markings of the 18th Special Operations Squadron/4413th Combat Crew Training Squadron. Two years later it was transferred to the South Vietnam Air Force. This close-up view shows two 7.62 miniguns mounted on the port side (4 such weapons could be mounted). The rear dome housed the tracking radar.

C-119G 22120 of the Central Experimental and Proving Establishment at Uplands (Ottawa) on April 5, 1961. On this trip I hitchhiked solo from Toronto. It was a chilly weekend, but paid off when I was allowed onto the RCAF base to photograph not just CEPE’s C-119, but the Canadair C-5, a Comet, a USAF VC-54, two Argus, CF-100s, T-33s and lots of other great stuff.

C-119G 51-8096 of the 328th Air Transport Squadron runs up at Niagara Falls, NY during the base open house on May 21, 1960. This was an infamous “Nick and Larry” episode (there were many) where Nick was detained by the MPs. They interrogated him for two hours, very curious as to why he had been filling his stenopad with tail numbers. Nick overheard the MPs wondering if maybe the Commies had kids assigned to every base across country, since this was national Armed Forces Day. If so, they could get a decent inventory of the entire USAF! Smooth-talking Nick eventually wiggled his way out of this jam, so we made it home in one piece. In 1968 this Boxcar went for storage to the desert boneyard near Tucson.

On March 17, 1970 C-119G 52-5931 made a surprise visit to Toronto International Airport. It made 3 or 4 practice approaches before flying off towards home — Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, NY. At this time 52-5931 was with the 328th Airlift Squadron/914th Airlift Wing. In December 1970 the wing converted to the C-130. The 914th is still at Niagara Falls with C-130s.

This eye-catching US Marine Corps R4Q Flying Boxcar of VMR-234 MCAS El Toro was at Minneapolis on August 20, 1963 during our Great Lakes circumnavigation of August 5-25. “R4Q” was the US Navy/USMC designation for the C-119. There were 97 R4Qs, the first one accepted in 1950, the last gone into desert storage in 1975. “7E/131717” also served with VMR-216 at NAS Whidbey Island, from where it flew to the boneyard in Tucson in July 1972.

When at Jomo Kenyata International Airport, Nairobi on March 18, 1993, I was delighted to come across this superannuated R4Q, ex-USCG 131700, sunning itself in the Back 40. Under the Comutair banner, in 1988 N3267U had bounced its way across the pond from the US, one fuel stop being at Iqaluit on Baffin Island. Eventually the old crate worked its way down to Kenya. Note the UN flag, since Comutair (ostensibly) was there to do humanitarian work (i.e. to make a bundle of quick cash for the investors for the least possible overhead). Someone told me that N3267U had made some relief flights, then was abandonned at JKIA. Later it was acquired by the Hollywood film makers doing the remake of “Flight of the Phoenix”. As far as can be determined, the plane was shipped somehow to Namibia, where the movie was being shot. The old Boxcar was used as a prop and its remains likely are still sitting down there in the sand dunes. For all the incredible-but-true details check in at

There are two magnificent books that beautifully cover the C-119 and its predecessor, the C-82. These have all the detailed gen that you’ll never find on the internet — that Siren who seduces the feeble minded. Try to get your hands on copies (out of print, so not available from CANAV). You’ll have to scour the used book websites (, etc.). However, such famous CANAV titles  as Sixty Years, Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace (Vol.3) and Air Transport in Canada are loaded with great RCAF C-119 history. These are available from CANAV, presently at good discounts, so check out the booklist. Air Transport in Canada alone will blow you away — two grand volumes, 1030 pages, something like 4000 photos. Normally $155 it’s on special only at CANAV for $95++. Click here to order online!

Order now from CANAV Books!


CANAV “Readers’ Choice” for today …

The world famous TCA Super Connie CF-TGE is featured on the cover.

The Wilf White Propliner Collection is one of “the best in class” of this type of aviation book. Wilf spent decades taking the very best in aircraft photos, whether throughout his native Scotland, down at London in the 1950s-60s, at Farnborough in the same period, or across Canada and the United States. If you are a fan of the great era of propliners, this is a book you’ll enjoy for years. And … if you are looking for a gift for any aviation fan for any occasion, could you pick a nicer one at a nicer price!

A CPA Britannia taxies at London among the other great types of the day that Wilf always revelled in photographing. Look at the super job he did!

WWPC is 176 pages, softcover, large format, 100s of photos with detailed captions, index. The price? Usually $40.00, yours for half price — $20.00 + $12.00 Canada (Mafia) Post + 5% tax $1.60 = $33.60 CAD (US or overseas $42.00 all in per book). We accept PayPal (click here) or old fashioned cheque/money order mailed to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave. Toronto, ON M4E 3B6. Here’s one of the reviews of this lovely production, and some sample pages. Reviewer Dennis J. Calvert is one of those rare types who looks at every aspect of a book. He clearly knows his stuff and isn’t one to raise a new title onto a pedestal without good reason. In this case he designated WWPC as the Aircraft Illusatrated “Book on the Month”, rounding up his thoughtful commentary: “This volume, beautifully produced, offers the very highest quality in nostalgia and comes confidently recommended.” So don’t delay and get in on this special deal!

You can download the review here.

And for a little taste of the book itself, check out these select pages from The Wilf White Propliner Collection

CANAV’s “Do Not Miss” Summer Booklist!

The warmer weather is coming and CANAV is urging it on with the release of our  Summer booklist and … a great special offer you won’t want to miss!

Order yourself a copy of CANAV’s globally-acclaimed The Wilf White Propliner Collection at 50% off! Total price (Canada) $20.00 + $10.00 postage + GST $1.50 = $31.50.

Add The Leslie Corness Propliner Collection and get both books for $35.00 + $15.00 postage + GST $2.50 = $52.50. USA and overseas check for a postal rate by e-mailing

Here are four great Canadair photos that you’ll enjoy in The Wilf White Propliner Collection. In one of Wilf’s wonderful Prestwick views, TCA North Star CF-TFM thunders in on short final circa 1950. ‘TFM gave fine service at TCA until sold in 1961, but it ended badly thereafter, crashing while running guns in West Africa.

Then, RCAF 17510 on departure from Prestwick. The RCAF operated North Stars 1947-66, then the fleet dispersed to the tramp freighter world, ‘510 becoming CF-UXB with Air Caicos. For several years it freighted between Sarasota and the islands, carrying anything that would fit through the cargo doors. It finally was scrapped in 1971 after logging nearly 22,000 flying hours.

Next, a wonderful Wilf White propliner scene — BOAC’s stately C-4 Argonaut G-ALHG “Aurora” in the days long before nutbar terrorist losers ruined the possibility of such a happy scene occurring today. Poor ‘HG came to an ignominious ending, crashing at Manchester while in its British Midland Airways days.

Finally, the hybrid Canadair C-5 — the cream of the RCAF fleet in the  1950s — caught taxying by Wilf at London circa 1960. This beautiful VIP transport ended in a California scrapyard, instead of where it should have gone — to Canada’s National Aeronautical Collection. Unfortunately, museum people have their priorities and the power to turn thumbs down. Sad to say, but BOAC fans also know this all too well — they watched the world’s last Argonaut also go for pots and pans. Only one North Star survives anywhere — ex-RCAF 17515 at the Canada Aviation Museum. After 30+ years of rusting outside, it finally is receiving a long-overdue restoration.

If such types as the North Star and all the lore about them interest you, you’ll love both the CANAV propliner books, to say nothing of The Canadair North Star, a renowned best-selling CANAV classic. Also take a look at Air Transport in Canada at a $60.00 discount. Propliner fans will find no other book in the world with such a variety and quantity of incredible propliner photos and history. So take advantage of these great deals and heat up your aviation book collection! Like summer, these great prices won’t last…

Download our Booklist Summer 2011 or check it out below!

CANAV Books 2010 Fall-Winter Newsletter and Booklist

Aviation in Canada … News from the CANAV Situation Room

After a short breather following our recent book launch, it’s back to normal in CANAV’s dungeon. The publisher is again putting the screws to his staff. He’s laying on the lash, cutting salaries, demanding more unpaid overtime, reducing benefits, etc. He says that he will continue with this until morale improves. Seriously, good readers … this is where CANAV’s new Centennial of Flight series stands: Vol.1 Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades, Vol.2 Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years and Vol.3 Aviation in Canada: Evolution of an Air Force are now in print (and available to purchase online – check out the sidebar to your right!). Reader comments about ACEAF would put a smile on any publisher’s face.

Terry Higgins, Aviaeology/SkyGrid publisher of Canadian Aircraft of WWII, writes: “Another stellar CANAV production… It is like a well put together documentary film in paper form. This is a consistent characteristic of your books that I enjoy so much. And the cover price is just astounding. Next please!”

At Passion Aviation, Pierre Gillard offers his own view: “Espéron que la saga Aviation in Canada continue encore longtemps car elle représente une mine incroyable d’informations qui devrait être “la” réference de quiconque s’intéresse ou voudrait s’intéresser à l’aviation au Canada depuis le ‘Jour 1’…”

Those who already have these three gorgeous books can easily relate; now I’m just waiting for the rest of you die hard aviation fans to get aboard the “CANAV Books Express”. “Aviation in Canada” is the first attempt to create an encyclopedic coverage of Canada’s aviation heritage. Vol.4 is now in the CANAV system: Aviation in Canada: The RCAF Overseas 1939-1945 will pick up from Vol.3, providing a solid look at a key era. Due by mid-2011, it will have major chapters about Bomber Command, Fighter Command, Coastal Command, Southeast Asia, etc. with an emphasis on bringing as much new material to the printed page as we can.

Check out CANAV’s new book list. Click on it, take a good, serious look and you’ll find some irresistible titles. This is where the real aviation reading starts this season — not on the internet. Forget about that, unless all you want is fluff or a quick history “fix”. When it comes to the solid goods, real aviation fans read books — the internet’s for kids. As you peruse our list, the “Aviation in Canada” series leaps out, so make that a shopping list priority. Next (and naturally so) comes Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace. If you don’t have this knockout of a trilogy, you can finally break down and order a set — CAFWP is on sale! Here are more than 1000 pages of RCAF heritage with 2000+ photos that no true RCAF supporter would be without. Reader Bernie Pregler, who once navigated on CF-100s, recently discovered CAFWP and was moved to comment:

“I started reading Vol.3 and was reminded of a W.B. Yeats poem — ‘When you are old and gray and nodding by the fire, take down this book and read, and dream…’ In fact, Yeats was writing it in regard to a girl he once loved, but since most of us are also in love with airplanes and flight, it’s fair to think of it as being applicable to ourselves, as well. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information and photographs, and completely in awe of anyone who can produce such a work – and not just one volume, but three …”

I doubt that there’s a book editor at any major Canadian newspaper who could touch this commentary for intellectual and literary depth. Would they even know today who Yeats is, let alone what a CF-100 is? Gads, its depressing … whatever happened to the good old, well-versed, broadly-educated, fired-up daily press book editors, who knew what readers wanted (and that fiction mostly was for kids)? Check out the booklist for the special prices on CAFWP. Deal expires with our Spring 2011 list.

CANAV’s fine book selection should conjure great gifts ideas, if you’re wondering what your aviation-minded or Canadian history-loving friends, employees, customers or suppliers want for Christmas. Any sharp young person would be inspired by a book like Pioneer Decades, so buy him/her a copy, already. Meanwhile, what’s to stop anyone from donating a good Canadian aviation book to the local public or school library? What a great civic holiday gesture!

All the best … Larry Milberry, publisher

CANAV Book of the Month: A Formidable Hero

Sad to say … zero copies still available of A Formidanle Hero.

In 1987 CANAV teamed with the renowned RCN aviator, Stuart E. Soward, to publish the biography of Victoria Cross recipient, Robert Hampton “Hammy” Gray. Entitled A Formidable Hero, the book was launched at a Canadian Naval Air Group reunion in Ottawa.

A Formidable Hero became a solid success — a tribute to a brave young Canadian flier and to his dedicated biographer. Stuart describes Hammy’s interesting youth as he grew up in Nelson, BC. Then he covers Hammy’s career as an RCNVR recruit, his flight training in the RN Fleet Air Arm and his tours flying Fulmar and Corsair fighters from East Africa to Norway and the South Pacific. The book beautifully captures all the exhilaration, danger, fun and misery in the lives of youthful naval aviators through WWII.

A Formidable Hero eventually sold out, then Stuart decided to resurrect it on his own. It was re-released in 2003 and since then has entered a third printing. Besides the original story, Stuart also describes his successful efforts to have Lt Gray, VC, DSC, receive some long-overdue public acclaim. Primarily through Stuart’s personal efforts, in 1989 a memorial was dedicated in Japan near the spot of Hammy’s final action — flying a Corsair to his death. While in Japan, Stuart met with several Japanese veterans who had manned the anti-aircraft defences that brought Hammy down, tells of efforts to  locate the lost Corsair, explains what a battle it was to interest Ottawa in his project, etc.

Through Stuart’s dedication to Canadian naval aviation history, Hammy Gray now is a well-known Canadian hero. In the 1980s the Canadian Warplane Heritage dedicated its Corsair to Hammy. In 2010, the 100th anniversary of the RCN, Vintage Wings has painted its own Corsair in the colours of Hammy’s plane. The Corsair visited Victoria, BC in August this year, an event attended by Stuart Soward himself. I spoke to him that month, asking for some info about the late Roy de Nevers, with whom he had flown in the 1950s-60s. Stuart told me that he had pancreatic cancer. He passed away in January 2011.

A Formidable Hero is a superb piece of research and writing — a Canadian aviation literature treasure that you’ll be delighted to add to your library. 228 pages, softcover, photos, maps, index. $23.50 + $8.00 shipping + 5% tax. Total: $33.07.

NB … CANAV has no more copies. Check the web and you might find a new or used copy.

Pierre Gillard reviews Propulsion/Power

Pierre operates one of the best blogs featuring aviation books. He offers reviews for the reader who has a mind that’s in gear. This month Pierre covers CANAV’s world-acclaimed history of Pratt & Whitney Canada that we published in French as Propulsion and in English as Power. You may well have this “golden oldie”, but if not, here’s a chance to order one (or two or three) at half price. Our book was a bargain from Day 1 at the sticker price of $40.00, so this offer is not to be missed … order by October 15, 2010 at $20.00 + $ 10.00 shipping + tax $1.50 = $31.50 Canada only (2 or more copies $15 total for shipping).

If USA or overseas, e-mail to get your shipping cost. Any cheque on any CDN or US bank, or if PayPal let CANAV know and we’ll e-mail you a PayPal invoice. One way or the other, you should have a copy of this classic history of a classic aviation company. Last 60 copies of Propulsion, last 300 copies of Power. So jump on board … Larry Milberry

PS My favourite “music to the publisher’s ears” comment from Pierre in this thoughtful review: ” … un récit minutieux et agréable à lire … couvre tous les produits conçus, développés, testés, construits et entretenus par Pratt & Whitney Canada depuis 1928.” Loose translation? “A very detailed book, yet agreeable to read … covers every product conceived, developed, tested, manufactured or supported by Pratt & Whitney Canada since 1928.”

Depuis les années trente, le motoriste Pratt & Whitney Canada fait partie des industries ayant pignon sur rue à Longueuil. Au fil des années, cette petite entreprise a pris de l’ampleur grâce à une saine gestion et au développement de produits de qualité, la célèbre turbine PT6, notamment. Elle s’est ainsi hissée dans le peloton de tête des industries aéronautiques mondiales. Kenneth H. Sullivan et Larry Milberry ont entrepris à la fin des années quatre-vingt d’écrire l’histoire de cette réussite. Il en résulte un récit minutieux et agréable à lire. Même s’il s’agit d’une traduction réalisée à partir d’un texte anglais, celle-ci est bonne qualité. Par ailleurs, le fait est assez rare pour être souligné, un livre au sujet d’un aspect de l’histoire de l’aviation au Canada rédigé en français n’est pas monnaie courante et nous ne pouvons que féliciter les auteurs de cette initiative. D’ailleurs, Larry Milberry récidivera en 1995 lors de la parution d’un ouvrage au sujet de Canadair. “Propulsion” est un ouvrage de référence qui couvre tous les produits conçus, développés, testés, construits et entretenus par Pratt & Whitney Canada depuis 1928. Bien entendu, la PT6 et le JT15 tiennent le haut du pavé, mais de nombreux autres moteurs et réalisations sont présentés également. C’est ainsi que l’on apprend que les hélicoptères Sea King destinés à la Marine canadienne ont été assemblés à Longueuil ou que l’on fait connaissance des turbomoteurs pour la marine ainsi que pour les fameux turbo-trains qui ont été, à une certaine époque, le fleuron de la ligne ferroviaire Montréal-Toronto. L’aspect humain n’est pas négligé et les principaux intervenants, qui ont fait de “Pratt” ce qu’elle est aujourd’hui, ont leur place dans le récit. Les étudiants, mais aussi les professeurs de l’École nationale d’aérotechnique en apprendront beaucoup sur plusieurs avions qui sont ou ont été à l’école et qui ont servi, dans le passé, de bancs d’essais volants: le Beech 18 CF-ZWY-X, le Viscount C-FTID et le LearJet 36 C-GBRW. Même si le livre est déjà assez ancien, il n’en demeure pas moins un indispensable. La version originale anglaise est disponible sous le titre Power – The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story.

Aviation World: A great supporter of Canada’s aviation heritage

Part of Aviation World's impressive Canadiana bookshelf at its YYZ location. If you've got the least appreciation for Canada's great aviation heritage, you'll find a box-load of books here that you'll dearly want. So drop by with credit card hot in hand.

August 28 was a grand time to be at Aviation World in Toronto (YYZ) — the store’s annual customer appreciation day. Hundreds of devotees turned out to take advantage of good across-the-board discounts on books, models, flight simulator paraphernalia and all sorts of other products. Owner Len Neath and staff added to the fun by putting on a super BBQ.

If you live in the GTA or are passing through, you need to visit this amazing “aviation stuff” supermarket. The same goes for the company’s Richmond, BC (YVR) and Chicago (ORD) locations. Check it all out on the web.

Aviation World at YYZ is perfectly located for plane watchers. This was a typical sight on the 28th — a BA Triple Seven swooshing by to touch down seconds later on Runway 24L. So you can bring the whole family out to do the store, then enjoy a steady parade of spectacular planes landing right overhead. A field trip that will not disappoint … Larry