Category Archives: RAF

Have a Look! CANAV’s Fall/Winter 2021-22 List — It’s a Blockbuster Season. Also … Norseman Update, CAHS History, Bill Wheeler, Neil A. Macdougall, Austin Airways, Fox Moth Discoveries, Les Corness Treasures, James Bay Airlift, Canadair CL-260 Re-Discovered, John Ciesla’s fantastic Transportation Files, Ghost Canso/Bush Caddy Update

Welcome to CANAV’s Fall/Winter 2021-22 booklist. As usual it includes all the standard CANAV classics, with some excellent deals, especially for Air Transport in Canada at a give-away, all-in price. There are numerous new offerings, all enticing for the serious fan. It’s hard to say which is the real standout of the bunch., but I’m tending (for one) towards Chris Hadfield’s The Apollo Murders. I’ve just started to read it and I’m reminded right away (as far as writing style and enticing content go) of Ernie Gann’s Fate is the Hunter. That’s about as grand a compliment as I could give any aviation/space author. I think you need this book, but so do you need a boxload of others from this fall’s list. Take a look, you’ll see what I mean … stock up for winter.

Hot Off the Press … Red Lake Norseman Project Finale!

Norseman CF-DRD finally has been fully refurbished and again graces the Red Lake waterfront at the head of Howie Bay. To see this week’s posting, google: Kim posted an update to Save DRD – Red Lake’s Norseman icon
Please drop a few bucks in DRD’s gofundme kitty while you’re there. How painful will that be? Not at all, but you’ll have helped push the project fund to its goal of $50K, a target that a couple of years ago must have seemed so impossible. Not today it isn’t! Cheers … Larry

Canadian Aviation Society: Beginnings

Canada’s premier aviation history organization for 60+ years has been the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Lately, I came across two historic documents that reveal some key CAHS history. Have a look at the minutes of the society’s original meeting, when it was known as “The Early Birds of Canada”. This was a name suggested by the original US-based “Early Birds of Aviation”, which included pilots who had flown prior to December 17, 1916. Soon, however, we realized that this name would restrict the breadth in coverage, so the more general, all-encompassing “CAHS” name was adopted at our second meeting. To my knowledge, none of those mentioned in the minutes are still with us. The second document from a few months later in 1963 is under the CAHS banner and states the society’s rationale. These documents were printed on a 1950s “spirit duplicator”, so it’s a miracle that they haven’t faded away to nothing by now.

A Few Photos by the Great W.J. “Bill” Wheeler, CAHS No.5

Bill Wheeler (right) and Neil A. Macdougall were two of Canada’s leading aviation writers, editors and historians. Rick Radell took this wonderful photo of them at the 2011 event at the CWH in Hamilton, when Bill so deservedly was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Bill Wheeler (1931-2020, CAHS No.5, Member Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, etc.)) spent more than 40 years as editor of the Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. As such, he really was the beating heart of the CAHS. He also spent a tour as CAHS national president. Residing in Markham since the 1960s, his day job in his younger years was commercial illustrator for such publications as Toronto’s legendary “Star Weekly”. He also produced some renowned book covers, and his illustrations fill our Journal from the early 1960s onward. For today, here are a few of Bill’s ordinary airplane photos, of which there are too many to count. We early CAHS members had much in common. While many had been involved in the development of early aviation, others were more the “arm chair” type, sharing such pastimes as reading aviation books and magazines, taking in airshows and CAHS events, being enthusiastic aviation photographers, etc.

When we met in 1962, Bill was still earning his living as an artist and illustrator. Happily, before long he got into teaching art, then enjoyed a long career at West Hill Collegiate in east Toronto, finishing as art department head. Over the decades as a hobby photographer he amassed other photos from countless sources. All these he kept lovingly in huge albums. For example, here’s a very rare photo that he saved ages ago of Leavens Brothers famous Pitcairn PAA-1 Autogyro CF-ASQ.

Leavens had started on a farm near Belleville, Ontario in the late 1920s, then moved to Toronto’s Barker Field and Pelee Island on Lake Erie. Leavens became legendary delivering supplies and mail to Pelee, teaching thousands of young Canadians to fly, and leading the way for years in spruce budworm aerial spray campaigns, and in aircraft sales and service.

Leavens’ sole Pitcairn had come to Canada in 1932, then spent more than 20 years doing everything from joyriding at country fairs to spraying and – as you see – banner towing. A bit of self-promotion is going one in this scene – Leavens always had a flying school. Thanks to Bill, this rare Pitcairn photo survives. I doubt that few in 2021 have ever before seen this one. Here also is an old b/w print from Bill’s collection showing a JN-4 on the Leavens farm in the late 1920s. One or more of the Leavens may have learned to fly on this old crate.

Here are three nice Bill Wheeler snapshots taken at Toronto’s Malton Airport c.1960. First is one of the Department of Transport’s beautiful little Piper Apaches, CF-GXV. This was an early Canadian Apache, having entered the CCAR in 1957. It served the DOT into 1965, then had a long list of operators including Calm Air in Manitoba and Drumheller Air Service in Alberta. It was missing from the CCAR by 1976. What was its fate, I wonder? Its registration eventually was assigned to a Maule. We always thought that this DOT colour scheme was the best over the decades. The only complaint here is the tiny registration. One would think that the DOT of all outfits might have known better.
Bill’s nice shot of a pair of DOT Beech 18s at Malton: CF- GXT is nearest. Just beyond is the old Canada Customs shack at Malton’s north end. Looming in the background is the recently built Skyport hangar. It’s still there in 2021 “GXT” was ex-RCAF 1540. It served the DOT 1957-69, then St. Félicien Air Services to August 19, 1971, when lost in a northern Quebec crash. Types like the Apache and Beech 18 were work-a-day DOT planes. Inspectors used them daily to travel around to dozens of airfields. They were used for check rides for private and commercial pilots getting qualified. They tested new radio or nav equipment, etc. As time passed, the Apaches and Beech 18s were replaced by newer planes such as the Aztec and Queen Air. This is one of those photos printed on a popular paper from back in the day that was somewhat mottled, so (as you can see) it’s not easy to read small details like registrations. Photographic paper makers were always trying out such new surfaces, looking for marketing gimmicks, but if only they’d stuck with a nice flat, glossy surface our photos would have more archival value in the 2020s.
Here’s a snap that Bill clicked off on the Genaire ramp at Malton showing one of the prototype Found FBA-2C bushplanes in the early 60s. CF-OZW crashed at Parry Sound on Georgian Bay in 1965. This really shows the Found for the tough little bushplane it was. It remains so to this day — a few of Founds built in the early 1960s still are at work in the bush. The first detailed history of Found appeared in Air Transport in Canada (1997). Then, in 2017 Rick Found wrote a further history – the “inside story” that he entitled Bush Hawk. With these two histories, the Found story is well covered.

Bill and Charlie

Charlie (left) and Bill out at Buttonville airport (near Toronto), where Charlie kept his beloved little CF-LVI. Looks as if this day he was doing some tinkering with LVI’s engine. Charlie was an ace of a tinkerer. Two finer Canadians one would be hard-pressed to find.

If the CAHS had two real pals from Day 1, those were Bill Wheeler and Charlie Catalano. While Bill was teaching, Charlie was a fellow who did almost anything. Once, he was managing a theatre where we held some early CAHS meetings, at other times he was repairing radios and TVs, yet again he was tinkering with a system of lights under the wings of his war surplus T-50. He’d fly over Toronto at night with the lights spelling out various advertising messages. Charlie was an innovative fellow. He and Bill were real CAHS stalwarts. There could have been no society without such members. For many years Charlie kept his own little 1945 Aeronca at Buttonville – CF-LVI. He flew it summer and winter. He and Bill made many a flight together. Here are shots that Bill took of Charlie’s “Airknocker” on skis, then towing a banner promoting a CAHS Convention some time in the 1960s. Last heard of in 2018, “LVI” was based in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

A History of Austin Airways

It was a big deal publishing CANAV’s short history of Austin Airways back in 1985, then adding to the details fairly substantially in Air Transport in Canada (1997) and The Noorduyn Norseman (Vol.2, 2013), but there’s much more to know about this great company than CANAV’s efforts. Long before I had a clue about it all, in the 1950s Neil A. Macdougall (1927-2021) of Toronto was covering the Austin story. By this time, Neil, having begun in aviation while in high school in Vancouver during WWII, was well known as a polished, professional aviation journalist.

On assignment from “ESSO Air World”, Neil did an in- depth study of Austin, visiting the company from its base at Toronto Island Airport to Sudbury and other points north. He talked to many of the key Austin people, flew in Austin aircraft, did all the photography, then put together this solid company profile. For the periodical genre, this is as good an air operator istory as you’ll find. If any writer in our so-shallow “social media” era could do half as well, he’d be a winner.

Here’s Neil’s finished product as it appeared in the January – February edition of the prestigious “ESSO Air World”. See what a professional writer and photographer at his peak could do out in the field 60+ years ago. Also, see Neil’s obituary at the end. Talk about a solid Canadian’s life well lived.

Fox Moth Discoveries

It’s always fun to come across any new airplane photo. Out of the blue, these two just popped up lately from Bill Wheeler’s files – a couple of D.H.83 Fox Moths. These planes were from the small batch built at Downsview in 1945-46 as DHC was getting back into civil aviation after its booming war years had come to a sudden halt in August 1945. Right away business in the north started to roll again, so airplanes were needed. While the DHC design team was working on what would evolve into the Chipmunk and Beaver, there was a small market for old pre-war Fox Moths. DHC turned out 53½ of these useful planes. Many went north, including one to Yellowknife for a young pilot, Max Ward.

I wonder who got this lovely air-to-air shot of Fox Moth CF- DIW? Notice the chief detail that makes this a Canadian-built version – its attractive sliding canopy. “DIW” was around Toronto when we were kids. Dave Marshall, a young fellow flying a DC-3 at Malton for the Abitibi Power and Paper Company, sometimes flew “DIW” (that looks like Dave in this shot). In 1959-60 it was based at Maple airstrip just north of Toronto. Its fuselage was red, the wings and tail feathers were yellow. I took a nice landing shot of “DIW” at one of the local fly-ins about 1960. Dave was flying that day. I happily used that shot in my first book, Aviation in Canada.

Fox Moth CF-EVK had a long career but it’s a bit of a complicated story. “EVK” had begun as the very prototype D.H.83 Fox Moth — G- ABUO. It came to Canada in May 1933, became CF-API, and that winter joined General Airways of Rouyn to toil in the northern bush. In 1937-39 it was in BC with Ginger Coote Airways, then returned to Ontario, where it hauled sturgeon in 1939 for Baillie-Maxwell of Nakina. Starting in 1940, it worked for Leavens Brothers from their Larder Lake base in northern Ontario. Damaged in a wind storm at Barker Field in January 1950, it was rebuilt by Leavens to D.H.83C standards, acquiring a new identity — D.H.83C No.54. This transpired when the salvageable parts of “API” were mated with the 54 th and last fuselage built by DHC. Re-registered CF-EVK, it appeared in DOT records as D.H.83C No.54. In 1959 it was listed in the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register to L. Lavoie of Amos, Quebec. Its C of A was current to March 1960, so it’s sometimes described as Canada’s last commercially- operated D.H.83C. After 1960, nothing is known about “EVK”. I once heard that it was destroyed when the shed it was stored in burned. Here, “EVK” looks very spiffy on skis, place and date unknown.

Three More Glorious Les Corness Photos

As usual, hardly a week passes that I’m not salivating over another of Les Corness’ wonderful old black-and-whites. First is a really classic scene from the early years of “modern” air transportation in Canada. A crowd of well-wishers is seeing off TCA DC-3 CF-TDT at Edmonton’s famous downtown airport. Here’s your basic definition of “airport security” in Canada c.1950. Delivered initially to the RCAF as FZ558 in late 1943, “TDT” next served TCA 1946-61. I photographed it in Winnipeg when it was in its final weeks with the company in September 1961, just before it was sold to Matane Air Service in Quebec. Last heard if, “TDT was derelict in Nassau in 1971 as N7709.
Next is another classic Les Corness Edmonton airport scene c.1960 showing Wardair’s Bristol Freighter CF-TFX loading a Bell 47. Great ramp action and content, right, even it Les botched his focus a titch. Happily, “TFX” eventually was saved for posterity. Today, it flies on forever atop its pylon at Yellowknife.
Since Edmonton was an aviation crossroads, hardly a day passed that it attracted some exotic transient airplane. Les must have been on Cloud 9 when he spotted this beauty one day – N5546N, a rare civilian Martin B-26 Marauder executive conversion. Having originally been USAAF B-26C 41-35071, in 1946 it was acquired by United Air Lines, then other owners followed. In 1949 it participated in the Bendix Trophy Race. From 1951-56 (or so) it served the Tennessee Gas Corp. I suspect that this was the period it visited Edmonton – there was much oil/gas industry corporate air travel to and from Edmonton and Calgary from the 1950s onward (to the present). Eventually, N5546N was acquired by the Confederate Air Force in Texas and restored to CAF warbird standards. It flew again in WWII markings in 1984. Airworthy B-26s were so rare that it a grave shock when N5546N crashed near Odessa, Texas on September 28, 1995. That day it was airborne with the pilot and four others aboard. It seems that power was lost in at least one engine, causing the plane to go down uncontrollably. All aboard perished.

Northern Aviation in 1977

In 1977 Hugh Whittington, the renowned editor of “Canadian Aviation” magazine, asked three writers to cover Canada’s Northern and Arctic Aviation scenes. Hugh Quigley headed for Yellowknife, Ted Larkin for Resolute Bay, and I for the heart of James Bay country along Quebec’s Great Whale River. This was a super opportunity for us. Besides, it always was a privilege to work for Hugh and Canada’s premier aviation trade magazine.

To start, I connected with SEBJ – la Société d’énergie de la Baie James – in Montreal to make arrangements to fly into its vast hydro development region, get briefed about what was going on up there, and how my transportation and lodging would go. In a few days I was at Dorval, where I met the man running SEBJ’s air transport operation, the legendary Frank Henley. A hardcore aviation fan and renowned aviator/businessman, Frank was keen to fill me in and get my flight north organized. Only recently he had set up an exclusive SEBJ corporate air operation using several Convair 580s. Their main task was to fly personnel, freight and mail back and forth between Dorval and SEBJ, with stops at Quebec and Bagotville.

This assignment was one of my first big breaks in aviation journalism. Even though I was getting published in the aviation press, there rarely was more than a few dollars in it for any piece of work. By comparison, Hugh was offering $750 for the SEBJ assignment. Our stories appeared in his November 1977 edition. My trip really panned out, including some very good flying in the Convairs, a couple of commercial Hercules, and some Bell choppers. I had one heck of an exciting few days. Here’s what I turned out for Hugh:

Forty-four years later? By now, the SEBJ that I saw in 1977 long-since has been producing hydro electricity for Quebec, New York and Ontario. The project has gone on to additional phases and still is on-going. Of course, the aviation scene is much changed. Long gone are the Convairs, DC-3s, Otters and Hercules. Today, such types as the PC-12, King Air and Dash 8 serve the region. Many of the fellows I met also have departed, from Frank Henley to Blake Smiley and Roy Heibel. Frank’s now a member of Quebec’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Roy later died in a helicopter crash.

Some of the SEBJ aircraft came to dramatic endings, including CF-DSX. Following SEBJ and other northern projects, in 1984 it became N39ST with Trans America, then was S9-NAI with Transafrik working in diamond mining regions of South Africa. On April 9, 1989 “NAI” was hauling fuel for the Angolan Air Force when it came under fire near Luena airfield. With two engines ablaze, it crash-landed. The 4-man crew survived, but that was the end of what once had been a famous Canadian Hercules.

The other “Herc” that I flew in on SEBJ, PWA’s CF-PWN, also had a bad ending. As N920ST, by 1989 it was doing shady work for the CIA. On November 27 that year was approaching Jamba airport in Angola. The “Aviation Safety Network” summarizes what happened: “The aircraft, flown by Tepper Aviation’s chief, reportedly was carrying out a flight on behalf of the CIA to provide the Angolan UNITA guerrilla forces with weapons. It crashed while coming in to land at Jamba. These flights were flown at night at a very low altitude to avoid MPLA radar detection. The runway at Jamba was dirt, the approach was over trees, and the portable runway lighting was probably marginally adequate.”

Here’s a page from Air Transport in Canada with photos of some commercial Hercules having Canadian connections, some quite sad. These days you can order “ATC” at a real bargain. Get this 2-volume, 5 kg, 1030-page treasure (usually $155++) for these all-in prices (pay by PayPal, etc. in Canadian dollars): Canada $65.00, USA $80.00, Int’l $160.00. No one ever has regretted having “ATC” on his/her bookshelf, and what a spectacular gift this duo always makes.

Canadair Revelation

Back in 1995 we published one of the grandest corporate aviation histories – Canadair: The First 50 Years. It really is a lovely book and will be treasured for decades by those who own the 24,000 copies that came off the bindery at Friesen printers in Manitoba. However, there’s always the reality that no matter how we try, we never really can produce the “all singing, all dancing” aviation book. All that our Canadair can do it whet a reader’s appetite for more. Well, today here’s a bit more for the avid fan.

Just like all aerospace companies, Canadair created hundreds of projects “on paper”, few of which ever developed. That’s too bad in some ways, for some of these surely would have made grand successes.

Out in today’s aviation boonies are hundreds of Cessna Caravans, DHC Beavers, Otters and turbo Otters, Kodiaks, AN-2s and other such common workhorses. They serve niche markets in a hundred-and-one ways. They’re absolutely indispensible for isolated northern communities from Labrador to Alaska, across Africa and Latin America, in the Aussie outback, in Siberia, etc. Each type has its general history, even some fame and glory, but who knew, for example, that the Caravan had its beginnings in the late 1970s as a glint in to eyes of Dick Hiscocks and Russ Bannock of De Havilland Canada in Toronto? Strange but true. The fellows envisioned an Otter replacement, took their idea to Wichita, and the rest is history (you might not see this part of the Caravan story in any official Cessna history).

All very interesting, but did you know that the first such brilliant and serious idea for an Otter replacement hailed not from Hiscocks/Bannock, but from Canadair at Cartierville in suburban Montreal? This was the Canadair CL-260 utility plane of 1970. As a builder of Sabres, Argus and CF-104s, who would expect the great Canadair to be dabbling with such a “small fry” project? That I do not know and nearly all the Canadair old boys from that era by now have passed. Does anyone out there know the details? Failing all else, here’s a nifty bit that emerged lately from the depths of the CANAV archives.

CL-260 Turbine Otter Caravan

Wing Span: 54’ 58’ 52’1”

Length: 43’2” 41’10” 37’7”

All-up Weight: 8000 lb 8200 lb 8000 lb

It’s just another fantasy airplane by now, but “what if” Canadair had produced the CL-260? Would it have changed the world long before the ubiquitous Caravan, and the other light utility planes that serve today? It’s always fun to speculate. Anyway, here are the GA drawings direct from Canadair. Who will be the first keen modeller to give this one a try? If you dare try and follow through, please send me some photos for the blog.

JFCiesla’s albums | Flickr

Have a look at John Ciesla’s fantastic transportation files. Lots of wonderful Canadian content from the great airliners of the 50s-60s to streetcars, busses, you name it. Many a trip down memory lane!

Bush Caddy Update

The last time I updated the story of the “Ghost” Canso of Gananoque, one of the photos (taken by Nick Wolochatiuk) shows a bit of a sorry-looking yellow Bush Caddy in the hangar beside the Canso. CANAV reader Jim Golz has found the story behind this interesting airplane. It’s a classic “cautionary tale” in detail, including some questions about of aircraft certification competence at Transport Canada. Use the blog search box to find our original story by entering “Bush Caddy”. Here’s the link that reveals this really amazing story … not to be missed by any true history fan, or anyone who aviates in kitplanes: https://www.eaa.org/eaa/news-and-publications/eaa-news-and-aviation-news/bits-and-pieces-newsletter/12-25-2019-wing-spar-failure-on-a-bushcaddy-l-164

New In Print … You need to hear about this one


One of the grandest aviation history books of the decade is now available. Here it is  … Cold War Shield: RAF Fighter Squadrons 1950-1960.

Fastidiously researched and written by Roger Lindsay, CWS is Vol.1 of an exotic new series. Subject matter? Spitfire, Tempest, Hornet, Mosquito and Meteor in post-WWII RAF service. Each aircraft type is described along with all the fine details of its service in each squadron/unit.

Roger lays the groundwork for CWS in a thoughtful Preface, Introduction and Foreword. Next, he explains the RAF’s air defence requirements as the USSR rises as a formidable Cold War enemy. In setting the scene, he describes the Soviet aircraft types that threatened the West in the 1950s. Nothing is missed by this experienced old hand from the world of aviation history research and writing (you ought to have Roger’s profiles about such types as the Venom, Javelin and Lightning).

CWS is a beautifully-balanced production, having all the features of an superior book — there’s nothing “thrown together” about this fine piece of work. CWS is printed on good quality paper, is well bound, has printed endpapers, 432 pages with 800 photos (most new to any book and many in colour) and several very useful maps. And this isn’t all.

Roger enlisted the skills of one of the most talented and experienced book designers, Alan Carlaw of Squadron Prints renown. There also are handsome colour profiles and some strikingly fine original paintings by Alfie Alderson. Other trimmings include a detailed acknowledgments list, glossary, appendix and bibliography. Talk about a lovely piece of work that would be a bargain at twice the price!

Cold War Shield: RAF Fighter Squadrons 1950-1960 is not to be missed. Get in early by ordering Vol.1. CWS is not available through CANAV. Instead, contact Roger’s distributor:

Wendy Myers, The Aviation Book Centre, 70 Westwood Road, Atherstone, Warwickshire, CV9 2AY, England.