Category Archives: Reviews

Two Fine Books Telling the Story of the Earliest Days of Aviation

Birdmen_coverBirdman: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss and the Battle to Control the Skies

by Lawrence Goldstone

This fantastic best seller is one that will satisfy any serious fan of aviation history. Beginning with such pioneers of flight as Otto Lilienthal in Germany and Octave Chanute in the US, Goldman quickly comes to the Wright brothers of Dayton, Ohio and Glenn Curtiss of Hammondsport, New York. Showing how Lilienthal and Chanute influenced these three innovators, he then details how each persevered in flying America’s first powered airplanes.

This book is downright exciting – a “page-turner”, as they say. The author delves deeply into each participant’s human side, warts and all. Often these heroic figures are at loggerheads – the Wrights clash with each other, let alone with Curtiss, whom they accuse of stealing their patents. They strive to virtually patent the airplane. Their battles rage for years in the courts.

Leading the way in powered airplane flight, the Wrights engender a whole new world of entertainment – exhibition flying. From 1909-14 they and Curtiss bring their performing troupes to city after city all the way west to Los Angeles and Seattle. This is a magnificent era, but it comes at a huge cost. The touring flyers introduce millions to the airplane and make piles of money. But by 1912 more than 100 have lost their lives, mainly at public appearances. Airplanes fall apart in flight, turbulence hurls pilots from their seats, planes crash into crowded bleachers, the first bird strike kills a famous pilot, etc. All along the crowds are loving it all. The great Lincoln Beachey, who performed some of the earliest airshows in Canada, grows disgusted at how the hordes come out mainly to see him die. And so they finally do in 1915, when his plane disintegrates during a show at the great San Francisco exposition.

Another major theme is the years-long lawsuits pursued almost insanely by the Wrights against all other aeronautical enterprizers. Obsessed by their patents and paranoid about these being infringed upon, the Wrights spent a fortune in the courts. While aeronautics was progressing at Hammondsport, in the UK and across Europe, the Wrights dithered and lost their chance. Their Wright Flyers, in the meantime, became known as death traps. Dozens of airmen and passengers died in Wright Flyer crashes, while Curtiss machines gained the opposite reputation. In the end, Goldman concludes that the Wrights held up America in its quest to advance in aviation. Curtiss on one hand and Europe on the other set the pace in advancing aviation’s cause. Ironically, in the end the two warring sides made peace through a 1929 corporate alignment creating the Curtiss-Wright Co., which survives to this day.

Don’t miss this exceptional book that brings to life the great years of powered flight!

Birdman: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss and the Battle to Control the Skies

230 pages, hardcover, photos, notes, index $34.00, CANAV price $21.00 + $12.00 Canada Post + $2.10 tax. Total for Canada $35.10 Mail your cheque or pay by PayPal to USA and overseas please enquire for a price:


Blog Pioneer Decades Jan. 2016Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades

By Larry Milberry

Complementing Birdmen is this detailed history of the early years of flight in Canada. Beginning with Canada’s first flight – a balloon ascent in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1840, The Pioneer Decades explains how aviation went decade by decade in America’s next-door neighbour. Ballooning alone was a huge public fascination that produced one Canadian “first” after another, whether the Saint John ascent, the “first” aerial crossing between Canada and the US, the first powered airship appearances or the first parachute jump.

The Pioneer Decades then introduces heavier–than-air flight with teenager Larry Lesh’s daring glider experiments in Montreal in 1907. While Birdmen does tell a bit about Alexander Graham Bell and the Aerial Experiment Association, The Pioneer Decades covers the AEA program in detail, ending with the dramatic first powered airplane flight by the “Silver Dart” at Baddeck in 1909. There also is much of Glenn Curtiss and Hammondsport, where the “Silver Dart” was built and first flew.

The Pioneer Decades continues with the great years in Canada of the exhibition flyers, nearly all of whom are also covered in Birdmen. For example, Toronto’s first airplane flight is made by Charles Willard – a Curtiss-trained pilot flying his Curtiss-made “Golden Flyer”. The great Montreal and Toronto air meets of 1910 and 1911 are also here, with tales of the famed Curtiss and Wright pilots, many of whom would give their lives in the cause from 1907 onward – Lincoln Beachey, Cromwell Dixon, Eugene Ely, Ralph Johnstone, Phil Parmalee, etc.

The Pioneer Decades tells how McCurdy and Baldwin of the AEA tried selling their designs to the Canadian military, how Canada’s first WWI airmen trained at Curtiss and Wright schools, then how they excelled “Over the Front” in the first great aerial conflict. Many would fly the great Curtiss JN-4 and Curtiss’ renowned long-range, anti-submarine flying boats, about which, a few years earlier, the Wright camp had been scoffing. You’re bound to enjoy this beautifully-produced CANAV title.

Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades

176 pages, large format, hardcover, photos, bibliography, index. $50.00 but with this offer $35.00 + $12.00 for Canada Post + $2.35 tax. Total for Canada $49.35 Mail your cheque or pay by PayPal to USA and overseas please enquire for a price (email me at

BOTH these leading titles: $56.00 + $15.00 for Canada Post + $3.55 tax. Total for Canada $74.55. Mail your cheque or pay by PayPal to USA and overseas please enquire for a price:

CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E 3B6


Tel: (416) 698-7559

Pierre Gillard’s Blog Features Ralph Clint’s Long-Lost Airliner Photos, A310s to the Boneyard, Readers React to Norseman Vol.2 + Initial Errata Details

The demise of Norseman 495, about which Bob Cameron of Whitehorse adds some details. (John Biehler Collection)

The demise of Norseman 495, about which Bob Cameron of Whitehorse adds some details. (John Biehler Collection)

All the best to CANAV’s great supporters over 2014! Thanks hugely to one and all of you solid folks, who go back to the birth of CANAV in 1981, but also to you many new fans/younger readers who are gradually getting to know CANAV and all it has to offer via its top-notch book list and always-informative blog.

For January 4, 2014 please note that I’ve added an addendum to blog posting “The Wartime Era Fades”. This is based on an obituary that I spotted in today’s newspaper. You’ll absolutely enjoy this item. Find it easily by using the search box.

Blog followers will love what Pierre Gillard is doing with Ralph Clint’s collection of old slides. Born in 1935, Ralph passed away in 2013. A long-serving TCA/Air Canada radio operator, Ralph was the commensurate aviation fan (nothing shallow for him) and one of CANAV’s hard-working researchers, proof readers etc. since the days of our Canadair North Star book.

Three cheers for Pierre, a professor at E.N.A. at St. Hubert, who does such a fantastic job with his blog. To see his fine gallery of Ralph’s airliner photos, have a look at this week’s headline offerings at his blog. Looks like most of Pierre’s “Ralph” photos were taken in the 1960s-70s at Toronto YYZ, mainly from the upper parking level of the original (now recycled) “Aeroquay” passenger terminal. This is really a great trip back into the days of such types as the stubby DC-9-15 and such Classic 747s as CF-TOA, a vintage -133.  Each photo was decently taken by Ralph and and has been nicely “tweaked up” by Pierre. As to “tweaking”, Pierre explains: “Most of Ralph’s slides are easy to scan and process because they are not Kodachromes. So, I can use a function to virtually wipe dust and remove scratches, which is totally impossible to do with Kodachrome slides. This saves a lot of time.”

This week Pierre also covers the dismantling of a couple of Air Transat Airbus 310s (“On démantèle à Mirabel”, A310 “au recyclage”, etc.). Who would believe that these seemingly modern airliners so soon could be over the hill but … I guess we’re all getting there. Something to think about, eh!

“Merci bien” CANAV people and good reading (as usual) to one and all … Larry

A Norseman Aficionado Weighs In

Norseman readers are gradually getting back to me with their comments about our new books. I’ve just heard from Bob Cameron of Whitehorse. Bob led a small team back in the 1990s restoring Fokker Super Universal CF-AAM (dormant since a 1937 accident) to flying condition. He and his pals then toured Canada in this astoundingly historic plane, a photo of which graces the cover of Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years. CF-AAM today is permanently on show at the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg. Last year Bob’s grand book, Yukon Wings, was published. You can read my review of this big-time beauty for more details.

Bob also is a veteran Norseman pilot, so who better to pass judgment on a Norseman book? Off the top, this is what he has to say: “The hi-lite of my Christmas was the arrival of your magnificent Norseman Vol. I! It is fabulous, and I am absorbing every millimeter of it!”

Encrusted remnants of Norseman 495 as they sit today on the bottom of Tagish Lake. (via Bob Cameron)

Encrusted remnants of Norseman 495 as they sit today on the bottom of Tagish Lake. (via Bob Cameron)

Bob adds some historic tidbits about the dramatic wreck of RCAF Norseman 495, pictured on p.151 of Norseman Vol.1: “That happened 40 miles south of here on Tagish Lake on St. Patrick’s Day, 1950. One guy was checking out another on skis. Unfortunately, they chose to shoot a landing too far off shore, in flat light, rendering depth perception next to impossible.” He then explains the final fate of 495. The RCAF salvage team stripped it of useful parts, then abandonned the wreck to settle to the lake bottom with the spring melt. If one flies over Tagish Lake today, the outline of 495 may still be spotted in the shallow water. Bob finishes: “Anyway, good work, Larry, I’ve waited a long time for a pictorial history of one of my favourite airplanes!”

 The Gremlins are About!

Several typical typos have been pointed out in the Norseman volumes. These inevitably seem to occur no matter how hard we try to correct them before printing. Thanks to former Norseman pilot Rodney Kozar for spotting these. The real clanger is the one referring to the great Dishlevoy/Magnusson Norseman website as, when that should be So please make a note (but do use both sites, eh).

In Vol.1: In Norseman Vol.1 p.119, the correct date for the Hazelton crash is the one shown on the grave marker.

For p.120 somehow the caption for Norseman 2477 got transposed. In an earlier version of the galleys the correct caption is in place — can you believe it! So how in the world did it end up with a caption for Norseman 2469. The desired caption is: Camping with 2477 at Crystal 1 in March 1942. From February 6 to April 4, 1942 this Norseman was on loan to Ferry Command for the Eastern Arctic airstrip/weather station survey. Postwar, it was CF-PAB. While serving Associated Airways of Edmonton, in August 1954 it was damaged beyond repair in a landing accident. (A.W. Baker Col.)

p. 197 – the correct month for the Nelles incident is August.

In Vol. 2 – p.11, line 2 of caption, change RCAF to RCMP

p.13 – lower caption, change Ontario to Canadian

p.14 – top caption for CF-OBG incorrectly gives the info for CF-OBF

p.17 – in the chart, change CF-UDD to CF-UUD

p.20 – lower caption change CF-SAN to CF-SAH

p.41 – at end of  CF-GUE entry, the Huron Air mention applies to above entry for CF-GSR

pp.62/63 – all registrations should read CF-EIH, delete CF-EIN

p.74 – CF-GUM Mark IV, change to UC-64A; CF-HFV change serial no. to N29-50; CF-SAHI V, change to CF-SAH  IV; CF-SAM Mark IV, change to V.

p.123 – lower caption change OK-XDB is OK-XBD

p.194 – lower caption, change CF-ORD to CF-OBD

p.239 – 2nd para, col.3 CF-DRD went on permanent display in 1992

p.246 – top caption change CF-GTN to CF-GJN

p.286 – lower photo, Norseman shown is CF-JIN, not CF-JEC

Pierre Gillard Reviews Norseman Vol. 2

 Probablement que, pour Larry Milberry, les 232 pages du premier volume consacré au Noorduyn Norseman avait un “goût de trop peu” car il a immédiatement embrayé, en solo cette fois-ci, avec un second volume ne comprenant pas moins de 304 pages ! Il restait donc beaucoup de choses à dire encore au sujet de cet avion de brousse produit à Cartierville. Et vous n’allez pas me croire quand je vous dirai que l’auteur a reçu des commentaires acerbes de certains frustrés mentionnant qu’il manquait de détails au sujet de quelques opérateurs “oubliés” par le récit!

Toujours est-il que ce second volume traite essentiellement des Norseman utilisés après la Seconde guerre mondiale par la Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC-RCMP), les opérateurs civils canadiens ainsi que les opérateurs étrangers, toujours avec le souci du détail et la minutie que l’on connaît à Larry Milberry. Une place importante est réservée aux résultats de nombreuses entrevues et échanges que l’auteur a eus avec des personnes pour qui cet avion était le gagne-pain. C’est ainsi que j’ai retrouvé une belle participation de mon ami Paul Gagnon, à ses débuts en qualité de pilote de brousse, dont des récits de quelques “aventures” vécues avec des Norseman.

Sur le plan des illustrations, un grand nombre de photos en couleur, dont certaines sont absolument magnifiques et relèvent du grand art, complètent les archives extraordinaires en noir et blanc publiées dans les deux volumes. Comme toujours, à la lecture des ouvrages de Canav Book, on peut se demander comment il est possible de rassembler autant de documents photographiques inédits. Avec ces deux volumes au sujet du Norduyn Norseman, Larry Milberry et Hugh A. Halliday ont définitivement comblé un vide historique pour cet avion construit au Québec.

For Pierre’s review of Norseman Vol. 1, click here.

Reminder to  UK and EuroZone bibliophiles … pick up your copy of Norseman Vol.1 and Vol.2 at  Simon Watson’s Aviation Bookshop in Tunbridge Wells, UK. Email: Or … visit Henk Timmers’ Aviation Megastore at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. Email:

Scale Aviation Modeller International Notices “Norseman Vol.1”


One of the world’s most popular aviation monthlies, Scale Aviation Modeller, has picked up on Aviation in Canada: The Noorduyn Norseman, Volume 1 in its October 2013 issue.

These days it’s a minor miracle for a publisher to get so much as a two-line mention for a new book, let alone a “Highly recommended”. Besides this, it’s encouraging to see that reviewer Paul Lomas understands that books stand uniquely alone, i.e. that not everything is “on the web”. It’s just a brief bit, so have a read! Also, be sure to check up on Scale Aviation Modeller at

A New Review from Pierre Gillard

ImageFighter Squadron: 441 Squadron from Hurricanes to Hornets: Here is a new book review from aviation bibliophile Pierre Gillard, aeronautical professor at Quebec’s renowned Ecole National d’Aéronautique. Fighter Squadron is one of the most refined squadron histories ever published, so you are unlikely to ever kick yourself for ordering a copy. Usually $75.00, on sale at $30.00 ++. Canada all-in price $44.10 (cheque or PayPal, no plastic); USA & overseas all-in $55.00 (IMO, cheque on any US/CDN bank, or PayPal).

See Pierre’s amazing blog with some of the best photography on the internet, particularly his photos of the 441 Squadron.

Fighter Squadron – 441 Squadron From Hurricanes to Hornets

5 décembre 2012, par Pierre Gillard

Tout amateur d’aviation militaire canadienne connaît les avions de l’Escadron 441 “Silver Fox” arborant de façon plus ou moins visible les fameux damiers noirs et blancs distinguant cette unité. Le moins que l’on puisse dire, c’est que celle-ci en a vu du pays depuis le moment de sa fondation en Angleterre durant la Seconde guerre mondiale où elle succède à l’ancien 125ème Escadron de chasse. Durant le conflit, le 441 est aussi basé en France et aux Pays-bas où, notamment, il participe à la bataille de Nijmegen. Il effectue également un bref passage à Anvers en Belgique avant de rejoindre l’Angleterre où l’escadron est dissous. En mars 1951, l’Escadron 441 revoit le jour à Saint-Hubert où il vole principalement sur Vampire. Mais, très vite, il change de monture pour le Sabre et est affecté à North Luffenham au Royaume-Uni. Puis en 1954, il sera brièvement basé à Zweibrucken en Allemagne avant de rejoindre Marville en France où il restera jusqu’en 1963. Ensuite, ce sera à Baden-Söllingen en Allemagne que le 441 établira ses quartiers alors que l’escadron vole maintenant sur le CF-104 Starfighter. Enfin, en 1986, l’escadron est transféré à Cold Lake en Alberta et y demeurera avec ses CF-18 jusqu’à sa dissolution en 2006 avec, toutefois, une participation à la guerre en ex-Yougoslavie depuis la base italienne d’Aviano. Le livre de Larry Milberry retrace méticuleusement l’épopée de cette unité depuis les origines du 125ème Escadron. De nombreux récits de combats et de missions enrichissent les chapitres relatant la participation du 441 au second conflit mondial en Europe. La suite est du même calibre; l’auteur excelle tant sur la narration historique que sur les aspects humains de la vie en unité déployée à l’étranger. L’ouvrage se termine en 2003, moment de la publication de ce livre qui est un autre incontournable de Canav Books à consommer sans modération.

Canav Books, Toronto, ON, 2003, 320 pages, plus de 700 photos.

ISBN 978-0-921022-16-6.

New from the CANAV Books “Situation Room”

Bombing and Coastal Operations gets noticed in Scale Aviation Modeller International. In its March 2012 issue, “SAM” — the most highly touted publication in worldwide modelling — gives the nod to our latest title. Have a quick read, and be sure to check out this indispensable  magazine at UK and EU readers note that you now can order the Aviation in Canada series locally (and avoid costly shipping from Canada) — contact the Aviation Books Centre in Atherstone.


Bombing & Coastal Operations Overseas is Classic Aircraft’s “Book of the Month”

Classic Aircraft chooses its March “Book of the Month” — it’s Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations Overseas 1939-1945. Have a look and enjoy! UK readers note that you now can order the Aviation in Canada series locally (and avoid costly shipping) — contact the Aviation Books Centre in Atherstone. Check out  North American readers order your copy here.

And be sure to subscribe to Classic Aircraft, one of the world’s  top aviation monthlies. Check out the website at This is one of those great “must have” action-packed reads — absolutely wonderful, so get on board.

More “Thumbs Up” for Bombing and Coastal Operations

Canadian-built Lancaster Xs with 419 Sqn at Middleton St. George in May 1944. (RCAF Photo)

In the latest edition of the “971 Air Marshal Slemon Wing,” RCAF Association (Colorado Springs), George Sweanor — aka “Ye Olde Scribe” (of Great Escape fame) — included a few words about “Bombing and Coastal Operations”:

This massive work contains 661 photographs and mentions 1388 individuals. There are several pages devoted to the crew of one minor contributor known today as Ye Olde Scribe. This book, embracive as it is, can only begin to depict the slaughter, the sacrifice and the material destruction seen by two Canadian WWII operational commands.

While Bomber Command suffered the highest casualties – 59 percent, Coastal Command ranged further afield. So many stories that Larry has revived for us. There are copies of log book entries, letters home, leaflets, church memorials, newspaper columns, and a list of the 24 officers commanding 6 Group squadrons who became casualties: 18 killed, 4 POWs, 1 evaded and 1 an escaped POW.

It is simply impossible to adequately thank Larry for the years of research and interviewing (the vast majority now dead) he has devoted, at small financial return, to broadcasting Canada’s aviation history.