Category Archives: Travels

Bush flying in Ketchikan

Similar to Canada, Alaska has a rich aviation heritage dating from early post-WWI days. Every  settlement in the state remains dependent on air transportation. Aviation hounds consider Alaska one of the world’s best “hunting grounds” for photographing old planes, from Beavers and Otters to C-46s and DC-4s.

The Alaska Aviation Museum in Anchorage and the Alaskaland Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks tell the story of Alaska aviation through the decades. The Norseman, of course, has its place. Many US Army UC-64s served in Alaska during the war. Civil examples operated postwar, several with Wien Airlines. In 2014, however, Alaska didn’t have a single airworthy Norseman. You’ll find museum examples N725E in Anchorage and N55555 in Fairbanks. There also are 2 or 3 “project” Norsemans around Alaska awaiting restoration.

The town of Ketchikan has produced this gem of a video honouring its bush flying lifestyle. Here it is and you won’t regret taking a look:

Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots from Laurel Lindahl on Vimeo.

One of my Alaska aviation pals comments after watching it: “Great footage and what good quality! Ketchikan is a pretty special town, lots of old style bar life going on. The houses in the red light district had hatches in the floor, so the customers could arrive under the house unseen in skiffs.”

Here are three shots I took on August 3, 1993, when Sandy Parker flew me up to Ketchikan from Prince Rupert in his Wagair Beaver. It was a perfect summer’s day for such a swan.

Ketchikan 1

Shown above is recently-converted Turbo Otter N51KA of Ketchikan Air. Note the Turbo Beaver in the distance. To this day Beavers and Otters remain at the heart of bush and coast flying in this region. In 1957 N51KA came off the production line at DHC in Toronto as Otter 270. It was delivered to the US Army as 57-6128. Its Army days over, in 1978 it became C-GLFK back in Canada with Air Saguenay in Quebec, then migrated to Alaska, sporting a PT6 turbine engine. By 2014 N51KA had been re-registered N270A of Pro Mech Air, also of Ketchikan.

Ketchikan 4 N4787C of Yes Bay Lodge began as Beaver 1330 in 1959, then spent its entire career on the West Coast. It last was in the news on July 24, 2013. While on a Pro Mech Air flight-seeing trip from Ketchikan, the engine failed. N4787C crashed into trees, but all four aboard were rescued.

Ketchikan 2

Here’s a typical view from town looking across to Gravina Island, site of Ketchikan International Airport. An Alaska Airlines 737 is on final approach.

Special note to serious fans: The Regina Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society is hosting the 2014 CAHS national convention in early June. For info, here’s the link: http://cahs.ca/Convention-2014/2014-agm.html

And … Check out Steinar’s Hangar for a fabulous website about one of history’s great little bushplanes/sportplanes — the Republic RC-3 Seabee. Visit www.seabee.info — don’t skip this one or you’ll really be missing out! Steinar also covers such topics as Norway’s Otters and Twin Otters, so there’s plenty of Canadian content.

Lately I dug out some Seabee photos I took 50+ years ago and sent them to Steinar. Now everyone can see these nifty old shots, uselessly buried in my files for so many years. So … if you have any Seabee photos or info, kindly share with Steinar at steinar.saevdal@gmail.com. Thanks … Larry

People sure do need their Norseman fix! Readers keep getting in touch to order Norseman books and tell me a bit about their Norseman connections. Eric Boyce in Alaska writes on February 14, 2014:

I worked on CF-FQI when it was owned by Sept-Iles Air Service in Sept-Iles, QC. That was in 1961 and ’62. I was 14. FQI was the first airplane I ever got to fly — I got to hold the controls for 30 minutes from Lac Manitou to Lac Des Rapides. 
 
In 1999 I brokered CF-GUE to Bear Lake Air, a company in Seward Alaska. I flew it back with my engineer buddy and fellow Canadian, John “Alan” Wakefield. I flew GUE a bit here in Alaska for the last operator, Renfro Air. I modified it by putting Sikorsky S-58 axles, wheels and brakes on it (just like having Otter wheels). I sent Gordy Hughes a copy of the FAA approval and blueprints. Renfro said he could beat the Cessna Caravans hauling freight into the Eskimo villages, because the Norseman was fast and a lot cheaper to operate. He said the wheels and brakes made it taxi, takeoff and land with great control. As you may know Renfro’s engine quit and he rolled it up in the muskeg trying to make the airport.
 
Anyway, I love the Norseman and have since 1961. So I need the books to complete my love affair. Thanks a million for making these books available.

Canada’s Cadet Program … One of our country’s best organizations for teens is “Cadets”. Th Cadet movement is under attack from the Harper Government (our great pals in Ottawa, right). Not only is the HG campaigning to destroy our post services, etc., now they’ve put their sights on the Cadets. Please look at this item. Please sign the petition and forward. Thanks again … Larry

http://www.change.org/petitions/stephen-harper-and-government-of-canada-end-the-cuts-to-cadets-canada-training-and-uniforms-and-cut-the-expansive-regional-cadet-bureaucracy-instead?share_id=RKtrcoJlib&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

Typhoons and CF-100s: 440 Squadron Gets Together in Ottawa, September 2010

 

Jay Hunt (orange shirt) of Vintage Wings has the attention of a crowd of 440 CF-100 era guests during the squadron reunion. A Finch, Beaver, Tiger Moth and Fox Moth form the backdrop. (Photos by Larry Milberry unless noted).

One of the RCAF‘s renowned combat squadrons of WWII and Cold War days was 440, which had its beginnings as 11 (Army Co-operation) Squadron in Vancouver in October 1932. Initially without airplanes, the squadron didn’t get airborne until delivery of its first D.H.60 Moths in October 1934. It carried on with training through the Thirties to the eve of war, when it received its first combat types — the Atlas and Lysander. On June 29, 1940 F/L W.J. McFarlane flew 11 AC’s first wartime operation — a patrol in Lysander 428 scouting for a reported Japanese submarine from RCAF Station Patricia Bay, near Victoria.

440 Sqn grew out of 11 (AC) Sqn, which formed in 1932. One of the squadron's first combat types (1939) was the Westland Lysander, still a frontline plane at the time. This fine "Lizzie" greeted the 440 old timers for their visit to Vintage Wings.

11 (AC) Sqn disbanded on February 1, 1941. Its successor, 111 (Fighter) Sqn, formed the following November 3 at Rockcliffe under S/L A.D. Nesbitt, DFC, a Battle of Britain veteran. Equipped with Kittyhawks, 111 went to the Pacific far northwest to bolster defences against the Japanese, who had occupied the Aleutian Islands. 111 flew its first “ops” on September 25, 1942, when four of its Kittyhawks escorted USAAC B-24s bombing Japanese positions at Kiska. On this mission S/L K.A. Boomer, 111’s CO, shot down a Japanese fighter — the first and only RCAF kill in this theatre.

Veteran Canadian aviation artist Graham Wragg created this lively scene depicting S/L Boomer's Aleutian kill. The painting appears in 440 Squadron History.

111 withdrew from Alaska in August 1943 to resume operations at Patricia Bay. It disbanded in January 1944, then proceeded overseas, where it formed anew, this time as 440 Squadron at Ayr, Scotland. It briefly flew Hurricanes, then converted to the mighty Typhoon. Along with 438 and 439, 440 was one of three RCAF Typhoon squadrons comprising 143 (RCAF) Wing, part of RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force. 440 soon moved south to Hurn to begin tactical operations against German targets in France in the lead-up to D-Day.

A 440 Squadron Typhoon taxies on operations at Eindhoven, Holland over the spring of 1945. Minutes later it would have been delivering its two 1000-lb bombs. Typhoon I8-P/RD389 was Harry Hardy's last Tiffie of the war -- he christened it "Pulverizer IV". Harry attended this reunion. (RCAF)

440 Squadron flew to the Normandy Beachhead at B.9 Lantheuil on June 28, 1944. Moving frequently hereafter, it operated non-stop to war’s end, busy days seeing each of its dozen or so “Tiffies” flying 4, 5, 6 or more sorties daily. Many aircraft fell to German flak and far too many 440 pilots were lost. The squadron disbanded at B.166 Flensburg on August 26, 1945. Its record included 4213 operational sorties with 2215 tons of bombs dropped. These efforts resulted in 420 rail cuts and hundreds of enemy troops, vehicles, barges, etc. blasted. The brutal cost? 32 Typhoons lost, 28 pilots killed. Five 440 pilots received the DFC for their good efforts. The details of this amazing RCAF era are best read in Hugh A. Halliday’s 1992 book, Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story, which anyone with an interest in 440 will want.

440 Squadron CF-100 Mk.III fighters on the flightline in Bagotville circa 1954. Then, a 440 Mk.IV during NATO years. (RCAF)

With the Cold War, 440 re-formed in October 1953. Stationed initially at Bagotville with the machine-gun armed CF-100 Mk.III, in February 1955 it re-equipped with the Mk.4B, which added air-to-air rockets to the arsenal. In May 1957, 440 flew that Atlantic to take up residence at RCAF 3 Wing at Zweibrucken, West Germany. There it bolstered NATO’s all-weather fighter bastion against the Warsaw Pact forces. The squadron again disbanded in December 1962. 440s CF-100 era is covered in good detail in Larry Milberry’s 1981 book The Avro CF-100. This classic title is out-of-print, but copies can be found on such used book internet sites as abebooks.com or bookfinder.com. Another essential book is 440 Squadron History published in 1983 by The Hangar Bookshelf.

440 Typhoon pilots on the Vintage Wings tarmac on September 10, 2010: Alex "The Beast" Scott, Harry Hardy, John Flintoff, Ted Smith and Wally Ward with Michael Potter (in flying suit) and Pearl Hayes, whose late husband Bob, also flew Typhoons.

This illustrious squadron again re-surfaced in 1968, this time as a transport, and search and rescue unit operating the H-21, Dakota, Buffalo and Twin Otter over the decades. 440 still does good work with Twin Otters from its home in Yellowknife.

The 440 gang is briefed by Paul Manson at the start of their tour of the impressive new Canadian War Museum.

CF-100 era 440 aircrew Cliff Cassidy (All-weather interception navigator), Bob Hyndman (pilot) and Clive Loader (pilot). Clive had joined the RCAF in the 1950s following an RAF career flying such fighters as the Hunter. This weekend Cliff briefed the reunion about plans to permanently display the 440 Sqn crest in the Royal Air Force Club in London. On the spot this evening half the money needed to get this done was raised.

September 9 to 12, 2010 former squadron members gathered in Ottawa for what was one of the great RCAF squadron reunions. The 80 or so attendees included Typhoon pilots plus CF-100 pilots and navigators and their ladies. Excellent sessions were organized in some of Ottawa’s best military messes, the RCAF Gloucester Mess included. Half a day was spent at Vintage Wings in Gatineau, where we enjoyed informative guided tours in small groups. The icing on this cake was a wonderful air display put on by Michael Potter in his pristine P-51 Mustang.

CF-100 AI navs, Lonnie Maudsley and Ron Williams, meet at the bar of the Navy Mess in Ottawa. Their squadron mate Ron Leather (pilot) looks on. At the end of the bar Gord Smith (CF-100 pilot) chats with Ted Smith (Typhoons).

An afternoon was spent at the Canadian War Museum, where the new establishment’s first CEO, Gen Paul Manson, was our chief tour guide. Paul had flown CF-100s with 440, later flew CF-104s, then rose to be Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff. The reunion finished on another high note — a send-off breakfast back at the Gloucester Mess, from where everyone dispersed until next time.

Duane Sharpe as he was checking out some other memorabilia. His photo as a young CF-100 AI navigator is on the cover of Canada's Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3.

Ron Bell (AI nav), Jim Terry (AI nav) and Gord Smith (pilot) look over an old copy of the 440 history book as they reminisce about CF-100 days.

All in a CANAV Week’s Work: Toronto/Winnipeg Turn-Around – ACEAF is off the Press

Bright and too early at "YYZ T-1". A window seat is always fun for checking out what's doing on the ramp. (All photos Larry Milberry)

On July 26, 2010 I was on the road early to catch Air Canada AC257, an A-320, to Winnipeg. The mission this time? To re-visit my good friends at Friesens printers down in lovely Altona, not far from lovely Gretna, close to lovely Winkler. I looked forward to the trip, having enjoyed Friesens and Altona since first visiting in 1995 with CANAV’s big Canadair project.

As it always seems to go these day’s, our A-320 was chock-a-block, not a seat in the house. It departed “YYZ” (Toronto) as advertised and at 0810 — 2 1/2 hours after pushback at YYZ — our pilot (or his auto-land system) greased AC257 onto the runway in Winnipeg. Taxiing in, we could see how far along is “YWG’s” new terminal — lookin’ good! Perimeter Metros and Dash 8s were all over the place, as were Westjet  and FirstAir 737s and various Air Canada types. All looked pretty normal on a glorious Manitoba morning.

If there are a few minutes to burn, it's always a blast to sit at the end of the runway to catch a few arrivals. Here comes Perimeter's Metro C-FBTL, likely in from one of the northern First Nations centres.

Picking up a zippy little Accent at Enterprise, I headed to the top end of the ‘drome to catch a few landing shots. There are some good spots for shooting up there, right near Eagle & Brookside. Brookside Cemetery is itself worth a visit and has a huge military section. No time today, however, for the dearly departed. After grabbing some interesting arrivals, especially Perimeter and Bearskin, I headed back to the ‘drome to get some research done at the Western Canada Aviation Museum.

The WCAM is home to one of Canada’s premier aviation libraries/archives, but this is a well-kept secret (don’t tell anyone). A researcher hardly knows where to begin and your head swirls as astounding material pops up at every turn. Typical of the WCAM holdings are the Found Brothers and Transair archives, each with boxes and boxes of goodies. It’s encouraging to see so much material so well and safely stored, and available to the earnest researcher. With decades of experience, the WCAM can boast a fine cadre of archives volunteers, who fastidiously catalogue material and take time to ably assist any visitor. The WCAM is a model institution rich not only in airplanes, artifacts, programs, books, journals and rare tech manuals, but also in priceless personal and corporate collections. This is what aviation museums/archives should be all about.

Research "finds" at the WCAM: A certificate awarded to Roy deNevers following a course on the Firefly at RNAS Lossiemouth.

A wooden Bolingbroke model tested in the National Research Council wind tunnel in Ottawa in 1942

By 1400 it was time to push off to Altona, so down Hwy 75 I drove on a classic Manitoba day. By this time the “Towering Q” was a-building and storm warnings were being aired on all the radio stations. But the storms saved their fury for points north of Winnipeg. Turning onto Hwy 14, I stopped to photograph a winter wheat harvest, wildflowers, some impressive weather to the north, etc.

This monstrous towering cumulus was developing west of Hwy 75, but it eventually dissipated, while other such systems were clobbering points to the north of Winnipeg.

Going full tilt to bring in a half-section of winter wheat along Hwy 14 at Road 2 West.

Arrived at Friesens, I got T’d up with my good friends in book manufacturing. Tomorrow we had a job to do — print Vol.3 in CANAV’s new series — Canada’s Air Force: Evolution of an Air Force. After setting me up in some nice accommodations (the boss’ suite), Mike Fehr treated me to supper. Come 0800 next morning and CSR Elvira Filion was briefing me about the job. The first sheet for approval rolled off the press at 1000 and from then on the day was busy as we checked/approved some 24 sheets, including endpapers and dust jacket.

Friesen's pressman Dennis Penner inspects a proof that he's just been pulled from the press.

Then, the publisher does his annual thing -- inspecting the job. This pallet has 1650 freshly-printed sheets of whichever pages of Evolution of an Air Force. (Photo by Dennis Penner)

In between press runs I took some time to photograph the windmill farm going up to the east of Altona.

Work progresses on the site of a future windmill a few km from Altona.

Local citizens are never overly sold on the “invasion of the windmills”, but there seems to be at least a bit of a payoff for everyone in the neighbourhood. Cash is king, eh! I also checked out Altona’s local ag operator, Steve Kiansky’s Southeast Air Service. Since last year he’s traded up from his piston-pounding Air Tractor AT-301 (R-1340) ag plane to a turbo-powered AT-502 (PT-6). Over at Winkler, the same trend – Arty’s is converting from his Weatherlys with their oft-cantankerous R-985s and now has three factory-fresh AT-402s (PT6). Back to the windmill story, one Manitoba business that is really vulnerable to these new “green” gizmos is crop dusting. Huge areas previously covered by aerial application become no-fly zones once the “war of the worlds” windmills are in place at 150-300 feet. Another reason maybe to scratch your head about the brilliance of “alternative” energy sources, eh! Later in the day, Mike Fehr sent me out to meet his farmer brother-in-law, Adam Wiebe.

Adam Wiebe pilots his John Deere 9750STS, then offloads his bin into a bulk trailer driven by his partner -- his father.

Then, Adam flies his mighty machine as his passenger tries for a "cockpit shot".

Miles of beautiful Manitoba fields, as the winter wheat is gobbled up by John Deere.

Adam was harvesting winter wheat and took me out for an hour’s “flight” in his mighty John Deere 9750STS. Powered by a 350-hp diesel engine (fuel cap. 250 US gal) and with a 300 bushel hopper, this beauty has a gross weight about that of a DC-3. While Adam filled me in about farming this year in Southern Manitoba, I tried to answer his many aviation history queries. Back at Friesens, I checked some final proofs, then knocked off for supper at Bravo’s — top notch.

Come the morning of the 28th and it was bye-bye to Friesens — see y’all next book. Back up I drove to the WCAM, stopping only in the cemetery in Morris to photograph a few RCAF stones.

History buffs are always fascinated by cemeteries, since they often have an aviation connection. In the restful cemetery in Morris, several fliers have made their final touchdowns, including AC1 Albert E. Porter. On September 21, 1940 Albert (age 27) was in Fleet Finch 4449 flying near Trenton. He was a mechanic, so may have been

up with the pilot on a test flight, or maybe was just on a joy ride. Somehow, 4449 collided with Finch 1018. Both planes came down. Of the four men aboard, Albert was the sole casualty. This accompanying newspaper clipping give an outline of what happened that day.

Today’s job at the WCAM? Grinding for several hours over the astounding log books of Roy O. deNevers, one of the many unsung Canadian aviation heroes. Look for his story in Vol.4 — Aviation in Canada: The RCAF Overseas 1939-1945. Along the way, author Bill Zuk showed up, working with a team taping several RCAF Lancaster aircrew. Bill and I had a pleasant walk, then some cool ones in the Airport Hilton lounge (you’ll know some of Bill’s books, including his bio of the great Janusz Zurakowski of CF-105 renown).

Fairchild Super 71 CF-AUJ is the latest of the WCAM's magnificent aircraft restorations. This project places the WCAM in the "world class" category of aviation museums. Its attendant library and archives give the whole place the perfect balance as an aviation history centre.

Finally, take one of your last looks at the terminal at YWG -- in a few months things will start moving into the new complex.

Finally, it was time to catch AC268 (A-320) for a 1600-hour departure. Back on the ground ay YYZ after two hours, I caught a glimpse of the Emirates A380, collected my car at Park ‘n Fly and soon was home. Lots done, lots learned, bags of fun and all in a 3-day Toronto-Winnipeg CANAV turn-around. If you get the idea that CANAV never sits still, you’ve pretty well got that one figured out. Why sit around when the world awaits? If you have a minute to spare, read CANAV’s new booklist and get the details about the ACEAF and a hundred other excellent books.

Have a great summer!

Larry

Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years — Off to the Races!

Friesen Sign ... It's always great pulling into Altona and being welcomed by the Manitoba-friendly folks at Friesen Printers. (Photos by Larry Milberry)

Friesen Sign ... It's always great pulling into Altona and being welcomed by the Manitoba-friendly folks at Friesen Printers. (Photos by Larry Milberry)

August 4, 2009 was another red-letter day in the annals of CANAV Books. Beginning at 0800 at Friesen Printers in Altona, Manitoba, Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years hit the presses. My job was to be on hand to approve press sheets one sheet at a time before they were run. I’ve been used to this routine since the days of Bryant Press and T.H. Best nearly 30 years ago, when the technology in use was the truly dinosauric 72″ Harris press.

Pre-production of ACFY had begun 3-4 weeks earlier with a lot of pre-press detail work at Friesen — validating all the e-files sent by CANAV, arranging for paper stock, scheduling presses and shifts, eventually making plates, etc. With much of this nailed down, Freisen gave me my “be there, or be square” press date.

A quick meeting in the plant at 0800 involved me, Friesen’s Tom Klassen, plus two pressmen handling today’s job.

Pressman at work ... A Friesen pressman checks a proof during the ACFY job.

Pressman at work ... A Friesen pressman checks a proof during the ACFY job.

Big Press ... It's a "go large or go home" world out in Altona. But not to worry, for Friesen knows the importance of keeping technologically current. Here is some of its advanced equipment ... a huge Roland 900 colour press.

Big Press ... It's a "go large or go home" world out in Altona. But not to worry, for Friesen knows the importance of keeping technologically current. Here is some of its advanced equipment ... a huge Roland 900 colour press.

Friesen Bindery ... A small stretch of Friesen's sprawling book bindery. This equipment was between jobs and just waiting to get rolling.

Friesen Bindery ... A small stretch of Friesen's sprawling book bindery. This equipment was between jobs and just waiting to get rolling.

Friesen Robot ... No surprise that robotics play an important role at Friesen Printers. This Motoman HP165 specializes in picking boxes of books off the end of the bindery and stacking them on pallets for shipment.

Friesen Robot ... No surprise that robotics play an important role at Friesen Printers. This Motoman HP165 specializes in picking boxes of books off the end of the bindery and stacking them on pallets for shipment.

Before long I started looking over press proofs, first the endpapers, the dust jacket, then the “guts” of the book. Soon it was clear that a lovely clean job was in the works. I quickly approved the entire run, confident that ACFY would be as masterly a printing job as had been ACPD, done by Friesen last November.

Having inspected the pressman's proof, the publisher has signed it off "good to go".

Having inspected the pressman's proofs, the publisher signed them off "good to go". Here's some of the finished product: dust jackets and endpapers. "Formative Years" went down the bindery on August 6 and hit the Trans Canada Hwy next day. Everything's on track for the book launch August 13 at the Downsview Legion (Br.527)

 Friesen wall of fame ... Friesen Printers produces thousands of new titles and reprints each year. Down one wall in a corridor the company displays book jackets in a sort of publishers wall of fame. Top left is the cover art for Dan Dempsey's incomparable book, A Tradition of Excellence.

Friesen wall of fame ... Friesen Printers produces thousands of new titles and reprints each year. Down one wall in a corridor the company displays book jackets in a sort of publishers wall of fame. Top left is the cover art for Dan Dempsey's incomparable book, A Tradition of Excellence.

Today’s job ran for 10 hours and resulted in pallets piled high with finished sheets. Friesen once again had wowed me with their professionalism. I was a happy boy when I headed back to Winnipeg to catch WestJet home. In the next two days ACFY would pass through the bindery, hit the Trans Canada on the 8th, then comes distribution to all our solid readers. Hang in there … books within three weeks pretty well where ever you are in North America. Place your advance order here.

Besides all the work at Friesen, I made my usual visit to the Altona airstrip to check out the action. Lovely day that it was, all was quiet. However, there was an eye-catching Rockwell Commander S-2R that I hadn't seen before at Southeast Air Service. C-FPOS "Reno Ripoff" (c/n1777R) looked just fine under Manitoba sun and sky. Sad to say, but time was short and I hadn't a chance to visit Arty's "ag" operation at Winkler, not even Peter Funk's at Morris, en route back to Winnipeg. Oh well, maybe next year.   There can be the odd snag on an outing like this, sometimes one that can really cheese a fellow off. What was it this time? One word -- Budget. To be sure of smooth sailing all the way, I had web-booked a rental with Budget. How smart is that, I figured! Well, not so smart, so renters beware of YWG Budget.

"Reno Ripoff" awaits its next ag contract, which might come with a phone call. Spring, summer and fall each brings its own spray requirements -- maybe blight, maybe bugs, maybe weeds. To get the job done, this hefty "ag truck" gets plenty of oomph from its 600-hp P&W Wasp, although the fuel burn is 45 Imp. gph.

Besides all the work at Friesen, I made my usual visit to the Altona airstrip to check out the action. Lovely day that it was, all was quiet. However, there was an eye-catching Rockwell Commander S-2R that I hadn’t seen before at Southeast Air Service. C-FPOS “Reno Ripoff” (c/n1777R) looked just fine under Manitoba sun and sky. Sad to say, but time was short and I hadn’t a chance to visit Arty’s “ag” operation at Winkler, not even Peter Funk’s at Morris, en route back to Winnipeg. Oh well, maybe next year.

There can be the odd snag on an outing like this, sometimes one that can really cheese a fellow off. What was it this time? One word — Budget. To be sure of smooth sailing all the way, I had web-booked a rental with Budget. How smart is that, I figured! Well, not so smart, so renters beware of YWG Budget.

Budget assigned me a Hyundai with Manitoba plate EYS641. Have a look at this little beauty! Wouldn't you just be happy as all get-out driving this little beauty around to impressed your business associates! Oh well, just ask for something a bit cleaner, right?    Nice try, old boy! Budget's rep was miffed at how picky I was being. If I wanted a replacement, I would have to go back out and inspect it personally, then get the keys since, "At Budget we just can't keep changing contracts for fussy customers." This whole farce took me about an hour to get straight, so three cheers for booking your YWG Budget rental on line. Not!

Here's Budget's latest promotion to pull in the discerning corporate customer: EYS641 awaits at YWG on the afternoon of August 3. Nice, eh!

Budget assigned me a Hyundai with Manitoba plate EYS641. Have a look at this little beauty! Wouldn’t you just be happy as all get-out driving this little beauty around to impress your business associates! Oh well, just ask for something a bit cleaner, right? Nice try, old boy! Budget’s rep was miffed at how picky I was being. If I wanted a replacement, I would have to go back out and inspect it personally, then get the keys since, “At Budget we just can’t keep changing contracts for fussy customers.” This whole farce took me about an hour to get straight, so three cheers for booking your YWG Budget rental on line. Not!

Super Connie Field Trip

DSC_0108

CF-TGE as it sat in EAC’s former B-52 hangar at Griffiss, NY on July 23, 2009. (Larry Milberry)

On July 23, 2009 a small group met at the Empire Aero Center on the former Griffiss AFB in Rome, New York. The first couple of hours were a bit like a tail gate party, as we waited in the EAC parking lot for folks to trickle in from distance points. So what was going on?

Bob Bogash and Kevin Lacey -- kingpins of the TCA Super Connie project. (Ken Swartz)

Bob Bogash and Kevin Lacey — kingpins of the TCA Super Connie project. (Ken Swartz)

In the postwar years Trans-Canada Air Lines was planning for a busy future. At the time, TCA’s North Star’s were suitable for its domestic and USA/Caribbean services, but were outmoded on the North Atlantic. Something bigger and speedier was needed for services to London, Paris, etc. The best airliner on the market was the Lockheed Super Constellation, a stretched version of the well-proven wartime Constellation. First flown in October 1950, the “Super Connie” was ordered by TCA, which accepted its first example in February 1954. In time the company operated 14 of these beauties, the last of which served into 1961.

Some of the tailgating gang in EAC's parking lot: Ron Rhodes, Jay Fancott, Homer Campbell, Kevin Lacey, Bob Bogash, Clint Ward, Dave Robertson and Ken Swartz. Note Ron's original TCA carry-on bag and the original TCA Super Connie model that Bob is holding. Dave holds a Super Connie technical manual -- he donated both model and manual to the CF-TGE cause. (Larry Milberry)

Some of the tailgating gang in EAC’s parking lot: Ron Rhodes, Jay Fancott, Homer Campbell, Kevin Lacey, Bob Bogash, Clint Ward, Dave Robinson and Ken Swartz. Note Ron’s original TCA carry-on bag and the original TCA Super Connie model that Bob is holding. Dave holds a Super Connie technical manual — he donated both model and manual to the CF-TGE cause. (Larry Milberry)

One of the 14 was CF-TGE, delivered in October 1954. Put out the pasture at Dorval, it languished for a couple of years. Then in June 1964 it began a new career with Don McVicar’s World-Wide Airways. It plied the North Atlantic on tourist charters until World-Wide folded.

CF-TGE now spent decades in the shadows — used for spares by Nordair, then dismantled and hauled away to decay in rural Quebec. Happily, it was resurrected by propliner enthusiast Phil Yull. Phil arranged to get ‘TGE to Ontario, refurbished and on display as a centre piece at the Constellation Hotel on Toronto’s airport strip. This era was short-lived, however, as new hotel management ordered ol’ CF-TGE removed. Next stop was a small lot along Derry Rd. on the airport’s northern edge. There sat the old workhorse, struggling along as a bar and restaurant for several years. But the writing was on the wall and that era also had to end.

Eventually, the Seattle-based Museum of Flight acquired CF-TGE and arrangements were made for it to be restored for museum display. At long last, its bones were gathered in 2007 from a dusty Mississauga storage yard and trucked to EAC. Under the watchful eye of the Museum of Flight’s Bob Bogash and EAC’s Kevin Lacey, ‘TGE emerged in the spring of 2009 wearing its fabulous Trans-Canada Air Lines colours.

 Ron Rhodes grabs Don Cameron to autograph his copy of The Wilf White Propliner Collection, which features CF-TGE on the cover. (Larry Milberry)

Ron Rhodes grabs Don Cameron to autograph his copy of The Wilf White Propliner Collection, which features CF-TGE on the cover. (Larry Milberry)

So three guesses what people were doing in the EAC parking lot on July 23. First to pull into his parking spot was Bob Bogash, a long-time Boeing tech rep who had spent several years helping Nordair introduce Canada’s first 737s (see Bob’s write-up of the reunion here). While Bob was checking out Nordair pilots and tech staff, the shiny new 737s were working side-by-side Nordair’s fleet of Super Connies. Bob was a natural airplane fanatic and always had loved the great propliners, so who would be surprised that years later he was involved with ‘TGE. Next to arrive were aviation researcher and journalist Ken Swartz and I. We had hit the road at 0500 that day and, after the odd bit of panic about getting there, were only 5 minutes off our 1100 ETA.

The Bogash-Lacey tour group with CF-TGE: Larry Milberry, Shirley & Don Cameron, Kevin Lacey, Jim & Lorna Dawes, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell, Paddy Szrajer, Bob Bogash, Jack & Lila Deonaraine, Clint Ward, Jay Fancott, Dave Robertson and Ron Rhodes. (Ken Swartz)

The Bogash-Lacey tour group with CF-TGE: Larry Milberry, Shirley & Don Cameron, Kevin Lacey, Jim & Lorna Dawes, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell, Paddy Szrajer, Bob Bogash, Jack & Lila Deonaraine, Clint Ward, Jay Fancott, Dave Robinson and Ron Rhodes. (Ken Swartz)

This visit would be doubly interesting for me since, back in 1986, I had spent a week at Griffiss working on a story about SAC’s 416th Bomb Wing. This was no ordinary field trip, since it had ended on a dream high note — getting to ride along on a 7-hour mission in B-52G 59-2584. So … a glance around today’s Griffiss quickly brought back some memories. There were also memories of having photographed CF-TGE at Malton airport in the late 1950s, watched it sift beautifully in to land on Runway 23, enjoyed the roar as it did engine run-ups, and watched as it taxied around with its moaning brakes.

Milling around the fabulous

Milling around the fabulous “Super G”. (Larry Milberry)

Gradually others began arriving at EAC. Third on scene was Clint Ward, who had started in the RCAF in the early 1950s, moved on to TCA and got to fly Super Connies. Homer Campbell pulled in from Brighton, Ontario; Jim Dawes from Montreal — two fellows who had been technical wizards on Super Connies in Nordair days. TCA Super Connie pilot Dave Robinson showed up with sidekick Jay Fancott, both of Montreal’s West Island. Don Cameron drove in from Ottawa — Don had flown Super Connies for World-Wide. Another who made the long-distance drive was Paddy Szrajer, a long-time MCA and Nordair pilot, who had flown Super Connies anywhere from the Arctic to Biafra. Ron Rhodes arrived from Waterloo. Having flown the Atlantic in a TCA Super Connie when he was a boy, Ron just had to have a look at what had been done to ‘TGE. Air Canada sent senior tech man Jack Deonaraine along as its historical rep. So we were an eclectic little bunch, and made to look a bit better by the presence of several sharp-looking and quick-witted wives/handlers.

Day's end included a visit to B-52G 58-0225, a reminder at Griffiss of Cold War days gone by: Bob, Jay, Dave and Jim. (Larry Milberry)

Day’s end included a visit to B-52G 58-0225, a reminder at Griffiss of Cold War days gone by: Bob, Jay, Dave and Jim. (Larry Milberry)

It took a good two hours of “tail-gating” in the parking lot before everyone had drifted in. Time flew by as the stories poured out, autographs were collected and photos taken. Finally, Bob and Kevin got everyone briefed and into the EAC hangar. There — a sight to water the eyes — was a glorious-looking CF-TGE. Now it was time to kick a few tires, let the memories really get pouring out, and get up the stairs for a final visit to the cockpit.

None of the old-timers missed the chance to squeeze one last time into that coveted left seat. Even in their not-so-trim form, the fellows shoe-horned themselves into that magnificent captain’s throne. Each man eyed the instrument panel and fingered a few of the bells and whistles that used to be the cat’s meow.

Bob Bogash at the captain's helm of the Super Connie that he saved from the the junk yard. Notice all the 1950s

Capt Don Cameron flew this very Super Connie when it was plying the North Atlantic with Don McVicar’s World-Wide Airways. (Larry Milberry)

Our tour over, the gang started to split up. Some had to hit the road for points afar. Others set up at The Beeches, a fine old Rome establishment. There the Sam Adams flowed very smoothly in the bar and the “war stories” began anew. A leisurely meal in the dining room topped it off, then the gang drifted off. Next morning Ken and I got away early, eager to see what we might find on the drive home. Two highlights were agreed upon. First came the George Eastman House in Rochester. Good choice, for this is a magnificent establishment that all should visit. We also enjoyed our drive around lovely downtown Rochester, a city where the “city fathers” seem to have forgotten to tear down their stunning 19th Century architectural gems. Stop No.2? Niagara Falls International Airport, where Ken wanted to show me the old Bell and Curtiss factories. Now pretty well overgrown with weeds, this is where P-39s, P-40s, P-59s, Bell 47 helicopters and Bell X-planes had been built. Then it was on to the QEW and home, the whole 600-mile Lake Ontario circuit being done in 38 hours.

Around the table at The Beeches with their amber-coloured friends Sam Adams, etc: Bob Bogash, Ken Swartz, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell. (Larry Milberry)

Around the table at The Beeches with their amber-coloured friends Sam Adams, etc: Bob Bogash, Ken Swartz, Homer & Mary Lou Campbell. (Larry Milberry)

As to CF-TGE, now comes its final tear-down and the trans-continental delivery to its new home in Seattle. It’s been a haul, but thanks to a few stalwarts, a great airplane that has travelled a most unlikely 55-year route, has been saved. Soon you’ll be able to see it in its glory in the Museum of Flight.

The world famous TCA Super Connie CF-TGE, soon to be on display at the Museum of Flight, is featured on the cover of The Wilf White Propliner Collection. Order info: see

The world famous TCA Super Connie CF-TGE, soon to be on display at the Museum of Flight, is featured on the cover of The Wilf White Propliner Collection. Order info: see “Promotions” on our blog or go to http://www.canavbooks.com.

To get the latest “gen” on CF-TGE you really need a copy of this month’s (August 2009) Air Classics. You’d also better log on to conniesurvivors.com and rbogash.com.

Happy landings as usual … Larry Milberry

Whirlwind Trip to Baddeck: Canada’s Centennial of Flight 1909-2009

Canada's Chief of the Air Staff, LGen Angus Watt, chatting in the msueum with Canadian astronaut/Silver Dart test pilot Bjarni Tryggvason.

Canada’s Chief of the Air Staff, LGen Angus Watt, chatting in the museum with Canadian astronaut/Silver Dart test pilot Bjarni Tryggvason.

November 2011 Silver Dart update: Since we posted this item more than two years ago, much has happened or little has happened (depending on your point of view) regarding Canada’s Centennial of Flight, the Silver Dart flying replica and the Bell Museum. The Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto became the temporary home of the Silver Dart, but this fall the CASM was served notice to vacate its premises. Before long, the Silver Dart crew disassembled their lovely airplane and moved it away.

Meanwhile, there has not been a peep about the $3 million promised by Ottawa flunkies at Baddeck that day back in 2009. We were there and heard all the promises, but we sure knew enough not to hold our breath for cheques to be written. No big surprise there.

In some ways, sad to say, Canada’s Centennial of Flight turned out to be a bit of a bust. The best things were getting the Silver Dart flying, the Vintage Wings Golden Hawks Sabre whizzing around the country, and a coast-to-coast air rally. Otherwise, what you had was one huge amount of hot air that saw Ottawa manadrins with zero knowledge of or interest in Canada’s aviation heritage jetting all around the country to events, swooshing in, scarfing down all the free shrimp, cheese ‘n crackers and booze, then jetting their way back to Ottawa never to give another thought to the subject of aviation history. Big shock, eh!

From what I can see, there have been very few lasting results. I hope at least that there were some aeronautical scholarships created in 2009. CANAV produced the only permanent record in book form celebrating the Centennial of Flight — “Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades”. Needless to say, the Centennial of Flight noise makers, everyone at 101 Colonel By Drive and all my other great supporters in Ottawa showed no interest in it, zilch. I know of only one member of the top-heavy Centennial of Flight Committee who ordered a copy — just as I had predicted. So … interesting food for thought for bone fide history fans — not the jetsetting phonies. Here’s what I originally blogged …

Canada’s Centennial of Flight commenced royally in February with several days of celebrating in the fabulous community of Baddeck on Cape Breton Island. Events came one after another, culminating on February 22, when Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason made several short flights in a magnificent replica of the Silver Dart.

Why would the Silver Dart replica fly the day before the precise 100th anniversary – February 23? It was a nature thing – Atlantic Canada weather was iffy, and predicted to be absolutely rotten on the 23rd. So … when the 22nd looked good, the Silver Dart was rolled out of its hangar on the ice of Brad d’Or Lake, and soon was airborne before a crowd of enthusiastic locals and out-of-towners.

The replica is the result of years of dedicated volunteer effort headed by Doug Jermyn, a retired engineer from Pratt & Whitney Canada. His group is called “AEA 2005”, in honour the Aerial Experiment Association, the original group formed in 1907 in Halifax to conduct powered airplane experiments. Headed by Alexander Graham Bell and funded by his wife, Mabel, the AEA also included Canadians F.W. Baldwin, J.A.D. McCurdy, and Americans Glenn H. Curtiss and Thomas Selfridge. The group conducted nearly all its work at Curtiss’ facilities in Hammondsport, New York. There they designed and flew several airplanes, the last being the Silver Dart, designed by McCurdy.

Once most of the work had been done at Hammondsport, Bell, wishing to put a Canadian spin on the AEA flight experiments, shipped the Silver Dart to Baddeck. There on February 23, 1909 McCurdy made his famous Canadian first flight (all the details of the AEA are best covered in J.H. Parkin’s seminal 1964 book, Bell and Baldwin).

The gorgeous little Bell Museum in winter, when hardly normally shows up. This year was different, as hundreds arrived to take part in the Centennial of Flight fun. No one was worrying about the weather.

The gorgeous little Bell Museum in winter, when hardly anybody shows up. This year was different, as hundreds arrived to take part in the Centennial of Flight fun. No one was worrying about the weather.

Baddeck this February was in full flight in more ways than one. A banquet on the evening of the 22nd was a highlight, with tables of people related to the Bells, McCurdys and Baldwins; all sorts of top-notch Maritimers; and such others as the Vintage Wings contingent — in Baddeck to show off their magnificent F-86 Sabre in Golden Hawks colours. Astronaut Chris Hadfield flew the Sabre over Bras d’Or Lake on the 22nd, then Paul Kissman took it home to Gatineau on the 24th. VW Sabre pilots Tim Leslie and Dan Dempsey also were present, as were other history fans from the Chief of the Air Staff to contingents from the Atlantic Canada and Greenwood aviation museums, Carl and Sonia Mills (Carl did a Silver Dart PowerPoint lecture) and a group of Air Canada Pilots Association enthusiasts. It was great meeting everyone, and renewing acquaintances with people whom I had met decades ago. The latter included an ACPA pilot whom I had first met when he was a sprog flying a Norseman in Red Lake, another who was a junior C-130 pilot struggling through CF Staff College about 20 years back.

Good news was announced on the 23rd — the AEA 2005 was donating the Silver Dart to the Bell Museum at Baddeck, and $3 million would be provided for an addition to house the plane. Canada Post at the same time unveiled its Silver Dart postage stamp. This is a dramatic-looking collectors’ item, so be sure to get some while they last. This in spite of the fact that the artist seems to have missed the rear empennage altogether — his Silver Dart soars minus a rudder! (This reminds one of the great Canada Post stamp featuring an Air Canada 767 that has no engines! People chuckle about this. At Air Canada they told us “No sweat … that’s one of our extended-range 767 ERs.” Except that for Canada Post reasons it’s a 767 ER as in “engines removed”. Maybe Canada Post should consider checking with the experts before they do their next aviation commemorative.)

If you ever get the chance, there are two spectacular museums to which you should detour … the Bell Museum in Baddeck and the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York. They’ll knock you out!

Larry Milberry, publisher