The aircraft for the first leg of our trip to Krasnoyarsk was CanForces Boeing 707 13705 of 437 Squadron. It would be known today as Canadian Forces Flight 7356. ‘705 was one of five 707-347Cs ordered, but not taken up by, Western Airlines. Instead, the five aircraft were delivered to the Canadian Forces in 1970-71. These fantastic aircraft would serve Canada well, until sold to the USAF in 1995-97. They then were converted to USAF E-8C reconnaissance configuration, ‘705 becoming 96-0042. On September 24, 2005 it was badly damaged by Hurricane Rita in Louisiana, but repairs were made and ‘042 remains in service. I can’t figure where/when I took this long-ago photo of passengers boarding ‘705, but I see my old pals Mike Valenti and John McQuarrie among the mob.
On February 14, 1993 I was one of 11 passengers waiting at CFB Trenton to board CanForces Boeing 707 13705 for Helsinki. By this time, I had been visiting Trenton on this or that interesting project for more than 30 years. So what was going on at Trenton this day? The answer involved the recent collapse of the USSR and how the new country – then (temporarily) referred to as the Former Soviet Union — urgently needed medical supplies from the West. The International Red Cross had identified specific FSU needs and had begun an airlift the previous year. No one knew how the old USSR was going to be “re- imagined”, but the IRC appreciated that it needed basic medical supplies to bridge its grave shortfall. This problem had arisen in part since the FSU could not purchase basic medical needs abroad — suppliers did not want Russian rubles. A Canadian Red Cross Society paper also explained how existing medicines produced by the USSR’s outdated pharmaceutical industry rapidly were disappearing, adding, “The collapse of the pharmaceutical industry makes it impossible for the [FSU] to provide sufficient stocks to meet even rudimentary needs.” Additionally, the FSU faced civil war in some areas, making internal trade difficult. Regardless, through 1992 the finer points about what was needed were worked out between the IRC and Moscow.
Ancient paperwork – my 1993 visa application where “USSR” still was terminology.
Months of planning resulted in what Canada’s Department of National Defence dubbed “Operation Boreal II”. For 1993 this entailed 20 air transport missions to needy regions in the FSU. The CRCS would supply 44 medical kits valued at $5 million. Weighing about 2500 lb, each kit included basic antibiotics, inhalers, aspirins in bottles of 5000, bandages, needles, antiseptic wipes, rubber gloves – nothing fancy. The CRCS noted that, “One kit provides supplies for 50 hospital beds for one year.” The DND would deliver kits to centres in the Urals, Siberia and Trans-Caucasus.
A wide view of the great Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Happily, on this winter’s day in 1993 the smog was not up to its usual oppressiveness. Massive air pollution has left Krasnoyarsk’s population with a plague of dreadful respiratory and cancer ills. “Op Boreal” brought welcomed relief at a critical moment. Krasnoyarsk had been one of the USSR’s infamous “closed cities”.No one could come or go without strict permission. At the time of our visit, parts of the city remained off limits.
What about Krasnoyarsk? Situated at 56° 10’N, 91° 50’E this is an ancient Russian community founded in 1628. Mining, forestry, agriculture, trade and transportation were early activities. In Stalin’s era Krasnoyarsk also was an major part of the gulag, where Stalin’s “deplorables” were sent to be worked to death and otherwise “to disappear”. The population by 1993 was about 1 million. Mining and forestry remained important, and factories, including massive aluminum and steel works, steadily chugged out pollution. Most products were for the military. Here in the centre of continental Eurasia there even are shipyards along the Yenisei River for, through mighty feats of engineering, the Yenisie River has been made navigable all the way to Arctic tidewater. Krasnoyarsk also produces weapons-grade plutonium. “Worldatlas” observes: “Besides radioactivity, pollution in the form of industrial wastes and sewage, as well as fertilizer and pesticide run-offs from agricultural fields … pollute the Yenisei along its course.” While visiting Krasnoyarsk hospitals, we would learn that childhood leukemia is rampant. The IRC recognized all this, making Krasnoyarsk a priority for “Op Boreal”.
High above the Ob River drainage system at 58° 29’N, 83° 01’E east of the Urals about half way from Helsinki to Krasnoyarsk. I’d never seen such a maze of river bends, cutoffs, oxbow lakes, etc. Our Aircraft Commander, Maj Chris Beaty, commented, “It’s very quiet up here, as if nothing is flying in this country.” True, yet we knew we were being very closely tracked on Russian military radar, and likely shadowed by fighters. I certainly wasn’t supposed to be taking photos out the window, but couldn’t resist when such landscapes came into view. Not that many years earlier, U-2 pilots had been risking their lives doing photo missions over the USSR.
Trenton to Helsinki — The Crew
On the ramp, 13705 (Canadian Forces Flight 7356) weighed 296,400 lb of which 129,700 was fuel and 19,740 the Red Cross payload. The logbook showed that ‘705 had flown 36,723 hours to date. The crew started engines at 1955Z and taxied to Runway 24. The flight plan showed that our trip to Helsinki would take 7:09 hours (that would work out to the minute). Our crew comprised: Capt T.G. “Lou” Paproski (Aircraft Commander), Capt R.J. Weberbauer (First Officer), Capt M.P. “Mike” Leddy (Navigator), MWO R.K. “Bob” Pokeda (Flight Engineer), Sgt George A. Game (Flight Engineer), MWO J.G. “Gus” Loignon (Loadmaster), Cpl R.L. “Livy” Williston (Flight Stewart), Cpl J.L. “Sylvain” Lapierre (Flight Stewart), Sgt Ruth G. Hess (Flight Attendant) and Cpl Penny Darbyson (Flight Attendant). The crew had a mountain of experience, something that’s not so easy to come by in today’s RCAF. Capt Paproski, for example, had joined the RCAF in 1961. After instructing on Tutors, he had flown C-130s starting at 436 Sqn, then at 429 and 426, before joining 437 in 1989. Capt Mike Leddy had some 1800 flying hours on the 707, 4000 on the C-130, and 4000 on the Argus. MWO Loignon was another typical case. Having enlisted in 1960, he first had served on the North Star at 426 Sqn for 1200 hours. He later crewed on the C-119 at Rivers, the C-130E with 435 Sqn at Namao in 1966, then joined 437 in 1990. Our flight of 3689 nautical miles operated initially via such waypoints as Val d’Or, La Grande, Lake Harbour and Cape Dyer, crossed Greenland, then routed north of Iceland and Scotland, down over Norway at Trondheim, finally into Helsinki. After refueling and making a crew change, we were airborne at 0540Z for Krasnoyarsk, a distance of 2160 nm. Someone pointed out that this was about half way around the world from Thunder Bay. The crew on this leg was Maj C.A. Beaty (Aircraft Commander), Capt S.B. “Blair” Barthel (First Officer), Capt J.F.G.G. “Gilles” Bourgoin (Navigator), Capt G.I. “Gerry” Foyle (Flight Engineer), WO Mike Deegan (Flight Engineer with Airlift Control Element duties), Capt J.D. “Dave” Melanson (Loadmaster), Cpl J.L. “Sylvain” Lapierre (Flight Stewart), Cpl Penny Darbyson (Flight Attendant), Cpl R.L. “Livy” Williston (Flight Stewart) and Capt W.R. “Russ” Wright (ALCE). There were 20 passengers including five Mobile Air Movements personnel, a security officer and a communications specialist – all based at Trenton. As usual, I spent most for my hours quizzing people about their backgrounds, duties, etc. Below lay a vast, mostly wild-looking, snow-covered landscape. Time flew by and soon (it seemed) we landed at Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo Airport on a gloomy late afternoon after a 5-hour trip.
The busy flight deck aboard our “Boeing” (as 437 personnel usually called their 707s). In the left seat is Capt Blair Barthel; right is Aircraft Commander, Maj Chris Beaty, a USAF pilot on exchange with 437. Nearest right is WO Mike Deegan (flight engineer), lower left is Capt Gilles Bourgoin (navigator), finally (reading a map), Alexey P. Frolov, our Aeroflot navigator and translator. Our public affairs escort, Capt Tony White, described Frolov’s role: “His job is to assist in navigation and air traffic control communications, a necessary precaution in a country with one of the most robust air defence systems in the world.” Look at all the ancient equipment in this 1950s analogue cockpit – not a touch screen in sight.
We all were interested in where we were going. Here, Cpl Penny Darbyson, a Red Cross staffer and Capt Dave Melanson discuss a map on the way to Krasnoyarsk This particular trip was the 5th on the “Op Boreal” schedule this year, and the first ever to reach this city.
Our Boeing parked at Krasnoyarsk minutes after arrival. Things were slow to get rolling, since it seemed that we were quite unexpected. First came some serious palaver with local customs, KGB, etc. Paperwork and passports were inspected and collected then, after about an hour, other officials, workers, trucks and loaders began arriving on the tarmac. I found it all to be an amazing experience. We were being described as the very first Western airplane ever to land here in Cold War times.
My first view stepping off the plane. Wonderment seemed to be the feeling among the mixed mob below – Russians and Canadians alike. Who knows who the “spooks” (KGB and cops) in the crowd were, but they surely were there. Our CanForces photographer grabbed this shot just as I came down the stairs – ready for action. From taxiing in to shutdown and stepping off our Boeing, it was amazing being here in the FSU. It was a freezing winter’s day, and for 360 degrees mainly what I saw from the door as I stepped off ‘705 were airplanes, airplanes, airplanes. However, first things first, which meant clearing customs, offloading the cargo and getting into town. Customs was a bit of an experience, since they, the airport management and others were insisting that they had no idea that any foreign plane was due to arrive today. How could the FSU bureaucracy be so clued-out? They all must have been putting us on. There was a lot of discussion and checking of papers, as other airport staff rushed around to find equipment for unloading. Before we finally got onto a bus, we were told that not only were we surprise visitors, but ours was the first airplane from the West ever to land at Krasnoyarsk!
I was relieved to find that I could wander around on the tarmac freely covering all the action around our Boeing. However, all the local people were watching us – definitely in wonderment.
A detail of one of our Boeing’s fantastic Pratt & Whitney JT- 3D turbofans. These incomparable engines carried Canada’s fleet of five Boeing all over the world for hundreds of thousands of trouble free service.
Unloading the Red Cross kits. Our young helpers were air force recruits.
Much else was going on around the 437 Boeing. Here, locals inspect some of the Red Cross satellite phone equipment. Then, Capt Rob Wederbauer (437 Sqn, pilot) with Andrey Loginov of Radio Canada International (translator, centre) is interviewed by a Russian reporter.
Here’s a bit of a different local scene. Dogs have no more loyal friends than the entire Russian people. Dogs are treated so royally, that even at such a major airport as Krasnoyarsk, they can roam around the airplanes! You also can see here that the first truck is ready to roll with four Red Cross kits.
Eventually, we were dropped off at our quarters – rooms at a Krasnoyarsk insane asylum. Nonetheless, we were happy to be squared away. The next couple of days would be super interesting, as many fine local people got us on hospital tours, set up an interesting press conference, took us on sightseeing bus trips, and organized a crazy night out at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel. Although our visit would be brief, it proved to be totally memorable. I even was able to organize an airside photo tour at the airport. This came about when I found someone to introduce me to the airport manager. After pleading my case, he personally drove me around the ramp in his falling-apart Lada, stopping almost wherever I wanted to photograph. This was great, even though some areas were off limits – mainly some old bombers in the distance that looked like Tu-16s.
Antonov An-8 (NATO code name “Camp”) CCCP-69301 was my best find at the airport. Some 151 twin turboprop An-8s were manufactured in Tashkent for the USSR military in 1957- 62 (the only other example was the prototype built in Kiev in 1956). Many key policy and operational people pushed for the An-8 to become the standard USSR medium military transport for this era, but it soon was superseded by the 4-engine An-12 (An-8 payload 24,000 lb vs An-12 44,000). Early in the 1970s the An-8 was relegated to civil duties and — due to safety concerns — in 1997 it was banished from the Russian Federation. The handful of survivors then migrated mainly to rogue or backwards Gulf and African states. In 2004 Antonov withdrew the An-8’s airworthiness certification. Little is known about CCCP-69301, but it certainly had a long, productive career. It truly was Krasnoyarsk’s “blast from the past” on February 15, 1993.
This isn’t just a photo of an Il-76 (probably being parted out), but look beyond—some other old clunkers. Looks like some superannuated Red Air Force An-30 Clanks. The An-30 was a version of the An-24 that specialized in aerial photo mapping.
There was a good half-dozen Il-76s at Krasnoyarsk this week, some “between flights”, others awaiting the scrapman. Here sits RA-76752 (I must have just slipped on the ice as my shutter fired), delivered to Aeroflot in 1989. Although in standard Aeroflot markings, it was listed to Krasoyarskie Avialinii. Sadly, it would not end well. On April 5, 1996, ‘752 loaded meat and soap at Novosibirsk on the Ob River in SW Siberia, then set off for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the far distant Kamchatka Peninsula — a distance of more than 2900 miles. On descent to destination, air traffic control instructed ‘752 to continue through cloud to 900m, even though it was not on radar. Since the plane actually was a bit course (which ATC somehow had not noticed), it flew into a mountain 300 m below the summit. End of story.
Il-76 RA-76517 at this time was registered to Krasnoyarsk Airlines. Then, RA-76508 of Aeroflot, which later was registered to Kras Air. It worked for another decade, then went for scrap. As a fan, I especially like the Il-76, since I once got to spend a day flying on one around East Africa. What a super airplane.
In the early 1990s Krasnoyarsk was used for heavy aircraft maintenance, long-term storage and parting out/scrapping (i.e., it was an airliner boneyard). Shown is Tu-154 CCCP-85134 gradually being parted out. Then, RA-85124 in Krasnovarskavia colours. It appeared serviceable, but is noted on the web as having been scrapped by the mid-90s. Finally, Tu-154 EP-ITA of Iran Airtour Airlines. Through decades of US trade embargoes, Iran was forced to fly many such hand-me-down USSR aircraft. This greatly retarded Iran’s economy, but this was the choice of this rogue state. The Kremlin happily filled the vacuum. “ITA” was back in Krasnoyarsk to be parted out. The fellow walking my way was checking credentials.
Once Russia’s “Queen of the Airways”, the mighty Il-62 was fast fading by 1993. Several had been ferried to Krasnoyarsk – their last hurrah. Included here is RA-86453.
Russia’s first widebody airliner, Il-86 was grounded in 2006, having been banned from the EU and USA due to noise restrictions. Here are RA-86121 and ‘137 awaiting the scrapman at Krasnoyarsk. What impressive and handsome looking jetliners, no!
Tu-154s and Il-76s – a long, lonely line.
CanForces 707 13704 came in from Trenton with its Red Cross load on February 15. Local aerospace people would have looked with some envy upon this magnificent, if elderly, 707. Now 49 years old, it remains in use as USAF E-8C 97-0201. I notice today (August 15, 2019) that there’s a lovely 1/200 scale diecast model of 97-0201 for sale on the web for 13,175 yen.
Krasnoyarsk Yemelyanovo terminal building. One interesting thing about this place was how some travellers had to camp here for days awaiting their flights (we were told that some people had been here for weeks).
Another memorable time was our night at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel where good food and too much champagne and vodka were consumed (not a beer to be had for some reason). This hotel was really wild, the lobby jammed with many rough-looking characters milling around (we’d heard that some in this mob were “carrying”). One of my crazy experiences was getting mugged in the men’s room for my cameras. We all knew enough not to go anywhere alone, but my brain had gotten pretty fogged over. Back in Toronto, I had a bit of trouble convincing my insurer about this, but they did come across.
There was much merriment during this whirlwind visit. Usually just some nice quiet dining, but our night out at the Krasnoyarsk Hotel pushed the limits a bit. Here’s some of our gang being property civilized. That familiar face in the second photo is the Ottawa Sun’s world famous roving reporter, Matthew Fisher. Notice the wonderful layout on the tables, talk about A-1. One thing for sure about Siberia – people away out there really know how to enjoy themselves when they get a chance, and they’re magnificent natural hosts.
Hospital Visits and Press conference
Since Op Boreal’s purpose was to supply hospitals in the FSU, we were invited to visit two Krasnoyarsk hospitals. These were mammoth operations packed with patients suffering especially from respiratory ailments and cancers. Many children here were fighting leukemia and asthma, and hallway medicine was a normal part of the picture:
Hospital staff start inventorying a Red Cross medical kit. Capt Tony White looks on. Then, a mother tends her infant. Russian mothers as a rule stay in hospital with their ailing children throughout their treatment.
Two scenes where our media people interviewed senior medical staff. They were surprised but grateful about the arrival of Red Cross aid, about which they only heard the day after we arrived. We learned how doctors (then earning the equivalent of about US$100 monthly) felt helpless about the region’s environmental “meltdown”, and angry that information about local nuclear contamination was withheld by the state (the same certainly goes on in the West). They also were embarrassed at accepting foreign aid. Some already were pining for the old regime, where supplies at least were plentiful.
I mentioned about Russians and dogs. In these hospitals, dogs rule as they do at the airport. This momma was caring for her brood in a well-travelled hallway – and she wasn’t the only one.
Another interesting event was a press conference where the local media peppered us with questions. This was another side of Siberia. Reporters seemed to know next to nothing about Canada — surely they were putting us on again. One reporter asked why Canada was campaigning to take over Alaska! Devil’s Advocated, Matthew Fisher of the Ottawa Sun, got them really going by commenting (casually) that he doubted that Canada would survive much longer. The press also was amazed that permission had been given to a Canadian military plane to overfly Russia. One reporter wondered if this Red Cross business was just a ploy to enrich Canadian capitalists at Russia’s expense. Another suspected that we were all spies and that our 707 probably was doing espionage. Stalinist/Leninist paranoia still was front and center in Krasnoyarsk. Happily, someone finally changed the subject to hockey.
Canucks in the hot seat, being grilled by the local media, some of whom are shown in the second photo. No doubt the KGB was here as well, and likely shadowing us wherever we went.
The Many Sights Around and About Krasnoyarsk
In four short days we sure took in a lot of Krasnoyarsk – it left our heads swirling. Here are some photos taken at one of the city’s many military memorials.
This park honours the Soviet Union’s and Krasnoyarsk’s magnificent military history. If you google “Krasnoyarsk”, you’ll find much more about this important theme. The book East of the Sun by Benson Bobrick also covers much of Siberia’s history including many reference to Krasnoyarsk. This astoundingly good book is highly recommended (find a cheap copy on the web). Here’s a wide view of the memorial plaza, then the park’s T-34 Stalin tank. By dint of solid WWII technology plus massive weight in numbers, the T-34 was pivotal in driving the Nazis out of the USSR in emphatic manner. Next is a photo of one of the Soviet army’s terrifying artillery pieces, likely one of the types used to pulverize Berlin in the spring of 1945. Finally, the “artifact” that I liked the most – a classic MiG-15, the type that in its own way ruled the skies over Korea in the early 1950s. Sure the F-86 Sabre gets all the glory, but the MiG-15 was a real opponent, greatly feared and respected (in recent years the USAF’s claims of destroying 10 MiG-15s in the Korean War for each Sabre lost have been debunked). In another local park (that we missed) there’s a MiG-21, elsewhere the space program is the theme.
Driving Around Town
On our bus tours we drove through various Krasnoyarsk neighbourhoods. We had to grab our photos on the fly, through the windows. To get a few barely useful pix, I shot plenty. Some residential areas comprise block after block of ancient wooden homes, some centuries old. In contrast are the city’s numerous high rise apartment buildings, where most families reside. These high rises represent the infamous Stalinist concept of urban design and how to keep people down – we’re all equal yada yada yada.
A couple of typical Krasnoyarsk urban transit busses. Then a view ahead – the streets were always packed with Ladas. The roads also were rough, with major potholes. On returning from such trips I used to tell my little kids about the Krasnoyarsk or the Mogadishu potholes, and we’d get a good laugh. Now? Not so funny, since Toronto today is the city of world class potholes. Even worse, City Hall is 100% OK with that. Meanwhile, we hear that Krasnoyarsk has really cleaned up much that in 1993 was “urbanly” distasteful.
A quickie snapshot of folks set up along the street trying to do a bit of business, now that Communism was on the rocks in the FSU. People were lining the streets hawking anything that they could live without. This was necessary since the government temporarily was dysfunctional, so people weren’t getting their pay and welfare cheques. In this way, millions in the FSU were learning their first lessons in capitalism – that other terrible system. You know, the one that actually works not too badly.
A Few Market Scenes
One of our best times in town was visiting one of Krasnoyarsk’s markets. Some of these are traditional, others are of the “pop-up” type. The set-up here seemed a bit of both. There were the stalls, but there also were many citizens just standing in place one by one trying to sell whatever they had. It was not exactly an inspiring sight.
Street BBQ’ing in the market, the butchers ready to turn a ruble, some fine baked goods on sale, then some ladies with their finery on sale at the curb. Notice the popularity of fur coats, hats, etc. Wouldn’t this just drive our animal rights and vegan terrorist crackpots in Canada nuts. They’d better not try any of their stunts in Krasnoyarsk, eh!
Still keeping an eye everything in 1993 Krasnoyarsk was the master of belittling and controlling everybody – that other evil one, Lenin.
Matthew Fisher discusses a possible deal in the market with one of the local ruble hustlers. Then, Capt Tony White giving a snow machine a test drive. Years later, Matthew reviewed conditions in the CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States (previously referred to as the FSU, also called the Russian Federation). His item in the Toronto Sunday Sun of January 28, 2001 concluded: “Leaving Moscow for almost anywhere else is a revelation. Most Russians lead a frightful Third World existence. How they manage to survive at all defies comprehension.” Another two decades have passed, however, and word is that there has been some improvement. Let’s hope, right!
Having flown in mid-afternoon on the 14th, on the 17th the crew of 13704 under Capt Paproski and their 19 passengers boarded the flight back to Helsinki. Takeoff was at 1010Z hours. CanForces flight CF7357 had 2167 nm to cover in an estimated 5.8 hours. After overnighting, we pushed on for Trenton under the same flight number, covering 3735 nm in 9:00 hours. We had flown some 12,000 nm in 4 days and 26.8 flying hours. For me it proved to be a very big deal – my first visit behind the old Iron Curtain, and a chance to see a bit about the workings of aviation there, and what made the historic city of Krasnoyarsk tick. For an update re. Krasnoyarsk see the excellent Wiki entry and there are some Krasnoyarsk photo sites that also are worth a look.
Heading home in ‘704 there was lots to do until we were back home again in Trenton. These crewmen killed some time playing cards. Matthew Fisher took his turn in the cockpit jump seat, where it was always fascinating for we media types.
RCAF Air Transport Command Nostalgia
With all this talk of Canada’s military Boeing 707s, just for fun I thought we should give a bit of credit to their predecessor, the Canadair CC-106 Yukon. I mentioned about having visited Trenton many times before 1993, so dug out one of my ancient photos from one historic day there long ago. On July 1, 1961, I was at Trenton for the station’s Dominion Day airshow. Here’s a photo taken that day with my old Minolta Autocord twin lens “120”. This was shot (as we kids used to say – since we rarely could afford a roll of colour film) “in glorious black and white”. For our extra enjoyment, 437 Sqn Yukon 15927 made this pass in landing configuration right over the crowd at maybe 200 feet. The good ol’ days, right! The RCAF’s Yukons spent much of their time doing international relief operations similar to “Op Boreal” – it’s a Canadian thing, right. In 1970-71, 437 Squadron’s 10 Yukons were replaced by those 5 glorious 707s.
Books, Books, Books
If you get a spare moment, please check out these aviation booklists. You’re certain to find something you’d like!
TTC PCCs and CLRVs — The Scrapman’s Perspective … In service since the 1970s, the Toronto Transit Commission’s famed Canadian Light Rail Vehicles are being phased out of service and sold for scrap. On July 8-9, 2019 I photographed part of the operation at the TTC Russell Carbarns at Queen St. E. and Connaught Ave. Here are a few photos, but first some of my Kodachromes showing earlier scrappings of the TTC’s classic 1930s-80s vintage PCC cars. For some good background about the TTC’s CLRV/ALRVs, see The Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (The CLRVs) – Transit Toronto www.transit.toronto.on.ca/streetcar/4503.shtml Also see CLRV on Wiki for loads more info. Same goes for the PCC cars. See, for example, A History of Toronto’s Presidents’ Conference Committee Cars (the… transit.toronto.on.ca/streetcar/4502.shtml
This was a typical scene I captured at the TTC Russell Barns in April 1969 showing PCCs undergoing daily maintenance. This stalwart type would serve Torontonians into 1982.
By the late 1960s the TTC was reducing its PCC fleet. Cars mainly were being sold for scrap, although some went to other cities, where they continued to serve. On January 3, 1969, I photographed PCC 4294 stored at the Hillcrest Barns on Bathurst St. Then I drove up to the Wychwood Barns on St. Clair Ave. W., where I shot PCC 4166, also awaiting its fate. Next, shown at Wychwood on December 6 of that year are several other superannuated PCCs, 4309 being nearest.
On August 9, 1968 I photographed part of the PCC fleet being cut up for scrap at the Coxwell and Danforth TTC barns. These five photographs cover the end of PCC 4158. As you can see, “those were the days” for any keen photographer. No one hassled me as I spent a couple of hours taking pictures. I was even allowed to board 4158 to get some close-up views as the sparks flew. A pretty ugly sight altogether, but all in the name of progress! You can see 4148 finally loaded and ready for transportation out of Toronto and down 401 Highway to the Intercity Steel & Metal scrapyard in Oshawa. Too bad, but it was a gloomy day, so these shots are on the dark side. But … I’ve always been for content vs form. Don’t forget, it was a different medium back then … film was the name of the game, and film was not idiot proof.
Late the following year I followed up on a tip that some TTC PCCs still were in the Intercity yard. So, on December 6, 1969 I drove to Oshawa to check this out. Being a weekend, there was no one around the yard. Well … you know how it goes with any photographer on a mission. Hoping not to encounter the proverbial (and sometimes actual) junkyard dog, I hopped the fence. Here are three of my shots to delight any hardcore PCC fan.
Also in August 1968 I got another tip that the 16,000-ton MV Mare Tranquillo was in Toronto harbour loading PCCs for Egypt. We never passed up any such tip, so down I hustled to see what was what. Sure enough, there were the PCCs being hoisted as deck cargo aboard the ship. A note on Wiki explains more: “140 cars purchased from Toronto in 1968, but 13 never entered service. Of the 127 cars in service, 85 were converted between 1972 and 1978 into two-car trains or double-ended three-car trains. The entire fleet was withdrawn by 1984 in favor of modern rolling stock.” Whether it was true or not, I once heard that some of these PCCs were destroyed by bombing during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
I remember about 1972 attending a press briefing about the proposed new Toronto streetcars that became the CLRVs. This took place down on the CNE grounds and featured a full-scale CLRV mock-up. Gradually, the CLRVs and their “doubled-up” version, the ALRVs, began appearing and replacing the classic old PCCs.
Fast forward half a century to July 2019 when the TTC is fast getting rid of its 1970s fleet of CLRV streetcars. Getting a tip the other day from a pal who drives for the TTC, I hurried over to the Russell Barns on Queen St. East, not far from my home. Sure enough, the action was hot with CLRVs being stripped out and loaded onto flatbeds destined for the Langille’s Truck Parts yard in Port Perry. “Long story short”, I spent several hours on July 8 and 9 watching and photographing. Here’s a sample “for your edification”. Anyway, it’s quite something, especially realizing (to my horror) that I’ve been taking photos of TTC streetcars being scrapped for more than 50 years (not so edifying).
CLRVs at the TTC Russell Barns – ready for the boneyard. Then, cars 4115 and 4177 being hauled away. Can you imagine the countless double takes as people all along the way suddenly confronted this amazing apparition – streetcars sailing down the road on flatbeds!
Many CLRVs remain in service, Russell being the home for most. But, by the end of 2019 the TTC CLRV may well be no more.
Past and present … car 4022 is made ready, then sets out on its last run through Toronto on July 9, 2019. Meanwhile, all day long shiny new TTC “Flexity” cars were rolling by Russell on the busy Queen “501” line.
Same for car 4029 … off into the sunset on July 9. Be sure to look up some of the great history pages covering the TTC PCCs and CLRVs. It’s a great topic for anyone with an interest in our wonderful transportation heritage. It sure was fun the last two days watching all these goings-on and chitchatting with folks coming and going. Who impressed me the most? A young fellow just heading into Grade 4, who’s totally fired up by TTC streetcar, subway and bus history. With such keen young citizens, I think our country should be just fine. And the TTC itself really shone today. One of the supervisors noticed us taking pictures, etc. Out he came with some TTC handouts, then one of the Russell tech men showed up with a very special gift for my new young friend – a beautiful bronze data plate salvaged from a CLRV truck set. A look at the plate told us that this particular truck had been made in Nuremberg, Germany in 1987 – more CLRV trivia for the diehard fan, right. All the best through the summer … Larry
Doug Burt was a keen young fellow when he got into aviation in the late 1920s. However (and too bad), I don’t have any biographical details. In case you might know Doug’s story, please let me know. We do know that he was a very avid amateur photographer, which is the purpose of today’s item – to showcase some of his lovely pictures. These are random, although it’s clear that before joining Consolidate Mining and Smelting Co. (“Cominco”) in Trail, BC, as an airplane mechanic, Doug spent some time at Canadian Pratt & Whitney in Longueuil, Quebec and De Havilland Aircraft of Canada in Toronto — likely doing courses. You’ll love these interesting and well taken old photos. There are more of Doug’s fine images in Vol.1 of Air Transport in Canada.
A fine shop floor scene in the original (1928) Canadian Pratt & Whitney plant at Longueuil, opposite Montreal. Doug Burt immortalized this scene in April 1930. The company (today’s Pratt & Whitney Canada) still makes engines in Longueuil. The whole story is told in detail in Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story – a beautifully-produced book that any fan of Canada’s aviation heritage will enjoy. Nice, affordable copies always can be found at www.abebooks.com
While likely “on course” at CP&W in May 1930, Doug organized this photo of Canadian Transcontinental Airways Fairchild 71 CF-ACY at nearby St. Hubert airport. That’s Doug on the far left (he got himself into quite a few such photos – half the fun of it, right). “ACY” was one of the latest in air transports plying the Quebec and Ontario airways then being established. It later served Canadian Airways and Quebec Airways, then “faded away” some time during 1939. Ken Molson’s book Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport is the best source for the history of this era. You’d love this wonderful book. I see today that several copies are available cheaply at abebooks.com
April 1930 and Doug Burt is front and centre in this photo of some early CP&W employees. It sure would be nice to have the other names, since there would be some famous fellows here.
Doug Burt at work at CP&W, April 1930.
RCAF D.H.60 Gipsy Moths being assembled at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada in Toronto in 1930. That’s one of the rare D.H.75 Hawk Moths at the top left. It’s the former DH demonstration G-AAFW, by this time re-registered CF-CCA of the Ottawa-based Controller of Civil Aviation fleet. In 1931 “CCA” transferred to the RCAF as C-GYVD. It remained on strength to October 1935.
Here it is — DH Hawk Moth demonstrator G-AAFW a few weeks after reaching DHC in Toronto in February 1930. The skis were a Canadian “mod”. The Hawk Moth was not a great success in Canada — only three were registered here. It certainly was a nice looking plane.
Doug’s shot of the Gipsy engine overhaul shop at DHC in 1930.
In March 1930 Doug photographed the attractive little Blackburn Lincock light fighter while it was at DHC doing demonstrations for the RCAF. However, the RCAF was broke at the time and would have to make do with its dusty old Siskin fighters into the early days of WWII. Blackburn was never able to get the Lincock into production. The Canadian side of this story is covered in Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915- 1939.
Doug shot this unknown RCAF Canadian Vickers Vedette at Great Slave Lake on June 25, 1930. The attractive little Vedette proved to be a versatile and always reliable RCAF workhorse from 1925 into the early war years. The first “all-Canadian” production plane, the Vedette is an important symbol of Canada’s early aircraft industry. A factory-perfect Vedette replica resides in Winnipeg with the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.
Doug would have taken in every airshow that came up wherever he happened to be. Here’s one of his photos from the 1930 Edmonton airshow. “The mobs” certainly came out for this grand event. A big Fokker F.XIV (CF-AIK Western Canada Airways) and a Lockheed Vega can be seen top centre.
Cominco was one of Canada’s giant mining companies of the 1920s onward, which strongly believed in the airplane for mineral exploration. Over the decades the company owned many airplanes from the 2-seat D.H.60 Moth to the lumbering Fokker Super Universal — a “heavy hauler” of its day. Here are three fine views of Cominco’s Fokker CF-AAM taken c.1930 at Trail. “AAM” served Cominco 1929-1934, then finally ended in the Yukon with Northern Airways. On December 5, 1937 it was wrecked taking off at Dawson. In modern years it was restored to flying condition and now resides at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada (which in 2019 is “closed for repairs” awaiting new facilities). The story of the great Fokker bushplanes in Canada currently is being told by Clark Seaborn (one of the “AAM” restoration team) in the Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. See cahs.ca and, while you’re there, why not sign up!
CF-AAM in the Cominco overhaul shop at Trail in January 1931. Curley Summerville is at the right. That looks like the massive 1-piece Super Universal wing behind the fuselage. Then, a fine close-up that Doug took of “AAM” during the same overhaul period. History-wise, here would we be today without such people taking these glorious photos generations ago!
Doug Burt on the float of Cominco Fairchild 71 CF-ABM at Trail in 1930. Having joined Cominco in May 1929, “ABM” later went to Mackenzie Air Service of Edmonton in 1934. Subsequently with Northern Airways in the Yukon, it was wrecked due to engine failure in November 1940. Then, “ABM” at the Columbia Gardens beach in Trail.
Doug photographed his company’s D.H.80 Puss Moth during a flight from Trail to Rossland, BC, on January 31, 1935. Cominco sold “AVA” in 1938, then the plane just faded away during WWII. In recent years, however, it resurfaced after a meticulous restoration and began appearing in the 2010s at fly-ins in its blue and orange Cominco livery. You can see it in restored form farther back on this site (just search for “Puss Moth”).
Cirrus-engined D.H.80 Moth C-GAIY “Bubbles” at Trail in 1932. Doug Burt identifies the fellow by the nose as the well-known bush pilot, Page McPhee. “AIY” faded from the scene in 1938.
Page McPhee with Cominco D.H.80 Puss Moth CF- AGT at Trail in May 1931. One story says that “AGT” — its flying days over — was converted into a snowmobile.
Cominco purchased D.H.89 Rapide CF-BBH from DHC in January 1938. It was sold to Canadian Airways in May 1939. Later with CPA, it gave good service in Quebec. “BBH” crashed on takeoff at Pentecost on the Quebec North Shore on March 19, 1947.
Doug identifies this as D.H.84 Dragon CF-AVD at Trail on July 17, 1935 with (from the left) Ben Harrop, Hamilton Currie and Page McPhee. Records show that “AVD” at this time was a Canadian Airways plane, but it could have been on lease to Cominco. It was wrecked at Baie Comeau on the St. Lawrence River in May 1944. I wonder if there’s a history of all the work done by the early Cominco fleet? There are many good references in such other books at Rex Terpening’s classic Bent Props and Blow Pots – another book that you should have.
You can see that Doug would photograph any airplane. He took this nice set-up shot of a cute little Aeronca C-3 at Trail in 1932. NC12406 was visiting from the US.
In the Burt collection that I have there also are these well-taken photos of more modern airliners at Edmonton. First, CPA Lockheed Lodestar CF-CPA and Boeing 247 CF-BVF with an RCAF Oxford in the background; then, an unknown post-WWII CPA DC-3.
To start off this year’s Canada Day weekend I took the TTC’s 501 “Flexity” streetcar downtown for a morning of fun out on Toronto Bay. Big attraction? The Tall Ships are in town! “How best to see and photograph the Tall Ships”, was the question. Someone was willing to rent me a small motor boat, but since I’ve had no experience in recent decades, I passed on that. Instead, I talked to the keen fellows at “The Pirate Taxi”, who were happy to take me out for a fair price for half an hour to get some photos.
A classic Toronto skyline scene as we pulled out from Pirate Taxi’s slip.
Away we go.
A quick glance westward and this was the view of Billy Bishop Airport. No doubt about it … the water is high, comparing the airport breakwall to previous “normal” years.
Two of the many sightseeing and party boats that run day and night through Toronto’s booming summer tourist season.
Toronto’s anti-everything city councillors groaned for decades about how the Gardiner Expressway allegedly has “ruined” our cityview. Those same funny people invariably have voted for any and every other sort of waterfront development, the higher the better. How do they like the view now? It’s all yours, can’t even see the Gardner anywhere in 2019! But what the heck, eh … Toronto’s a fantastic modern city and city’s cry out to grow. We’re all pretty well good with that. But … those same goofy lefty/anti-everything councillers are still decrying the Gardiner, which nonetheless remains Toronto’s unequalled gem of an east-west transportation corridor along to lake.
The tall ships start appearing as we turn eastward. To the right is the Toronto ferry dock at the foot of Yonge St. What a beautiful cityscape, hard to beat for any diehard urbanist.
The Milwaukee-based Sailing Vessel Denis Sullivan was launched in 2000. The ship’s website notes: “The schooner is a modern educational sailing vessel with two diesel engines, a scientific laboratory, two computer workstations, and modern communication and navigation equipment… The vessel can carry up to 50 passengers on day sails and 21 participants overnight. She is complemented by a professional crew of ten.” For any of the ships shown here, you can find all the specs, etc. on the various websites.
S/V Bluenose II of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is a near-perfect replica of Canada’s renowned fishing and racing schooner Bluenose (built in 1921, sank in 1946). What a treat to see this beauty in Toronto Bay.
Built as a fishing trawler in 1928 and in Royal Navy service as a minesweeper in WWII, the (now) 3-masted barque S/V Picton Castle is registered in the Cook Islands, but is home-based in Lunenburg. Since 1999 it has circumnavigated the world four times.
The show must go on, holiday of not. Here, the local workboat Esperanza IV barges some essential supplies (kegs of beer, etc. for long weekend needs) to a destination along the bay.
Canada Coast Guard’s Thunder Cape is one of 36 “Cape” class lifeboats built for the CCG in Kingston, Ontario. It’s 47 feet long with an 18-ton displacement. CCGS Thunder Cape is based in Meaford on Georgian Bay.
HMCS Oriole is a Canadian naval sail-training vessel. Built as a civilian vessel in 1921, it was commissioned into the RCN in 1952. The RCN notes: “The Oriole provides sail training to junior officers and noncommissioned officers as part of their introduction to life at sea. She also provides a venue for teamwork exercises and adventure training available to all of the Canadian Forces.”
A short run along Toronto Bay reminds us a little about “days of yore”. The waterfront originally was all about industry, commerce and passenger travel. Of the bay’s once vibrant industrial era, only the great Redpath sugar refinery still serves its original purpose.
Once an industrial-scale cold storage warehouse, this historic property became Toronto’s first upscale waterfront condo a good 40 years ago.
The busy Amsterdam Brew House began life early in the 1900s as a busy Toronto pier. Lake freighters and passenger ships docked here into the 1950s.
A closer view of the ferry docks showing Toronto’s famous island ferries, William Inglis (1935) and Sam McBride (1939). They’re worth looking up to check out their amazing histories. In 1941, for example, Sam McBride was in Toronto Bay when a low-flying Norwegian AF Northrop training plane crashed into it. Two Norwegian fliers lost their lives, but it was Sam McBride’s lucky day.
Launched in 1980, S/V Faire Jeanne is based down Lake Ontario at the famous Seaway port of Brockville. Through the weekend thousands of visitors will walk the waterfront getting a close-up view of these great ships, all of which are open to the public for a small fee.
The brigantines Playfair of Toronto and St. Lawrence II of Kingston have trained thousands of summer students in Great Lakes sailing over the decades.
Another of Toronto’s busy water taxis heads for the offshore islands, where flooding doesn’t seem to deter the weekenders.
The owner notes about this hard-working old vessel: “Step aboard and experience the finest restored Tall Ship on the Great Lakes. Launched as the Wilfred in Rendsburg, Germany in 1930, the KAJAMA traded under sail for nearly 70 years. She was a familiar ship in ports from Northwest Spain, through western Europe, and as far north as Norway and Russia. In 1999, KAJAMA was delivered transatlantic to Toronto’s Waterfront and restored to her original profile. Sail aboard the Tall Ship that was seen on the Amazing Race.”
After a great jaunt up and down the bay, we’re pulling back into our slip. This spot happens to be home to Toronto Fire’s main two vessels, Wm Lyon Mackenzie being the “flagship”.
Good day CANAV supporters … here’s the next action-packed session on the CANAV Books Blog, but before getting into our lead story covering “Operation Preserve”, here is some important information and some fascinating bits of history.
D-Day Celebrations at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton
D-Day was so well covered this year, whether locally in one Canadian community after another, or in Normandy itself. As is a tradition, the fantastic Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton went all-out, especially with its fly-over program. Gus Corujo was there with his cameras – Gus rarely misses any aviation event in his wide-ranging travels around Ontario. Here is his CWHM D-Day 2019 presentation for you to enjoy: http://gusair.com/htdocs/Airshows/2019/19D-DAY/19d-day.html
Unless someone pulls a mighty impressive new book out of the fire, Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939 will remain Canada’s aviation book of the year through 2019, likely into 2020. “FPO” is a treat for any serious aviation reader. It will you give years of enjoyment and your order will help CANAV to get ahead with Vol.9.
Here’s what the great Denis J. Calvert writes about “FPO” in the May 2019 edition of “The Aeroplane”: “This is volume eight in CANAV’s series detailing Canada’s aviation heritage. Those who have read – or own – earlier volumes will be familiar with author Milberry’s style of writing, which strikes the happy, but all too rare, balance between being easy to read and rigorously detailed … Illustrations are excellent.” Here are two other reviews to check out: “Britain at War” (November 2018) and “Flypast” (March 2019). Don’t sit on your hands, get your order in today! Meanwhile, I also attach CANAV’s current booklist – it’s well worth a look. It’s packed with a best in aviation reading, the sort the will keep your attention span being reduced to 3 minutes (by playing around way too much on the internet, right). FYI … CANAV’s Curent Booklist is right here: 1 CANAV Booklist Spring_Summer 2019
The Rock of Gibraltar + Some Alberta Treasures
Next … recently I came across these old photos of RCAF aircraft at Gibraltar in the 1950s-60s. If there isn’t a book full of such “Rock of Gibraltar” airplane photos, someone needs to do one. Shown first is one of RCAF Air Transport Command’s famous Canadair North Stars from the 1940s-60s. Then, a “Wilf White Collection” Kodachrome showing RCAF Argus 20737, likely coming or going re. some Cold War anti-submarine exercise. I wouldn’t be surprised in the 2010s to see photos of RCAF Auroras, CF-18, Hercs, etc. with “The Rock” as backdrop.
The RCAF had first started using “Gib” in WWII, when it operated a mail service from Ottawa (168 Sqn) all the way through to Cairo, mainly using B-17s converted to transports. This pioneer effort turned into an RCAF gold star success.
As I was writing the history of Canada’s vast air transportation heritage in the 1980s-90s, I decided to include a gallery of original aviation art. Always fascinated by the amazing overseas work of 168 Sqn, I commissioned my great friend, artist and photographer, the late Robert “Bob” Finlayson, to paint a 168 Sqn B-17 over “Gib”, since 168 on the Mediterranean route stopped there countless times going and coming. To this day I count Bob’s painting as one of the treasures in Canadian aviation art. He always seemed to pull a piece together so nicely. He did his research thoroughly, then got his plane, sky and background nicely together on his board. After decades of work, I finally got the book into print – Air Transport in Canada. You can find the details in the CANAV 2019 booklist above. This is another Canadian aviation heritage book that you definitely will treasure.
Alberta Snapshots Surface
Fascinating historic aviation photos keep surfacing as the years pass. This spring Ken Townend of Calgary (one of CANAV’S earliest readers) sent me these b/w prints. First are two photos that he took of RCAF Hurricane 5414 (then with 135 Squadron at Tofino) in Edmonton in April 1945. This was a Victory Loan event on the east side of 101 Street south of Jasper Avenue. People going by could get a close look at a Hurricane, at this time frontline RCAF equipment. You can see that the passersby were keen to have a look. Notice the “Let’s Make a Clean Sweep” propaganda billboard on the street corner. In a few weeks the jig would be up for the Germans, and the Japanese soon would follow. Clean sweep accomplished!
Here’s one of Ken’s shots from a visit to Edmonton airport in the late 1940s. Shown are RCAF Mosquito KA115 and one of the RCAF’s first two Gloster Meteor jet fighters. Next, a closer view of KA115, which was struck off strength in June 1948. Notice the airport elevation on the hangar across the field – 2185 feet above sea level.
American military planes had been passing through Edmonton flying to and from Alaska since the 1920s. One day Ken Townend got to watch a squadron of USAF F-80 Shooting Star jet fighters during their refuelling stopover. Ken notes, “The US F-80s shot up the airfield, then landed from the north. At least two of them were unable to slow down sufficiently to turn off at the end of the runway, so got stuck in the gopher holes and grass. I clambered over the fence and took a couple of photos.” This view is really interesting for the Edmonton background. Since the airport closed a few years ago, nothing much remains of the old hangars, etc. The final shot is another F-80 taken at Edmonton about the same time by Leslie Corness.
Ontario Regiment Royal Canadian Armoured Corps Museum Annual Open House “Aquino Tank Weekend”
On Saturday, June 9 we attended this year’s Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum annual weekend open house at the museum’s Oshawa airport location, about an hour’s drive east of Toronto.. This was one of the most fantastic armoured history events anywhere on the globe for this season. I’m not particularly a tank/armour history follower, but certainly will be showing a lot more interest from now on. For this blog item, I’ll simply show you photos of a few vehicle types that were operating among what must have been 50+. Also … some misc. displays.
At one point alone there were five operating ex-Canadian Army Leopard I main battle tanks on the field. There were numerous Allied and German tanks, tank destroyers, armoured personnel carriers, jeeps, artillery pieces, etc. all manned by expertly-trained operators, There also was a mass of Gulf War equipment, and Allied and German re-enactors put on a mock battle based on one of the Canadian engagements during the Liri Valley battlefield period in WWII Italy – the Battle of Aquino, May 14, 1944 (see Wiki, etc.). Here are a few photos to whet your appetite for a visit to this magnificent museum. “Impressive” does not begin to describe this museum adequately.
Thousands of these Commonwealth “Bren Gun Carriers” served the Canadian Army in WWII. Some 29,000 alone were built by the Ford Motor Co. in Canada. You can find all the details for such vehicles by checking on Wiki, etc. Besides all the “heavy metal” roaring around on the display grounds, there was at least and acre of fascinating static displays. Above is the artillery piece being towed by the Bren Gun Carrier.
Typical German hardware of WWII. The Allies had to confront such formidable armour wherever they fought from North Africa early in the war on to north Germany into May 1945.
Canada operated the British-built Centurion main battle tank (static view above) through the Cold War. It finally was replaced by the German-designed Leopard I. Next … two of the five operating Leopard Is on the field this day.
A wide view of some of the vehicles that we saw in operation during the morning action.
Several of Canada’s D-Day veterans were present. After being introduced, they made the circuit of the grounds in several types of wartime vehicles.
A German medium tank and tank destroyer on the move. Then, “German” re-enactors dismounting and setting up to drive the Canadians from Aquino airfield. This fellow is ready to create mayhem for the Canadians with his MG42.
A Bren Gun Carrier arrives with Canadian troops.
Stewart and Chaffe tanks roll out, then one of the museum’s mighty Shermans.
Canadians on the defensive. All the weapons here were operable and 100s of rounds were banged off in these realistic demonstrations. Lee Enfield rifles, Thompson submachine guns, Bren guns and side arms all were fired. Then, a German half-track on the attack.
This Canadian Army Chevy truck tows a 25-pound (87.6 mm) artillery piece and ammunition limber. The 25-pounder fired several blank rounds.
This current Leopard II recovery tank came in from CFB Borden. Then, yet another piece of heavy WWII German equipment.
Radio-controlled scale model tanks; then the large battlefield diorama where they were rolling around all day.
Some of the amazing Gulf War armour on show including (last shot) a Russian T-62 main battle tank, the much-feared type still used by Russian client states.
Nearby the tank museum (which is at Oshawa airport) is an important RCAF monument – a sparkling Canadair F-86 Sabre V. (Photos by Shannon and Marin Milberry; Blog Master, Owen Milberry)
Now … Djibouti 1991
CanForces C-130 Hercules 130326 taxis through the pigeons at Djibouti (formerly French Somalia) in November 1991. It was headed out on one of hundreds of “Operation Preserve” missions on behalf of the UN World Food Program. Then, Herc 130333 loading at Djibouti for yet another trip into the Ethiopian “outback”. All this food aid arrived in Djibouti by sea, then was trucked to the airport. This brought employment and cash into the local economy and organizers made the most of it. Loading a Herc with as much as 22 tons of grain or corn was never a speedy process, since it was being paid for at an hourly rate. At the offloading end, the locals weren’t in it so much for the money, so could empty a Herc in 10-12 minutes (the record during Operation Preserve was eight minutes).
Region in Turmoil
The Horn of Africa has been in turmoil for centuries. In more modern times, there was a horrendous 3-decades war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 2018 the warring parties finally agreed to a peace. In another infamous case (1977-78) there was all-out war between Ethiopia and Somalia, backed, respectively, by the USSR and USA. The opposite recently had been true, so the Soviet-backed Ethiopian air force went to war with US-made Northrop F-5s, while the US-backed Somali air force flew Soviet MiG-21s. The “MiGs” soon ruled the skies. The main fighting took place in the northern Ogaden region lying between the two countries: Having a dream of a “Greater Somalia”, in 1977 President Siad Barre launched his attack on the Ogaden, looking to annex this ethnically Somali territory, where the main centres were Diradawa and Jijiga. Not far across the border in Somalia was Hargeisa. Barre’s forces ploughed ahead. Just as Ethiopia was near defeat in 1978, however, it was massively reinforced by Cuban, South Yemen and the USSR. Ethiopia now turned the tide, Somalia withdrew and Ethiopia retained the Ogaden (see Wiki, etc., for all the details, e.g. such items as “Somaliland: Hargeisa – The Invisible City”). Humiliated, President Siad Barre punished his own military in the north, having many top officers executed. Like a mini-Stalin or Mao, he also led a campaign to exterminate Somali clan resistance, starving to death and mercilessly bombing his own people. This led to unrest among northern Somalis. A revolution ensued, the north eventually declaring independence as Somaliland, having Hargeisa as its capital. Barre then used his artillery and tactical MiGs to destroying much of Hargeisa. In 1991 Barre was overthrown and eventually replaced by another strongman – Mohamed Farah Aidid. Aidid ushered in his own reign of terror during another ugly period of Somalia clan violence. The United Nations interceded, establishing UNOSOM – United Nations Operations in Somalia, which would count heavily on Canada. For today, however, let’s go back to 1991 when the Horn of Africa was not so much at war (although clans still were at each other’s throats) as it was starving due to crop failure caused by drought.
At the UN’s behest, beginning in August 1991 Canada began flying food aid to Ethiopian centres from its ALCE (Airlift Control Element) at Djibouti International Airport. This was known as Operation Preserve. The mandate was to fly four relief missions per day, each carrying as much as 22 tons of food. Three CC-130 “Hercs” from Air Transport Group at CFB Trenton were provided – two for daily operations plus one back-up. The Hercs were crewed from ATG’s various squadrons and supported by about 60 personnel – airframe and engine techs, logistics people, administrative and medical staff, etc. The ALCE “opened for business” on August 7, the first mission being flown five days later. Destinations were in the Ethiopian provinces of Bale, Hararge and Tigre. “Preserve” was planned for three months, but Canada later responded to a UN World Food Program plea for an extension. In November, I was invited to visit the operation to report first hand. I had a week to get everything organized – gathering the paperwork that DND needed, studying about the Horn of Africa (geography, weather, cultures, etc.), checking out camera equipment, stocking up on film, etc. Finally, on November 24, I rendezvoused with the CF public affairs co-ordinator in Ottawa for the first leg of the trip – a 6.5-hour flight to Canada’s airbase at Lahr, Germany on a DND charter. Our transportation was Nationair’s C-GMXY, an old DC-8-62 that had begun with Swissair in 23 years earlier. The trip started in leisurely fashion, since we had some time to enjoy Lahr and the Black Forest area. Then, on November 28 we set off in 436 Sqn C-130 130323 (UN Flight 6165) with Capt Dave Ross and crew. Our destination was Iraklion, Crete, where a few hours later we landed for fuel in the dead on night.
CanForces Herc “323” during our night refuelling stop at Iraklion, Crete. Delivered to the RCAF in 1967, “323” would serve Canada for some 44 years before retiring in 2012. Within an hour we were airborne for Djibouti, where we landed at 0940 (local) after a trip from Lahr of some 3000 nm. Shuttled downtown to the Sheraton Hotel, we started with a detailed briefing from ALCE commander, LCol Marc Dumais, who also organized a bus tour of the city to get we media people oriented.
A aeronautical map section of the general area being supplied by Operation Preserve during its final weeks. The main centres that I visited are to the south – DireDawa, Jijiga and Hargeisa.
Canada’s makeshift ALCE comprised a few sea containers and tents in a grubby corner at Djibouti International Airport. Canada’s military is famous for getting the job done in such barebones set-ups. This goes back at least to the Korean War when the RCAF’s modest fleet of North Stars made hundreds of trans-Pacific supply, passenger and medevac trips with little fanfare. On any day it may have had 10-12 North Stars available. So busy were they that the USAF assumed that the RCAF must have had hundreds. So it usually goes with a Canadian ALCE – no fuss no muss, just get the job done to specs.
The inevitable crazy signpost seems quickly to appear at any distant ALCE.
The ALCE seen from a giraffe that I briefly commandeered. A spare engine (lower right) and prop always are essential for such an operation.
A few steps from the ALCE, CanForces Herc crews chitchat between missions. The Operation Preserve Hercs this week were “326”, which had an airframe time of 30,433.1 hours as of December 1; “333”– 19,325.6 and “337” — 9445.7. There’s plenty of fun on such an operation. Some cocky 429 Sqn graffiti artist sent this message to the other squadrons at Djibouti.
ALCE commander LCol Dumais (right) with some of his staff at Djibouti.
My first trip from Djibouti began at 0400 on November 30 with a bus ride to the airport with the Dave Ross crew. Things were a bit dicey right away, since some rough-looking airport security fellows with AKs pulled me into a guardhouse, while the crew went ahead. Problem? Who was this Canadian not in uniform? After a few minutes, one of my crew returned to straighten things out. Soon I was around the table at the ALCE taking in the briefing. It was still dark as we climbed out of Djibouti en route to Jijiga, a distance of 144nm. This is how most days began – get out of Djibouti ASAP, so as to land with at destination just about sunrise.
Capt Dave Ross (right, aircraft commander) during mission planning about 0500 just before we headed for Jijiga on November 30. Left is S/L John Barras (nav, RAF on exchange with 436 Sqn). Standing is Sgt Dave Preston (ALCE operations), then, Capt Pete Stolz (pilot). Next, three fellows from the other early crew: LCol Jim Skinner (OC 413 Sqn), Capt Frank Costello (nav) and Capt Vince Schurman (pilot). An old joke about flight planning and paperwork noted that a Herc would not be dispatched ‘til the weight of the paperwork equalled the weight of the plane itself!
Under call sign “Canuck 36”, the Dave Ross crew was airborne at 140,000 lb at 0545. We touched down on Jijiga’s rough little strip (Runway 03-21, barely 2500 feet) at 0630. One of the first things that caught my eye was a crowd of local men heading towards us out of the dusk. These fellows were keen to load the trucks with the 19 tons of corn we had just flown in.
Workers get busy offloading 800 x 55-lb bags. Unloading was competitive, each man hustling as many sacks as quickly as possible. Sightseers from nearby were milling around taking in the excitement on which – in a way – their lives depended.
Herc “333” soon joined us at this dusty airstrip.
S/L Barrass and Capt Ross inspect one of the many dud artillery and tank rounds scattered over Jijiga airport, where fighting during the earlier Somali invasion had been intense.
The flight deck of Herc “333”at Jijiga with flight engineer Don Levins, pilots Rich Pittet and John Pedneault of 435 Sqn, plus UN field worker, Tracy Buckenmeyer.
Our visit to Jijiga soon shaped up beautifully for photography. Here are two more views of “326”. In the second, S/L Barrass is monitoring the start-up. We were airborne again at 0700 this time at 98,000 pounds heading back to base to collect another load. The return trip totalled 1.7 flying hours.
Capts Ross and Stolz in their front office – best seats in the house! As a rule, pilots alternated seats on each leg.
Typical desert between Djibouti and Jijiga. In a good season, this land could produce plenty of food, sometimes even a surplus. In 1991, however, draught was the problem, so there was little sign of any crops or anything green. Notice the small family farm enclosures. The homes are rounded huts mostly made of local materials.
Back at base I joined “Canuck 29” 130333 bound for Diredawa with a 429 crew under Capt Vince Schurman with LCol Skinner of 413 Sqn. Here, “333” loads at Djibouti. We departed at 0845, landed at Diredawa (a distance of 135 nm) at 0930, left again at 1005 and were wheels on back at Djibouti at 1045.
LCol Skinner piloting “333”. Our load in this trip was 20 tons of wheat (400×110-lb bags). Then, a grab shot as we scorched across Diredawa, a city (at this time of some 350,000. Notice the Dechatu River and the railroad (one of few in this part of Africa), which connects Diredawa to Djibouti.
Offloading scenes at Diredawa on November 30. It wasn’t always clear where all this food aid ended. Word was that some was regularly siphoned off to local bandidos, according to accepted local customs. Hauling food grains around was not the best thing for the “care and feeding” of a C-130. S/L John Barrass told me one day about how loose grain readily germinated under a Herc’s floorboards. This could cause damage and expensive clean-up. I no longer wondered why loadmasters sometimes were seen vacuuming the heck out of their Hercs. Another issue was insects, which thrived in sacks of grain and inevitably infested airplanes, making fumigation necessary.
Diredawa was another good place to photograph the CanForces at work, but something else caught my eye. The place was a major military base. There were fighters all over the place, but how to get access? Someone got me an escort onto the MiG-21/MiG- 23 tarmac, but no photos allowed. I could see that there was no activity– the MiGs simply were basking in the sun with nobody in sight. I heard that these MiGs had been used on some recent operations flown by Communist Bloc mercenaries. Apparently, the jets were some sort of rentals, and always ready to relocate to the next war or uprising. There’s a story here, but someone “in the know” will have to write it. In the distance I also could see MiG-15s and -17s. What a hot spot for the aviation geek, eh! Here’s a view of 8800×150 foot Runway 15-33. Notice the MiG compound in the mid distance.
It was OK to photograph this abandoned Aeroflot MI-8 at Diredawa. The MI-8 first flew in 1962. Some 7300 of this astoundingly versatile and reliable helicopter were manufactured. Many were exported to USSR client states and still do great work.
On departure in “333” I was able to grab some “quickie” shots of the MiGs. I wonder if those 15s and 17s are still there? Warbird collectors would go wild if there was a chance of an acquisition.
Our shadow rips along a dried river bed around Diredawa. Back at base I quickly teamed with ”Canuck 29” for another trip to Jijiga in “333” with the Dave Ross crew. We departed at 1245, were airborne for home from Jijiga at 1350 and back at “Silo Ops” (the ALCE ops tent) at 1545. Along the way I learned a few interesting bits of trivia, including how Op Preserve’s C-130s had been lightened from a basic empty weight of 82,000 lb to 75,000 lb (so they could carry more payload); and how there was a strict notice that no aircraft enter Djibouti air space below 15,000 feet (without prior notice). Any lower and who knows what might happen. Maybe an intercept by the French AF Mirages based at Djibouti?
Crew do some on-the-spot fix to “326” while we were at Diredawa on December 1. Ingenuity is the mother of invention, as they say, but this was not a job for strict union workers, that’s for sure. I also made a trip this day to Jijiga in “333” with the 435 Sqn crew of Capt John Pedneault. Here they are at day’s end back at “Silo Ops”: Capt Rich Pettet (pilot), Capt Rolly Tassé (loadmaster), Capt John Pedneault (aircraft commander), Maj Tom Whitburn (nav) and Sgt Don Levins (flight engineer). Although I met many young aircrew on this operation, at this time Capt Tassé was one of four ATG commissioned “loadies” and talk about experience. Having joined the RCAF in 1955, he transitioned from the C-119 to the C-130 in 1962. Prior deployments included Biafra, Congo, Gulf War I and Peru on earthquake relief. By now he had 6200 flying hours on Hercs plus about 2000 on Cosmos. He also had been chief loadmaster instructor at the CF Tactical Airlift School in Edmonton. Where could the RCAF get such experience today? Pretty well impossible.
Herc 326 departs Jijiga on December 1, 1991. Aircraft take a good beating on such operations, where landings and takeoffs always are “max” efforts, e.g. full brakes, flaps and reverse props for landing after landing. Once our Hercs finally go home to Canada, you don’t even want to hear about the cost of repairs.
December 2 was an exciting day. At 0525 we were off Djibouti in “326” as “Canuck 36” under LCol Dumais with Capt Jacques Dufort, the rest being from Dave Ross’ crew. At 0600 we landed at Jijiga, where the runway was one long mud puddle after heavy overnight rains (we might have gone through with this landing because of low light masking the ugly runway conditions). A few minutes behind us, along came “Canuck 29” under Capt Vince Schurman, who first did a low pass to inspect conditions. We on the ground all were watching with interest. Would “Canuck 29” give it a go? Someone commented, “We’d be hard-pressed to find anything around here to drag them out of the mud – if worse comes to worse.” Here (in the distance) Vince banks into his downwind leg to try a landing.
Here’s part of the scene as “Canuck 29” splashes down, slithers through a mass of giant birds and mud, then gets squared away and taxies in behind “326”. Nothing to it, right! Someone reported later that several birds had left wings, fuselages, undercarriages, etc. on the runway. These photos were hard to really wire, considering the poor light, also the limits of 25 asa and 64 asa Kodachrome back in these prehistoric days of (actual) photography. Our own departure from Jijiga was briefed as a “soft field takeoff, 95,000 lb” with a proviso: “We’ll only return to this strip if we really, really have to”. On leaving Jijiga, LCol Dumais detoured to Degeh Bur for a low-level inspection and video of the runway re. possible relief flights. We noticed the wreck of an old DC-3 beside the runway. LCol Dumais did a touch-and-go to get a feel for the runway surface, then turned north for Djibouti.
LCol Dumais flies “326” to Degeh Bur on December 2, as RAF S/L John Barrass (nav) looks on. Then, Capt Dufort at the helm on the same trip.
On Day 1 at Djibouti I spent some good time watching the technical staff change an engine on Herc “337”. Here they were in a remote place doing sophisticated work out in the blazing African sun, but this really was no big deal for ATG. After all, what’s it about? Training, experience and dedication, three hallmarks of Canada’s military. First, here’s the big picture with “337” on the ramp. Then, MCpl Bob Gauthier atop the troubled engine, and Cpl Jeff Hamilton gathering some wrenches.
Contemplating the new engine. Then, the prop is readied for installation. Finally, the new 4000-shp Allison T56 engine is run up for the first time as the airport fire brigade stands by. Job in the bag in 12 hours, no sweat!
Djibouti is a fascinating place. Take some time and read up about it in the “interweb” (the world of the 3-minute attention span, right). This is a place where, in the main market, we saw such eye-popping displays as AK-47s for sale for a few American dollars, gold in any form one might desire, and raw elephant tusks stacked up ready for anyone with the cash – save the elephants be damned. It’s also where we enjoyed a pizza one evening where our host was a retired Foreign Legionnaire. On the wall was a pair of snowshoes that, as a young soldier on winter exercise in northern Quebec one year, he had brought home. Yes … Djibouti is “something else”. But it must be much changed today, when the main foreign influence is China, not France. The airport itself is a busy hub with many civil and military aircraft to photograph. Djibouti being a former French colony and still (in 1991) a French Foreign Legion outpost, I wasn’t surprised to see this 747 “Classic” on the ramp. F-BPVA was Air France’s first 747, having been delivered in March 1970. Majestic as it was, it went to the boneyard in 1994.
The French military also was evident in Djibouti, but I couldn’t get permission to visit. Mirage fighters were coming and going on some sort of counter-insurgency missions, and this Breguet Atlantique was present, patrolling the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. There also were some Transals. One day I watched one of these “mini Hercs” take off and disappear into low cloud. Not long afterwards, a large number of Foreign Legionnaires came floating down onto mid-field, having completed a jump in complete “IFR” conditions.
Ethiopian Airlines seemed almost to be Djibouti’s national airline. Seen are 707 freighter ET-AIV, 727 ET-AHM and Lockheed L-100 Hercules ET-AJK. Delivered originally to Braniff in 1967 and later with Trans Mediterranean, “AIV” served EAL 1985-98. Sold then into the DRC, it was wrecked at Kinshasa in Y2K. 727 “AHM” came new to EAL in 1979, serving there into 1992. It migrated to Canada in 1997, where it served Cargojet of Hamilton as C-GUJC into the 2010s. Herc “AJK” was a jack-of-all-trades, frequently doing UN relief operations.
Alyemda was operating scheduled Dash 7 service across the narrow straight from Yemen to Djibouti. 7O-ACM had been sold new to Alyemda in 1980. Dash 7 No.31 (of 113 built in Toronto), “ACM” lasted into the early 2000s, but eventually went for scrap.
Originally delivered to Yemen Airways in 1976, 737 “200 Series” 7O-ACU was seen almost daily at Djibouti. It served into the early 2000s before retiring.
By 1991 the impressive Cessna 208A Caravan was making welcomed inroads throughout Africa. 5Y-ZBZ (s/n 201) had arrived in the region on October 24 for Mission Aviation Fellowship. Using long-range tanks, Tony Pettinger had ferried it across in 46 flying hours. First, he collected “ZBZ” from Cessna in Wichita, then flew it to Bangor, Maine, where two 180 gallon ferry tanks were installed in the cabin. These supplemented the 165-gallon tanks in each wing tank. He next flew to St. John’s, Newfoundland, then to Birmingham in 12:05 hours, finally on to Southend, Luxor and Nairobi. For another Caravan (HB-CKK, Red Cross) also doing relief duty here, the engineer was Anil Patel of Montreal. A graduate of Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Anil previously had worked for Bearskin Airlines and norOntair in NW Ontario, then went to Africa in 1984. He noted that there were about 100 Canadians doing relief work at this time for NGOs in this region. These seemed to be loosely under the “Horn of Africa Committee” of the Canadian International Development Agency in Ottawa.
Another bit of “Canadiana” at Djibouti in 1991 was this clapped out DHC-4 Caribou. Delivered new in 1971 as JW9013 to the Tanzanian Air Wing, nobody around the airport seemed to have any history for it, other than that it had made a very hard landing here one day. The airframe was hopelessly bent, so the Caribou was abandoned. At this time, several local young men were using “9013” for low cost housing.
Off the end of Runway 09 at Djibouti in 1991 lay another off-beat bit of aviation history – some superannuated French Air Force F-100 Super Sabres cooking in the Africa sun. Look at the massiveness of this scrap yard. I wondered why the local government hadn’t turned all this into millions of dollars in scrap business? Since China now holds sway in Djibouti, perhaps it’s finally been shipped off for recycling. You can see that a lot of the photos that I’ve used here are grab shots. As any day unfolded, there were endless subjects to photograph, so I had to have cameras ready. Things could come and go in a flash. This was not a great job for the photographer who is anal about photographic form. For me? I was happy, since I’m mainly content-minded. Shoot first, shoot fast!
Around the pool at the Sheraton one evening I met some fellows from the Mission Aviation Fellowship, a Christian organization doing good works in the Horn of Africa with Caravan 5Y- ZBZ. Eventually, I asked about a flight to see what was doing with the MAF, and this quickly was OK’d. Early on December 3, I met my MAF contacts at the airport – Ramesh Peshavaria (seen at the controls of “ZBZ”), Tony Pettinger and Tad Watts. At 0905 we took off on the 133 nm flight to Hargeisa, capital of the unrecognized state of Somaliland (formerly Italian Somalia). We climbed to 10,000 feet, cruised smoothly along, then landed at 1000. Here “ZBZ” sits at the Hargeisa terminal.
What caught my eye instantly as we taxied in at Hargeisa was a row of three Somali AF F-6 tactical fighters (Chinese-built MiG-19s). The story behind these old warbirds was not a pretty one, for they had been “flying artillery” for Siad Bari’s repressive regime, bombing nearby Hargeisa into rubble in recent times. An F-6 could make bomb run after bomb run through the day, since its targets were just a few seconds/minutes away. Nobody was around who could give me any actual details, although a very poor- looking fellow on crutches told me that he had been an F-6 pilot “back in the day”. It’s not always too easy to get people in such countries to talk openly.
MiG and a Mil-17 hulks at Hargeisa. As I polked around this corner, some friendly fellows in the distance yelled for me to clear off, warning that there still were land mines in this patch of the airport. I made my way back to the tarmac taking very long strides!
A bird’s eye view of the airport terminal from “ZBZ”.
General views around Hargeisa on December 3, 1991. The city had been a ghost town since 1988, the main population having fled across the border to Ethiopia. We were told that the population was about 70,000, but this was starting to rise as people began filtering back home. Thousands had died here, but the survivors were set on making a new beginning. First, an aerial view from “ZBZ”. This neighbourhood still looked uninhabited. Today, Hargeisa is home to more than 600,000 and has great prospects.
A local fellow with his camel. Then, two young men employed in Hargeisa’s de-mining “industry”. Many Somalilanders had become land mine victims during the region’s horrible times, as in 1988-91. One-legged people were everywhere, and humans and animals still were been killed by mines in and near Hargeisa. Alf Slingsby of the UK de-mining company Rimfire showed us samples of neutralized mines supplied to Siad Bari’s brutal forces by arms dealers from many nations. His teams were recovering about 1000 mines per month, and there was no end in sight for the process.
While climbing out from Hargeisa bound for home base, we spotted a herder with his goats. Raising and dealing in goats, cattle and camels remains the region’s chief economic activity. Then, a typical scene en route. This area is desert and mountains with the prominent Durdur River system. This is really wild country. We were back at Djibouti at 1415 to face the only glitch of the day – Djibouti customs officials were unhappy that I had “illegally” crossed into the non-existent nation of Somaliland. My passport was confiscated, but was returned later in the day for a small fee.
Another day I joined a convoy driving across the back country to a vast refugee camp in the middle of nowhere – Dharwanaji six miles from the Somaliland border. The place housed 121,000 homeless people, but was overseen by armed hoodlums. Here’s a grab shot looking ahead at our convoy just as there was a panic about a possible ambush. Our “guns-for-hire” suddenly were fanning out, weapons ready.
The panic arose due to a traffic hold-up at this crossing, where a heavy water truck headed for Dharwanji was bogged down. All was well. Note the machine gun atop the pick-up, and the camels in the distance.
Even out in such sparse backcountry there was plenty to see. We passed a battleground littered with Soviet-era tanks destroyed during the recent Ethiopia – Somalia shoot-out. Cameras were not welcomed, so I kept a low profile. Here, we pass a pick-up loaded “to the gunwales” with militiamen.
En route we stopped briefly in the hamlet of Lafaisa. First, a street scene as a local water cart passes on its rounds. Then, typical Lafaisa housing, boys tending cattle, and camels at work. Little wonder that wherever we travelled, people would shout “Canada (or USA) Number One” and sometimes ask what we could do to help them get out of wherever they were stuck.
Finally, we reached Dharwanaji. This is what we saw spread out to the horizon — thousands of grubby little huts called “akuls” or “aqals”, and people mainly just waiting passively for their next meal.
Just inside the gate sat a mountain of thousands of grain and corn sacks. We heard that the camp had formed when refugees poured in from Somalia starting in February 1991. Under the gaze of the “camp mafia”, the UN was feeding the place. There was a daily limit of 500g per person, except for children and pregnant women who received a bit extra. People were dying almost daily of starvation and disease. Armed militiamen guarded the food aid and seemed to have control as to how it all got distributed.
A couple of Dharwanaji honchos guard the entrance to the camp strongman’s office.
Keeping more than 100,000 desperate people alive … this is what it was all about, including what Canada’s Hercs were doing so far from home. This was the scene at one of Dharwanaji’s six feeding centres. Mothers and children are having their turn in this session. But things perpetually were on the edge. In the second photo, an infant has just been declared dead, said to be from malnutrition.
Food prep in the kitchen tent; then a scene in the medical clinic. Among people’s endless health issues at Dharwanaji, tuberculosis was rampant.
Other camp scenes. You can show your kids these pictures next time they start complaining about anything, right! Besides barebones care provided by the UN and NGOs in this region in 1991, there was a longterm effort to resettle the refugees. Most of those at Dharwanaji in 1991 gradually returned to Somaliland, from whence they had come.
My visit to Djibouti ended on December 4 when I boarded Herc “334” at Djibouti (UN Flight 6166, Major Wayne Davidson and crew). First we flew to Larnica on Cyprus (7 hours) to pick up passengers and fuel, then continued to Lahr (Capt Pedneault and crew, 5.5 hours). I continued back to Ottawa on December 6 aboard Nationair 757 C-GNXU.
Operation Preserve summary: flying from their Djibouti ALCE, from August 12 to December 12, 1991 Canada’s C-130 Hercules flew 853 food aid missions to points in hard- pressed north Ethiopia. Some 16,000 tons of grain and corn were delivered. Summarizing things, LCol Marc Dumais noted, “The operation was an overwhelming success thanks to the planning that went into the initial recce and to the professionalism and positive attitude of the personnel who were assigned to the mission”. Canada’s air force would go on to many further such humanitarian mission from the collapse of Somalia, when the warlords took over, to Rwanda, hurricane relief in Honduras … on and on to the present. Through the week of June 3, 2019, RCAF Hercs were busy evacuating forest fire- threatened Pikangikum, a town of 3800 in Northwest Ontario (55 miles north of Red Lake). One of the great aspects about travelling around the world with the Canadian Forces was meeting so many exemplary Canadians proudly wearing the uniform. It’s been fun keeping in touch over the decades and seeing how people finished their careers. LCol Marc Dumais, for example, retired to “Civvie Street” in 2012 as MGen Dumais, Commander of “Canada Command”.
Over the decades I travelled the world covering aviation in all its fascinating variety. It was a gypsy’s life with lots of work, but the results were well worth the effort, whether I was hosted by the Canadian Forces to cover some NATO fighter meet, Canadian UN transport operations in the Sinai or Horn of Africa, the final return home of Canada’s 1CAG NATO CF-18s, visits across Canada to every Canadian Armed Forces flying base, flying in most CanForces airplane types, or spending two years as a Snowbirds civilian photographer. Then there was a host of other fun including Arctic adventure, and US military activities from flying on a B-52 mission to “famil” flights in everything from the Huey Cobra to the F-106 and F-16, and flights with the US Marines in the Indian Ocean, including accompanying the Marines from the USS Wasp on a beach assault in Somalia “flying” aboard a Bell LACV-30 hovercraft. It’s been the best of fun since my first flight as a 12-year old Air Cadet in 1956. Most of these adventures resulted in material for magazine stories and raw material for one book or another. This is a good time to look back on one of my African trips.
Already I have heard from many readers about this important world history, so thanks as always for tuning in and reacting. One review comes from aviation writer Andy Wright in Australia. He adds the attached important file covering the Australian side of Rwandan relief. This occurred in the aftermath, and illustrates just how merciless the Tutsi were in taking their revenge on the Hutu, following the initial events of April 1994. The Aussies knew what happened in this instance, even if the United Nations and the Paul Kagame government to this day lie about the actual results. Please be forewarned — this item is not for the feint of heart. This is the link from the Australian War Museum: https://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/39/bravery
Horror in Rwanda
It was 25 years ago that insanity took over in Rwanda. A tribe-on-tribe genocide arose with Hutu cutting down every Tutsi in sight. All this was manipulated by shadowy figures. The UN was present with UNAMIR – UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, trying to bring some sanity to what was shaping up to be genocide. UNAMIR fell short and the First World was slow to react, but Canada stood out as an exception. When the slaughter moved into high gear on April 6, 1994, Canada quickly set an example, dispatching a C-130 Hercules from Italy to Nairobi on April 8 to bolster UNAMIR. Staging out of Burundi under Maj Ken Pfander, this “Herc” flew its first operational trip on April 10, landing at Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Carrying extra armour plate, anti- missile electronic counter measures plus flak jackets and helmets for the crew, the Herc was well equipped, for Rwanda clearly was a war zone. On approaching Kigali, the Canadian crew could see exploding mortar rounds and tracer fire around the airport. Nonetheless, the mission was successful. This was the first of many by Canadian Hercs under what famously became CanForces “Operation Scotch”. The CanForces dispatched a second Herc to Nairobi on April 11. Soon, a major worldwide relief mission was underway, but Canada had led the way. The books still are being written and the academic debates and conspiracy theories continue. A seminal book is Shake Hands with the Devil by Canadian Army LGen Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN forces in Rwanda in 1994. A new book worth your attention is Allan Thompson’s Media and Mass Atrocity, which analyses the role of the media in as much as it largely was conspicuous by its absence in getting the story covered before and during April 1994. (Canada’s CBC was too busy covering the totally predictable election in South Africa to send reporters to Rwanda in the early days. During my visit in July/August, I didn’t bump into any news reporters from anywhere. A few must have been around, for I always would see them in the field or at bar in other conflict areas, etc. Not this time.) This April (2019), the TVO network in Toronto aired a very good Rwanda 25-year retrospective with host Steve Paikin. Try to track this down via TVO.org. Another good summary is provided by RCAF wartime navigator and prolific writer, George Sweanor, about whom I’ve written in earlier books. Soon to turn 100, George keeps a superb blog, one of his latest topics being his Rwanda analysis. See this at www.yeoldescribe.com. Also … in my own book Air Transport in Canada (a few copies still available — usually cheaper than used sets on the web) you’ll find a hefty section with info and photos from Rwanda. For more such background, simply google “Rwanda 1994” and you’ll find endless sources, one essential backgrounder being Rwanda – UNAMIR www.un.org/Depts/DPKO/Missions/unamir_b.htm
Entebbe-Nairobi-Mogadishu-Kigali-Goma … Air Transport Overview, 1994
My involvement in Rwanda came about when Ken Swartz, then with the Toronto-based UN air charter company, Skylink, got me a place aboard an Antonov AN-124 under UN contract to fly from CFB Trenton to Entebbe, Uganda via Mirabel, Tenerife and Lagos with a load of heavy equipment for Rwanda relief. My simple job in return was to cover the airlift for Skylink. That done, I remained in the region to cover the Canadian Forces relief airlift and see what all else was going on air transportation-wise. In going through hundreds of long-forgotten Kodachrome slides lately, details of the trip flooded back to mind. I decided to do a blog item covering the aviation photography side of my trip and say a bit about the daily adventures of a roving journalist. The “slide show” that follows is a Kodachrome review featuring many of the aircraft photographed along the way from when our “1-24” groaned into the air at Trenton on July 29, 1994 to when I landed back in Canada on August 10 aboard a CanForces CC-150 Polaris. The captions give you the details, then you can delve deeper on the web, as you wish. Have a look and enjoy, but then do some further reading into the bigger story 25 years down the line:
(Click on any photo to see it full screen) Our Ukrainian-registered Antonov 124-100 “Ruslan” UR-82008 at CFB Trenton on July 29, 1994. Operated by the Antonov Design Bureau and its UK agent, Airfoyle Heavylift, ‘008 was here to load 85 tons of heavy equipment for the UN Rwanda relief mission, then getting underway (the genocidal Hutu had been defeated and driven into exile in Zaire by the Tutsi “Rwandan Patriotic Front” on July 19). Wherever a 1-24 appears. it creates a buzz. People swarm out to the airport to catch a look and maybe get some video. If you google “UR-82008” you’ll find photos of it taken over the decades at airports everywhere in the world. I hear that ‘008 still in service in 2019.
Here’s a nifty souvenir – my AirFoyle AN-124 boarding pass.
First flown in 1982, the 1-24 has a stated all-up weight of 893,000 lb. It can carry as much as 150 tons of cargo. Depending on what interests you have, you can dig into all the fine details by checking on Wiki, etc. These views emphasize the ease of loading this mighty air freighter. Some 55 – 60 1-24s have been delivered (UR- 82008 is No.2). Ukraine has been talking in recent years about a new production run. 1-24 lore is amazing. These planes have been everywhere carrying astonishing loads. One story has the Sultan of Brunei – nasty fellow that he is – doing his festive-season shopping in London, then sending all his spoils home in a 1-24 – gold-plated Mercedes, private helicopters, etc.
This contingent of CanForces personnel accompanied us on the short leg to Mirabel. There, they decided that accommodations in the 1-24 pressurized crew compartment away up at the base of the fin were inadequate, so they decided to go no further on the Antonov. That left me as the sole passenger among about 15 Ukrainian crewmen. I was well cared for and enjoyed every hour along the way, even though conditions actually were a bit “basic” (the CanForces people had made a wise decision).
Inside UK-82008 at Trenton – the packed cargo bay and the cockpit. I was invited to ride on the flight deck by co-captains Anatolii Khroustitskii and Valeri Shlyakhov for our short hop (46 minutes) to Mirabel, where the main fuel load was taken on. I heard en route that both captains were the best in their class. Anatolii recently (June 30) had made the first flight of an AN-30 retrofitted with Garrett engines.
While we fuelled at Mirabel, I spend my time photographing the wonderful “airshow” underway there featuring all sorts of airplanes – a second 1-24 included. These photos are in random order, starting with a pretty little Kitty Hawk DC-9-15 freighter – N564PC. Having begun with Trans Texas Airways in 1968, it would eventually have a host of owners. It first flew as a freighter with Purolator in 1984. It joined Kitty Hawk in 1993, had a sojourn in the desert in 2001, then became HK-4246H in Colombia. On December 18, 2003 it was approaching to land at Mitu in the Colombian interior, when it crashed in mountainous country with loss of the three crew.
Another nice surprise was catching this attractive Air St. Pierre ATR-42 in cargo mode. Note the French civil registration, St. Pierre and Miquelon being the French overseas department just off Newfoundland’s south coast. In 2019 this 1992-model propliner was in Nicaragua as YN-CHG.
Our 1-24 companion at Mirabel on the 29th was Volga- Dnep’s RA-82047, but I didn’t get any info about its mission. Checking on FlightAware, I see that ‘047 made a short 1:20-hour trip on April 5, 2019 from Chalons Vatry in NE France to Leipzig, Germany. So it’s still “on the go”.
Another grand old Soviet era jetliner at Mirabel was this Aeroflot IL-62 with Russian registration RA-86534. First flown in 1963, the “62” carried about 200 passengers, making it competitive with the West’s 707 and DC-8. Its inaugural passenger service was Moscow to Montreal on September 15, 1967. About 290 examples were delivered, most (if not all) of which by now have been scrapped. All things considered, the IL-62 proved to be a safe and reliable design. It’s history on Aviation Safety Network shows that it was pretty well as safe as any of its Western contemporaries. Built in 1983, ‘534 was scrapped in 1997.
Another relic of sorts at Mirabel were these tarmac busses used to get passengers to and from their aircraft and the terminal. These intricate and bulky machines always fascinated passengers and visitors at Mirabel. Other than maybe at Dorval, I don’t think they had regular use at any other Canadian airport.
Air France 747-400 F-GITB arriving from overseas. It had been in the fleet since 1991. Retired in 2010, by now it may have been scrapped. Then, an Argentine 747 “Classic” on arrival.
One of Mirabel’s resident Air Transat (ex-Air Canada) L.1011s. Then, A310 C-GCIT of Mirabel-based and short-lived Air Club. Originally with PanAm, “CIT” later served Delta before coming to Air Club a few weeks before my visit. In 1997 it joined the Spanish operator Air Comet, but since has gone for scrap.
Lufthansa’s A310 D-AIDN taxis in after a trans- Atlantic trip. Built in 1991, this great ship served into 2004, then became C-GTSH with Air Transat, where it flies to this day. As I put this info down on April 20, “TSH” was operating as Air Transat TS725 from Glasgow to Toronto.
After an enjoyable few hours on the ground at Mirabel, we had a smooth 7.5-hour flight (about 3300 sm) to Tenerife South. While the tech crew checked out the aircraft systems, emptied the honey bucket (no kidding – that was the toilet system) and refuelled, I enjoyed a drive around the island and a nice overnight to be ready for what April 30 might bring. Our next leg was to Lagos (about 2000 sm), which ‘008 covered in 5.2 hours. Landing there on a very humid night, the chief duties again were to refuel and make sure to empty the honey bucket. Here, BP refuels ‘008 at Tenerife. I don’t know the fuel we took on here, but at Lagos our total was 118,000 liters, or about 26,000 Imp. gallons/190,000 pounds by weight.
Again topped up, on July 30 ‘008 carried us in 5.5 hours to our off-loading destination — Entebbe, Uganda, a distance of about 2100 sm. The airport was swarming with UN activity generated by Rwanda. Here, ‘008 starts to offload. Look how easily heavy vehicles can roll off a 1-24. That’s an old An.12 “Herkski” in the background. These seemed to be everywhere in Africa back in this era, often on UN contracts, otherwise doing anything from supplying remote mines to smuggling illegal weapons and who-knows-what-else (don’t ask, right). In the second view, Canadian soldiers manoeuvre personal lockers belonging to the troops who (wisely) had left us at Mirabel. A huge US Marine Corps Sikorsky CH-53E is in the background.
The USMC CH-53E contingent at Entebbe. In chatting with some of the crew, the best info I could glean was that they were on medevac, combat SAR and “QRF” (quick reaction force) duty. This made sense, there being so many US military aircraft in the region. If something like a C-130 went missing, it would be vital to have SAR resources right there.
The first Antonov An-12 flew in 1957. Production continued into 1972 by when about 1250 had been delivered. Seen at Entebbe on July 30, AN-12 RA-13341 had begun in 1969 with the Russian carrier Gagarin Avia Enterprise. In 1993 it joined Amur Avia, then spent years on UN contracts. Finally, it was UR-CAG with Ukraine Air Alliance. On August 9, 2013 it was destroyed at Leipzig, Germany when fire erupted during start-up. Aviation Safety Network describes what happened: “Loading operations commenced at 23:30 and were finished at 01:00. The cargo consisted of almost 49,000 day old chickens, weighing 3061 kg. The airplane was then fueled with 22,908 litres … for the flight to Mineralnye Vody Airport (MRV), Russia. Fueling was completed at 01:21. Planned departure time was 02:15. At 02:01 the controller at Leipzig cleared the crew to start the engines. The APU was started, followed by the No.1 engine. During the starting process of engine No.4, the crew heard a muffled bang and the airplane jerked. The co-pilot, who was monitoring the instruments during the starting process, had observed variations in APU speed and an increase in temperature. Immediately the APU fire warning flashed. The crew shut down both engines and activated the fire-extinguishing system of the APU. A flight mechanic then opened the emergency hatch located below the flight deck and observed the fire in the area of the APU. Other crew members handed him three fire extinguishers that were located on the flight deck. The flight engineer and two flight mechanics then proceeded to the fire and emptied the extinguishers. The captain meanwhile instructed the radio operator to warn the tower controller about the fire. The controller was contacted at 02:07. He activated the fire alarm at 02:08:00 and reported the location of the fire at 02:09. The first crash tender reached the airplane at 02:12 and began an attempt to put out the fire. By then all crew members had evacuated through the emergency exit below the flight deck. The airplane burned out. Due to the high degree of destruction it was not possible to determine the exact cause of the fire. It is possible that the compressor wheel had burst.”
Ilushyn IL-76 UR-76323 loading food aid on a UN World Food Program contract. I haven’t found any info for this registration. The IL-76 first flew in 1971. Some 950 were manufactured at a facility in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where the last few were delivered to China c2005. Subsequently, a few IL-76s have been manufactured in Voronezh, Russia. All things considered, the IL-76 has proven to be a superb transport over the decades and many remain in use.
A view from the other end of the Entebbe flight line with USAF VC-137B 58-6971 shining in the foreground. I didn’t find out what this VIP “707” (one of only three VC-137Bs) from Andrews AFB, Washington, DC was doing at Entebbe this day. ‘6971 served from 1959 until retired to desert storage in 1998. Today it can be scene at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson. Any time the President of the United States was aboard a VC-137B, the aircraft was designated “Air Force One”. It was great fun being able to wander up and down this ramp at Entebbe with no one yelling or pointing a gun at me. If you were on the ramp this day, you were assumed to be “legal”. When someone warned me not to go into the main terminal, or I would have a lot of trouble getting back out to my airplane, I took this seriously. Later in the day, ‘008 carried us the (approx) 570 sm to Mombasa, a flight of 1.5 hours. This was the first bumpy part of our travels so far. On arrival in the Mombasa terminal control zone the weather was extreme. The pilots struggled with 3 or 4 approaches that had the mighty 1-24 heaving and complaining violently. Finally we touched down. Torrential rains were lashing the area and lightning was everywhere. The airport was flooded and the lights were out — even the runway lights. Kudos to our pilots, that’s for sure (i had noticed some of our crew in the back looking pretty worried as our pilots struggled with the nasty conditions). That’s another thing about usual 1-24 operations. The crews (back then, anyway) were hardcore types mainly with long years of military flying, and the 1-24 is amazingly strong and airworthy. Only four total hull losses with fatalities have occurred. Aviation Safety Network lists only 12 An-124 crashes and incidents, the most recent involving ‘008 at Antigua in 2017 — there was costly damage when ‘008 clipped a lighting pole. (Below) A distant view of the old Entebbe tower, site of the 1976 hijacking drama (see “Operation Entebbe” on Wiki), where Israeli commandos rescued more than a hundred hostages aboard an Air France A300. I don’t have the story about the derelict jetliner rotting away nearby. A US Hercules squadron was temporarily based on the adjacent tarmac.
The trip to Mombasa was mainly for crew rest. We stayed in a the Nyali Beach Hotel, a top beachside resort. The crew was returning to Kiev, invited me to come along, but I had my East Africa mission ahead (and no visa for Ukraine). We parted company and on August 2 I boarded Kenya Airways KQ605, a 737 for Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport – a hour’s flight. I got downtown and checked in to the Nairobi Safari Club, one of the decent spots, then made some connections that Ken Swartz had provided, one being a UN staffer who could get me on some flights. Right off the top I was able to arrange a mission aboard an IL-76. Next morning I rendezvoused with the crew of IL-76MD UR-76443. While waiting around I photographed IL-76 UR-76393 on a Red Cross contract, and N918SJ — one of the ubiquitous (in Africa) Southern Air Transport L.100 Hercules. One never knew exactly what the SAT “Herks” were doing, but it was common knowledge that they flew a lot for the CIA. N918SJ later was with Safair as ZS-ORA.
After meeting my crew (who couldn’t understand why some wandering Canadian would voluntarily go flying with them), we set off on the first leg of the day, being noted as UN flight number UN392. This was to Mogadishu about 625 sm up the Indian Ocean coast to deliver 13 tons of food aid (bagged cereal). I was curious to see what was new around “Mog”, where I had visited a few years earlier. Here you see the cargo hold on ‘443 before we set off. Then, a flight deck view as we flew north towards Somalia. The trip took 1.6 hours.
Views of ‘443 at Mogadishu on August 3. After delivering our cargo for whichever client, 28 tons/8 pallets of old US military MREs (“meals ready to eat”) were loaded for Kigali, Rwanda. Some crusty fellow observed that these dusty MREs more accurately could be called “Meals Rwandans will never eat”!
“Mog” still was a busy base for UN operations in the summer of 1994. As usual, helios were thumping around, including 9Y- TIL, a Trinidad & Tobago-registered Bell 212. After serving under many flags, “TIL” now is in Canada as C-FTLR with Calgary-based LR Helicopters.
Some of the UN troops and equipment at the airport this day.
No big surprise to see a DC-3 at “Mog”, in this case ex- Royal New Zealand Air Force NZ3552, by this time ZK-BBJ with some oddball window mods. Last heard of in the early 2000s, “BBJ” was derelict at Mombasa.
“Mog” always seemed to have an interesting boneyard. One year I photographed several abandonned MiG-21s there. For August 3 all I spotted was this derelict ex-Somali National Police Dornier Do.28. I didn’t spend much time snooping around on the edges of the airport after some rough-looking young fellows with AK47s started to look me over.
Finished at Mogadishu, we flew off for Kigali 1100 sm southward, a flight of 2.5 hours. It looks as if our turn-around was quick, since I have few photos to show. Here’s a vintage Angolan 727- 100 at the Kigali terminal. D2-FLZ had begun in 1968 as American Airlines N1965. It left AA in 1993 for the Angolan outfit and last was heard of about Y2K.
I often spotted French and German Transall medium transports during this trip around East Africa. This one was at Kigali on August 3. Also often seen were USAF C-5 Galaxys – the main rival in size to the AN-124. During this visit it was clear that the Americans were the most involved in supporting the Rwandan recovery, when one would have expected the French and Belgians to be at the forefront. But isn’t this the usual story – wherever there’s a disaster, look to the USA to get right in there with the aid. The Brits were also committed in Rwanda. Here is Royal Air Force Hercules XV210 at Kigali. Note its aerial refuelling hardware. XV210 was withdrawn from use and scrapped in 2003.
Our last leg for the day on the IL-76 was Kigali to Nairobi, a distance of 470 sm covered in 1.2 hours. What a fantastic day I had had, and what great info and impressions had been gathered about an IL-76 operation, and what was starting to shape up for the Rwanda international relief mission. Back at JKIA I noticed how the whole scene on the ramp was new, so snapped a few final shots. Included was another ancient 727 parked next to our IL-76. This was N723JE in Air East Africa colours. Originally with South African Airways in 1965, this early 727 ran through a host of operators. It flew back to the US in 1998, then was scrapped in Miami in 2001. I also shot SAT “Herk” N901SJ loading for the Red Cross, and Transafrik L.100 S9-NAJ.
Early next morning I introduced myself at the CanForces/Air Transport Group “ALCE” (Airlift Control Element) at JKIA. This was a component of the overall CanForces operation in Rwanda – “Operation Scotch”. At first, however, no one at the ALCE had ever heard of me, so I had to cool my heels until BGen Jeff Brace of Air Transport Group HQ, CFB Trenton faxed the ALCE commander: “Mr. Milberry is authorized to fly on any ATG aircraft in theatre and is also authorized to return from Africa to Canada on a space available basis”. I was in! Here’s a candid scene at the ALCE as a crew waits between missions.
On Day 1 from Nairobi I flew on two C-130 return trips: first to Goma in Zaire return, then Nairobi-Kigali return. On the first trip we were airborne for Goma at 0810 at 144,000 pounds (pretty well all-up weight). Both were with Capt John Stevens and crew in C-130H 130337 carrying personnel and cargo. John had begun as a young commercial pilot, but the hours and pay were making no sense – – he was flying hard but earning just $200 a week, so decided to give military life a go. In eastern Zaire, Goma was a Rwanda relief mission airhead where masses of materiel came in by air for redistribution, but it was not easy to figure out exactly what was going on. After all, Zaire itself was in turmoil and within months would be collapsing, only to re-form as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Armed Hutu cadres were harbouring around Goma from where they were launching raids against the newly-ascended Tutsi forces of Paul Kagame in Rwanda, and there were many nearby refugee camps run by the Red Cross and various NGOs (some 2 million Rwandan refugees then were in eastern Zaire). On the whole, things were messy around Goma. Any CanForces crew had to be ready at a moment’s notice to jump to “Plan B”, e.g., perhaps suddenly having a mob of passengers appear out of nowhere. This made for exciting days on the job for the Canucks. We landed at Goma at 10:13 and quickly off-loaded 31,000 lb of food and water on three pallets plus a pallet of rubber boots. Here are two candid shots of our mighty ‘337 at Kigali on August 4. Then, Capt Stevens on the job. We were airborne empty out of Goma at 11:18 and landed back at JKIA at 12:54. Aircrew had been warned to expect anything at Goma, but on the way home someone remarked, “I don’t get what the big hassle at Goma was supposed to be.” On a later flight that I was on, the pilots would beg to differ. Later (August 25), a CanForces 707 from Trenton landed at Goma with 27 tons of supplies for the refugee camps. Before departing, a group of 15 stranded media people appeared, hoping to get onboard, wherever the 707 was headed next. In true Canadian fashion, they were taken onboard.
In this period Goma was the Grand Central Station of Central African airports, with transport aircraft from all over the world coming and going steadily. Heavily armed troops were everywhere, and the tarmac and surrounding open spaces seemed chaotic. Here’s an everyday (August 4) scene with Air Zaire 737 Combi 9Q-CNI on a turn-around. Everyone in town seemed to be milling around in a party- like atmosphere. Who are these fellows with guns watching for, I wondered? Built in 1973, 9Q-CNI ran into bad luck at Kinshasa on January 2, 1995. On landing in bad weather, it left the runways and was damaged beyond repair.
Our C-130 waiting at Goma on August 4. ‘337 previously had served the Abu Dhabi government before joining the CanForces in 1986. Then, our aircraft security officer WO Don Drennan on the job. He was our only armed crew member.
Wherever one turned there was something else to photograph at Goma. This Israeli military 707 was present on August 4, but I couldn’t determine much about its mission. Someone thought that Israel was supporting the field hospital at Goma. Notice the huge rubber fuel storage bladders in the foreground. These would ease any refueling crisis that might arise. Then, a Tunisian military C-130H. The crew in the foreground is busy with their mobile satellite communications system, then hottest deal in voice communications.
Veteran IL-76 RA-76389 awaits at Goma. Sometimes it wasn’t clear which aircraft had anything to do with Rwanda relief, since an aircraft could be in Zaire for one of many reasons. ‘389 later went to Armenia as EX-093. On May 10, 2007 it was destroyed by fire while loading at Pointe Noire on the coast of DRC. Then, Aeroflot’s impressive RA-76527.
Smaller aircraft types were always buzzing around at Goma. DHC-6 Twin Otter 9Q-CBO was coming and going all week. Originally delivered to Air Illinois in 1980, it ended in Zaire in 1980 with TMK Commuter. Sad to say, it crashed on September 12, 1997 after leaving Bukavu, Burundi for Uvir, DRC. All 19 aboard died. Then, superannuated DC-3 9Q-CAM. Looking at the entry for it on p.632 of the great Air Britain history by J. Gradidge, DC- 1, DC-2, DC-3: The First Seventy Years, 9Q-CAM began as USAAF C- 47 45-1139. It was delivered in November 1945, retired from the USAF in 1963, then went to Zaire the same year. It looks to have been the very last new DC-3 ever built. The dogged plane spotter never knows what he’ll run across next!
Helicopters were constantly in the air around Goma. These photos from August 4 show the compound for the French Army’s Pumas and Gazelles.
This derelict 707 at Goma had begun with VARIG of Brazil in 1963. Retired from that fleet in 1979, it became 9Q-CMD with a company having the amazing name “Business Cash Flow Aviation”. On November 27, 1991 “CMD” somehow was damaged at Goma and had been lying there ever since.
Some grab shots taken from the flight deck of ‘337 as we flew back and forth to Goma on August 4. The roads and small settlements of Rwanda were ominously quiet. After all, as many as a million Rwandans of a national population of 7 million (92% rural) recently had been butchered (Hutu had comprised 85% of the population, Tutsi 15%).
An aerial view around Kigali on August 4. Where were all the people on such a fine day?
Another Kigali neighbourhood. Then, the flight deck on one of our legs this day, including a snapshot of your scribe on the job aboard ‘337.
Canadian Forces military staff deployed at Kigali manoeuvre a load for ‘337 on August 4. Then, WO Drennan briefs some passengers. Beyond, an IL-76 waits at the Kigali terminal. Someone mentioned that this attractive building had been designed by Canadians. I have yet to confirm that.
A closer view of the terminal.
130337 delivers an Isusu Trooper to the UN at Kigali. Note how on a specific UN mission, aircraft fly the UN flag on the tail.
Belgian national Thierry Vanneste, who worked in Kigali for SABENA, had been among thousands of Europeans hustled out of Rwanda in the early days of the Hutu genocide against the Tutsi. He recently had returned to find that his two dogs, which had been left to fend for themselves, had survived in the streets of Kigali in spite of a sport that had arisen among the locals of using dogs for rifle practice. He and his dogs were about to board ‘337 for a trip back to Nairobi.
This BelAir IL-76 also was on duty at Kigali on August 4. Our Nairobi-Kigali return operation this day totalled 3.8 flying hours (about 470 sm each way). Our Goma trip took 4 hours (about 530 sm each way), so by day’s end I had spent 7.8 exciting hours aboard 130337.
If August 4 was fun, next day was even more so with 8.1 hours aboard 130337. Things started at Nairobi where I joined a CanForces crew under Capt Mike Biehl. First we flew to Kigali, then Entebbe, back to Nairobi and another leg to Kigali. There I decided to leave ‘337, do some photography, then return to base on ‘315, which I’d heard was likely to show up. To start this little album, here’s the scene at Entebbe with two world class Lockheed airlifters: C-130 ‘337 beside a USAF C-141 from the 452 nd Air Wing at March AFB, California. If the AN-12 is jokingly sometimes called the “Herkski”, is there a nickname for the IL-76, which roughly resembles the C-141? Then, a view down the same ramp where the VC-137B was sitting when I passed through here a few days earlier. Dominating on August 5 were two lovely IL-76s, then an AN-12 beside a C-130.
A standard ¾ front angle of Bulgarian-registered Air Sofia AN-12 LZ-SFL at Entebbe. Not sure if “SFL” is still around. I see reports on the web that it was hauling tuna in Australia c2004. Along the way, apparently, Air Sofia was turfed out of Bulgaria, then resettled in Serbia.
Back at Kigali it would be a busy afternoon, especially since I had access to the tower, the best vantage point in sight. Here’s one scene showing 130337 taxiing for Nairobi, then two photos of ‘315 on the ramp. In 2005, ‘315 became the first military C-130 to reach 45,000 flying hours (not a high number for a commercial Hercules).
A fuel transfer under way at Kigali between a USMC CH-53E and USMC KC-130. The helio unit was HMM-166 of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, California. The overall US operation in Rwanda was called “Support Hope”. HMM-166 now flies the Osprey tilt rotor.
Aeroflot IL-76 RA-76527 has just off-loaded at Kigali. A USAF C-141 is seen arriving. Such flights carried either food relief for refugees (WFP, Red Cross, NGOs), or general supplies to support the thousands of peacekeeping personnel.
Volga-Dnieper AN-124 RA-82046 touches down at Kigali on August 6. A couple of teenage RPF soldiers decided to let me walk out to the runway to see if I could catch this arrival. Then, ‘046 ready for off-loading.
AN-12 RA-13341 (which I had seen earlier at Entebbe) during a Kigali stopover on August 5.
Shoved into the weeds at Kigali was this worn out Noratlas, a type provided long ago by Belgium to Rwanda’s fledgling air arm.
This 1963 ex-American Airlines 707 was one of the oldest of its type still in service when I photographed it delivering cargo at Kigali on August 5. Already having served a long list of operators, in 1988 it came to Sky Air Cargo of Liberia as EL-JNS. Last reported, it was at Sharjah in the UAE in the early 2000s, but likely has by now gone for scrap.
These Canadian Helicopters Bell 212s were at Kigali supporting a project to renew communications across Rwanda.
A US Army contingent pulls in at Kigali airport to establish a temporary bivouac.
UN troops make do in Kigali’s control tower. The place had been badly shot up in the battle between Hutu and Tutsi forces 2-3 weeks earlier. The Hutu were routed.
From the tower I spotted 130315 landing, so hurried down to connect with the Capt Jim Bertrand crew. Soon we were headed back to base, where we landed 1.8 hours later. Here’s the crew of ‘337 chitchatting at JKIA following their own interesting day “on the road”.
One of the CanForces Herks at day’s end beside Air Madagascar’s 747 Combi 5R-MFT. This old Boeing was scrapped in the UK in 2005.
A couple of interesting last-minute “grab shots” this day show Canadian and Ukrainian techs changing tires after all the planes had made it home. But, as usual, the technical crews had a lot to do to check out their aircraft, before finally getting downtown for supper and a beer or two.
Last but not least on the 5th I photographed this US- registered DC-4 being tweaked up for its next cargo run – it was mainly on a run from JKIA to Burundi. The old crate had been in Canada 1979-84 as C-GCXG. It was Liberian-registered and supposedly Miami-owned when impounded at Luanda in 1998. It’s never difficult for any such old “tramp steamer of the air” to get in trouble with the law in Africa. I remember chatting with its captain at JKIA, but he wasn’t too interested in answering questions from anyone with a pen, notepad and camera. Failing all else, however, he and his boys were keeping “the old gal” looking sharp.
On August 6, I flew two trips to Kigali, two more on the 7 th . There always was something to photograph, but after a few days there was a certain amount of “repeat business”, so this nice scene was welcomed – a USAF C-130 and a Luftwaffe C-160 Transall. Across the field you can see the old Noratlas. I was told that that big hangar had been the base for the Rwandan Falcon executive jet shot down in April – the event that became the pretext for slaughtering the Tutsi.
After August 7 it was expedient for me to avoid Kigali airport. Here’s the story: Covering the excitement there that day had me going all out. I went up to the tower a couple of times, which always was OK by the ATC staff. Then, while re-entering it again, I was confronted at the door by a young RPF soldier who stuck his AK in my back. He was very clear (in good English) – what was I doing here, why didn’t I stop when he called me (couldn’t hear him due to a taxiing C-130), what was I doing with the cameras, etc? Needless to say, I was on my best behaviour. I handed over my passport. The soldier then pulled a sat phone from his pant pocket – he was well equipped. Speaking a local dialect, he talked to his superior while keeping an eye on me. In a few minutes, a shiny new jeep arrived with a very sharp-looking RPF officer – the RPF had me impressed so far. Speaking French, the major reviewed my papers. Happily, before leaving Toronto I had contacted RPF HQ in Belgium and secured a laisser-passer for my Rwanda trip. This was signed by none other that Paul Kagame, head of the RPF and (to this day) the hard-fisted dictator of Rwanda. Inspecting my pass, the major lowered the heat and directed me to a tent on the tarmac. Someone else would follow up with me there, he advised. At the tent I noticed that a USAF transport operation was next door. I chatted up one of the USAF noncoms on duty, then was elated to see 130315 taxiing in. The noncom agreed to walk me out to the Herc, where I spoke to the Capt Jim Bertrand crew. All was well – I was OK to jump aboard. Thus did I slither around the next step in my RPF adventure. We soon were back at base.
Here are two views around our busy ALCE on the 8 th . The ALCE was sometimes a quiet place, but suddenly would be booming as loads of people and trucks piled with freight came out of nowhere. The Canadian Herks usually carried both freight and passengers. Who were they all? Some clearly were military people, others were diplomatic and UN staff, there sometimes were families, missionaries, media folks and all sorts of others. One day I met a retired physician aboard our flight. He recently had come down from Sudan to help out. Up in Sudan he once had been kidnapped, cleaned out of his belongs, then released by some bandits. I guess he just couldn’t get enough of Africa. Another day I bumped into a group of nuns sitting primly in the Herc’s austere bucket seating. On the 8 th I flew two more trips to Goma to see what was new there.
Canadian ALCE commander, LCol Joe Calleja, on the ramp at Nairobi on August 7 with Herc pilot, Maj Brian Jossul.
Another day in our travels someone arranged for a pizza with cold pops. Usually the indispensible Herc “loadies” (load masters) performed such miracles.
Three more vintage airliners at Goma in August. First, Shabir’s 727 9Q-CAV. It had begun with Eastern Airlines in 1966. For 1989-91 it had been with Trump Shuttle as N906TS, about which Wiki notes (I know … I digress), “Trump pushed to make the new shuttle a luxury service and a marketing vehicle for the Trump name. Its aircraft were newly painted in white livery and the interiors redecorated with such features as maple wood veneer, chrome seat belt latches, and gold colored lavatory fixtures…” This orphaned N906TS. As so often happens with such airliners, it then made Africa its last stand. “CAV” long since has gone “for pots and pans”. Notice the typical Goma “crowd crush” around the 727. I noticed that there always were people in such a crowd openly carrying weapons. This kept the mob in line. Then, EL-AJO, a Liberian DC-8-55 tramp freighter. It originally (1964) had been a “Queen of the Skies” with KLM, named in honour of Alfred Nobel. In 2003 it was registered in DRC to Kinshasa Airways, but soon afterwards disappeared to some boneyard. Finally, a rare visitor about which I didn’t learn much at the time – IL-18 SP-FNB of the Polish cargo company Polnippon. The IL-18 was the USSR’s answer to such Western airliners as the Britannia and Electra. A very tough design, a few still operate. I don’t know what became of this one.
In another corner at Goma were several smaller planes rotting away. One wonders how something as nice as a Beech Bonanza could end up in such a pitiful state.
Goma to the normal eye was a bit of a crazy place. Families were squatting all around the airport, to say nothing of how the city pressed right up along the runway (R17-35 at 5000’ ASL and 6500’ long). If you google “Goma Airport” you can study the satellite imagery – it’s worth a look. I wonder if the folks lounging around the runway included a lot of displaced Hutus on the run from the RPF? Anyway, they were everywhere. Airplanes were coming and going steadily as folks ambled across the runway and along its edges Gamins were having extra fun playing chicken with planes landing and taking off. One day there were so many people on the runway as we approached, that our Herc commander decided, “Nuts to this, we’re going back Nairobi”. Here, a Transall gets into the air, then a UN King Air flares to land. The pilots would have been watching like hawks, but the “runway people” seemed oblivious. Don’t worry, be happy, right! Finally, a general scene along the runway. Somehow, this works OK for Goma.
I was so well treated by the CanForces crews with whom I flew during this trip. Typical was this crew who were from 429 Sqn at Trenton. I set this shot up back at base at day’s end on August 8. In front is Sergeant Marc Kovacic (flight engineer). Standing are Captain James Pierotti (navigator), Master Corporal Dave Hutchinson (load master), Captain Rob Butler (pilot), Captain Jim Bertrand (aircraft commander), Master Corporal Denis Culver (load master) and Master Corporal France Dufort (aircraft security officer).
My last flight “in country” was with the Bertrand crew in 130337 operating Goma to JKIA on August 8. Next day I boarded CF6129 C- 130 130327 of 436 Sqn under Capt Yannick Pelletier headed for Souda Bay, Crete –first stop on the gruelling trip back to Trenton via Souda Bay, Prestwick and Gander. However, while staring out a window I saw what looked like fuel streaming from No.4 engine. I reported this and the flight engineer and others started observing. They soon concluded that something was amiss. We turned around and landed back at JKIA after 1.7 hours. Back we all went to the Nairobi Safari Club. Next day (August 10) I returned to JKIA. 130327 still was unserviceable, so, instead, I boarded 437 Sqn CC-150 Polaris (A310) 15005 under Maj George Urquhart. We flew first to Ancona, Italy (7.5 hours) for fuel. Everyone was happy to get away from Ancona, where the temperature was in the high 30s C. For the next leg we had a new crew under LCol Rapanga, destination CFB Trenton, where we landed at 0200 local time after 9.1 hours. I then caught a local 0305 bus for Toronto International Airport, a downtown bus from there, then the streetcar back to my neighbourhood. So ended another whirlwind adventure. My total flying for the trip in 30 flights was: 21.5 hours AN- 124, 1 hour 737, 6.1 hours IL-76, 29.9 hours C-130, 16.6 hours CC- 150 for 75.1 hours. As for “Operation Scotch”, it continued usefully until September 28, when the last of 312 sorties was completed. The simple stats to then included: tons carried by CanForces C-130s 2935.6, passenger carried 6340, hours flown about 1200.
Introducing two gorgeous publications for every serious reader of aviation history
Gallantry in Action by the renowned Norman Franks is an amazing new history of bravery in the air among RAF and Commonwealth airmen from WWI, through the interwar years and WWII, then in the postwar era. “Gallantry” gives the reader all-encompassing, in-depth coverage for each of the 60 skillful and brave young men who put it all on the line. From those who fought in the Camel, Hart, Hurricane, Spitfire, Kittyhawk, Tempest, Stirling, Manchester, Lancaster, Halifax, Beaufighter, Mosquito, or whichever combat type, this is a book honouring 60 astounding aviators who excelled in daring and leadership. What is so special about these fellows? You won’t believe it, but each man was three times decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Each man’s life is carefully summarized by historian Franks, and the various gallantry citations are reproduced. Altogether a lovely book for summer reading, it’s also one that you will treasure for years. Such outstanding Canadians as Johnny Caine (Mosquito), Dave Fairbanks (Tempest) and aces George Hill and Buck McNair (Spitfire) are included. 220 pages, hardcover, photos, index. A wonderful book for your library, so jump in with your order. Canadian orders $43.00 all-in. USA or International CDN $48.00: Order on line here, or, PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org, or, cheque (on any Canadian or USA bank) to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E3B6
It has arrived in Canada! With “Propliner 2019” the creators of this magnificent classic journal have outdone themselves. I’ve gone through this year’s stunning edition and must admit that I haven’t seen such a Propliner since the great Stephen Piercey started it all in the early 1980s. Editor Tony Merton Jones receives a medal for “2019”.
If the photo on the cover doesn’t crank you up, I fear that you must have died years ago and your friends have forgotten to bury you. Start turning the pages of “2019” and you’ll see page after page of this sort of visual content packed in around the best writing about the state in recent times of the old propeller-driven airliners. For example …
Arctic pilot Tony Jarvis’ detailed story about his current favourite propliner — the Buffalo Airways Lockheed Electra that he and his lucky pals get to fly all around the Arctic (as we speak) from Yellowknife
– the great Peter Marsen’s history of the Skyways Lockheed Constellation fleet
– Eamon Power’s history of the Aer Lingus Viscount fleet
– a story about the woes encountered by the propliners of the Fifties — it sure wasn’t all rosy
– a fellow looking back on his boyhood infatuation with the airliners of the Fifties
– a history of the HS 748 in the USA (little known while the 748 excelled in Canada for decades)
– two important articles about water bombers (P2Vs and DC-7s)
– stories about South African DC-4s and Australian and New Zealand airlines of years gone by
– galleries of glorious photos, a year’s resumé of crashes, much other news and gossip. 142 pages that will keep you enthralled for months of enjoyable reading (this is a journal that you’ll be loath to lend to your best pal). Canadian orders $40.00 all-in. USA or International CDN $43.00: Order on line here, or, PayPal to email@example.com, or, cheque to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E3B6
Wing Commander Eric G. Smith, Distinguished Flying Cross, United States Air Medal
Eric Smith as a young wartime Mosquito pilot in the UK with 107 Squadron.
One of the very fine men of the RCAF died in Navan (near Ottawa) last week. Eric G. Smith plain and simply was a gem of a Canadian, so please take a moment to read about him below. I was honoured to have met Eric in the early 1980s, when starting research for a history of the Canadair Sabre. Eric could not have been a friendlier and more encouraging fellow. He put up with my phone calls, letters and visits, helping to ensure that the book eventually would be a good one. In all the subsequent years, he and I kept in touch and had many a pleasant time together at such events as the annual BBQs of the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association, Commonwealth Aircrew Reunions, or at one thrash or another at the Gloucester Mess in Ottawa. Here is a summary of this fine gentleman’s life:
These first two photos of Eric appear in Vol.2 of Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace. I’ve left the caption in for this one, so that you can get a sense of what such young Canadians were doing to help shorten the war. If it meant giving your life, then that was part of the deal.
Eric’s obituary: Eric George Smith S/L (Ret’d), loving husband of 65 years to Dinah Rosaleen (Cole), passed away peacefully March 30th, 2019 at the Ottawa General Hospital in his 99th year. He was a loving father to Erin Zintel (Smith) and a kind-hearted father-in-law to Bob Zintel. Eric was a proud and loving Grandpa to Sarah and Kristen Zintel. Eric will be remembered by his many nieces and nephews. Eric was a friend to so many who remember his sense of humour, storytelling and how he always had time to have a conversation. Predeceased by his parents George and Mary Ann Smith; his brother Sidney (Thelma); sisters Inez McFadden (William), Muriel Greenidge (Herbert), and Mavis Rothwell (Norman). Born January 26th, 1921 in the town of Navan, Ontario, Eric was educated at Navan Continuation School, Vankleek Hill Collegiate and the Ottawa Normal School (Teachers College). Eric taught school in Carlsbad SS#12 when he was 19 years old. In 1940, Eric assisted the Police in apprehending John Miki who murdered police officer Harold Dent in Navan. On July 1st, 1941 Eric enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He reported to the Manning depot, Toronto on August 27th, 1941. He was then transferred to Trenton, Belleville, Portage La Prairie and Camp Borden where he received his flying wings. Eric was commissioned on July 17th, 1942. In April 1945, Eric received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). His citation reads as follows: “This officer has completed a large number of operational sorties. He is pilot of exceptional ability who has never let either adverse weather or enemy opposition deter him from completing his allotted tasks. He has inflicted considerable damage on enemy lines of communication, mechanical transportation and rolling stock. He has at all times exhibited great determination, initiative and daring and set an inspiring example by his fine fighting spirit and devotion to duty”
Eric while on secondment in Korea with the USAF in 1952. Then, a page from his log book in that period, when he was flying the F-86 Sabre, battling it out with Chinese air force MiG- 15s.
While he was Chief Flying Instructor with No.1 (Fighter) Operational Training Unit at RCAF Station Chatham, teaching young pilots to fly the F-86, F/L Smith and the OTU Commander, S/L Bill Smith, flew this suitably painted “The Smith Bros” Sabre. These two photos can be found in The Canadair Sabre.
In 1952, Eric began instructing on Sabre F-86 jets and was invited to participate in the Korean War as an exchange pilot with the U.S. Air force going up against Russian MiG’s. In 1952, the U.S. government decorated Eric with their U.S. Air Medal : “Squadron Leader Eric G. Smith distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial combat as a pilot of an F-86 aircraft, 4th Fighter interceptor Wing, Fifth Air Force, flying missions against enemies of the United States, from 10 September 1952 to 14December 1952. While flying combat air patrol and various other type missions deep into enemy territory, many times against a superior number of enemy aircraft, his dedication to duty and demonstrated skill were a magnificent contribution to the successful completion of the assigned mission. As a result of his fortitude and courage on these occasions he has brought great credit upon himself, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Air Force.” Eric was the Commander of Sqn. No 413 from January 12th, 1959 to February 2nd, 1961. Over the course of Eric’s distinguished military career he was honoured and awarded the following medals: • Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) • 1939-45 Star • France and Germany Star • Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp • Volunteer Service 1939-45 • Korea Medal • Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea • United Nations Korea Medal • CD Canadian Forces Decoration • United States Air Medal • Korean War Veterans Association Medal • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal • French Legion of Honour at the French embassy in Ottawa. In March 1953, while stationed in Chatham New Brunswick, Eric met Dinah Rosaleen Cole. They were married in Toronto on May 16th, 1953. Eric retired from the RCAF in August 1968 and moved to a farm 7 miles south of Kemptville where he and Dinah took up farming. Eric sold real estate for Albert Gale Real Estate from 1971 until his retirement in 1991. In May 2001, Eric and Dinah moved back to his home town of Navan. Eric enjoyed both playing and watching hockey. Eric played hockey for the winning Navan team in the 1946 Bradley Cup in which he scored five goals. Eric’s other favourite sport was curling which he played up until 2015. Eric was a proud member of the RCAF, SPAADS, Branch 632 Canadian Legion, Orleans, 410(William Barker VC) Wing RCAFA, Knights of the Round Table, Masonic Lodge Maitland Chapter, Tunis Shriners, Legion of Honour and the Navan Curling Club. The family would like to thank the Ottawa General 5th floor nurses and doctors and Eric’s family doctor – Dr. Bujold. The family would also like to thank the care at home from SE Health/Access Care and Champlain LHIN. Family and friends are invited to visit at the St. Laurent Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, 1200 Ogilvie Road (at Aviation Parkway), Ottawa, on Friday, April 5, 2019 from 2-4 pm and 6-8 pm. A Funeral Service will take place at St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 3480 Trim Road, Navan, on Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 11 am. As an expression of sympathy, donations to St. Mary’s Anglican Church would be greatly appreciated by the family: P.O. Box 71, 3480 Trim Road, Navan, Ontario K4B 1J3. Interac transfers can also be sent at St.Marys.Navan@outlook.com.
Eric and I while visiting the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa for D-Day celebrations on June 6, 2014.
On April 19 the Ottawa Citizen followed up this very nice tribute to Eric written by staffer Andrew Duffy:
Navan’s Eric Smith among only Canadians to fly combat missions in both WWII, Korea
Even among fighter pilots, Eric Smith was a rare breed. The Navan, Ont. wing commander was one of the few Canadians to fly combat missions in the Second World War and Korean War — and receive decorations for both. “He was in an exclusive little club,” said Canadian aviation historian and author Larry Milberry.
Smith received a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for the valour he showed in flying more than 50 low-altitude night fighter missions over France, Belgium Holland and Germany during the Second World War. He received the U.S. Air Medal for “his fortitude and courage” in flying 50 combat missions in the Korean War while on secondment to the U.S. Air Force.
Smith died last month at The Ottawa Hospital from pneumonia. He was 98. “I liked everything about him,” said his widow, Dinah Smith, 87. “He could talk to anybody from the lowest rank to a general.”
Eric George Smith was born on Jan. 26, 1921 in Navan, Ont., about half an hour east of Ottawa. His father was a farmer and a veteran of the First World War. Eric often accompanied him as he delivered milk and cream by horse-drawn wagon to Ottawa. An accomplished student, Smith graduated from teacher’s college, Ottawa Normal School, and took a job at a small schoolhouse in Carlsbad Springs. The Second World War interrupted his fledgling career.
In July 1941, at the age of 20, Smith enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force, determined to be a pilot. At 5’6’’, he narrowly met the height requirement. “If he wasn’t going to be a pilot, he didn’t want to be anything else,” said his daughter, Erin Zintel. Smith had heard his father’s stories about the mud and misery of trench warfare, she said, and he wanted nothing to do with the regular army. He trained in Toronto, Trenton, Belleville and Portage La Prairie before earning his pilot’s wings at Camp Borden. After still more training, Smith became a pilot instructor at No. 2 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Station Uplands — one of 231 sites opened in Canada to train pilots, navigators, gunners and flight engineers for the war.
Smith spent more than a year instructing young pilots before preparing for his own combat duty: He was sent to England in early 1944 to learn the dangerous art of low-level flying. Posted to No. 107 Squadron RAF, Smith flew his first night sortie over occupied France on Aug. 26, 1944. It was his first experience with night fighting. Smith’s logbook — he flew 58 missions — shows that he attacked troop transports, rail yards, warehouses, ammunition dumps, boats, trains, even a V-1 flying bomb, often while under attack by German anti-aircraft units. “Every one of these trips was literally death-defying: low-level Mosquito missions at night looking for anything German that moved,” said Milberry. “A lot of Mosquitos didn’t come back because they flew into wires or trees or towers.”
On the evening of March 5, 1945, Smith was one of only two pilots to get into the air because of dense, low-lying fog. The other pilot died that night in a crash landing. In April 1945, Smith was awarded the DFC with a citation that read: “He has at all times exhibited great determination, initiative and daring, and set an inspiring example by his fine fighting spirit and devotion to duty.” After the war, Smith returned to Canada and enrolled in university. But after a year in school, he decided to return to the air and to the RCAF. In 1952, he accepted a secondment to the U.S. Air Force to fly in the Korean War. Smith flew an F-86 Sabre jet on 50 combat missions, which took him deep into enemy territory and pitted him against Russian-built MiG fighters. Then a squadron leader, he was one of 22 RCAF pilots to fly in Korea. It’s believed he was the last surviving member of that exclusive group. Smith once told an interviewer how the high-flying MiGs would attack from out of the sky. The MiGs could climb to 50,000 feet while the Sabres couldn’t get above 42,000. On one sortie, he said, a MiG dropped right onto his tail. “But he was a very poor shot I guess,” Smith said of his narrow escape.
After returning to Canada, Smith was stationed in Chatham, New Brunswick, where a late season blizzard changed his life. In March 1953, during the storm, he crashed his car into a snow bank on RCAF Station Chatham. Two women went to see if he was OK. Dinah Cole, on her way home from the midnight shift as a fighter control operator, was one of them. “He ploughed into a snowbank right in front of me,” she recalled. “I opened the car door, and I said to him, ‘Can I help you? Can I phone somebody to pull you out?’ “He took a look at me and said, ‘No, but you can keep me company until someone comes, though’ … That was smooth.” The two were married five weeks later. Cole, then 21, had to quit her job since Smith was her senior officer.
Smith went on to serve in the RAF Air Ministry in London and to command RCAF’s Squadron No. 413 at CFB Greenwood. He retired as a wing commander in August 1968 and bought a property in Kemptville so that he could return to farming. He also sold real estate. In May 2001, Smith and his wife moved back to Navan to be closer to their only daughter, Erin, and their grandchildren. Smith continued to curl — it was his favourite sport — and to collect stamps and coins well into his 90s. During his career, Smith flew more than 30 airplanes, including the CF-100 twinjet fighter. “He knew how to fly and he knew his airplanes inside out,” said Milberry. “Like any of the good ones, he could fly anything.”
Fighter Pilots and Observers Updates
Since we launched Fighter Pilots and Observers last October, our readership has been pleased overall with the book. Of course, there are bound to be a few questions and comments about factual details. WWI aerial warfare historian, Colin Owers, in Australia, makes these points: For the photo of the L.V.G. on page 39, Colin points out that the airplane shown actually is a modified postwar example: “This is a civilian L.V.G. C.VI post-Armistice. Note the extra person in the elongated cockpit.” Next … for what I call a D.F.W. on p.64, Colin notes: “I am sure that the aircraft in the bottom photo is an L.V.G. C.V.” The same goes for p.106: “This is a D.F.W. C.V.” Thank you for this, Colin. If anyone can add further regarding updates/errata, please drop me a note — firstname.lastname@example.org
Why Are People Arguing about Books These Days? It’s Getting a Bit Dumb, Really
There’s always some good chitchat around the circuit about books – those beloved emblems of wisdom, knowledge, art, sheer beauty and pure joy. Books have been with us for millennia. Anyone with half a brain knows that they never can be replaced, no matter how many dunderheads rant and rave against them, try to belittle publishers and authors, and boringly spew that old rot about “everything” being on the web. What a farse, eh, and talk about pitiful!
Here’s a good one from this week’s “Toronto Star” (March 27, 2019). Columnist Heather Mallick is on a bit of a book tear, pointing out how, try as she might, she can’t give her personal books away, not even to the local USED bookseller. She admits, “so I’m bagging them … and dumping them beside the blue bin”. Gads … what sort of books does she read or are they contaminated by the plague? Here at CANAV, used books are beloved, and sales have been a key part of the operation for decades. These sales help greatly in fundraising to finance the next CANAV project. Thank you, devoted readers, who can’t wait to see what’s lately been added to the CANAV used book list. Anyway, Mallick wonders if books have become “a social embarrassment to be disposed of by stealth in the dark of night”. There’s a buried suggestion here that no one with any sense would be caught with a book in the house. She mentions that, apparently, it’s now a big thing with real estate agents and house stagers to get every book out of sight when preparing a house for showing. Books just spoil everything, don’t they. Finally, Mallick drops books and wanders off to chatter about her minimalist lifestyle, the woes of Trump and China, and other far-out stuff.
There’s an revealing thing about this edition of the “Star”. After plodding through the Mallick column, I flipped a few pages only to find a “Wall Street Journal” story about Michelle Obama’s recent life’s story, Becoming, published by Penguin Random House. Sales have topped 10 million copies in 5 months – a world record for this genre through all the centuries of books. So … methinks the book is probably in OK shape for at least a little while longer. Ergo … will you strange people out there please stop bothering us about the book supposedly being “dead”, “useless”, “environmentally hazardous”, etc? I doubt that you could even get Homer Simpson to agree with your moronic campaigning.
Some More Kings of Canadian Aviation
Speaking of books … probably 98% of recorded Canadian aviation history is found on the printed page. So, if you don’t have a good library of Canadian aviation books, basically, you’re in the dark about the topic. CANAV has published almost 40 titles since 1981. On the whole, these all are about people first, i.e., the folks who designed, built, flew and maintained the planes. I’ll never live long enough to write about all those who still have not yet been covered. I still have innumerable photos of these fine citizens and every once in a while, like to show you a few on the blog. That gets a little more of the story told. Here are some old photos that recently popped up. First, seen at a CANAV book launch in 1991 are two of the most important figures in Canadian aviation history. On the right is K.M. “Ken” Molson (1916-1996), the most influential man in all of Canadian aviation, when it comes to history.
Having moved to Toronto as a boy from the “Montreal Molsons” (following family tragedies in the 1930s) Ken went on to earn his aeronautical degree at the University of Toronto. His first job was working on the Lysander line at National Steel Car at Toronto’s old Malton airport. There he remained through the CF-100 and CF-105 eras, then went to Ottawa to establish Canada’s national aeronautical collection. As the collection’s first curator, Ken set the tone that you still get when touring it more than half a century later. It all starts with the magnificent collection that Ken passionately assembled of the classic planes that “made” modern Canadian aviation back in the day – the HS-2L, Bellanca, Fairchild, Junkers, then on to the Norseman, Stinson, Beaver, Lockheed 10, DC-3, etc. Ken also laid the foundation for such other museum themes as the great aircraft of WWI. His influence is astounding.
The museum as you see it today is a glorious tribute to Ken Molson, but you’d hardy know it – the man barely (maybe not at all?) is even mentioned in the place, considering that it ought to be named in his honour. Ken also wrote several of the seminal histories of Canadian aviation, books that should be on your shelves. If you don’t have them yet, check under “K.M. Molson” at http://www.abebooks.com, where you can also order your personal copies. Ken became a true supporter of my own efforts. As the years passed, he was gradually keener to supply material I needed for various projects (it took a few years for anyone to be embraced by Ken). Here, Ken is chatting with another King of Canadian Aviation, Robert “Bob” Bradford, who succeeded Ken at the museum. A wartime RCAF pilot and to this day an active aviation artist in his 90s. Bob has an Order of Canada and is a member of Canada‘s Aviation Hall of Fame. There’s finally a move afoot to get Ken inducted in the Hall. Strange that he’s not yet a member, right. The funny thing is that he only recently was nominated and you can get in until someone starts the ball rolling.
Here’s another old snapshot that grabbed my eye lately while flipping through some files. This one dates to our 1990 book launch for The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945. On the right is William Harold David “Wild Bill” Meaden, DFC, whose story as a Bomber Command pilot is told in the book. On the left is the great aviation artist, Ron Lowry, who painted the front cover art of this best-selling title. Centre is Robert Finlayson, who painted the back cover art (which depicts a scene from Bill’s tour – the night his crew shot down a Ju.88). All three of these fine citizens have left us. Such old pictures are intrinsically important, but sure can be melancholic at the same time.
Last Saturday (March 23) we attended Carl Mills’ funeral. Carl saved so much of our history from the trash heap, as with his magnificent history of the Banshee jet fighter in the RCN. He also did a massive amount of original work unearthing all the details about Canada’s airmen who fought in Korea. In recent years he had been working diligently on the history of 400 Squadron. Included in that task, he built several important scale dioramas (masterpieces of art) and commissioned several wonderful paintings by some of Canada’s top aviation artists. Just a few days earlier, I learned that the great Peter Mossman, the artist who painted the cover art for our first three books, also had died.
The Canadian Aviation Historical Society was founded in 1963 to preserve Canada’s aviation heritage. I attended the second ever CAHS meeting and have membership No.11. The society thrived through the decades with chapters across Canada, a magnificent quarterly journal, newsletters and annual conventions. Sad to say, but the CAHS has been up against a lot in recent years. Like many such organizations, it’s hard hit by the aging (and passing) of members, and the difficulty of pulling in new members. Not helping matters, the society was riven by unnecessary internal strife in more recent times. How dumb was that, just when CAHS people should have been extra supportive and out there beating the bushes for members, etc., instead of fomenting civil war in its own ranks. But such things happen when folks lose sight of the big picture and start beating their own irrelevant little drums.
Here’s a historic photo going back to early CAHS days (1960s) in Toronto. In front in this group of CAHS pioneers are Art Marcopoulis, John Ham, Roger Juniper, Charlie Catalano, Bruce Gowans and Doug MacRitchie. Behind are (standing) Ernie Harrison, M.L. “Mac” McIntyre, Jeff Burch, George Morley, Al Martin, Frank Ellis, Elsie Ellis, Terry Waddington, Clint Toms, Bill Wheeler, Don Long (in front Bill) and Boris Zissoff. Each of these brought a unique aviation background to the society, and each worked diligently to build the society into a world-class organization. To my knowledge only Bruce, Ernie and Bill are still with us in 2019.
Love the Beech 18? Then This Is for You!
If you scroll back a few pages you’ll see our blog item “The Enduring (Indestructible?) Beech 18”. Well, as any true fan knows, we can never get enough Beech 18 coverage, so this week I’ve put together a series of superb photos taken mainly in the 1970s by the great Toronto-based photographer, Joan Turner. Almost annually, Joan and her brother, Bill, would make a driving tour across Northern Ontario to cover the bush flying scene. Invariably, they would find a good number of Beech 18s. Of course, they could be sure of finding the usual old standards, as they clocked up the miles from Sudbury westward – to Chapleau, Sault Ste. Marie, Wawa, around Lake Superior to the Lakehead, then westward to such haunts as Ignace, Fort Frances, Nestor Falls, Sioux Lookout and Red Lake. The whole experience must have been 100% fun. Take a look at these wonderful stock Joan Turner photos.
Some 50 years later, several of the fine old Beechcrafts that Joan covered are still at work, still turning heads with their classic great looks … and still making money, right. As to the captions, you might wonder from where so much Beech 18 trivia possibly could originate. There are many important sources, as any aviation bibliophile will know – just look in the books. Yes … in those actual amazing things made out of paper, ink and glue. Try on Air Transport in Canada, for example, where you will find 100s of references to Canada’s Beech 18s (ATC presently is on sale at CANAV Books at $60 off, check right here: 2 Blog CANAV Booklist Spring_Summer 2019 Then (as mentioned in our earlier Beech 18 item) there’s the world’s top Beech 18 book, Beech 18: A Civil and Military History by Robert Parmerter. By far the single most important website is that of Australian historian, Geoff Goodall. For this goldmine, google “Beech 18 Production List”. There are so many other sources for the keen reader and fan (weenies need not apply, of course). So … strap in good and tight, here comes “The Joan Turner Beech 18 Gallery”. To see a photo full screen, just click on it.
One of Canada’s Beech 18s that served longest with the same owner was CF-HHI, which had served originally with Florida Airways in 1946. Having joined International Nickel/Canadian Nickel Air Services of Sudbury in 1953, “HHI” served the company in the exploration and executive roles into 1974. The great George Cramer, who had flown Sunderlands through WWII, was chief pilot for most of this Beech’s career. Today, “HHI” is C-GZCE. Painted in RCAF wartime colours, it flies airshows and hops passengers with the Canadian Warplane Heritage of Hamilton. Joan photographed “HHI” at Ramsay Lake, Sudbury on August 8, 1970.
Visiting Sudbury on August 5, 1972, Joan photographed this lovely privately-owned Beech “Super 18”, CF-ZYT. Built in 1960, it initially had been N9941R with Wiles-Holloway Inc. of Baton Rouge. It next served a Houston drilling company, then was sold to Don Plaunt of Sudbury, whose business interests ranged from forestry to radio/TV to a mysterious fleet of DC-6s in California. In 1977 “ZYT” was sold in Alaska, becoming N741GB. Soon after, however, it suffered a forced landing and never flew again.
On September 16, 1977 Joan found George Theriault’s lovely Beech 18 CF-KAK looking photogenic at the dock at George’s tourist base near Foleyet, northeast of Chapleau along Hwy 101. “KAK” is a really historic Beech, having begun in 1944 as RCAF 1418. After serving several other carriers over the decades, in 2019 “KAK” was with Pacific Seaplanes of Nanaimo, BC. In 1994 George Theriault published his personal story all about life and flying in the Canadian Shield. I recommend that you track down a copy — Trespassing in God’s Country: Sixty Years of Flying in Northern Canada. It’s a beauty.
Much earlier (September 12, 1971) Joan had spotted “KAK” at Toronto YYZ soon after George Theriault acquired it from Keir Air Transport of Edmonton. “KAK” was always noted for its pointed nose — different for the average Beech 18. Retired bush pilot Joe Sinkowski of Red Lake points out that Green Airways’ Beech CF-GNR also had this off-beat mod.
CF-PSU coasts in to the Air-Dale dock at Sault Ste. Marie on September 2, 1972. “PSU” had begun with the USAAF in 1944. Once surplus, it was purchased in 1956 by the Aircraft Instrument Co. for $6125 and became N8011H. Having served various US owners, it came to Air- Dale in 1963. Serving there reliably until 1979, it migrated to Alaska as N1047B. After many adventures, it ended in Anchorage at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. The museum website notes: “The Beechcraft Model or Twin Beech, as it was better known, first flew on January 15, 1937. It was configured to carry between 6 and 11 passengers. The aircraft was in production for 32 years, with over 9,000 aircraft being built. N1047B arrived in Juneau, Alaska in 1979. After some modifications it was sold to Alaska Coastal Airlines Corporation of Juneau in 1982. On Sept 30, 1987 N1047B was sold to the Alaska Aviation Museum and flown to its current home at the museum. The aircraft … is installed on Edo floats and represents the configuration the aircraft was in while assigned to the 10th Search and Rescue Squadron at Elmendorf AFB during the 1940s.”
That same day at Air-Dale (always a key stop for any spotter touring Northern Ontario), Joan photographed CF-AIR-X. “AIR” had begun in 1952 as RCAF Expeditor 1506, and first appeared on the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register in 1967. By this time it had been consigned to the weeds at Air-Dale. Why it carried an “X” registration isn’t know. However, take a look at the airframe. It looks as if it might comprise two different Beech 18s. Something like that could have required an “X”. The rudder paint job suggests a former Royal Canadian Navy Expeditor. There always are these mysteries for the spotters to research.
Westward we go … another Beech 18 in Joan’s files is CF-YQB. She took this shot on September 27, 1976 at Thunder Bay/Lakehead Airport. “YQB” had been RCAF 1553 from 1952 to 1968, when it was declared surplus. In 1970, O.J. Weiben (Severn Enterprises, Superior Airways, etc.) of Thunder Bay acquired it from Crown Assets Disposal Corp. — the government agency in charge of selling off surplus Canadian military equipment. In this period Beech 18s were selling for as little as $2000. “OJ” operated “YQB” in the bush until selling it in Florida in 1987. There it briefly was N9062Z, then returned to Canada a year later, picking up its former ID. Based at Inuvik near the Arctic coast, it operated under various banners, finally being with Arctic Wings and Rotors. In July 1994 it was reported destroyed by fire.
Formerly RCAF 2379, CF-ZQH was another of the many Expeditors acquired cheaply by O.J. Wieben. This Expeditor must have been extra nice, for “OJ” used it as his personal plane from 1971. “ZQH” crashed on October 4, 1981. Retired bush pilot, Joe Sinkowski, recalls: “It was Orville’s personal airplane for getting around from Thunder Bay to places like Pickle or Wiebenville. There were very few whom he trusted to fly it, mainly some of his DC-3 captains. ‘ZQH’ was operated only on wheels. It was sold with the company after Orville passed away. I can’t recall the exact details, but someone put it into the bush somewhere north of Armstrong, when flying from Fort Hope to Thunder Bay.” Joan photographed “ZQH” at Thunder Bay on September 27, 1976.
Beech 19 CF-RVR of Slate Fall Airways at Sioux Lookout on September 19, 1977. “RVR” began in 1944 as a USAAF UC- 45B, then was delivered under Lend-Lease straight to the Royal Air Force. Next, as fast as the paperwork could be stamped, it was transferred to the RCAF as Expeditor 1402. It served into 1964, then was struck off charge. It was purchased in 1965 via CADC by Manitoba’s Ilford Airways. It next served Slate Falls (1970-84), then other outfits until joining Air Rainbow of Nanaimo, BC in 1991. While taking off from Nanaimo on January 27, 1992, it crashed disastrously, killing seven of the nine people aboard.
Airplane boneyards are always fascinating places to visit for spotters, photographers, artists and other aviation fans. On September 19, 1977 Joan Turner dropped by this old bushplane “cemetery” in Sioux Lookout. Included in the general mayhem was a Cessna, a very tired old Norseman, and Slate Falls Airways Beech CF-DLN (ex-RCAF 2334 1952-70).
Joan photographed Green Airways’ famous Beech 18 CF-GNR in its yellow-and-green paint job at Red Lake on September 20, 1977. Formerly RCAF 2318 (1952-65), “GNR” later served Larry Langford’s Vancouver Island Air. In August 2013 it was noted as having logged 18,173 flying hours. In 2014 it was sold. At that time, Larry told me, “Our last Beech C-FGNR went to a collector in Belgium of all places. She flew 50 hours on that trip without a problem. Longest leg was over 8 hours Iceland to Scotland. Owner, Taigh Ramey, and a Canadian pilot, Brad Blois, did the trip. Still the nicest aircraft on floats I have flown.” With this odyssey “GNR” became the only Beech 18 to have flown the North Atlantic on floats. Its registration today is N1XW.
CF-XUO of Ontario Central Airlines at Red Lake also on September 20, 1977. Ex-RCAF 2329, it served OCA 1974-84, then wandered all over the place from Nunasi-Central Airlines to Green Airways, Pickle Lake Air Service, Kelner Airways, Beaver Air, Ignace Airways and (today) Showalters Fly-In of Ear Falls not far south of Red Lake.
Yet another clapped out ex-RCAF Expeditor (or, “Exploder”, as some called it back in RCAF days), CF-ZNQ had been RCAF 2339. It briefly was listed to Pembina Air Services of Morden, Manitoba in 1972, then joined Harvey Friesen’s Bearskin Airlines in 1974. Joan saw it at Red Lake/Cochenour airport on September 20, 1977. Doesn’t look as if Bearskin ever flew it, but probably just used it for spare parts.
CF-PVC was another well-known northern Beech 18. As RCAF 1546 (then 5186) it was one of the last RCAF Expeditors in service. From Crown Assets Corp. storage in Saskatoon, in 1971 it was sold to Northern Stores, mainly to serve the 219 nm route between Red Lake and Big Trout Lake, hauling groceries and supplies. Here it is derelict at Red Lake on September 20, 1977. It’s a fair guess that it finally went for pots and pans.
Lake-of-the-Woods country. One of Rusty Myers always-handsome Beech 18s: C-FERM at Fort Frances on September 25, 1976. “ERM” had been RCAF 1487 from 1951 to 1967. Rusty Myers picked it up in ’67, then operated it into the 2000s. It was only the advent of the Cessna Caravan that spelled the end of the classic Beech 18 at Fort Frances. To this day “ERM” sits derelict at Fort Frances alongside “BGO”, “RVL” and “ZRI”.
Ex-RCAF 2336 CF-BGO at Fort Frances on September 23, 1977. It served Rusty Myers from 1970 until a disastrous accident on July 6, 1996. I don’t know the details other that that “BGO” apparently crashed in the bush. Happily, all 5 aboard survived.
An unknown ex-RCAF Expeditor at Fort Frances on September 23, 1977. At this late date, this could only have been a Rusty Myers “hangar queen” used for the occasional spare part. Joan walked around it looking for any sign of former ID, but found nothing. When tallying all the superannuated RCAF Expeditors in Canada, it’s clear just how resourceful/prudent Canada’s (usually tight-fisted) northern air carriers were when it came to an opportunity such a military surplus Beech 18s. Everyone knew how tough and reliable the Expeditor was, and how cheap it was to buy in via Crown Assets Disposal Corporation. Also, by 1968 people knew how a Beech could do just about any ordinary job on floats or skis, whether on the BC coast, in the mountains, across the prairies or anywhere northward all the way to the Beaufort Sea or Ungava. Just for fun, if you check the March 31, 1972 Canadian Civil Aircraft Register you’ll see the following Beech 18 versions listed: AT-11 – 3, C18S – 7, C-45 – 13, D18S – 40, E18s/G18S – 12, ex-RCAF 3N, 3NM and 3T trainers – 62. Total 137. These were based everywhere from Victoria to Prince George, Watson Lake, Calgary, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, Winnipeg, Morden, Pine Falls, God’s Lake Narrows, Flin Flon, Fort Frances, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Kenora, Big Trout Lake, Pickle Lake, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Sudbury, Toronto, Ottawa, St. Félicien all the way east to Gaspé and Dartmouth. Truly, the Beech 18 deserves its place as one of Canada’s great general-purpose air transports and bushplanes.
CF-GXD in Rusty Myers’ “Back 40” at Fort Francis on September 23, 1977. I can’t find much about this Beech 18, other than that it had served Canada’s Department of Transport in the 1950s-60s (it’s still in the standard gray-with-white-and-yellow DoT colours). Its Rusty Myers stint was 1970-76.
C-FTBX was flying for Canadian Voyageur Airlines when Joan spotted it at the dock at Fort Frances on September 26, 1976. A 1952 Model D18S, it began as N481B with Ohio’s Aetna Freight Lines. Owned these days by veteran bush operator Neil Walston, “TBX” has been dormant in Nestor Falls in recent times, but can quickly go back to work any day some work materializes.
Joan photographed this attractive Beech at Fort Frances on September 23, 1977. “XIR” initially was a 1944 USAAF UC-45F, then had a civil aviation career in the US. As N963J, for example, it served Four Lakes Aviation in Wisconsin. It came to Canada for Rainy Lake Airways in 1968, serving there into 1984, but subsequently was scrapped. Some tales of “XIR” + such other Beech 18 horror stories (and much, much more of the Norseman, DC-3, 748, etc.) as the 1975 crash of OCA’s Beech “XVF” are extremely well told in Sam Cole’s wonderful book covering a bush pilot’s “life and hard times”, Switches, Instruments, Radios and Rudders. This is another “must read” for anyone with a love for northern aviation. I’ll mail you a copy for $48 all-in. Simply email this amount by PayPal to email@example.com
A fine view of CF-SRE (ex-RCAF 1486) at Nestor Falls, Ontario on September 25, 1976. Since joining Silver Pine Air Services of Pine Falls, Manitoba in 1970, “SRE” has been hard at work. It’s presently dormant at Selkirk, Manitoba.
C-GEHX in the colours of Warren Plummer’s famous NWT sport fishing operation, Great Bear Lodge. “EHX” had been RCAF 1512 from 1952 to 1968. It later was listed to Minto Airways of Edmonton. I’m not certain about the lineage thereafter, but Minto seems to have owned the plane to about 1986, leasing it out to such operators as Silver Pine Air Services, Sabourin Lake Airways, North Caribou Flying Services and La Ronge Aviation Services. In this period it might have been on a sub-lease from Silver Pine to Plummer. Joan photographed “EHX” at Pine Falls, Manitoba on September 4, 1982. It’s presently based at Nestor Falls and expected to be at work this season.
The famous Arthur Fecteau operated various Beech 18s over the years from his base in Senneterre, Quebec. These would have been important connecting his mining industry clients (and others) with Quebec City, Montreal, Noranda-Rouyn, Timmins, etc. Here is his Beech 18 CF-JIR at Amos, Quebec on August 19, 1954. Too bad for us, but Joan didn’t often get into Quebec. Who was covering that vast domain aviation-wise? “JIR” was ex-RCAF/RCN 1449. Arthur operated it from 1974, then sold it to George Theriault. George quickly sold it to a US buyer, Jeno F. Paulucci, a famous Beech operator in Florida. After many years as freighter and tanker N792LP in Florida, it made its way to Minnesota in 2006. Alongside Beech 18 N33JP, it still spends its summers serving the tourist trade from its base near Duluth.
One of Canada’s great Beech operators was Carl Millard of Toronto. I saw the first of Carl’s “18s” on my earliest visits to Malton airport in 1955 and they still were there right into the 1990s. Joan photographed CF-WGP at Malton/Toronto/YYZ on September 12, 1971. “WGP” had started in 1946 as executive Beech NC44631 with Stanolind Oil & Gas in 1946. Carl acquired it in 1967, then operated it into 1992, when he sold it stateside. As N70WW it was seen derelict in Oregon in the early 2000s. For the story of Millardair you really need a copy of Millard and Me: A Young Man’s Journey from Turbulence to Triumph. Included in this ace of a book is a ton of hardcore and hugely entertaining Beech 18 history for the serious reader, along with much lore of Millardair’s DC-3 and DC-4s. If you’d like a copy, email $36.00 (all-in price) by PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Millardair’s CF-SIJ (ex-RCAF/RCN 2312) at Toronto YYZ on July 5, 1969. Check all the re-skinning recently done, plus the newly-installed cargo door (the RCAF did not have cargo doors on its Expeditors). Carl Millard also beefed up his Beech 18 wings with a wing spar mod developed by his old pal, Dave Saunders, one of Canada’s genius aeronautical engineers (father of the Saunders ST-27, etc.). “SIJ” later had a string of Quebec operators from Airgava of Schefferville to Transfair of Sept- Iles, Para-Vision of St-Jérome and finally (in the 2000s) Aero-Dynamic of Mascouche.
What in the world, eh! This super-modified Beech 18 had been RCAF 2301 in 1952-66, then became CF-URS with Joe Lucas’ Aircraft Industries of St. Jean, Quebec. This company had a dream of offering the old Expeditor –- so many of which were flooding the market –- in a revitalized form powered by Canada’s new PT6 turboprop engine. Although several US-made PT6 Beech 18 would follow, “URS” was the original. First flown with a pair of early PT6A-20s, “URS” was called the Jobmaster. Later, it was converted to Volmar tricycle undercarriage. Aircraft Industries, meanwhile, folded its tent after many years as a Canadian leader in aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul. “URL” migrated to the USA in 1970, becoming N10VT. It went into the air cargo business and, oddly, reverted to its tail wheel configuration. The Hamilton Aircraft Co. extended nose was added in 1976. On June 19, 1978 N10VT (operating with Great Western Airlines) had an engine failure and crashed on nearing its destination of Windsor Locks, Connecticut from Albany, NY. The crew survived. The turbo-Beech 18 really was not a huge success. The mod cost a pile of money and the PT6 burned a lot more fuel than a Beech 18 with standard R985 engines. In this Joan Turner photo “URS” is at Hamilton, Ontario on September 7, 1968.
Beech 18 N3199 owned by K&S Aircraft of Fort Lauderdale at Cape May, New Jersey on August 23, 1971. N3199 had begun as a wartime USAAF AT-7. The USAF had it remanufactured in 1952, then it became N3198G in 1959 with the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. It may have been converted to a tri-gear Beech in that period. In 1972 it became N106A and disappeared from the US Civil Aircraft Register in 1988. There were not that many tri-gear Beech 18s by comparison with the standard tail draggers. Another visible mod with N3199 is the 3-bladed props.
Joan Turner always was happy to photograph anything with wings. This set her apart from (and above) those photographers who would boast “I only shoot Canadian civil” … or US military, or F-16s, or B-52s, or airliners. You get the idea. These latter would never know the enjoyment that Joan got in shooting homebuilts, Aeroncas, Bellancas, Cessna, Pipers, and – if the chance arose – a B-52. So the sight of a US civil Beech 18 was a pure opportunity. While Joan was revelling in Hamilton, Ohio at the Waco convention on June 29, 1980, she happily shot off a few frames on this E18S Super 18. N87HA had begun in 1956 as N3787B with Southern Airways. It joined Hogan Air in 1980, hence the new registration with an “HA”. In 2019 this historic Beech is N8711H in Puerto Rico with Seven Stars Air Cargo. As I was writing this on March 27, FlightAware noted that N8711H that day made a return flight from San Juan to Beef Island, logging 1 hour 16 minutes.
Another remanufactured wartime Beech, this example served the US military again from 1953. In 1960 it became N3734G then quickly came to Canada and was converted for aerial surveying by Spartan Air Services. I first photographed “MJY” at Kenora on September 6, 1961. Joan’s shot dates to Ottawa International Airport on September 9, 1973. Looks like a derelict Queen Air just beyond. You can see “MJY” today on display at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage in Sault Ste. Marie.
Through the 1970s-80s ex-RCAF Expeditors could be spotted from coast to coast. Some went on to useful careers in civil aviation, but many eventually were parted out and scrapped. While visiting Rockcliffe airport in Ottawa on June 4, 1972, Joan spotted CF- ZYH and ‘YI. Here is “ZHY” still bearing RCAF serial 2302. Note the lovely Citroen Ds19 in the background. “ZYH” seems to have done no further flying, but “ZYI” was sold into the US in 1994, becoming N20R. It’s listed as struck off the USCAR in Mission, Texas in 1991.
Former DoT Beech 18 CF-DTN was in Joe Kohut’s Capital Air Surveys markings when Joan saw it at Carp on August 22, 1970. Earlier, “DTN” had been RCAF 1500 (1951-1959). Following a contract somewhere in Africa, it ended in Scotland and today is G-BKRN over there, painted in US Navy colours (google Beech D-18S G-BKRN Naval Encounter).
Another important Beech 18 operator in Canada was Bradley Air Services of Carp, Ontario – an airport a bit west of Ottawa. Bradley pioneered in the Arctic starting in the 1950s, then built up its fleet to include the DC-3, Twin Otter and HS748 (see Air Transport in Canada). Bradley eventually evolved into today’s First Air of Ottawa. Joan Turner saw CF-TAE at Carp on October 9, 1972. A G18S “Super 18”, “TAE” had come to Canada in 1960 for Transair of Winnipeg. It later served Bradley 1970-85, so would have had enough adventures to fill a book. In 1985 it joined Toronto-based Air 500, a small company set up by former Millardair pilot Dennis Chadala (author of Millardair and Me). Having been parted out due to wear and tear, “TAE” was struck from the CCAR in 1989.
Being expert in the air photo business, Bradley made good use of the AT-11, the WWII US military bombardier/gunnery/navigation training version of the Beech 18/C-45. It acquired CF-KJI in 1957 and seems to have operated it for about a decade. Joan photographed it derelict at Carp on October 9, 1972.
Even in the 2000s the bones of a Beech 18 sometimes still can be found moldering away. Joan photographed these ruins at Carp on August 22, 1970. You can see how the good old phrase “in the weeds” applies in this case.
The founder of Bradley Air Services, Russ Bradley, had a partner, Weldy Phipps. Weldy eventually left to compete in the Arctic with Bradley as Atlas Aviation. Not surprisingly, he made good use of the Beech 18. Joan spotted Weldy’s Beech CF-AMY at Ottawa Uplands on August 21, 1970. “AMY” had begun in 1946 as NC44639 with the State of Illinois – it was the governor’s VIP plane. It came to Canada in 1958 for Automotive Products of Rimouski, then joined Atlas at its Resolute Bay base in 1966, from where it operated to about 1974. Last heard of in the 2000s it was stored somewhere around Winnipeg. Norm Avery wrote the Weldy Phipps biography – Whiskey Whiskey Papa. Used copies of this excellent book can be found at http://www.abebooks.com
Recently, the intrepid Pierre Gillard of Longueuil was wandering around in the great southwestern desert enjoying the natural environment and great food & hospitality to the fullest. But he also was covering (in his usual scrupulous detail) the local aviation scene. Here is just a small sample of what Pierre found to photograph this time. It’s a formerly busy water bomber base, but now more of a boneyard – Gila River airport in Arizona. You’ll be amazed at what old airplanes still can be found, so google here to see it all: http://www.pierregillard.com/blog/index.html
Civilian Canadair Sabres
Not long after the RCAF declared its classic Canadair F-86 Sabres surplus in 1968, a large flock of them was bought up by civil operators. Most migrated to California, where they became target drones, chiefly for Flight Systems based at Mojave. Many of these eventually were shot down during “SAM” (surface-to-air-missile) development trials. Others ended with museums and warbird collectors, and even found work as chase planes. Boeing operated both the Canadair Sabre and Canadair T-33 as chase and photo planes during many airliner development programs from the 747 onward. Lockheed used an ex-RCAF Sabre chase plane during the L1011 program. Show here from the CANAV Books Collection is Boeing Sabre Mk.6 N8686F (ex-RCAF 23363) accompanying 747 prototype N7470. If this was on the first flight, the date was February 9, 1969. The 747 is hanging its gear, so the Sabre is using loads of flap plus speed brakes for low-speed control. Both these super-historic airplanes now reside with the Museum of Flight in Seattle. In the second photo, L1011 N31001 is accompanied by Sabre Mk.5 N8544 (ex-RCAF 23241). This was the second L1011 to fly (first flight February 15, 1971). It later served Eastern Airlines, then a list of other global air carriers. It was scrapped in Miami around Y2K. While on some sort of a mission from Mojave on March 23, 1986, N8544 was damaged and subsequently scrapped. Several ex-RCAF Sabres still fly as warbirds in the US. If you’d like an autographed copy of CANAV’s best-selling book, The Canadair Sabre, order using PayPal via email@example.com The all-in price with this offer is $46.00. The Canadair Sabre often has been described (all things considered) as the best of the world’s many F-86 Sabre books. I still like what France’s prestigious “Air Fan” journal said about our book when it first appeared. To “Air Fan” The Canadair Sabre was “The aviation literary event of the year”. If you still don’t have a copy, you’ll thank yourself for ordering one today at the price of a few beers.
Some rusty remains of CF-AIR-X still could be found at Air-Dale in 2009. (Ian Macdonald)
Some Beech 18 fans speak up … Readers have been enjoying our blog of late, and quite a few have commented. Here’s some Beech 18 input. Ian Macdonald adds a bit for CF-AIR-X, noting that some parts (a wing section included) still were sitting in the weeds at Air-Dale in 2009. If memory serves Ian correctly, the “X” in the registration possibly had to do with float or ski trials. John Gilbert writes, “Great pics of the Beech 18s, Larry. I see DTN is among them. When I worked at the Aircraft Radio Workshops (Ottawa 1959-61, Toronto 1962-66) we had several Beech 18s used for flight checking. Thanks for the memories (and for all the good books).” Clarke la Prairie adds, “Thanks Larry. That’s a fascinating read on your blog. I followed the link to order the book Whiskey Whiskey Papa. Looking forward to this read about Weldy Phipps.”
Blain Fowler was reminded of his own Beech 18 love affair: “My first airplane ride was as an Air Cadet in 1958. We flew in an Expeditor at CFB Penhold. Quite a thrill. I was hooked. I remember looking down at swathed grain fields and thinking they looked like giant finger prints. About thirty-five years ago, I bought ex RCAF Expeditor 3NM, 2344, out of a farmers field north of Edmonton. It looked similar to 2302/ZHY in your photo collection. It had been given to a composite high school by the air force and was subsequently acquired by the farmer. He had taken very good care of it, although it had not flown or been on the civil register since SOS. Both engines had been run frequently and were in beautiful shape, as was the whole machine. Everything worked, not even a burned out light bulb! Since this was just before I bought the Corsair, I never got around to getting it flying and finally sold it to another Warbird fellow. Had a bit of fun with it while I had it, loading it up with “the boys” occasionally, everyone with a headset, and taxyed it up and down the runway. Round engine fans are a bit crazy! Loved your blog.”
Paul Manson, who once commanded Canada’s air force, writes to us: “I really enjoyed your latest blog. As always, so much good reading, and superb photos, especially the material on the old Beech 18/C-45/Expeditor. Back in 1962/3, when I was a student on the Specialist Navigator course in Winnipeg (as a token pilot), I did much of my practice flying on the Expeditor as co-pilot. Just checked my log book to see that I had time in the following C-45s: 2334, 1567, 1598, 1461, 2351, 1489 and 1502. Great experience for a jet fighter pilot!”
Wayne MacLellan reports: “Thanks Larry … that brings back memories. We had three Expeditors at Portage-la-Prairie, when I was a T-33 instructor there. As I remember, they were used for senior officer flying proficiency (with a qualified pilot), x-country training (picking up lobster on the east coast, transporting curling teams, etc). When I got my pink slip from Mr. Hellyer I manged to get a Beech rating towards my civilian commercial ticket. When I got to Qantas and they spent three months teaching me how to build and fly a DC-3, my 200 hours of Beech experience came in handy.”
Bob McCaw, one of the many solid Austin Airways people from post-WWII years, mentions two things regarding the blog. First … that Austin didn’t operate the Beech 18. Second … that around the time Stan Deluce’s White River Air Service bought out Austin, White River was operating Beech E18S CF-ANA on a passenger sked between Timmins and Kapuskasing (it’s a hop, skip and a jump between these two centres). Before long, White River became the main contractor in the Ontario Government’s NorOntair, and the Twin Otter took over on all such routes. “ANA” served White River 1970-74, then flew with various operators from Laurentian Air Services of Ottawa to Skycraft of Oshawa. In 1993 it became N5847 with “One Way Ride” in Pennsylvania (let’s go flying with them eh!). Today it’s privately owned in Vacaville, California as N5867. Here’s a photo of “ANA” that I took Toronto YYZ on May 15, 1971. While in Air Niagara colours, it apparently was owned by the Port Colborne Flying Club, which in turn had it on lease to White River. It’s not always easy to figure out such a plane’s historic details. For example, in the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register 1970-74 “ANA” is listed as owned by White River.
After enjoying the blog, Ken Pickford was reminded of his boyhood days watching the planes at Edmonton Municipal Airport — “The Muni”: “Thanks, Larry. When I was growing up in Edmonton in the 1950s I remember the RCAF Expeditors coming and going. I lived within bike riding distance, so so spent a lot of time on the observation deck. One difference in those days is that you could identify most aircraft by engine sound alone. Not possible today! Then, I just had to hear 5 seconds of the engine sound as the aircraft passed my bedroom window a mile or so away on final approach (or after takeoff) and could say with about 90% accuracy whether it was a DC-3, North Star, DC-6, Expeditor, Harvard, etc. The North Star could be a little tricky as there were still a few Lancasters in use by the RCAF on a project involving mapping of the Arctic regions, also several Avro York freighters busy on the DEW Line. When I think of the Beech 18, the famous stunt flying scenes from the 1963 movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” come to mind. In the movie, the famed stunt pilot Frank Tallman piloted a Beech 18 through a billboard and a hangar. Such scenes today would be done using computer-generated imagery, but in 1963 it was the real thing.” (To see what Ken means, check out these film clips https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlC1Fboq5vI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsu3hiP1ikQ)