Last year’s Northwestern Ontario travels took me to Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout, Lake-of- the-Woods and, finally, Red Lake. It all really came together with support from Porter Airlines, Bearskin Airlines, Rich Hulina, Northwest Flying Inc, Red Lake Airport, the Sinkowskis and others. The following photo album completes my brief coverage of this busy and productive aviation history-gathering pilgrimage.
Having begun on July 19 with a Porter Airlines flight from Toronto to the Lakehead, then on later in the day to Sioux Lookout on Bearskin, I overnighted at the Hulinas. Next day Rich and I enjoyed flights in his Cessna 206 and one of Northwest’s spiffy Beech 18s. Back in Sioux Lookout that afternoon, I connected with Bearskin again for the half- hour hop over to the historic gold mining town of Red Lake.
Speeding along in Bearskin Metro C-GJVW and watching the great Canadian Shield rolling out below, got me thinking of the pioneers confronting this massive Canadian region, the first aviators included. As early as 1925 some Ontario Provincial Air Service Curtiss HS-2L flying boats operating from Kenora, carried men and supplies into what soon would become the Red Lake mining district.
When news of a strike leaked out, the Red Lake gold rush was on. Over the winter of 1925-26 the first few airplanes were serving the region, mainly from the railroad town of Hudson, near Sioux Lookout. A couple of war surplus Curtiss JN-4s, an impressive little Curtiss Lark and the first new Fokker Universals soon were transporting men and supplies into the area, so that the prospecting could begin. The first claims were staked, then, beginning with “The Howey”, the mines started producing in 1930. None of it could have happened without the airplane and those stalwart pioneer aviators – Jack Elliott, “Doc” Oaks, J.R. Ross, etc. As our Metro started its decent, I also thought of my own dad, Basil Emerson Milberry (1901-1948), who had done his bit around here, starting in the gold rush era and finishing at the Uchi Mine, before moving c.1935 across to the Kirkland Lake and South Porcupine gold mining camps. His name still appears on Kenora District claims maps. History, eh … we live it and we love it. Ruth W. Russell has written a history of the Red Lake gold rushes. Pick up a copy — North for Gold: The Red Lake Gold Rush of 1926. Also, see if you can find copies of the late Donald F. Parrott’s Red Lake books – The Gold Mines of Red Lake, etc. As to the general aviation history of the region, you can’t do better than with Air Transport in Canada and Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years.
When the usually noisy Metro cabin suddenly got quieter and the flaps and gear came down, I returned to the present and soon was stepping off Bearskin at the Red Lake terminal. Meeting me was Joe Sinkowski, who was keen to provide a quick airport run-around. A long- serving bush pilot, in his “retirement” Joe’s on the airport staff doing a host of interesting jobs. He had taken me on my first Norseman flight back in 1995. Today, he introduced me to some of the local operators and for the next three days I had great fun photographing around Red Lake airport — a.k.a. “YRL”.
Red Lake Airport Photo Tour, July 22-24, 2017
Red Lake is one of the great Canadian (and global) gold mining centres. Flying over in the summer of 1995 in a Green Airways PZL Otter, I took this photo that has Red Lake written all over it.
Joe Sinkowski provides this basic map to explain what you see in the aerial view. The mine photo is from Balmertown looking slightly northwest about 300 degrees towards the airport. As you look here, Red Lake would be back over your left shoulder about 4 miles.
On the same flight, I snapped this view of Red Lake Airport. Pretty well at the centre, that looks like a Beech 99 at the terminal. This old building has been replaced by today’s modern one. Near the bottom, you can spot an Apache and an Aztec, two of the standard types serving the area (they’ve all but disappeared, even the Beech 99 has faded). Notice the big yellow MNR Canadair water bomber sitting on forest fire standby.
The daily scene at YRL terminal includes several arrivals by the ubiquitous Bearskin Airlines Metro. Shown on July 22 is C-GJVH. Built in 1996 and operated with Merlin Airways for a number of years as N898ML, “JVH” has been in the Bearskin fleet since May 2007. Bearskin belongs to the Exchange Income Corporation of Winnipeg. EIC’s other aviation holdings include Calmair, Custom Helicopters, Keewatin Air, Perimeter Aviation and Provincial Aerospace. Just today (April 20) comes news that EIC has added Bearskin’s traditional competition in Northwest Ontario — Wasaya Airlines. On the right in the top photo sits Norseman CF-LZO, which has graced the terminal for several years.
For any visitor to Red Lake airport there’s no shortage of subject matter on a typical day. What’s common to see for the locals will be exciting for the out-of- town “plane spotter”. Let’s start with the DC-3, a plane that’s no stranger to Northwest Ontario, except that today’s DC-3 is vastly different from yesterday’s. Now known as the Basler BT-67, it’s powered by PT6 turbine engines. It carries pretty well twice the payload of a standard DC-3, so is much more efficient and profitabler by comparison. Shown is one of the Baslers brought to Canada by Frank Kelner of Caravan and PC-12 fame. Initially, he operated under the Cargo North and North Star banners, but has sold this part of his operation to the Northwest Company of Winnipeg. Shown at Red Lake on July 21 is C-FKGL. Notice the extra wide doors. Even that bulky motorboat got squeezed in. When you watch an operation like this you might wonder about all the babble about bush flying being so “romantic”. Mostly it’s simply about hard, grubby work done by a tough bunch guys and gals who can take the worst of it and keep showing up day after day.
North Star Air’s Basler C-FWUI began in 1945 as RAF KN511. It then operated as such with the RCAF until its identity changed in 1970 to 12926. It retired in 1974, then became C- GWUH. Having flown for several northern operators, it became N707BA in 1985, mostly flying for US courier outfits. Converted by Basler in 2005, it essentially became a completely new airplane. Nonetheless, its heritage dates back almost 75 years.
For those who aren’t sure about DC-3s, this is more what they looked like “in the old days”. I shot C-FFAY at Red Lake on July 15, 1991, while it was doing some freighting. “FAY” is an old bird – serial number 4785 built in 1942. Postwar it spent years in South America, then came to Canada in 1972 for a Red Deer outfit called Astro Aviation. From 1973-81 it was with Lambair of Winnipeg, then was here and there with Perimeter Airlines of Winnipeg, Buffalo Airways of Hay River, etc. In recent years it’s been sitting dismantled back at Red Deer.
Here I am beside the Red Lake terminal’s Norseman CF-LZO in a shot taken by Joe Sinkowski.
Other aircraft types come and go daily at Red Lake airport, the indispensable Cessna Caravan included. Here, Superior’s C-FYMK arrives from one of the northern reservations that it helps keep supplied with the daily essentials. The bulky belly pack carries much extra cargo. Built in 2010, “YMK” spent its early days in Italy, but mainly has been in Canada.
“YMK” loads up for another trip. Due to the steep cost of air transport, a liter of milk, dozen eggs, bottle of pop or bag of chips gets ridiculously expensive by the time it reaches Bearskin Lake, Muskrat Dam, Big Trout Lake, Pikangikum, etc. Note that those last two belly bays carry up to 550 lb.
Superior’s “amphib” Caravan C-FYMT gets back to base after another trip. In this configuration “YMT” can get in and out of less accessible spots, and cater to the seasonal fly-in fishing or hunting markets.
Also seen pretty well daily at YRL is the Pilatus PC-12. Its roles are varied, whether carrying passengers, freight or, as shown, working as a speedy air ambulance. Air Bravo’s PC-12 C- FTAB was transferring a patient to Red Lake clinic on this July day in 2017. “TAB” previously was C- FMPO of the RCMP, which had acquired it new in 1999.
One of the great unsung workhorses of the Canadian north is the 1960s-vintage Hawker 748. Last summer Northwest Ontario, where “The Hawker” once ruled the skies, had only one left. Although expensive to operate in the 2010s due to its “gas guzzling” Dart engines, former Wasaya Airways C-FFFS still was piling up the hours hauling groceries and all sorts of other supplies to the region’s isolated communities. Having begun in the Philippines in 1969, “FFS” eventually showed up in Canada in 1989 with Northland Air Manitoba. Kelner Airways had it on lease in 1991, then it was sold to Wasaya in 1996. The Hawker’s main advantages are how it probably doesn’t carry a mortgage, but it does carry a hefty payload – 12,000 pounds, and it’s fairly speedy, cruising at around 200 mph. No doubt, however, the more recent arrival of BT- 67 and Dash 8 freighters soon will see “FFS” shunted off to the boneyard.
Another classic in and around Red Lake for decades has been the Piper PA-31 Navajo and Chieftain. Here, Superior’s Chieftain C-FVWY sits at YRL after a day’s work. Built in 1982, it originally was N4110N. It came to Canada from Hawaii in 2008.
Chieftain C-GAJT looking a bit worse for wear at YRL. Built in 1981, it operated in the US as N800SA until migrating to Canada in 2003. As it sat last July, “AJT” didn’t seem to have great prospects. Some such aircraft sometimes return to life, but more often than not progressively get cannibalized, then go for pots ‘n pans.
Also “in the boneyard” at Red Lake last summer was this Piper PA-23 Apache – C-FLQN. One of Canada’s leading light twins of the early postwar years, the “Plain Jane” Apache gave excellent service as a private, corporate and commercial plane. “LQN” came to Canada in 1959 for Reimer Express, a leading Manitoba trucking company. There it served for years before passing on to a string of Manitoba and Northwest Ontario owners. “LQN” may or may not ever get back into the air. If not, it sure could make a nice little acquisition for any serious aviation museum. Who knows, eh, but it would be sad to see this historic little Apache carted off for scrap.
A steady stream of transient aircraft visits YRL, often just to refuel, but sometimes to drop off or pick up business travellers or sportsmen. Here, SOCATA TBM-850 N851MA from KABO Aviation in Kentucky arrives on a charter last July.
For last summer’s Norseman Festival, the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team flew in from Southern Ontario. They were the icing on the cake for the week’s festivities. Here are pix of the CHAT Harvards at the airport. In decades gone by many an RCAF Harvard used to stop at Red Lake for fuel.
Round and About Red Lake in Norseman Festival Week 2017
For this part of today’s blog, let’s start with a few Red Lake pictures from “way back”, when the Norseman Festival began. I’d only been casually following the Norseman scene since I got interested in airplane photography back in the late 1950s. It took 3-4 trips to Northwestern Ontario starting in 1974 to get me keen on it. Still, I’d never had a ride in one ‘til I visited Red Lake in 1995 and Joe Sinkowski took me flying on July 15 in Chimo Air’s CF-KAO. Later that day Joe McBryan invited a few of us for a flight in his beautifully- restored CF-SAN. Here’s a shot of “KAO” from our flight. Joe was delivering sport fisherman that evening to their lodge on Culverson Lake.
Joe’ McBryan’s pride and joy in 1995. He still flies “SAN” from his base in Yellowknife.
The scene from above at the original 1992 festival. Just as we flew over the head of Howey Bay there were nine Norsemans (and one Beaver) at the docks. This was the Norseman Festival at its peak. As the years passed, the number of Norsemans gradually dwindled, but they’re still out there. So come on … fill up your tanks, Norseman people, and fly on over to Red Lake this year.
Some of “ye olde tyme” Norseman people around Red Lake in 1992. Joe Sinkowski is shown with Bob Green on his left, Bob’s brother Jack Green on his right. Then, Norseman technical wizkids Whitey Hostetler and John “JB” Blaszczyk of Whitey’s famous Red Lake Seaplane Service, where Red Lake’s “town Norseman” CF-DRD was restored in 1991-92.
When Red Lake started talking over the idea of a Norseman festival and the idea got wheels, the town acquired the hulk of CF-DRD. This is how I saw it in 1991 soon after it had arrived at Whitey’s hangar. Then, here it is beautifully mounted in 1992 at Red Lake’s Norseman heritage park.
To get a true sense of Northwest Ontario you need to bundle up and visit in winter. I did that a number of times in the 1980s-90s while laying all the groundwork for Air Transport in Canada. This is how I saw Norseman “JIN” one winter. Then, a view of the Howey Bay main docks shot from Sabourin Air’s Cessna 185 C-GDSJ on March 26, 1992.
Joe Sinkowski took the time to put some labels to my aerial shot. Joe flew all the planes in the Green Airways cluster. He got along fine with them, but had a special love for Beech 18 CF-GNR.
Let’s have a quick look at some of last year’s Norseman Festival scenes in downtown Red Lake and around and about. Here some folks get ready for their flight of a lifetime in Norseman “KAO”. Then, “KAO” pushing off. Sightseeing passengers get to see Red Lake and area from on high, and definitely get to feel, hear and smell “the wonders” of the Norseman first hand. You get your money’s worth, no doubt about it. Last year there also were Otter and Caravan rides.
Chimo’s Norsemans “JIN” and “KAO” last summer. Even though the festival was on, they still had to do their daily trips, mainly going back and forth among the many local fishing lodges.
Turbine Otters “ODQ” and “RRJ” also were at Chimo last July. They represent the future of bush flying here, especially since the Chimo Norsemans were damaged last year by a furious hailstorm.
“JIN” at the dock. Note “DRD” up behind in Norseman Park. Then, a view from the park overlooking down at the docks.
Lots of other bushplanes call Howey Bay home, including another indigenous Canadian plane – Found FBA-2C1 Bush Hawk “EJM” of Canadian Fly-In Fishing.
Beavers at the famous Viking Outpost base on Howey Bay. Then, Green family Norseman CF-ZMX. Many years earlier Harvey Friesen had started up Bearskin Airlines with “ZMX”. Except for showing up annually at the Norseman Festival, “ZMX” is based at Selkirk (downstream from Winnipeg on the Red River).
Last year I decided on a flight in Chimo’s “Steam Otter” C-GYYS. I blasted off a lot of frames during our 20 minutes with bush pilot Alex Moore. Here are a couple of shots of the great Goldcorp Mine at nearby Balmertown. Still one of the world’s most productive gold mines.
Several other operators call the Red Lake region home. In nearby Cochenour is Faron Buckler’s base from where he operates Otter C-FODJ mainly to support of fishing camps, and bear and moose hunting trips under the Excellent Adventures brand. “ODJ” is powered by a 1000-hp Polish PZL engine. Then, Joe Sinkowski and Faron talking shop.
The pilot’s front office in “ODJ”. The PZL Otter conversion gained a bit of popularity in the early 1990s, Green Airways operating two. Eventually, however, most became turbine Otters.
Amik Outpost’s PZL Otter C-FHXY roars away from its base at Chukuni bridge on Hwy 125 on the way to the airport.
Drive up Red Lake’s Forestry Road to the end and you’ll find the Ministry of Natural Resources main district fire base. The fire threat last July was low, so there was only one helicopter on standby — Heli-Inter’s Bell 205A C-GLHE “Tanker 2” flown by Swiss pilot, Steve Feuz. In the control centre scene, Randy Crampton of the MNR briefs Joe Sinkowski and George Holborn about the day’s fire situation.
There’s always a load of great Norseman Festival fun at Centennial Park, kids “Norseman rides” included. Each of these little carts is done up in the registration and paint job of an actual Norseman. That’s “JIN” first.
Last year there even was a Norseman/Bush Flying/Northern Ontario tattoo contest. Here are a couple of the entrees. Far out, eh!
For the total “history nut” a walking tour of the Red Lake Cemetery is a must. The history of the town and region is here in a unique way. Joe Sinkowski gives a fascinating cemetery tour, relating stories galore of the old days, of so many great names and families from prospecting and mining times, of famous bush pilots and air engineers, local doctors, teachers, shopkeepers, trappers, town drunks, you name it. And it’s a very peaceful hour or two. Here’s the grave marker for World War 1 pilot Frederick Carroll, who found himself in Red Lake after the fighting ended and prospectors were pouring into the region. Looking in Royal Flying Corps and Canadian Expeditionary Force records, Hugh Halliday has found a bit about Carroll. It’s known that he was born in Newbrdge, Curragh, Ireland on August 5, 1891. Pre-war he had been a rancher “out west”, then joined the CEF in Winnipeg in September 1914. He was wounded in action on March 17, 1915, then was gassed on April 26. In October 1917 he joined the RFC and a year later was posted to 8 Squadron to fly the FK.8 2-seater on observation and bombing duties. So far we don’t know what had drawn this keen Irishman to Red Lake or what he did there over the years.
Here’s Whitey’s marker with a Norseman motif. Such other legendary aviators as George Green (Green Airways) and Jake Siegel also lie here.
James Lindokken’s stone features a Cessna T-50 Crane. His father, Oscar, ran a store at Deer Lake north of Red Lake. James died in a 1964 plane crash.
Every visitor needs to drop in to Lamar Weavers’s “Treasure House of Red Lake”, the best spot in town to find a good book, a nice pair of hand-made moccasins, or a Norseman cap or T- shirt. Here I am perusing the aviation book section, where Lamar features Rich Hulina’s wonderful Bush Flying Captured and my Norseman books.
What can one do on a little blog but maybe inspire visitors to look deeper into whichever topic. If you want the best treatment not just about bush flying in Northwest Ontario, but all around Canada, you definitely need a set of Air Transport in Canada. The world’s biggest ever aviation history book (1040 pages, 3000+ photos, 2 volumes, 6 kg, etc.) is on sale at $60.00 off. Regularly $155.00, yours for CDN$95.00 + $16.00 flat rate postage anywhere in Canada + $5.55 tax = $116.55. Do yourself your biggest book favour ever and order up. Having sold about 3500 sets, I’m down to the last 250. ATC will give you decades of enjoyment – there’s nothing like it in aviation literature. Meanwhile, Aviation in Canada: Noorduyn Norseman is still available. Both beautiful big volumes at $115.00 + $16.00 Canada Post + tax $5.65 = $136.65. For Richard’s spectacular book is $50.00 + $14.00 + $3.20 = $67.20. See http://www.canavbooks.wordpress.com for more info about these great Canadian aviation heritage books,
Finishing up this little Red Lake tour, here’s a photo of last year’s Norseman Festival special guests, the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team, doing their thing over Howey Bay. For updates about this year’s festival google Annual Norseman Festival, Red Lake, Ontario http://www.norsemanfestival.on.ca/
Something always pops up at the very last, as did these two old slides. First, a photo taken by my late old pal, the great Les Corness of Edmonton. Passing through Kenora on August 20, 1983, Les visited Kuby’s maintenance and parts base. Among the usual variety of old wrecks that used to fill the yard was Norseman CF-DRD of Wings Aviation. “DRD” sat there for many more long years until rescued by Red Lake in 1991. Here’s another shot I took of it in 1992 at the first Norseman Festival — looking very fine indeed under the spotlights.
Norseman News … Norwegian Project
Our good UK supporter, Trevor Mead, visited Bodo, Norway this spring. In the local Norwegian Aircraft Museum, he came across Norseman LN-PAB, which had begun as US Army 44-70546. It served with US forces in Europe following D-Day. Surplus at war’s end, it went to Norway in 1947 — first with Polar Fly, then with Wideroes. Following an accident in September 1952, “PAB” was stripped of useful parts and abandonned. In 2002 the wreck was recovered by volunteers from the Bodo museum, which gradually has been doing the restoration. So far so good by the looks of Trevor’s photo.
Famed NW Ontario Airline Sold
Published on April 20, 2018, this press release describes a big air transport takeover for Northwest Ontario:
Wasaya Group, its shareholders and Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) have successfully closed the transaction that was first announced on Feb. 1, 2018. Completing this milestone is one of the most significant events in Wasaya’s 29 year history,” said Michael Rodyniuk, president and CEO of Wasaya. “The strength of our combined aviation assets coupled with our capable and motivated people will result in a strong company ensuring Wasaya continues to be a fixture in the communities for years to come.
“The enhanced level of service in Northern Ontario will benefit the people in our ownership communities as well as those in the non-owner communities we serve. Partnering with EIC is a natural fit. They understand aviation, servicing the north, and of utmost importance they have a great history working with First Nations across Canada to provide quality air service to these communities. Partnering with the communities we serve is fundamental to our values,” said Mike Pyle, CEO of EIC. “This transaction allows us to directly partner and engage with our customers. Wasaya’s strong brand and legacy in northern Ontario provides a solid foundation to expand passenger and cargo service into more communities within the region.”
Carmele Peter, president of EIC, stated: “This would not have been possible without the strong working relationship during the establishment of our partnership. This relationship will continue to grow delivering positive results for First Nations People, communities served, travelers, cargo shippers, and our mutual shareholders, all while celebrating and exemplifying success within First Nations’ business.”
Perimeter Dash 8 C-FPPW on arrival at Sioux Lookout on July 19, 2017. Having served frontline commuter airlines since the early 1980s, many Dash 8s have “come home” to serve northern Canada for such carriers as Air Creebec, Air Inuit, First Air, Perimeter and Wasaya.
Having flown to “YQT” Thunder Bay from Toronto on July 19 last year to spend the morning photographing this fascinating airport, it was time to push on. Mid-afternoon I boarded Perimeter’s Dash 8-100 C-FPPW for the 50-minute flight to Sioux Lookout “YXL”. The day remained fine, so it was a pleasant 50-minute trip in 1994-vintage “PPW” (the 390th Dash 8). Formerly N827EX, it served Allegheny Commuter and Piedmont Airlines for many years, before returning to Canada in 2010 for Perimeter of Winnipeg.
Bush pilot, award-winning aviation photographer, and writer/publisher Rich Hulina met me at the terminal. We started by touring around the airport, where there’s lots to see and photograph. Here are a few of my shots taken before we headed to the curling club for burgers and beers.
Since the days of the PA-23 Apache in the 1950s, Piper twins have done monumental work in Canada’s North. Introduced in 1972, the PA-31-350 Chieftain was a 10-seat version (2-foot stretch) of the 1964 8-seat PA-31 Navajo. Visiting YXL on July 19 was 1981 model year Chieftain C-GRWN in the markings of Northern Skies Air Service. “RWN” had come to Canada in 2007 for Sunwest Airlines of Calgary. In 2015 Sunwest posted it for sale by which time the airframe had piled up some 17,000 hours. By 2018 it was listed to Toronto-based FLYGTA Inc. The money-making PA-31 series remains in common use throughout the North.
One of the North’s ubiquitous Pilatus PC-12s taxis out at YXL on July 19. C-FKPA is in the colours of Thunder Bay-based North Star Air. As soon as the PC-12 was introduced to the region c1990, it began taking over from the previous generation of basic backcountry workhorses, especially the Cessna Caravan. About the same size as the Caravan (which North Star also flies), the PC-12 is much faster and is pressurized – a nice feature when on a long run such as Sioux Lookout to Bearskin Lake or maybe all the way over to Moosonee or Timmins.
Another typical daily Sioux Lookout scene shows SkyCare’s Metro II C-GKPX taxiing for takeoff as a Wasaya Beech 1900D arrives. Built in 1978, “KPX” operated throughout the EU until becoming N5470M in the USA in 1997. It came to Canada in 2008. Recently established at YXL with the Chieftain, Merlin and Metro, SkyCare specializes in charters and air ambulance service.
There’s invariably at least one Beaver being serviced at Sioux Lookout. This day, CF-IPL was waiting to be delivered back to base. Beaver No.132, it originally bought in 1951 by Imperial Oil of Toronto. Since 1963 “IPL” has been in the Atikokan area, most recently with Atikokan Aero Service specializing in the summertime sport fishing and wildness trips markets. Across the field you can see the hanger for the locally based Ornge PC-12 air ambulance.
It’s not uncommon on any main northern airfield to find a boneyard of old planes. At YXL the main one sits at the Allen Air hangar. Founded by George Allen offering aircraft maintenance and rebuilding, this is a legendary Sioux Lookout business. Following George’s passing, his son Dave took over the hangar. Dave George’s business has been aircraft maintenance, but also restoring wrecks and cannibalizing others for useful spare parts. This was part of the scene on July 19 with lots of clapped out Cessnas lying around. However, it isn’t beyond the imagination that the odd one might fly again.
Last summer things were not looking promising ay YXL for SkyCare PA-31 C-GJCX. A 1977 model, “JCX” had been in the UK as G-BEZU with such operators as Oxford Air Training School. Later it was G-HVRD doing charter work with Clasair. It flew the North Atlantic to Canada in 2013. There also were 2-3 old Metros lying in the weeds here. The R-44 helicopter in the distance had just refueled and was continuing its ferry trip to Alberta.
Next morning Rich and I were up at sunrise to start a busy day. The plan was to take Rich’s beautiful Cessna 206 Stationair C-GGRU down to Nestor Falls on Lake-of-the-Woods for a day of knocking around the bushplane scene. Here, Rich pumps in gas at his home dock for the return trip of about 200 nm.
A couple of the local Nestor Falls planes on July 20: Beaver C-GEBL of Northwest Flying Service (NorthwestFlying.com), and Piper CF-FEJ head out on local trips. Beaver No.1068 “EBL” is an ex-US Army L-20A that served in military colours 1957-72. It came to Canada in 1975 and since then has always been in NW Ontario. “FEJ” first appeared on the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register in 1973, the co-owners then being in Lively, near Sudbury.
Rich (right) with Northwest Flying Service owner Shane Pope make plans for our visit.
Shane’s outfit is famous for its two lovely Beech 18s C-FHZA and C-FKL. Here, “NKL” is nearest, as “HZA” is pushed off for an early trip to one of the numerous fishing camps out as far as a hundred miles.
“NKL’s” front office. Then, Beech 18 aficionado Shane Pope just as he gets “NKL” neatly into the air for a short camp trip delivering passengers and supplies.
The setting out at camp where one of Shane’s Beeches is always a welcomed sight.
Rich relaxes in “NKL” on the way back to base. In recent summers he’s enjoyed flying a Beech 18 based at Ear Falls.
Back in the 1950s-60s we schoolboy “airplane photo hounds” rarely would let a Beech go by without snapping off a frame. Searching my files lately, I see that I photographed both “HZA” and “NKL” more than 55 years ago. I came across “NKL” at Rivercrest airstrip near Winnipeg on September 5, 1961; and “HZA” at Toronto Malton Airport on March 4, 1962. At the time, Warren Plummer of Sioux Narrows was using “NKL” to support his pioneer sport fishing camps on Great Bear Lake. “HZA” was then with Cascade Drilling of Calgary. Of course, one could write a book about any such Beech 18. The amazing thing is that in 2018 both Beeches will again be in the water at Nestor Falls.
After our Beech 18 fun at Nestor Falls, Rich and I drove up the road a bit to Todd Lougheed maintenance shop — a go-to place for any Beech fan. Today the fellows were doing maintenance on C-GESW, while C-FEHX and C-FTBX were in outdoor storage, their futures uncertain. Once retired by the RCAF c1965, many Beeches (“EHX” included, ex-RCAF 5181) made their way onto the civil aircraft register, then had long, useful careers. Other Beeches came from the US, as did “ESW” in 1999 and “TBX” in 1966. Geoff Goodall’s Beech 18 website is a key source for quick registration look-ups. Also, Robert Parmerter’s landmark 3-kg book Beech 18: A Civil& Military History is “a must have” for any true fan (available at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum). Besides such basic sources, many other blogs and websites feature Canada’s Beech 18s, a fine example being Michael Prophet’s http://www.michaelprophet.com/News_articles/OntarioBushPlanetrail.html
Various other photo-worthy planes were at Todd’s base on July 20, this fine-looking 1947 Aeronca “Champ” CF-TBY included.
From the Beech 18 haven, we drove over to visit Todd’s dock to have a look at his 1964 Found FBA-2C CF-RXJ. Built in Toronto, “RXJ” has spent its career in NW Ontario, where after 50+ years it still does useful work. Here’s how it typically looks at the dock in summer. Then, a view of the interior, little of which has changed other than some instrumentation. Finally, Rich and Todd discussing the Found, which proved to be such a solid northern workhorse over the decades. Rich sometimes flies Glen Tudhope’s FBA-2C C-FSDC from Hudson, near Sioux Lookout and rates it highly as a basic bushplane.
After snooping around some other local docks, we ended at Dave Beauchene’s always-busy Nestor Falls Fly-In Outposts. In former years this was another good spot for Beech 18s, but Dave ultimately converted to turbine Otters. Here are the fellows in Dave’s giftshop, where we found a copy of Rich’s photo of Dave’s two Otters. See Rich’s book Bush Flying Captured for the best current coverage of aviation in NW Ontario!
Three scenes at Dave’s main dock on July 20. First, his Otters at the dock: C-FODK and C-FSOR. C-FODK had begun in 1953 with the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. It served there to 1984, then went to Huron Air of Armstrong for another long career. However, things came to a messy ending when “ODK” had engine trouble on May 26, 1998 and crashed into the bush. Rebuilt, it came to Nestor Falls in 1999, then was converted along with “SOR” in the 2000s to the Garrett 1000-hp TPE-331 turbine. Next, a typical dock scene with an Otter just back from camp with a load of happy American fishermen. Finally, “SOR” heading out on a trip. “SOR” had begun 1958 with the Indian military, where it served in major shooting wars with China and Pakistan. By 1991 (when it was retired) it had logged nearly 6400 flying hours. Coming back to Canada, it was restored in Saskatoon in 1994, then found its way to Nestor Falls.
Our long, enjoyable day finally over on Lake-of-the-Woods, we got back aboard our lovely Cessna and returned to Sioux Lookout, where I had a flight to catch. Thanking Rich for a great day of meeting people and photographing bushplanes, off I went on Bearskin Flight JV319 (Metro C-GJVW) to Red Lake, a pleasant 30-minute hop. The Metro is basic NW Ontario air transportation and it works! Check in again to see “Part III Red Lake” of last summer’s NW Ontario travels.
Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre
Some years ago the Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre was formed in Thunder Bay. The society’s message is just as you might expect — it brings together people of like mind, whether old timers or “the younger set”. Meetings are held at 905 East Victoria Ave., and there’s a regular newsletter. Check out the website http://www.noahc.org (or … email to email@example.com) and get yourself a membership. You don’t need to be a local to belong, so get on the NOAHC bandwagon — you’ll be happy you did!
CANAV Books Spring/Summer 2018 Booklist is out! For the very best in Canadian aviation history reading click right here! Highly recommending The Captain’s Widow, Farm Boy to Fly Boy,The Noorduyn Norseman and The CAE Story! CANAV 2018 Spring_Summer List
Norseman Restoration Fund: Please Support This Important Project
Last July a violent hailstorm hit Howey Bay at Red Lake, severely damaging the town’s iconic Norseman CF-DRD and grounding the two Chimo Air Service Norsemans. Red Lake is setting out to restore CF-DRD. Can you help in this important but expensive aviation heritage cause? Please go to https://www.gofundme.com/Save-DRD?pc=em_db_co2876_v1&rcid=bbcb9c3843a54fd598ade3094e566841 to donate even just a few bucks. Thanks for your contribution! Also … you should google Red Lake Norseman Festival to see what’s shaping up for this July’s festivities. Cheers … Larry.
REMINDER FROM THE PUBLISHER Dear readers … Since 2016 CANAV has been out of stock of its world-famous title, De Havilland in Canada. Having begun in 1983 as The De Havilland Canada Story by Fred Hotson, the book morphed in 1999 into De Havilland in Canada. Should you need a new copy, contact Viking Aircraft in Victoria, BC, or search some of the internet’s many used book sites — abebooks.com, bookfinder.com, ebay, etc. All the best … Larry
Return to Northwestern Ontario 2017 Part I “YQT” Thunder Bay + Norseman + 419 Squadron Updates
Last year’s field trip to Northwestern Ontario proved to be the usual fantastic experience (scroll back to find our in-depth coverage for 2012). 2017 took me back to my first adventure here away back in the summer 1961, when I flew in to the old Fort William Airport on a TCA Viscount. I’ve returned many times. For 2017 I got rolling on July 19 by stepping aboard a spiffy Porter Airlines Q400 at Toronto Billy Bishop Airport — “YTZ”. Smooth, fast and quiet, this is definitely the most enjoyable way to YQT. You start by climbing out over the sprawling GTA. Toronto Bay, the iconic Toronto Islands and the massive city skyline are right there out your window. But the city soon gives way to scenic rural Ontario as you pass Lake Simcoe on the right and head over Georgian Bay and Lake Huron ‘til you’re looking down on Sault St. Marie. Then comes the long, straight leg (pretty well 250 miles) all the way across Lake Superior to your landing at “YQT” Thunder Bay. The whole flight covers about 550 miles from YTZ.
A Guided Tour
As is usual for a bright summer’s day, YQT was busy this morning with all sorts of airplanes in their many colours. First stop was the airport manager’s office to check in for my pre-arranged airside photo tour. YQT went all out, providing a vehicle and a staff member who knew every nook and cranny. Here are a few of my photos. To see a photo full frame, click on it once.
A typical scene on descending via Porter Q400 to land at Thunder Bay on a fine summer’s day. Highlighted in this grab shot out the window is the city’s historic waterfront. Even though by now a shadow of its former self, the old industrial shoreline still has its landmark grain elevators and you also can spot the modern development. At the very top (on the horizon) I barely caught “the Sleeping Giant”.
Thunder Bay International Airport as you’ll find it– an attractive example of functional airport architecture. YQT is at the heart of a vast region sweeping across Northern Ontario from Bearskin Lake 400 miles to the north, and northeasterly 400+ miles to Moosonee. Westward it’s a straight line 370 miles to Winnipeg. From Winnipeg to Moosonee are dozens of small, mostly “air only” communities that look to Thunder Bay and Winnipeg for their daily necessities. The chief east-west carriers between Winnipeg and Toronto are Air Canada, Porter and WestJet. The main local carriers are the ever busy Bearskin, North Star Air, Perimeter, Thunder Airlines and Wasaya. YQT is an impressive operation. For 2017 it handled a record 845,000 passengers and supported about 5000 jobs. As noted by the airport authority in January 2018, “TBIAA receives no government funding for the operation of the airport. Economic activity … is responsible for an estimated $645 million dollars in GDP …” For more YQT info see http://www.thunderbayairport.com.
Porter Q400 C-FLQY at YQT with the Ornge air ambulance base as backdrop. “LQY” was delivered to Porter in April 2010. For 2018 Porter had 29 74-seat Q400s in the fleet and was operating 5/6 daily Lakehead flights. The comfortable and speedy Q400 cruises at 360 knots. In 2018 Porter opened a crew base in Thunder Bay, the first such in Northern Ontario for any major airline. To book your Porter Q400 trip, go to http://www.flyporter.com, right!
One of Westjet’s 78-seat “Encore” Q400s during a YQT turn-around on July 19. Encore’s fleet totals 43 Q400s providing regional service from BC to the East Coast. Porter concentrates on Ontario, but also flies as far east as Newfoundland and to US cities from Chicago to Boston and south into Florida.
One of the most important northern workhorses is the Swearingen/Fairchild Metro III and IV series (and predecessors). The Metro IV (also known as the Metro 23) of the late 1980s is the epitome of Ed Swearingen’s life’s work that began by tinkering with Beech Twin Bonanzas and Queen Airs at his Texas base in the 1960s. His efforts led to the Merlin light corporate twin using PT6 or Garrett turboprops. Further development resulted in the SA226 Metro series, first flown in 1969. In the 12,500-lb, 19-passenger category, the Metro steadily evolved. Of the whole Merlin/Metro series, some 700 planes were delivered until production ceased in 1998. Here’s Bearskin Metro IV C-GYTL at YQT on July 19. See http://www.bearskinairlines.com and Air Transport in Canada Vol.2 for more good Bearskin coverage.
Metro “YTL” has been retrofitted with 5-blade composite propellers. The Metro cruises at around 250 knots. It’s been a good performer on the gravel strips that typify the north. Its 1000-hp Garrett TPE331s are among the most reliable light turboprop engines in aviation history. Of all the 19-seat types over the decades, the Metro has proven itself best to the people of this vast hinterland. Sure, it’s noisy and cramped, but it’s fast, reliable, safe and makes a profit. Bearskin’s sister company, Perimeter Airlines of Winnipeg is another longtime Metro operator. Appearance of the Metro let operators in this region quickly replaced their hodgepodge of old piston-pounders from the Aztec to the DC-3.
Bearskin Metros – C-GAFQ included — undergo scheduled maintenance checks at YQT.
Bearskin/Perimeter’s 2017 route map gives an idea of the vast region served by the Lakehead’s northern air carriers.
(Below) The Confederation College YQT campus. Hundreds of young pilots have graduated from “Confed” over the decades. The 2018 fleet includes 16 Cessnas and three flight simulators.
An important part of the scenery at YQT since 2011 is Pilatus Canada/Levaero, a regional centre for PC-12 sales and service. The history of this operation dates to 1985 when bush pilot and entrepreneur Frank Kelner founded Kelner Airways at Pickle Lake. A visionary, he introduced the Cessna Caravan (first flight 1982) to Northern Ontario c1990. In 1996 his company morphed into native- owned Wasaya Airlines. After modernizing much of northern aviation with the Caravan, Kelner did the same with the PC-12, importing 105 of the Swiss-made planes between 1997-2011, many more since. More recently Kelner brought the PT6-powered Basler DC-3 to Northwestern Ontario under the North Star Air banner. In 2016 he sold his Pilatus interests to his partners, but remained to head the board. In 2017 he sold North Star to the Northwest Co. of Winnipeg for $31M. See the Kelner story in detail in Skies magazine on line January 27, 2012: New Horizons – Skies Mag https://www.skiesmag.com › news › Skies Online (Features)
One of North Star’s Basler DC-3s at YQT on July 19.
When lucky enough to have a guided tour at YQT, any fan with a camera has no trouble keeping busy for a good couple of hours. You’ll always see courier and cargo planes awaiting their next trips. Present on July 19 were First Air ATR-42 C-FIQR and FedEx resident Caravan C-FEXF. With any such planes, there usually is some interesting history. “IQR”, for example, for decades was the registration on one of Canada’s most historic DC-3s, CF-IQR. First in Canada in 1956, “IQR” served such companies as Wheeler Airlines, Nordair and Bradley Air Services. Its flying days finally ended in a 1977 crash. Today’s “IQR” also is registered to Bradley Air Services, parent company of First Air. The ATR-42 broke into the northern market especially due to its standard cargo door. This gave it a jump on the Dash 8-100, which started appearing with such operators as Perimeter in the 2010s, but without a cargo door. Recently, however, cargo doors have been retrofitted to Dash 8s, broadening their usefulness in the north.
Way out in YQT’s “Back 40” sits this old clunker of an ATR-42 that along with HS748 C-GBCY is used in training EMS personnel in emergency scenarios.
Here are a couple of other vintage planes on the YQT tiedowns on July 19: 1966 Cessna 337A C-GAMY and 1959 Cessna 175 C-FLIO.
(Above) There invariably are some interesting transients at YQT. In summer these often bring sportsmen north for some world-class fishing at the region’s famous outpost camps. On July 19 I spotted these beauties. Piper PA-46 M600 Malibu (US$3M basic new price) C-GTNO was at the Shell FBO. Waiting nearby was Citation 560 Citation N535GR (G&R Aviation) on a charter from Louisville.
Another stalwart on the YQT scene for decades is the Mitsubishi MU-2 “Rice Rocket” (first flight 1963). Once the MU-2 started reaching the hand-me- down stage in the 1980s, it found lots of work in northern Canada as a speedy air ambulance, while still doing general duties. MU-2B- 60 C-FFSS of YQT’s Thunder Airlines was sunning itself on the ramp on July 19. Parked in the bone yard around the corner was a superannuated MU-2 that probably still was useful for particular spare parts. As do so many older such planes, C-FFSS has its “history”. In one case (September 27, 1991) it almost met a brick wall. As explained on the Aviation Safety Network, that day it was on a cargo flight from Utica, NY: “During the climb, one of the four propeller blades on the No.2 engine separated from the propeller hub, damaging another propeller blade and the fuselage… The rotational unbalance was accompanied by extreme vibration and resulted in distortion and damage to the engine/cowl assembly and the wing. The upper portion of the engine cowl was deflected upward over the wing at an angle of about 30 degrees, resulting in distortion of airflow, buffeting and degradation of roll control. Due to excessive drag, maximum power was required on the No.1 engine in order to control the rate of descent and land successfully. A metallurgical examination disclosed evidence of fatigue cracking of the propeller hub arm. The NTSB determined the probable cause to be: “Fatigue cracking of the propeller hub… Aircraft repaired and returned to service.” The Rice Rocket is one tough old bird! Like the Metro, it uses the Garrett TPE331.
Also at YQT (on its last legs) on July 19 was Wasaya’s HS748 “801” C-GLTC. Originally delivered to the West German government in 1969, “LTC” came to Canada in 1986. It joined Kelner Airways in 1990, then Wasaya in 1992, where it toiled for 25 years. The end of 801 left Wasaya with just one in these historic planes on the go. The sight of “LTC” reminded me of the time a few years ago when I interested the CEO of First Air in offering a 748 to Canada’s national aviation museum. First Air agreed to fly its most historic 748 into the museum at Rockcliffe and “hand over the keys”, but in its wisdom Ottawa said “No thanks”. Soon there won’t be one 748 left flying in Canada. Will the last one go for pots and pans, or will one of Canada’s more visionary museums smarten up and grab itself a 748?
Also sitting “in the weeds” at YQT was Metro 227DC C- GSOQ, one of the famous Australian Metros vintage 1993. I heard that when Bearskin purchased several of the “Down Under” Metros, they came all the way across the vast Pacific to Thunder Bay on single-pilot ferry trips.
A Wasaya Beech 1900D and Dash 8 sit on the tarmac — but not for long. At this time Wasaya’s fleet was listed as: three 748s, four Dash 8-100s, one Dash 8-300, eight Beech 1900Ds, three Caravans and four PC-12s. The Dash 8-300 was operated for Goldcorp to rotate miners in and out of an isolated gold mine.
All day long commuter planes buzz in and out at YQT. Above is Westwind’s 1994 ATR-42 C-GLTE was on lease to North Star during a busy spell.
As a Beech 1900D, Metro or PC-12 taxis out, something new arrives at YQT from the north. Here’s a nice pair – Dash 8-100s of Wasaya and Perimeter. I flew on the latter (C-FPPW) to Sioux Lookout soon after my whirlwind YQT visit. “PPW” had spent from 1994-2010 in the US as N827EX. Note that Wasaya Dash 8 C-GJSV has the rear cargo door mod. Built in 1987, “JSV” spent is life in Canada starting with Air Ontario then finally joining Wasaya in 2016.
There are some famous names on the street signs around YQT. This one honours the great Orville J. “Porky” Weiben, a legendary Canadian aviation hero. During the war he was a test pilot for Canadian Car and Foundry at Fort William, flying Hurricane fighters and Helldiver dive bombers as they came off the Fort William production line. Weiben’s Superior Airways was the local air carrier through the 1950s-70s. On the other side of the field today is Derek Burney Drive, named in honour of Burney, whose credentials include such highlights as Canada’s ambassador to the USA and president of CAE Inc of Montreal. Naturally, there also is Kelner Drive at YQT.
Have a look next week to see where I travelled after leaving Thunder
Bay on July 19. Cheers … Larry
PS … on March 20, 2018 YQT released its current progress report. Have a look:
Thunder Bay Airport (YQT) volumes hit an all-time high by hosting 844,627 passengers in 2017. Traffic grew by 4.6 per cent over 2016 volumes. Traffic volume growth was supported by a number of positive factors. Additional capacity offered by a number of airlines into northern destinations has contributed new volume.
The early start of the winter charter season also brought new passengers to the airport. Airport volumes also benefitted significantly from the Under 18 World Baseball Championships and the rise of international student enrolment at both Lakehead University and Confederation College.
Volumes are expected to be similar in 2018 according to president and chief executive officer, Ed Schmidtke. “Special events hosted by our community will support airport volumes going forward,” he said. “The Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in September consistently draws 450 delegates. The Victory Cruise ship will see 400 passengers arrange air travel components through Thunder Bay Airport.”
Passenger traffic growth has necessitated terminal building expansion. The secure departure lounge and the Customs Clearance Hall will both be expanded by the fall of this year. Speaking on the expansion, Schmidtke said: “As Thunder Bay continues to grow its reputation as a national and international destination, the airport will invest in facilities that will welcome our visitors and cost effectively support our daily operations.”
Some 2018 Norseman News
The Norseman story is endless. For starters today, here’s a photo of Gord and Eleanor Hughes’ lovely Norseman CF-DTL on Ramsay Lake in Sudbury back in the early 90s
Bruce Roberts in Georgia has been doing some very serious Norseman archaeology. While hiking one day, he discovered a Norseman wreck on a Georgia mountain top. Here’s Bruce’s story. Add this to what you already know from our 2-volume Norseman history and all the follow-on material that’s arisen since on our blog. Here’s Bruce’s story:
“Hi, Larry … I came across your website while researching Noorduyn Norsemans, after finding an old crash site on a mountainside near our home in north Georgia. Thought you might be interested in seeing some of the photos. To date I have been unable to find any record of the crash, after checking online Norseman records as well as US civilian and military records. Local inquiries haven’t uncovered anything yet either.
“The site is at approximately 3760 feet in a wilderness area just south of the North Carolina state line, near Hiawassee, Georgia. We are wondering if perhaps the crash occurred on the way to or from the Augusta, Georgia location of the Reconstruction Finance Corp., which handled surplus US Army UC-64 Norsemans. But that’s just conjecture.
“We also think the aircraft may have been salvaged, since a number of large components are missing. Including the engine, engine mount, firewall, landing gear and wheels, wing struts, instrument panel, control stick, one wing, etc. Although, I don’t know how these large parts could have been salvaged, since it is very difficult to even hike to the site today, and the old 1930s logging roads never reached such steep parts of the mountains.
“I have made 3 climbs to the site so far, including my initial discovery (when I thought the fuselage was part of some old communications tower or similar) This link goes to an index page, and clicking on the pages in numerical order will take you through the exploration chronologically.” See all the details at: http://www.be-roberts.com/se/snant/nors-index.htm
419 Squadron Update: George Sweanor a.k.a. “Ye Olde Scribe” Shares Some History and Philosophy
PS … I’d like to direct you to George Sweanor’s blog. A WWII bomber navigator with 419 Sqn, George flew several operations before his crew was shot down in their Wellington. He then spent some 800 days as a POW. In February 2018 George was visited by several pilots from today’s 419 Sqn stationed at Cold Lake. If you refer to your CANAV Books library shelf, you can find some bits of George’s RCAF history in Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924-1984, and Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations Overseas. George runs an erudite and always informative blog at www.yeoldescribe.com This is the recent news item about 419 Sqn “then and now”:
98-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force veteran gets surprise visit. (Posted on ; NORAD Press Release)
A 98-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Second World War veteran and former Prisoner of War now living in Colorado Springs, Colo., received a surprise visit Feb. 23, 2018.
George Sweanor, a retired RCAF Squadron Leader, was met by members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron at the Colorado Springs Airport following the unit’s training mission in El Centro, Calif.
Sweanor was one of the founding members of the squadron that stood up in 1941 in the United Kingdom as the third RCAF bomber squadron overseas.
Members of 419 Squadron talked with and listened to Sweanor for more than an hour as he reminisced about his time with the squadron and his experiences during the Second World War.
“It was an honour for us to meet such a distinguished veteran and founding member of 419 Squadron,” said Maj Ryan Kastrukoff, deputy commanding officer of the unit.
During the war, Sweanor served with the RCAF in the United Kingdom with 419 Squadron. In 1942, he was shot down and captured after multiple flights over enemy territory, spending 800 days as a Prisoner of War.
Sweanor was also involved in a daring escape from Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp in Zagan, Poland, in 1944 and acted as a security lookout during the excavation of the escape tunnel dubbed “Harry.” This event was immortalized in the 1963 film, “The Great Escape.”
Following the war, Sweanor remained with the RCAF. Also of note, he was one member of a group that opened Cheyenne Mountain, former home to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
His last assignment was in Colorado Springs, where he retired and began teaching at Mitchell High School. He is also a founding member of 971 Royal Canadian Air Force Association Wing in Colorado Springs and regularly attends events as a special guest, along with members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving at NORAD.
As part of the visit, Squadron members presented him with a book commemorating the 75th anniversary of the squadron, a current squadron patch and a squadron patch with his name stitched into it.
Sweanor has written one book and continues to write his own blog.
The current 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron was formerly known from 1941 to 1945 as No. 419 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force.
Good day to all CANAV fans and readers! You’ll want to take a good look at CANAV’s new booklist. This season has several outstanding new titles from detailed histories of Found Brothers Aviation to Okanagan Helicopters, the Norwegian air training plan in Canada during WWII, and RCAF Station Bagotville through the decades. Besides such top books, we’re also offering Rich Hulina’s magnificent new Vol.2 of Bush Flying Captured. Talk about a magnificent book! Also, check out the CANAV deals, everything from Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace Vols.1-3 at 1/2 price, Air Transport in Canada at $60 off and The Canadair Sabre at $10 off (not to forget about CANAV’s free book” offer on p.4). So … here you go. You won’t go wrong by jumping in to enrich your aviation library today!
Those dedicated to the warbird scene are an inveterate bunch. Even though hardly any original WWI aircraft survived the 1920s, all over the world dedicated and amazingly skilled replica builders and pilots have put hundreds of full scale and scaled-down versions into the air of such classic types as the Nieuport, SE.5, Sopwith Pup and Fokker Triplane. Then, ever since war’s end in 1945, countless WWII warbirds have returned to the skies. That movement seems to grow annually, to the extent that in 2017 there are now more airworthy Hurricanes, Mustangs, Spitfires, etc. than ever. The Korean War era is represented by MiG-15s and Sabres, Southeast Asia by anything from the Cessna O-2 to the thundering F-4, on and on.
Canada has kept up with its own flying warbirds. In one case, around 1950 several Lysanders were crop dusting in the prairies (the company had the niftiest motto — “Weed ’em and Reap”), and all through the 1950s Spartan Air Services of Ottawa kept such types as the Mosquito and Ventura busy in the aerial survey business. In the 1960s, a P-40 and Vampire flew privately in Alberta, and there were ex-RCAF Harvards (some bought from the government for a few hundred dollars) flying all across the country. Also from the 1960s, fleets of A-26s, Avengers, B-25s and Martin Mars (even one Lancaster) were busy annually in the west dousing forest fires. As these gradually retired, you could count on them joining the hobby and museum sides of the warbirds movement. Such organizations as the Canadian Warplane Heritage and the Great War Flying Museum have performed miracles in keeping airworthy warbirds and replicas in the public eye.
In the 1960s Canadair at Montreal/Cartierville turned out hundreds of CF-104 and F-104G Starfighters. These served numerous air forces, the RCAF receiving about 200. Dubbed the “Missile with a Man in It”, the Starfighter proved to be a marvellous and versatile design (see such books as Starfighter: A Loving Retrospective of the CF-104 Era in Canadian Aviation 1961-1986 (the original such book, Bashow), Canadian Starfighter: The CF-104 and CF-104D in Canadian Service 1961-1986 (Martin, the newest), Canadian Profile CF-104 Starfighter (McIntyre), Starfighter CF-104 (Stachiw & Tattersall) and Canadair: The First 50 Years (Pickler & Milberry). If you have the least interest in CF-104 history, you can find most of these for sale on line using a Google search).
Many Canadair-built F-104s/CF-104s survive in museums all over the world, and at least four are known to have been restored to airworthiness, including ex-RCAF 12637. Having served Canada from 1962-72, it transferred to the Royal Norwegian Air Force, where it flew into 1983. After years in storage, it was acquired by a group of CF-104 supporters who set out to make it airworthy again. If you go here http://vintageaviationecho.com /starfighter-test-flight/ you can see the full story leading to “637” flying again last year. This is well worth a good look. Meanwhile, enjoy a few miscellaneous CF-104 photos right here:
Starfighter Gallery Here are a few CF-104 photos from my own archive, just typical photos of the millions taken over the decades by those fascinated by this classic “Fighter of the Fifties”. Enjoy these 1-0-4 pix taken in the 1960s-80 by Les Corness and me:
Who has ever seen a “snakier” looking jet fighter than Lockheed’s F-104? The first that I got up close to was 12700, which was in Toronto for the 1965 Canadian National Exhibition. Here it is at Malton airport near Toronto, about to be trucked down to the CNE. “700” had begun as USAF F-104A 56-0770. After working in the development program at Edwards and Eglin AFBs, it was stored until c.1959, when it became the prototype F-104G — the version aimed at NATO and other allies. In 1963 it became Canada’s first 1-0-4, then served with Central Experimental and Proving Establishment at RCAF stations Cold Lake (Alberta) and Uplands (Ottawa). In 1969 it was turned over to Canada’s national aeronautical collection in Ottawa, where you may see it today. Naturally, for Toronto’s few airplane spotters, getting ramp access at Malton on August 14, 1965 to photograph “700” was a very big deal.
In June 1967 I travelled to Ottawa with my airplane spotting pals Paul Regan and Nick Wolochatiuk. As usual, we travelled in Nick’s well-travelled VW, The big draw was Canada’s Centennial Airshow at Rockcliffe, then still an RCAF station. Having attended the show on Saturday, we used some connection to get on the tarmac at Uplands where several CF-104s were beautifully lined up. Here is 12783 as it looked that Sunday morning (June 11). This bird today is with the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum at Halifax International Airport.
CF-104s, CF-5s and CF-101s on the ramp at Uplands the same day. By this time I had learned (mainly from Mo Reddy and Nick Wolochatiuk) that there was more than one was to photograph airplanes.
I was on the road again on the weekend of September 1-2, 1971. Most of the aircraft for that year’s CNE Airshow were flying from Trenton, so that was the big draw. A few CF-104s were present, one of which (104772) had some sort of emergency on returning to base. Here it sits mid-field as the base fire fighters stand ready. On April 18, 1973 this 417 Sqn Starfighter crashed on the range at Cold Lake, killing Capt J.K. Salter.
On our August 31, 1975 swan to Trenton to photograph CNE Airshow planes, I snapped this angle on CF-104 104790 (Nick was a proponent of using relevant foreground in photo composition, something that gradually rubbed off on his buddies). This also was the first we had even gotten close to the F-15, and the Thunderbirds with their T-38s were very exciting as they returned from their Toronto performance. After some years as an air force ground training aid, “790” found its way to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton. On 104711 note that small appendage near the exhaust. Maybe a radar warning device? Anyone know? “711” survives today in a Turkish museum.
The great Edmontonian, Les Corness, took these three photos. I tell his story in The Leslie Corness Propliner Collection, a wonderful book which (after 12 years) Edmonton has not yet discovered and seems determined never to do so. No one did more to record Edmonton’s aviation and rail heritage than did Les, his father and his brothers Dennis and Norm. It’s just a shame how such things go, but there sometimes simply no dragging people into the light. I really enjoy this candid shot of Les’ showing Starfighters leaping into the air at Moose Jaw on June 29, 1968 as four local airshow rubes watch in amazement.
Having begun photographing in the late 1930s, Les always had his connections around Edmonton’s airports. By some good fortune, on June 24, 1963 he was at RCAF Station Namao a bit north of the city. I wonder what was going on? Maybe these new CF-104s were being tweaked up before delivery to 6 ST/R OTU at Cold Lake or to 1 Canadian Air Group in NATO? Nearest is 12755, which spent its career with 1CAG, before transferring to the Royal Norwegian Air Force in 1973, where it flew for a decade. Today, it’s on display at Kjeller Air Base.
Not an every day sight … an amazing mass fly-by with a dozen 1-0-4s in nice close formation. Les captured this rare scene at Cold Lake on July 3, 1977. Any old-time 1-0-4 man will hear that unique whine of J-79s and smell the JP4!
Abbotsford Airshow action … Starfighters on the ramp there on August 13, 1976. A shot like this could be made if a fellow could get up on a refuelling truck, into the cockpit of a C-5A, onto a hangar roof, etc. We always took any such opportunity. Nearest is “750”, which ended its days ingloriously as a ground training aid with 1CAG.
Starfighter 104652 served the Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment at Cold Lake for years, before being shipped to Toronto, where it’s now memorabilia at Canadian Forces College.
A typical scene at Baden-Soellingen showing a 441 Sqn CF-104 being readied for a mission. Beyond is a standard NATO “HAS” — hardened aircraft shelter”. These would protect against most conventional weapons, but everyone in 1CAG knew that if ‘the balloon” ever went up, every such NATO base would be nuked within the first hour or two of WWIII. Mutual assured destruction was the secret to keeping that from happening, and it worked. Such “assurance” is not so readily available in 2017.
CF-104s ready for action at Lahr on July 7, 1982.
Aircraft “743” at Baden-Soellingen on April 17, 1978. Note the 441 Sqn “Checker Board” emblem on the rudder. In 1986 “743” became one of 54 Starfighters transferred to Turkey. Today, it’s on display at a trade school in Jordan.
Starfighter RT-664, seen at Baden-Soellingen on April 17, 1978, was Canadian to 1972, then Danish to 1984. It went for scrap in 2012. When on any such base it was always great fun when a visitor like this one dropped by.
A pair of Dutch F-104Gs at Baden also on April 17, 1978. There might have been a mini-NATO air conference going on, but maybe these fellows just dropped by for lunch.
For Canadair’s anniversary celebrations at Dorval on June 10, 1994 this lovely CF-104 2-seater was on the ramp. You’ll see it if you visit the wonderful museum at RCAF Trenton.
To finish this little gallery, here’s another of the countless photos of Canada’s CF-104s. “787” and “790” are seen taxing in at Trenton on August 31, 1975. The first went to Turkey in 1986 (it crashed there on January 24, 1990), the second ended as scrap. Keep reading up on the great deeds and aircraft of the RCAF. Two of your best possible books to get you well informed are CANAV’s own Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924-1984 and Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace (3 huge volumes). They’re both on sale in your new CANAV list.
A real highlight of the plant tour for CAE Family Day 2017 was getting a close look (even a visit to the flight deck) of one of the world’s most advanced flight simulators. Here are a couple of scenes from this year’s Family Day, held on September 23. Nearest is a “sim” (full flight simulator — FFS) for the new CSeries jetliner – it’s almost ready for delivery. Then, a display explaining “Methods” – how parts get machined, completed, inspected, delivered down the line for assembly, etc.
Each year CAE throws its doors wide open, inviting in its huge extended family for “Family Day”. This is a truly wonderful event. This year alone, some 10,000 attended, all welcomed to tour through almost every nook and cranny in CAE’s vast facility on the edge of Dorval airport. Moms, dads, children, grandparents, retirees and friends all enjoyed every minute from early morning to late afternoon. Entering at the front door, the crowds were guided towards the shop floor, “where it all begins” – the process of manufacturing a flight simulator. The tour kicked off at the “raw materials” start line. Nothing here looks anything like a flight simulator. It’s just piles of materiel and all sorts of machines and processes going on. For Family Day actual production was shut down, but at each work station were volunteers to explain or demonstrate what goes on – milling or plating a part, cutting or assembling sheet metal, installing wiring, etc. There were line-ups all along the way and great fun for the little ones — clown acts, acrobats, etc. As the crowd moved along, people could see how an actual flight simulator takes shape.
A display of flight simulator motion system hydraulic components. Since CAE’s first motion system-equipped flight simulators in the 1960s-70s (early DC-8, 747, etc.), “sims” were powered by heavy-duty hydraulic systems. Periodically, there was talk of using electric power, but no such system could handle the heavy installations and punishing cycles. In the 1990s, however, R&D led to lighter installations and improved electrical power systems. These have been perfected and now are universally used. However, CAE continues supporting older hydraulically-powered “sims”, many of which remain in use around the world. See Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story for the history of how technology has evolved at CAE over the last 70 years. Then, a view showing CAE family members checking out an electronics equipment display.
All of a sudden, this “aviator” from some other planet dropped from the sky to stir things up among the families.
This station demonstrated the key phase whereby a new flight simulator gets “wired up”. Miles of electrical wiring are needed to bring a big FFS up to operating standards.
As I walked through CAE’s main plant, the nose of a Beech 350 King Air (formerly C-FRLD of Carson Air) caught my eye. Sitting there, it looked like scrap metal. Before long, however, C-FRLD will be re-manufactured as an “all new” flight training device. In an earlier such case, CAE converted a MiG-29 jet fighter ready for scrap into a new MiG-29 flight simulator for the Malaysian Air Force. Using a discarded airframe is a practical solution vs paying for an expensive new factory-made airframe, or building up a new facsimile structure in the CAE shops. While the typical new CAE FFS, does start with an all-new cockpit frame manufactured in the sheet metal department, for “one off” devices such as the King Air, renovating a discarded airframe makes a lot of sense, especially to the customer.
Here’s another example of the same practical solution. On the right is a well-worn actual Airbus A320 throttle quadrant. The A320 FFS cockpit certainly needs one of these, but a new one is cost-prohibitive. On the left is how the restored component looks.
Airbus EC135 helicopter flight simulators near completion on the shop floor at CAE.
The cockpit structure of a new airliner FFS takes shape in CAE’s sheet metal department.
Super-thin, super-reflective Mylar is essential to any CAE FFS visual system. Notice in this Family Day display how magnificently the ceiling is reflected in the Mylar. In early days, CAE depended on outside suppliers for FFS visual system. Through years of R&D, however, CAE attained world-class status manufacturing its own visual systems.
Finally, at the top end of the vast manufacturing facility, several complete full slight simulators were sitting ready for customer acceptance.
Pilots soon will be training on the CSeries FFS. Then, a CAE MD-11 FFS manufactured ages ago in 1992 for the UPS fleet. Presently, it is back for complete modernization. Just for fun, for Family Day it was programmed to “dance” to some popular tunes. Originally with a hydraulically powered motion system, this FFS has been retrofitted with electric power.
Moving from the production bays, families passed through a hall of CAE history with displays and activities to interest anyone. I was fascinated to see some early products about which I had only heard, while researching the history of CAE a few years ago. Included were priceless artifacts from CAE’s “Consumer Products” department of the early 1950s – Dumont/CAE television sets, high end sound systems of the day including a rare radios/record player combo, a portable radio, even one of CAE’s battery-powered portable scintillometers, used by prospectors searching for minerals.
“Ancient history” – a beautifully-crafted 1950-vintage home entertainment system – the CAE “Sonoramic Mark II” radio-record player combination. While watching one little guy scrutinizing this equipment, I saw him look down at the turntable and happily conclude, “Oh, it’s a CD player.” Then, a close-up showing the tuning panel. Third, attached to the unit’s back is its authenticating data plate. Too bad that I didn’t have these photos for The CAE Story, but it’s fun to be able to add them now as blog images.
In Montreal in the early 1950s,CAE was assembling DuMont TV sets (from that New York company’s high-end line). CAE initially sold lots of these, but in the long run could not compete with such big producers as RCA, or such entrenched retailers as Eatons. Next … a 1950s CAE “Lodestar” portable radio and one of CAE’s portable scintillometers used in the search for metals. See The CAE Story for more about CAE’s consumer products years.
Family Day along the CAE “Museum” corridor with beautiful 1950s CAE/Dumont TV sets in the background. Then, Larry Milberry autographing a copy of The CAE Story. Finally, CAE retirees Richard Valiquette and Hani Macramalla (a long-serving CAE Electronics Ltd. executive), Larry again, plus Robert, an officer with 785 Air Cadet Squadron visiting from St-Eustache, Quebec. (CAE & Andrea Marcoux photos)
From the history displays came more kids activities and, downstairs, where there were outstanding displays of aerospace training equipment, and demonstrations of CAE Healthcare’s latest medical training aids. CAE Family Day 2017 was a real summer highlight for anyone lucky enough to be there.
Much advanced pilot and technical training now can be done using programs loaded into laptops. CAE has been on the leading edge of this type of training.
One of the human-like training aids marketed by CAE Healthcare.
Being CAE’s 70 th anniversary, there’s a big emphasis on company heritage. One important recent event was naming a street (with appropriate plaque) not far from the plant to honour CAE founder, Kenneth R. Patrick. In this photo taken at the naming are (on the left) CAE V-P Communications, Hélène Gagnon, City of St-Laurent Mayor DeSousa and CAE President Marc Parent. Far right is Ken Patrick’s grandson, Glenn. Then, a 2017 Family Day CAE volunteer shows off the Ken Patrick street sign.
Anyone with a connection to CAE will want a copy of Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story. To get you copy autographed by the author send $80.85 to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto ON M4E3B6; or send that amount by PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details about the book (and to order a copy on line) check out the rest of http://www.canavbooks.wordpress.com right here. There lots more CAE history and info if you scroll back (all the way to 2015, if you have the time).
Bush HawkRick Found’s detailed history of Canada’s famous Found Brothers Aviation. Having written the original history of FBA (see Air Transport in Canada) I can highly recommend this fine new book. Bush Hawk covers everything from the early Found years to the late 1940s FBA-1 “Green Hornet”, then on to the FBA-2C bushplane. Production ensues in 1963, but there are steady company’s woes. Sales are difficult and there is head-butting in the marketplace with Cessna, Piper, etc. FBA is forced to close its doors, then comes a failed effort under new management with the FBA Centennial 100. FBA is revived again in the 1980s, produces the outstanding Bush Hawk, morphs into the Expedition company, then fades again in the 2000s. This is an important Canadian story, on a parallel with the Fleet 50, Fairchild Husky, Avian 180, ST-27, etc. Highly recommended for anyone seriously following Canada’s great aviation heritage. 199pp, softcover, photos. $27.50 A
During my travels this summer in Northwestern Ontario I came across three of the original 1963-64 FBA-2s, including C-FRXJ near Nestor Falls. These rugged old work horses barely hiccup decade after decade, clear proof that the Founds designed a good one starting back in the 1940s. On the same trip I spotted 1990s Bush Hawk C-FEJM at Red Lake. Cheers … Larry
Exile Air: World War II’s Little Norway in Toronto and Muskoka Andrea Baston has spent years working on this epic WWII story. To begin, she provides detailed background ref. the 1940 Nazis invasion of Norway, and how Norway and the UK struggled to stave off disaster. Coverage of the air war includes RNoAF 1920s Fokkers and RAF biplane Gladiators putting up strenuous opposition.
Norway is overwhelmed, but the government, treasury and many citizens make it to the UK. By June 1940 arrangements are made to establish a Norwegian air training plan in Canada. “Little Norway” is established at Toronto Island Airport, with almost a hundred aircraft initially assigned, Curtiss P-36 fighters included. Training officially begins in November. All the details are here, including the expected growing pains and how Little Norway dovetailed with the BCATP. Besides all the training, contracts, administration, housing, sports, social life in Toronto and — sad to say — accidents all are part of this outstanding book. Little Norway adds a base in Muskoka to the north, where pilots train on the Fairchild Cornell. Eventually, the Norwegian graduates man RAF squadrons flying Spitfires, Catalinas, etc. All this also is carefully covered in detail.
Many personal profiles (based on in-depth research and interviews) are interwoven and everything is carefully covered to war’s end, the aftermath included, e.g., important events such as unveiling the commemorative monuments in Toronto and Muskoka. This nicely-produced, 240-page softcover is one of the most important Canadian aviation stories in recent years. Many photos, essential maps, notes, bibliography, index. An all-around beauty of an aviation book. $30.00 + $12.00 Canada Post + $2.10 tax = $ 44.10 (Canada). USA and overseas CDN$52.00.
Bagotville: 75 Years of Air DefenceHere’s the info about Canada’s aviation blockbuster book for 2017. It’s a heavy duty effort – 512 pages, hardcover, some 1600 photos, 30 paintings and colour profiles – on and on, so no one will be disappointed in this wonderful production. Marc-André has done his usual in-depth coverage, assembling the exciting history of one of the great RCAF air stations, while blending both languages in his attractive/seamless layout. The book begins with WWII, with Bagotville training fighter pilots on the Harvard and Hurricane. Many famous aces pass through on instructing tours, many students go on to stellar careers. Next, comes the postwar era with Vampires, Sabres and CF-100s – all the historic squadrons, especially the all-weather CF-100 units – 440 and 432 form with CF-100 Mk.3s in 1953-54. Then come steady developments – 440 goes overseas, 413 forms up, the CF-100 Mk.4 and 5 arrive, there’s a steady stream of NORAD exercises, etc.
The CF-100 gives way to the CF-101 Voodoo era (410 and 425 sqns), then the tactical world arrives with the CF-5 and the renowned 433 Squadron. Finally come he CF-18 Hornet years with 425 Sqn. The evolution of Base Flight/439 Sqn is also covered – from T-33 to Griffon helio. Many other aspects of life at “YBG” are included in this huge colour production, from DEW Line helicopter times to Air Cadets and airshows. So don’t think that this overview begins to cover all the exciting content – the photo presentations alone will knock you out!
All things considered, Marc-André’s book is a bargain at the sticker price of $60.00. Add $12.00 for postage (Canada only) + tax $3.60 … Total in Canada $75.60
How to order? Let me know which of these lovely books you wish. Pay the sticker price, add (Canada only) $12.00 for one book, or $16.00 for two or more (USA and overseas send me an email to get a shipping price). You can use PayPal (pay to email@example.com), or post a cheque to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto ON M4E3B6.
Norseman Updates: New Pix of CF-GLI
Recently, Jim Campbell of Winnipeg submitted these two lovely photos of Norseman CF-GLI, which he took at Snow Lake, Manitoba in 2008. In 2017 “GLI” is a restoration project in the Netherlands:
Other Norseman News
This summer brought some newsworthy Norseman activity. For one thing, in July I attended the Norseman Festival in Red Lake. This year’s event was just the best fun, pretty well the whole town and lots of visitors turning out around Howey Bay to watch the usual floatplane activity, line up for flights in the Norseman, Otter and Caravan, and enjoy the practices and shows by the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team, and the bushplane fly-past. There also were wonderful dinners at the Legion, a great ribs BBQ in the park, and fun and games in Centennial Park. Just a super weekend. Here are a few photos:
Two new “takes”on Red Lake’s famous “Town Norseman” CF-DRD.
Red Lake’s work-a-day Chimo Air Norsemans CF-JIN and CF-KAO at the dock at Howey Bay. Then, a closer view of JIN and one of KAO offloading passengers after a sightseeing ride.
Chimo Air has been expanding. Added to the fleet recently is turbine-powered Otter C-FODG.
The Green family’s own Norseman CF-ZMX was one of the first bushplanes operated by Bearskin Airways. From humble beginnings, Bearskin today is one of the major airlines operating between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, and many points north.
This important part of Northern Ontario is founded on gold mining, a story that dates to the Red Lake Gold Rush of 1925-26. It was the bushplane that opened up the area and allowed the whole Red Lake economy to develop. Here’s an aerial view in July of one of the great mines at Cochenour, a few minutes’ drive from Red Lake.
An aerial view of Red Lake taken this July of the head of Howey Bay, where the main bushplane docks are found.
The CHAT Harvards arriving at Red Lake for the 2017 Norseman Festival. Then, views of the team performing over Howey Bay.
This year’s Norseman Festival even included a Norseman tattoo competition!
Norseman author Larry Milberry visits Lemar Weaver’s excellent shop “Treasure House of Red Lake”. Lemar supports CANAV’s “Aviation in Canada” series, as well as Rich Hulina’s fantastic book Bush Flying Captured.
Sad to say, but just a couple of weeks after the Norseman Festival, a severe hail storm struck around Howey Bay. All four Norsemans were badly damaged. Retired Red Lake bush pilot, Joe Sinkowski, sent me this detail showing the serious damage to CF-DRD. Repairs are going to be costly and lengthy.
In case you still don’t yet have your 2-volume set of Norseman books, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you the info you need to place your order. This is one Canadian aviation history that you’ll happy to add to your library. It will give you decades of enjoyment.
Montreal Aviation Museum Acquires Norseman CF-GYY
Other very big Norseman news this summer comes from Robert St-Pierre, director of the absolutely amazing Montreal Aviation Museum: “Last Friday [September 1] with a little delay, our Norseman was finally delivered to us … All the parts are now stored in the 40’ trailer, the fuselage will be transferred inside in the west wing. Find in attachment a few pictures of the day and one showing it in its operational days in Ontario. Thank you to all the volunteers that were able to come in help for this very special day.”
This was a huge achievement in 2017 Norseman heritage. The plane is CF-GYY, which had been rusting away for years in Kuby’s airplane maintenance base and scrapyard in Kenora.
CF-GYY originally was a 1945 US Army UC-64. Delivered late in the war, it saw little service before being disposed of to a buyer in Michigan. In 1950 it joined Vancouver-based Queen Charlotte Airlines, then served various Northern Ontario operators from 1953. It ended in Kuby’s yard following a 1985 accident.
The MAM plans to restored CF-GYY to the specifications of the 1935 Norseman prototype CF-AYO.
Here are four photos from Robert St-Pierre showing the Norseman arriving at Ste-Anne de Bellevue, located a few miles west of Montreal. I like that great shot of the MAM volunteers doing the heavy lifting that day. The final shot (from the late Mike Ody’s collection) shows CF-GYY during its working days.