Category Archives: Uncategorized

Last Lockheed JetStar Retires

In December 2019 the last flying Lockheed L-1329 JetStar retired to the Marietta Aviation History and Technology Center near Atlanta. The story recently was told by Marc Cook on the web at “Aviation News” (google “Last JetStar Retires”). The JetStar would have a prominent history in Canada as the country’s first corporate jet, and the first civil jet operated by the federal government. At a peak in the mid-1980s there were eight Canadian JetStars: C-FDTF, C-FDTX, C-FETN (Transport Canada), C-FRBC (Royal Bank of Canada), C- GATU (Cathton Holdings), C-GAZU (Allarco Group) and C- GTCP (Trans Canada Pipelines)

First flown on September 4, 1957, the legendary JetStar was designed for a USAF requirement for a small jet transport. When the USAF abandoned these specs, Lockheed pushed ahead to develop what became the first large jet for the corporate market. Lockheed was out on a limb with this exotic and expensive pioneer project, but pushed on to manufacture some 204 aircraft.

Flight and chase crew for the Jetstar’s first flight (s/n 1001 N329J). Note that the prototype had two engines vs four for production aircraft: Robert Schumacher co-pilot, Ernest L. Joiner flight test engineer, Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson head of design team, Jim Wood USAF test pilot, Ray Jewett Goudey pilot, Tony LeVier, Lockheed chase plane pilot. (Lockheed Martin archives)

The JetStar prototype flew first with a pair of British-made Orpheus engines, but Lockheed quickly shifted to using four smaller Pratt & Whitney JT12s, the design of which Canadian Pratt & Whitney had the lead role (see Power: The Pratt & Whitney Canada Story). All the details of the Jetstar are available at Wiki and innumerable other internet sources, and in many valuable books, including Walter J. Boyne’s seminal Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story. Boyne concludes that Howard Hughes likely was the only one to make a profit from the project. Hughes had bought several production line slots when the plane was low-priced. Then, one by one he re-sold his JetStars at higher prices.

Canada’s first privately-owned JetStar was purchased by Toronto’s Eaton family of department store fame. Registered CF-ETN, it replaced the family’s renowned “Super DC-3” CF-ETE (search here to see the CF-ETE story in an earlier blog item). Seeing “ETN” at Malton airport in such early times was exciting for we local spotters. This was at a time when the speediest prop-driven corporate planes at Malton were J.F. Crother’s Gulfstream CF-JFC, Massey Ferguson’s Howard Super Ventura CF-MFL and Canadian Comstock’s OnMark Marksman A-26, CF-CCR. I first listed “ETN” in my spotter’s notebook at Malton on May 13, 1962, only noting that its paint job was similar to that on “ETE”.

The late, great Toronto aviation photographer, Al Martin, captured this fine view of “ETN” soon after its delivery to Malton. You can see that Lockheed built a glorious-looking airplane. I later used this excellent photo on p.480 of Air Transport in Canada.

DOT JetStar CF-DTX in a shot I took at Ottawa Uplands in the 1960s. Then, two snapshots of it by Al Martin at Windsor, Ontario in 1967. This classy DOT colour scheme of the 1950s-60s was fleet-wide from Apache to Beech 18, DC-3 and JetStar. Today, “DTX” belongs to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. There’s an ezToys 1:200 diecast model of “DTX” in its later red-and-white colour scheme.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Department of Transport was modernizing. With the growing amount of jet traffic in and over Canada (707, DC-8, etc.) the DOT was planning for a new world of air traffic control. Its aged Beech 18s and DC-3s could not serve indefinitely, as ATC technology evolved. Faster aircraft were needed to perform airport equipment (ILS, radio, etc.) calibration. Heading DOT flight operations in Ottawa was the great John D. “Jack” Hunter. He knew about the JetStar, was dreaming about one, but there was no budget. This obliged Jack (so he told me in a long ago interview) to get creative. The DOT just then was building a large hangar in Ottawa to house its fleet, including a new Viscount VIP plane. As the story went, Jack used some aspect from his hangar budget to pay for a JetStar – in the official paperwork, the JetStar appeared as something like an extra hangar door. Whatever happened, one day not long afterwards in 1962 JetStar CF-DTX landed in Ottawa wearing its handsome DOT colours. “DTX” was JetStar s/n 5018, “ETN” was s/n 5021, but I don’t know which was delivered first.

The DOT’s Jack Hunter accepts “the keys” to his shiny new JetStar CF-DTX at the Lockheed factory near Atlanta. If anyone can help with names for the other DOT men in this photo, please get in touch at Then, a PR photo showing Canada’s Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, with US President, Lyndon B. Johnson, aboard “DTX” on a VIP trip (see caption at bottom). VIP duties seem to have been the raison d’être for “DTX”, although airways inspection and instrumentation calibration missions also were flown. (CANAV Books Collection)


Over the decades I photographed several JetStars. These below give you a sampling. Fishing around on the web, I have found little individual history for these aircraft.

After CF-ETN and CF-DTX, the next JetStar I photographed was N1 (s/n 1) of the Federal Aviation Administration. On this occasion, I was on a driving tour with fellow hobbyist, Nick Wolochatiuk. On July 3, 1966 we found N1 in the FAA hangar at Washington National Airport. Another classy paint scheme from a bygone era, right. “N1” appeared on a long series of FAA aircraft starting on a D.H.4 c1927; but it flew the longest on this JetStar (1963-86). N1 had been Lockheed’s No.1 production JetStar, the first with JT12s. With the FAA it mainly was in the transportation role. As late as 1978 it still was busy, logging 457 flying hours that year. In its March 1979 edition, “Flying Magazine” describes the FAA fleet in Washington, “Of the eight aircraft that currently call Hangar Six home, an ancient JetStar presides as queen bee over an orange and white hive housing a Gulfstream 1, Citation II, King Air 200, two Cessna 421s, Baron B55 and a Bell 206L helicopter.” Having by then been re-registered N7145V, JetStar No.1 left the FAA in 1990. Apparently, c.2006 it was purchased by White Industries Inc., a Bates City, Missouri company parting out and scrapping old airplanes.

Corporate JetStar N12R (s/n 5053) at Toronto Island Airport on June 4, 1966. The runway length at TIA in 1966 was 4000 feet, maybe a bit tight for a hefty JetStar. Eventually, due to noise restrictions, most jets were banished from the island. Today, the rule seems to be that only air ambulance jets can operate here.

One of the highlights for us during a trip to Buffalo, NY on May 20, 1967 was this gorgeous JetStar — N500Z s/n 5008. I found one historic reference to it in FAA document “FAA Aviation News” of May 1966: “The beginning of the switch to turbine aircraft for corporate business is generally logged as September 27, 1961, when Superior Oil of Houston put its brand on Lockheed Jetstar N500Z, which is still flying for the company.”

Amway Corporation JetStar N523AC (s/n 5013) on the Field Aviation ramp at Toronto YYZ on April 8, 1971. Built in 1961, N523AC is said to have ended as scrap at White Industries.

On the same ramp on March 24, 1972 I came across CF-DTF of Transport Canada (formerly known as the Department of Transport). On September 16 I spotted “DTF” at Halifax, by which time it belonged to the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum. How great that a few JetStars have found museum homes!

Great War Flying Museum

Special Notice I Happy 2020 to all you fine, solid friends of CANAV Books. Many of you  have been behind my efforts going as far back as 1979. Gives new meaning to that old saying, “Keep on truckin'”. Thanks for all your genuine support, especially with a book order here and there! There’s so much on the web for New Year’s Day 2020, but one item caught my eye this morning. Well worth a look, something from Chris Hadfield. Just google this and you’ll be there: “I made a video to celebrate the new year of amazing things happening on Earth – An Astronaut’s Guide to Optimism 2020. I hope you like it!” Special Notice II … Attention avid collectors. Below are a few special collector items (and other things) on offer for New Year 2020 — from a rare Great Lakes freighter’s log book to a wide-ranging “airliner” collection. Prices include shipping (“all-in”). Prices are firm. If you see anything that you like, contact me at Special Notice III … Feel free to scroll back on the blog. It’s packed with solid Canadian aviation history. Sometimes I do updates, as recently to this item — “Ancient CAE 737-200 Flight Simulator”. This “sim” is a real record-breaker, having been in use since “flight tested” at CAE 45 years ago. It’s still on the go at YVR! You’ll enjoy all such windows into our fantastic Canadian aviation heritage, just take a few minutes to browse. Cheers … Larry


Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story Hug Halliday’s seminal book covering this important part of the WWII air war in the UK and Europe. Canadians fight and die flying the renowned Typhoon and Tempest on the most dangerous of operations. Writes the Calgary Herald: “A splendid book … pure history but … thoroughly readable… the book’s backbone is made up of those who climbed into the cockpits to dodge flak and telephone wires while taking out trains and tanks.” Very nice copy. 300 photos, app’x, maps, lists of aircraft, sqns, casualties, index. 208 pp, hc. Collector item. This copy autographed by 11 RCAF (+ 1 RAF) Typhoon pilots (all appear in the book) at a special get together on May 2, 2004: Bill Baggs 164 Sqn, Norm Dawber DFC 438 Sqn, Jock Duncan 440 Sqn, Norm Howe DFC 175 Sqn, Frank Johnson 174 Sqn, Graham Kennedy 137 Sqn, George Lane (RAF) 198 Sqn, Walter McCarthy 440 Sqn, John McCullough 439 Sqn, Ed McKay 438 Sqn, John Thompson 245Sqn, Wally Ward 440 Sqn (John Thompson is the only survivor in 2020). Very nice copy. $350.00 A

Air-Britain News The first 4 volumes complete from Vol.1 No.1 January 1972 to Vol.4 No.12 December 1975. A very nice set. These were the early days of the 12-page 7×10 inch plain pamphlet format. Strictly for the collector. Set only $85.00 all in

Great Lakes History … Log book for the famous “laker”, SS Victorious Upper Lakes Shipping Co. This laker’s log from Trip 1 1966 to her final sailing – Trip 18 1968. Vessel then was sold and used to help form a breakwater at Ontario Place, Toronto. All entries made in hand, showing departure and destination ports, cargo in detail by hold (Durham No.5 wheat, bushels per hold, coal (by type), salt) tons per hold, draft fore & aft, loading & discharging times, etc. Each page signed off by such officers as D. Fenton, H. Freeman, C. Hiscock, R. Smith. 198 pages, hardback logbook, first 74 pages are used for entries. Also includes various receipts for movements and transactions with such companies as American Grain Terminals Inc, Canada Department of Agriculture, Toledo Board of Trade. Great Lakes collector item only. Nice condition. CDN$150.00 all-in

Five Years of NATO: A Report on the Atlantic Alliance As it says. A very nice original 48-page history of NATO to date. Magazine format. Many fascinating topics from an overall 1954 summary to “Guarding the Seas’, “Strategic Air Power”, “Canada’s Contribution”, “Belgium’s FN Rifle”, reviews from the various members (e.g., “Norway: The Northern Flank”, and a very interesting (now outdated) overview of Turkey that suggests a future with such nations as Iran and Iraq also becoming NATO allies. Photos, chart, nice copy for any serious collector. $50.00

RCAF Meteor Mk.III EE361 Daily Reports  SOLD  The original hand-written, work-a-day, hardcover RCAF Winter Experimental Establishment log book for this famous RCAF jet fighter from November 20, 1946 to the last entry February 28, 1927: “A/C flown steadily since 16th of Feb. OAT -20C, no hydraulic troubles. Fuel consumptions tests, engines OK. Fuel very dirty from barrel and ice deposits. Streamline filter renewed in bowser …” Last page of the book lists “Ground Running Time” port & starboard engines Nov.5 1947 to January 10, 1948. This is an original RCAF “T35 Note Book for Workshop and Laboratory Records”. This item only for the serious collector deeply interested in the RCAF’s initial “hands on” experience with the jet fighter. Nice item just as it was on its final day of use in 1947. About the first ½ of the book has entries, the rest is blank. You have seen this diary referred to in CANAV’s books Sixty Years and in Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3. EE361 was on RCAF strength March 14, 1946 to March 5, 1948. CDN$250.00

Airy Somethings: The Extraordinary Life of the Aviation Pioneer Horatio Barber New book … Terry Grace and Maggie Wilson have thoroughly researched the life of this eccentric Englishman and his many interests. In his global travels in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Barber spent time in the Australia, USA and Canada too often getting into trouble with women and business ventures. In California he swindled investors in a ranching scheme; in  Canada, his chief focus was hustling shares in northern mines. Back in the UK he spent years promoting pioneer aviation ventures, earned Royal Aero Club licence No.30, promoted airplane designs and sales, sold aviation insurance, and served in the RFC in WWI, supposedly even being in America for a time promoting what became the hugely successful RFC training plan. The book concludes with all Barber’s shady schemes in the 1920s-50s to his death in 1964. A fascinating, through, most interesting and important biography. 236 pages, large format, softcover, photos, diagrams  throughout, bibliography, index. $55 Canada, $65.00 USA/overseas

Aerophilatelic Collection 12 cerlox-bound histories of postal crash covers. The amazing stories of pieces of Canadian airmail recovered from airplane crashes in Canada and around the world 1920s-60s. Each folder about 20 pages, all in fine condition, well illustrated. All research by renowned aero-philatelist, R.K. Malott. Collection only CDN$100.00

The Norman Flayderman Collection of Vintage Aviation Memorabilia, Tuesday, November 14, 2000 in San Francisco A magnificent catalogue from this huge auction. Beautifully produced 280pp, lf, sc, colour catalogue listing and showing 100s of items for sale up to a complete JN-4 Jenny. Nice collector item. For more info, google “Auction of Legendary Dealer Norm Flayderman Brings $1.1M” $65.00


The Great War Flying Museum: If You Haven’t Yet Visited … Make the Time!

Located at Brampton Airport northwest a bit from Toronto, the Great War Flying Museum is one of Canada’s extra special aviation history destinations. The GWFM website  (be sure to take a close look) nicely describes the museum in a few words: “Our mission is to provide the finest local presentation of World War I aviation history by acquiring, building, maintaining and flying representations of period aircraft as well as displaying period artifacts for the education, entertainment and benefit of our members and the visiting public.” At all this the GWFM succeeds eminently, as you’ll see in the following photos by grandsons Owen, Foster and Shannon Milberry and taken at various GWFM’s events in recent years.

The Setting

The Great War Flying Museum is at Brampton Airport, a short drive up Hwy 10 (Hurontario St.) from Mississauga/Brampton. The first aerial view here shows the museum hangar near the end of Runway 08. Just passed it is the Brampton Flying Club complex with wide ramp area and rows of hangars. You can tell it’s an open house weekend by all the cars in the foreground. Then, a photo of the GWFM hangar with the museum building on its left and several WWI replica aircraft ready for the day’s flying. The flying club parking lot is mainly reserved for the vintage vehicle turnout. Third, the main building seen from the 892 (Snowy Owl) Air Cadet Squadron lot.

Many start their day at a GWFM open house by enjoying breakfast at the Brampton Flying Club. Here Foster and Owen get a start on their “Lancaster Bomber” platters. Then … they’re ready to roll.

The Collection

On a sunny day such as this, the fans flock to the GWFM to get a close look at its wonderful collection. Here, people mill around the museum’s replica Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter. This type was one of the first 2-seater multi-purpose combat planes — in a way the CF- 18 of its day. Many Canadians crewed on the 1½ Strutter, especially doing bombing raids on enemy installations in eastern France, even into Germany. The 1½ Strutter also could dogfight if attacked by enemy scouts. The archival scene shows a line of Royal Naval Air Service 1½ Strutters in France c1916. More than 5000 of these versatile planes were built during WWI. Visitors can buy a ride in the GWFM 1½ Strutter. What a great way to get the feeling first hand of WWI aviating!

The GWFM 1½ Strutter sets off on a passenger flight. The “gunner” in the rear cockpit already appears to be into the right spirit.

The 1½ Strutter taxis by. Then, ersatz gunner, Larry Milberry, ready for a flight. His books The Pioneer Decades, and, Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939 cover this era in Canadian aviation history, the 1½ Strutter included. These are the best books on the shelves today covering Canada’s role in the air war a century ago. Notice the (replica) Vickers and Lewis (rear) machine guns. These famous weapons made such British 2-seaters into formidable fighting machines.

Always a real show-stopper at the museum is its replica of the Fokker Dr.1 Triplane, the dreaded fighter flown over the Western Front by “The Red Baron” – Manfred von Richthofen, the greatest ace of WWI. Here’s the Triplane in flight near Brampton. Then, German ace, Rudolf Stark, with his personal Triplane somewhere on the Western Front.

More views of the Triplane. Everything about this historic little beauty of a WWI scout is fascinating. But why was the Dr.1 so short-lived? Armed with just one machine gun, it quickly was outmoded when the British introduced their 2-gun Camel and SE.5.

The GWFM also operates a replica of the Fokker D.VII. The D.VII was another superb WWI single-seat scout. The museum’s example had been dormant for years pending a rebuilt, but came back onto the flight line for the 2018 season. Built to scale, it’s powered by a 200-hp Ranger engine. In the next photos it’s seen firing up for a flying display, taxiing out, then doing a fly-by.

A typical D.VII in wartime service. Then, D.VII 7685. In 1918-19 many Canadians got to fly captured D.VIIs, several of which came to Canada as war prizes. Standing beside 7685 is the revered WWI Canadian ace, C.M. McEwen, who is being inducted in 2020 into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. The sole surviving Canadian D.VII may be seen in the Brome County Museum in Knowlton, Quebec.

A GWFM D.VII detail.

The GWFM also operates the famous Royal Flying Corps SE.5 scout. Along with the Sopwith Camel, the SE.5 turned the tide against the Germans in the skies over France and Belgium in 1917-18. Many Canadians flew the SE.5. Several became aces. The museum flies both full scale and scaled down versions of the SE.5.

This is an actual SE.5A with the instrumentation, gun sight and Vickers gun well shown.

Canadian SE.5A pilots Harold Molyneux and Ken Juror of 56 Squadron. Ken was killed in action. Harold survived to serve in the RCAF during WWII. Their stories are told in Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939.

A typical operational SE.5A, this one of 85 Squadron on which many Canadian flew in WWI. Then, SE.5A F9029 of Canadian Air Force No.1 Squadron in the UK in 1919. Captain W.R. Kenny, DFC, is in the cockpit. Veteran CAHS member and dogged recorder of each and every civil-registered Canadian civil aircraft, Terry Judge, adds about this nice set-up shot: “The photo of SE5A (my favourite WWI aircraft) F9029 was taken at the historic Shoreham-by-Sea airport. On the horizon, above the serial, is the Lancing College Chapel. I grew up in nearby Hove so knew this airport well.”

The reality of the first great air war — how hundreds of SE.5s ended on the Western Front in 1917-18. This one is being gloated over by some Germans from local units. Pilot Harry Spearpoint ended as a POW – one of the lucky ones, right.

The museum’s Nieuport 28 ready for its next flight at Brampton. This type of scout was especially famous with the Lafayette Escadrille – a French air force unit manned by America pilots (some of whom had  trained to fly in Canada in 1917-18). Many Canadians also flew Nieuports in combat, the most famous being W.A. “Billy” Bishop, VC, shown here demonstrating the Lewis gun.

Visiting Airplanes

Many local and visiting planes keep the crowd extra interested during any GWFM and Brampton Flying Club event. There’s usually at least one Harvard around. Here’s C-FRWN (ex-RCAF 3830 during WWII) as an SE.5 cruises by in the distance. Then, Auster C-FLWA, which formerly was Canadian Army 16671. “LWA” first appeared on the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register in 1960 and has been around southern Ontario ever since. I photographed it in black-and-white at the Oshawa fly-in of June 16, 1963. It was the same colour. To this day the colour scheme hasn’t changed much. It’s always great fun keeping an eye on such an airplane over the decades.

Homebuilts are always part of the scene at a GWFM fly-in. Here are Pitts S-1T C-GMMG and Rutan Varieze C-GNEZ in front of the flying club.

Cabin Waco C-FYOC visits the museum. Built in 1935, it was only in Canada 2013-17 before returning to the US. Such visitors add extra class to the whole setting.

Murray Kot’s beautifully restored Cessna L-19 in Canadian Army markings of the early 1960s period.

Ercoupe CF-IQA lands on Runway 08. Built in 1946 as N2227H, this little postwar beauty came to Canada in 1973 and has been around the Toronto area ever since.

Four Seasons Aviation’s big Sikorsky S-58T on display. A locally-based Tiger Moth is climbing out.

VAN’S RV-7A C-FVOS taxis for Runway 08 as Brampton Flying Club Cessna 172 C-GBNG lands.

Foster ready to do a photo mission in BFC Cessna 172 C-GBRF.

The Car Show

Besides all the great plane spotting around the GWFM, there’s plenty else to do. The annual vintage car turnout is fantastic. This Rolls-Royce 1924 Silver Ghost is treasured by owners Roger and Eleanor Hadfield of nearby Milton.

Some of the MGs arrive. Not to be outdone are the Morgan’s. Then another classic Brit gem – an early Jaguar XKE.

Two ’56 beauties – a Chevy and a Dodge.

“The Museum”

Apart from the hangar, the GWFM museum building is full of wonderful displays. As well, on special days re-enactors run a typical WWI medical field station.

What Else Goes On?

Music of different kinds adds to the ambience of a GWFM event.

Re-enactors are on hand to explain various WWI topics. Otherwise, there’s lots going on in the hangar.

Some of the Great War Flying Museum old timers. They always show up – thank goodness. Then, Foster and Shannon with Al Snowie, one of the chief movers behind the 2017 “Vimy Flight”. This important Canadian organization took several WWI replica fighters to France that year, then flew them over the Vimy monument on the 100th Anniversary of that seminal battle. Finally, at day’s end some of the GWFM staff “debrief” back in the shop.

There’s a Book about All This!

The story of Canada’s pioneers of aerial combat is best read these days in Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939. Below is one of our typical book reviews, this one from “Britain at War”. This is a book for any fan of Canada’s great role in aerial combat in WWI. To order a copy go to . Or, make a PayPal transfer of $67.20 (all-in) to , or mail your cheque to CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto ON M4E3B6. All the best as usual. Be sure to keep tabs with the Great War Flying Museum website and see you there next season. Cheers … Larry Milberry

The Reader Speaks Out

Other than such great book reviews, I’m always keen to hear from my readers — the real lovers and cognoscenti when it comes to such books. Any publisher needs first and foremost to pay heed to these important supporters. Just lately I heard from a typical such reader, who writes about “Fighter Pilots and Observers”: Your new book has been open full time at the kitchen table where I get reading sessions at breakfast and lunch. Wonderful photos we see so rarely of this period and fascinating reading. Being more a student of WW II era aviation, I have limited knowledge of Canada’s participation in the aerial warfare of WWI, other than the classics, like Bishop. So it is somewhat of a revelation to read about Canada’s contributions to the air war and the efforts expended — and so much tragic loss of life. Incredible to think of the wild escapades so many young guys had flying those rickety early flying contraptions. Life expectancy was in very delicate balance and it seems just the luck of the draw for any that came out alive. If a fellow wasn’t being picked off by the enemy, his wings could be just as likely fall off! In part, I replied: Great that there are a few readers left who still appreciate the book and its ancient magic of enlightening, while entertaining. But, it’s all still trending away from lovely books to the stultifying, 90-second “quickie” info bit. So sad watching those  stoned smartphone people gawking down obliviously all the time. Mesmerized by what? What pleasure is there in that, and where’s the long-term pay-off in actual knowledge and joy? It’s all mildly depressing, eh.

Canadian Car and Foundry and the Curtiss SBW Helldiver + Remembrance Day 2011 + Canada and USA Aviation Halls of Fame 2020 Inductees, Norm Avery Update

*For copies of the famous CANAV aviation booklists, drop me an email at*

The impressive Curtiss SB2C/SBW Helldiver final line at Fort William in 1944. Such glorious factory scenes give the impression of stretching to the horizon. The official CCF caption for this photo reads, “Every day three planes come off the line. Those in foreground are checked and inspected. In centre of group at left: W.C. Will, Works Manager, with G.H. Kells, Shop Superintendent, on his right.” Then, a closer view of one of the planes. If there were any identifying serial numbers showing on a Helldiver at this stage, as a rule the dark room gurus in CCF’s photography department would dodge them out for security reasons. Notice the plane’s massive Wright R-2600 engine. More than 800 Helldivers would roll off this line in 1943-45. Other Helldivers were built by Fairchild of Canada at Longueuil, near Montreal.

Background to the Canadian Car and Foundry Story

The twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur (today’s Thunder Bay) at the head of Lake Superior have a long, proud history as progressive industrial centres. Since the 19th Century, they have manufactured such products as Great Lakes freighters, railway rolling stock, busses and airplanes. They also were vital in Canadian agriculture, with the railroads annually carrying millions of bushels of prairie grain east to the “Lakehead” cities. There it was stored in the elevators lining the waterfront, then shipped down the Great Lakes for Canadian, US and international markets. The Lakehead also had a thriving forest industry, with huge mills turning out paper products and lumber; and supported much of the mining in the vast surrounding hinterland.

You should look into the basic history, geography, etc. of the Lakehead in the published literature (books are your chief source of knowledge if you are as on the ball as I hope you are), then such other sources as Wiki. What about the region’s particular aviation heritage? Your No.1 source is the marvelous Jim Lysun book, Aviation in Thunder Bay, published by the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society This book is much more than a general treatment, but digs below the surface from pre-WWI to modern times. This is a book for any serious follower of Canada’s great aviation heritage. So … track down a copy. Other sources? Keep an eye out for Gordon Burkowski’s 1990 book, CanCar History. It’s out of print, but a copy occasionally pops up for sale on the web. Also, in CANAV’s 2018 book, Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939, I cover how Canadian Car and Foundry, having begun at Fort William in 1912, established an aviation division there in 1936 to assemble the obsolete Grumman G- 23 biplane fighter for foreign sale. The first fighter built in Canada, the G-23 flew initially at Fort William’s Bishopsfield aerodrome in February 1938. CCF also considered building a large passenger plane based on Burnelli’s flying wing concept, but this did not go beyond a mock-up (a smaller version was built in 1945, but that went nowhere, see Air Transport in Canada). CCF did, however, build prototypes of the advanced Gregor biplane fighter, and a biplane trainer known as the Maple Leaf. But, by the eve of WWII only the G-23 had succeeded. According to K.M. Molson in Canadian Aircraft since 1909 (another seminal CCF sourcebook), CCF turned out 52 G-23s, most of which were exported to Spain for use by communist forces against Franco’s fascists. This illegal transaction caused a political scandal for Ottawa. Later, the RCAF was obliged to accept 15 G-23s that had been embargoed before they could get to Spain. Happily, better days lay ahead for CCF and the RCAF.

Other essential books to support this story are Ken Molson’s and H.A. Taylor’s invaluable Canadian Aircraft since 1909, and Robert Stern’s and Don Greer’s spectacular SB2C Helldiver in Action/Aircraft No.54. Yet another title is Jonathan Kirton’s Canadian Car & Foundry Aircraft Production at Fort William on the Eve of World War II. If you’re persistent, you’ll find copies of these for sale on the web.

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver had been ordered by the US Navy to replace its earlier Douglas SDB Dauntless dive bomber. However, even at the design stage the SB2C had people worrying. The prototype flew at Buffalo, NY in December 1940, just as the SB2C factory was being built in Columbus, Ohio. Accidents and crashes plagued SB2C progress, so the first production plane wasn’t delivered until June 1942. By then, orders were on the books for 4000 planes. Development staggered along, the worst issue being how empty weight had skyrocketed from 7100 lb to 10,000 lb. The SB2C finally went to sea for trials aboard USS Yorkton, but these were disappointing. The ship’s captain reputedly suggested that the SB2C would make a better anchor than a dive bomber. Nonetheless, on entering combat early in 1943, the SB2C – with the help of innumerable modification — met the mark and within a year had replaced most SDBs in the south Pacific carrier fleet.

The daily press in every Canadian town and city reported in amazing detail about what was going on in the war from everything local to the cross-Canada and global scenes. In spite of strict press restrictions, it’s amazing how much detail was officially released or leaked. It takes diligent research to ferret out all of this so many decades later. The press often mentioned Canadian Car and Foundry and its Helldiver program. On February 4, 1944 this was page 19 in the “Toronto Daily Star” Toronto Daily Star Feb. 4 1944. Check out the fascinating report about the Helldiver in production and in action, then the two photos taken at Fort William. The Helldiver shown was for the Royal Navy, but the RN did not like the plane at all, so sent back its consignment to the USN. Regardless, the Helldiver proved its worth in the face of everything the Japanese could throw against it, sinking more enemy ships in the US South Pacific theatre than any other aircraft type. To get the most out of this news report, you need to put yourself back to 1944. There was a war on and we were facing two devilish world dictatorships in Germany and Japan that already had slaughtered millions of innocent civilians. So get into that frame of mind. Also, accept the fact that censorship and propaganda were in force. The “Shorty” Matten mentioned actually is “Shorty” Hatton, one of Canada’s renowned pilots of the 1930s-40s. His 2004 biography is Shorty, An Aviation Pioneer, by author James Glassco Henderson.

Another spectacular photo from my CCF collection. This RCAF Hurricane was converted at Fort William for ski trials. Once the concept was evaluated, it was set aside as impractical. More than 1400 Hurricanes were manufactured at CCF from 1940 to 1943. This set up CCF for the much more sophisticated SBD Helldiver project.

CCF and the Helldiver

Happily, CCF was able to leave its shady G-23 venture behind to undertake wartime contracts to build the Hawker Hurricane for British, Canadian and Soviet forces, then the SB2C (designated “SBW” for CCF purposes) for the US Navy. Certainly, CCF’s experience with 1930s biplanes did help prepare the company for its future wartime challenges, especially in how such projects trained the local labor force in ever more modern skills. According to Canadian Aircraft since 1909, CCF received its first order for Hurricanes in November 1938. The prototype flew at Fort William in January 1940, then production proceeded until the last of 1451 was delivered in June 1943. By then “in the big leagues” of aircraft production, CCF re-tooled to manufacture the Helldiver. Simultaneously, Fairchild of Canada at Longueuil, Quebec won some Helldiver contracts. CCF SB2Cs were designated SBW-1, SBW-3 and SBW-4, while Fairchild’s were SBF-1 and SBF-3. With Orville J. Wieben (CCF chief pilot) at the controls, the first Canadian SBW (US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 21192) flew at Fort William on July 29, 1943, just weeks after CCF’s final Hurricane was delivered. Soon the line was in full swing, but both CCF and Fairchild had to keep up with a flood of modifications demanded by the US Navy. With top management and skilled, dedicated labor, they got the job done.


The bugs gradually were beaten out of the Helldiver, especially when its 1500-hp Wright R-2600 engine was replaced with a 1900-hp version. In the end, the series proved itself in US Navy service. To the last day of the war, Helldivers hounded Japanese targets at sea and on land, even though hundreds were lost to flak, enemy fighters and accidents. The Commemorative Air Force web site observes, “While often maligned by some critics, the SB2Cs were responsible for more ship tonnage sunk during WWII than any other aircraft.” Historian Joe Baugher records the essential details for hundreds of individual SB2Cs. In one case, he mentions how on July 18, 1944 a US Navy PBY-5 of VP-100 Squadron sank at sea off Oahu (Hawaii) after landing hard while trying to pick up the crew of a ditched CCF-built SBW. The survivors of both planes were rescued by the destroyer USS Crouter. The final CCF-built SBW was delivered at Fort William on September 5, 1945, a few weeks after the war ended. Nearly all SB2Cs quickly were struck off US Navy charge. Many were shoved off carrier decks into the deep to save on paperwork (a common end-of- war practice). In 1946 several Canadian-made SBW-3s were among the planes sacrificed aboard the USS Saratoga and USS Independence, when those once-proud carriers were destroyed in atomic bomb test explosions in the south Pacific. Meanwhile, a few Helldivers were gifted to Allies, but it’s not known if any were Canadian-made. In French service, these fought doggedly in 1954 during the last days before Dien Bien Fou fell to Ho Chi Minh’s forces. The last operational Helldivers were those flown by Italy in the anti- submarine role. These were replaced by Trackers in 1959. Few SB2Cs survived their brief post-war days. One belongs to the Hellenic Air Force Museum in Greece, another is with the Royal Thai Air Force Museum. Check out the ever-fascinating SB2C Wiki entry, which lists other survivors, restoration projects and wrecks. Owned by the Commemorative Air Force of Texas, the sole airworthy Helldiver visited Thunder Bay in 1998. Many CCF old timers turned out for the celebration.

The world’s only airworthy SB2C is N92879. I photographed it at Washington-Dulles on May 27, 1972. Following a subsequent crash, it again was restored and continues to fly. Befittingly, N92879 visited Thunder Bay in 1992. Really keen fans can take a short flight in this historic warbird for US$995. Read all about N92879 at

SB2C/SBW and SBF Production 1940 – 1945

SB2C-1: Curtiss 200, CCF 38

SB2C-1A: Curtiss 900 for US Army Air Force as A-25A Shrike

SB2C-1C: Curtiss 778, CCF (as SBW-1B) 28, Fairchild of Canada (as SBF-1) 50.
26 of the 28 CCF planes went to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, but were rejected.

SB2C-3: Curtiss 1112, CCF (SBW-3) 413, Fairchild of Canada (SBF-3) 150

SB2C-4: Curtiss 2045, CCF (SBW-4E) 270, Fairchild of Canada (SBF-4E) 100

SB2C-5: Curtiss 970, CCF (SBW-5) 85 (a further 165 cancelled at war’s end)

Canadian Helldiver production according to K.M. Molson: CCF 835 + Fairchild
300. Total 1135.

US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics SBW Series Serial Numbers*

SBW-1: 21192 to 21231

SBW-1B: 60010 to 60035 for Royal Navy

SBW-3: 21233 to 21645

SBW-4E: 21646 to 21741, also, 60036 to 60209

SBW-5: 60210 to 60459 Only 60210 was built, all others cancelled at war’s end (these do not quite tally with the usually stated figure of 835 CCF Helldivers). *These details as per Joe Baugher’s internet list, “US Navy and US Marine Corps BuNos”. It’s well worth your time to have a look.

Typical SBW-1 Helldiver Losses*

21199 (VB-2) shot down by A6M5 Zeke Jun 20, 1944 in Battle of the Phillipine
Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot)

21203 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) shot down by AAA Sep 9,
1944, Mindnao, Philippine

21206 assigned to CASU-35, destroyed on ground by crashing PB4Y-1 38766
Aug 9, 1944, Eniwetok

21210 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) lost from unknown cause,
Palau Island Sep 16, 1944

21211 (VB-2) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) ditched when ran out of fuel Jun
20, 1944, Battle of the Philippine Sea

21216 (VB-8) attached to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) lost to unknown cause Sep
23, 1994, Okinawa

Typical SBW-3 Helldiver Losses

21236 (VB-100) in training accident Oct 20, 1944, Hawaii.

21238 assigned to COMAIRPAC lost to unknown cause, Pearl Harbor May 31,

21263 assigned to CASU(F)-12 lost to unknown cause May 17, 1945, Guam

21267 (VB-18) assigned to USS Intrepid (CV-11) lost to unknown cause Oct 24,
1944, Negros Island Visayas, Philippines

21279 (VB-17) assigned to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost to unknown cause Mar 28,
1945 near Kyushu, Japan

21283 (VB-14) attached to USS Wasp (CV-18) lost off Luzon in Philippines Oct
19, 1944

21287 (VB-18) attached to USS Intrepid (CV-11) lost to unknown cause Nov 25,
1944, Luzon, Philippines

21292 (VB-18) destroyed on deck of carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11) by kamikaze
attack Nov 25, 1944 near Luzon, Philippines

21296 (VB-14) attached to USS Wasp (CV-18) lost to unknown cause Oct 10,
1944, Okinawa

21304 (VB-100) attached to USS Saratoga (CV-3) lost in training accident Nov
17, 1944 near Pearl Harbor

21322 (VB-11) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost in Philippines Nov 13, 1944

21350 lost to unknown cause Dec 7, 1944, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

21351 (CASU(F)-14) lost to unknown cause Jun 21, 1945, Saipan

21353 (VB-4) destroyed on deck of USS Essex by kamikaze attack Nov 25,

21355 damaged on deck of USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88) by typhoon east of
Luzon Dec 18, 1944.

21374 (VB-80) attached to USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) lost at sea on launch off
Luzon in Philippines Dec 16, 1944

21377 (VB-7) attached to USS Hancock (CV-19) shot down by AAA over Hong
Kong, China Jan 16, 1945

21390 (VB-6) attached to USS Hancock (CV-19 shot down by AAA over Kyushu,
Japan Mar 18, 1945

21406 (VB-20) attached to USS Lexington (CV-16) lost to unknown cause Jan
16, 1945 near Hong Kong, China

21438 (VB-17) attached to USS Hornet (CV-12) lost to unknown cause Apr 7,
1945, Okinawa

21710 crashed Jun 19, 1945 in Goose Lake, CA. 2 killed.

60017 (JW107) force landed in sea after taking off from [Naval Air Station]
Squantum Jun 24, 1944, pilot rescued

60023 (JW113) crashed before delivery to RN. Used for spares

60028 (JW118) suffered engine fire while in circuit at Columbus at end of ferry
flight from Minneapolis Jan 25, 1944. Force landed in field and subsequently
used for spares.

60029 (JW119) RN records say sold as scrap Aug 25, 1944, but RAF
records say transferred to them and used at Empire Central Flying School until
SOC Nov 12, 1945

60030 (JW120) flew into ground, caught fire and burned out at Wellesley, MA
Jun 6, 1944, both crew killed

60031 (JW121) misjudged dive on target and flew into sea at Inskip bombing

in England Oct 6, 1944, both crew killed

60032 (JW122) ditched near Squantum following engine fire Jun 24, 1944
* as per Joe Baugher’s list


What got me interested in doing this blog item was perusing a priceless old collection of historic 8 x 10 black-and-white albums that have been around my place for decades. Here and there over the years I’ve dug into these to illustrate one book or another. My history with this collection started with a phone call about 35 years ago from the great Ken Molson. Ken had a tip for me – George Olieux at George’s Trains on Mt. Pleasant Rd. here in Toronto had some original Canadian Car and Foundry photo albums for sale. Ken already had taken his choice of these, but suggested that I get up to see George ASAP and make a deal. That I did and picked up what was left for something like $200 for several hundred gorgeous, linen-backed 8 x 10 glossies. In my mind, I’ve often thanked Ken and George (who both are gone) for this great opportunity.

Here’s the collection of my CCF albums. Talk about a gold mine, eh. Two thick albums dwell exclusively on the Curtiss Helldiver. The collection is for sale (complete set only) at CDN$1800.

My CCF albums are rich in company history at Fort William from the Grumman G-23 to the Gregor fighter, Maple Leaf trainer, Hurricane and Curtiss SB2C.  They include many amazing airplane photos, of course, but where the collection really shines is in what it shows about the plant, the machinery, the processes and — ever so importantly — the people. Whichever decision makers assigned CCF’s photographers to create these incomparable albums back in 1936 to 1944 deserve medals. Of course, at the time most of these photos were “classified”, so would have been under lock and key, other than for a few released for the company newsletter or public relations purposes. How they eventually got out into circulation remains a mystery. Some would have been taken home by keen employees once the war ended. I heard that George found these CCF albums in a much larger collection that he somehow acquired. Here is a small selection for your enjoyment:

A CCF SBW fuselage is about to be mated with its wing centre section. The adjustable and movable stand on which such work was done was known at CCF as a “corvette”. The CCF caption for this photo reads, “Precision tooling and accurate checking gauges assure a perfect fit when the two main components are spliced.” While CCF’s earlier G-23 production run was little more than an assembly job using parts brought in from such US manufacturers as Grumman and Brewster, the SBW airframe was manufactured at Fort William. By that time (1943-45) CCF had become qualified to do such advanced work, having already produced more than 1400 Hurricanes.

Further down the line, the airframe has been fully assembled, Wright R-2600 engine included. The plane has been lifted off its corvette and is ready for the final touches before rolling off the line. This SBW-3 still has to be painted. Its number (390) could represent US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics number 21390 (a CCF Helldiver that finally was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, but was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Kyushu, Japan on March 18, 1945). “390” also might represent CCF’s 390th SBW. So … numbers can be mysterious.

Workers doing Helldiver fine wiring tasks at CCF. This photo collection has many such scenes. Things may look a bit crazy, but there’s nothing chaotic here. The entire CCF Helldiver operation was progressing like a finely-tuned machine. However, just partly through the contract there was news that Canada’s war industries would be slowing. A “Globe and Mail” item of June 12, 1944 (“Cut Contract on Hell-Divers; May Trim Staff”) noted CCF employment at Fort William at 8000. By this time the Allies were succeeding in every theatre. They were so confident of final victory that in June 1944 the RCAF stopped recruiting for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This took place even though the Allies had only just landed in Normandy. It’s not surprising that the same paper was reporting about CCF on September 20, 1944: “There are some 5,500 workers. The Fort William plant has a contract which runs to the middle of next year and calls for more than 1,000 planes. Present output is in the neighbourhood of 56 a month.” In the end, Helldiver contracts at CCF and Fairchild of Canada were cut, CCF from 1000 to 835.

Workers at these benches are mainly finishing wing ribs. At every work station the job at hand had to be co-ordinated with each stage of production. Management and labour had to co-operate and they did. In exchange for their reliable services, workers at CCF took home very good pay.

Whether using small, hand-held tools or such massive ones as these drop hammers, workers had to be safety minded. On the whole, conditions were safe in the CCF plant for this stage of industrial development. Safety was pounded into everyone head day by day. Training was at a serious level (for the day), supervisors were forever watching for infractions, chemicals were handled as safely as possible, and doctors and nurses staffed clinics on site. Naïve people today may be horrified by such a photo and impose their 21st Century view of things upon it, but that is not history. Sad to say, but in today’s schools, much distorted history is taught by ill-educated, agenda-driven teachers. The CCF caption for this grand photo reads: “Drop Hammer Dept. has five hammers of various capacities and form sections up to 8 ft. long. The three in front are air-operated, the other two are electric revolving drum rope hammers. Air hammer at left is used for die-matching purposes only and was designed by our own staff and cast in Kirksite.”

Welders working on small parts. Then, another typical shop floor scene. No doubt the place was noisy and smelly, but people were happy to have such high-paying jobs, to be learning new skills and to be doing something to help the war effort. Notice the “Buy Victory Bonds” poster at the back. Each time one of these grand photos was taken, the photo team would ask everyone to “freeze” for a second or two.

Highly skilled staff work on Helldiver cockpit instrumentation.

Those in stores and warehousing kept supplies and parts moving to the various production lines as much on a “just in time” basis as do today’s modern factories. That as many as three Helldivers were pushed ready-to-fly off the final line every day shows us that. Notice the sign “Smoking Strictly Prohibited in this Building”.

Airframe structures and other components being manufactured. Every piece was being tracked, but by pencil and paper – on charts and graphs — vs today’s computerized everything. Final results? The same – beautiful airplanes – the most modern of the day rolling off the line. And we think we’re so smart. Surely, we must have invented everything, right.

Other shop floor scenes from Helldiver days. The CCF caption for the first of these reads, “Sand Blast chamber and rotating Blast Mill are shown in centre and at rear respectively, also Electric Furnace for normalizing and annealing or ‘Heat Treatment’ purposes.” For the next photo the caption reads: “Plaster Pattern has been removed and Molten Kirksite is poured into sand moulds. Box at the right has plaster pattern still embedded.” Finally, a photo of the open air acid baths used to clean parts before welding. Notice the basket of parts about to be lowered: “Clean contact surfaces are necessary before spot-welding. Oxide film is removed by immersion in etching solution. Etching also removes heat variations in contact surfaces and produces a better weld nugget. Some parts are cleaned by buffing.”

Another astounding factory scene as various parts are manufactured: “Fabricating exhaust manifold and tail wheel fairings, also carburetor air takes and ammunition boxes.”

The CCF receiving department never rested. Trainloads of raw material (steel, lumber, fluids, etc.) and finished items from nails and screws to engines arrived around the clock from suppliers and subcontractors throughout North America. Naturally, the trains ran like clockwork, the transportation system was impeccable. Periodically pulling in at receiving were boxcars full of Wright R-2600 engines from Wright either from Paterson, NJ, or Cincinnatti, Ohio. The mighty R-2600 also powered the Douglas A-20, Grumman Avenger and North American B-25. Wright delivered more than 50,000 R- 2600s. Once unpacked at CCF, the R-2600s were inspected, run on test stands, then installed in the Helldivers. CCF techs such as the fellow here normally wore ID badges. His was 7051. Sometimes these ancient factory IDs turn up these days on ebay. Everything’s collectible, right!

In dozens of other spaces around the plant all sorts of other tasks had to be done simultaneously. Here, for example, one of the busy office spaces where everything had to be done from ordering parts to expediting shipments, paying invoices, doing the payroll and keeping up with individual employee records. Notice the standard Underwood office typewriters – they did the same basic “data entry” work as any computer today – nothing mysterious about them. On the far wall are the typical calendars, notices and photos. Next, all the action underway in the ever-lively drafting room. The CCF caption notes: “Tool Design Dept, prepares drawings of all tools, jigs, assembly fixtures and special machinery used in the Plant. Also controls methods or procedures to be adopted in the fabrication of the plane.” The big poster in the distance includes a stark reminder to the staff: “Your Absence Makes the War Grow Longer … Work for Canada, Don’t Loaf for the Enemy”. Finally, fabric being cut and sewn for such essentials as engine and canopy covers.

All the finely-honed processes and parts manufacturing going on throughout the cavernous CCF Helldiver plant gradually came together as an airplane production line. Shown are fuselages at an early stage. Then, a fuselage section getting its initial coat of preservative paint. Next, Helldivers near the end of the line – not much further to go. Finally, a finished Helldiver being towed from the factory the short distance to Fort William airport for test flying.

At the airport, CCF pilots were swamped with work test flying Helldivers. Says the caption for this photos, “First flights of all planes are made by either of the Company’s three test pilots. Notes are kept on knee pad of each gauge and instrument reading taken during flight. Planes are not turned over for acceptance until performance is perfect.” Likely due to wartime restrictions, few people in such CCF photos are identified. However, I’ve found two names for this photo — Eddie Richards on the left, and chief pilot, Orville J. Wieben, centre.

“OJ” Wieben in the cockpit of an SBW-1 at Fort William. Notice the leading edge slats that were so useful during low- speed flight, especially when landing on the deck of one of a small US Navy aircraft carrier. This is an especially grubby-looking, patched-up Helldiver, so likely was CCF’s “company hack” used for such jobs as testing mods, giving pilots familiarization flights, doing air-to-air photography, etc. It might be 21192, the first CCF SBW-1, which “OJ” Wieben first flew in July 1943.

The US Navy stationed its own pilots at Fort William to monitor production and modifications, do test flights as needed, and manage all the complicated ferrying requirements. The RCAF also was involved, chiefly in aircraft acceptance and “paper pushing” roles. Here, S/L Frank Hems (1898-1985) is in his office with two of his staff. Hems previously had served in RCAF acceptance in Montreal for Stranraers, and Fort Erie for Fleet trainers. After the war, he was 12 years at Avro Canada until the company folded in 1959. He then worked in real estate. Check out the great calendar of the wall. Today, that would get a fellow thrown out on his RCAF head in 2 seconds. But these were more straight-forward times when people had actual lives, wars to win, etc. To balance things off and placate the killjoys there’s a picture on the other wall of a “manly” Helldiver, right.

USN pilots ready to ferry some new Helldivers to Columbus, a distance “as the crow flies” of nearly 700 miles. These young fellows had flown in to Fort William aboard a US Navy ferry service Cessna JRC-1 (a.k.a. T-50). Then, a stirring sight as three Helldivers rumble over the flightline to salute CCF before turning south for Columbus. Here’s a case where we can deduce some USN bureau numbers – 21548, etc., but Joe Baugher to date has no info for these particular Helldivers.

The flight test and acceptance/delivery hangars at Fort William. Then, a good overall view of the airport.

Fort William’s Helldiver story is chiefly about the citizens of Fort William, Port Arthur and surrounding area who hired on at CCF. Some brought useful skills to the job, but most turned up “not having a clue” about all the highly-skilled jobs essential in time of war. However, they trained in class sessions and on the job, quickly learned their roles, and did their part to get 835 Helldivers delivered. Inevitably, victory came and all the excitement of wartime Canada subsided. A “Toronto Daily Star” item of August 18, 1945 painted this blunt picture: “Canadian Car and Foundry Co. management here Friday announced that 3,000 employees of their Fort William plant were being laid off this week owing to the termination of aircraft contracts. The plant has been making Curtiss Hell Diver aircraft for the U.S. navy. W.O. Will, plant works manager, stated that between 1,500 and 2,000 employees will be continued on the payroll until Christmas on bus construction and taking of inventories.” After the war, many returned to CCF to staff the place when large orders came in for urban busses. But there also were aviation projects, including manufacturing Harvard trainers for the RCAF, and subcontracting for the Grumman Tracker being built by De Havilland in Toronto. In modern times CCF was acquired by Bombardier and to this day produces rapid transit trains.

Remembrance Day 2019

We’ve just celebrated the 101st Anniversary of the end of WWI, in which Canada played such a vital role. Canadians are privileged to be living in this great nation. Why have people been emigrating and planting their roots here since the early 1600s? Certainly not because they were leaving happier circumstances or better countries. So … who possibly would not show respect on Remembrance Day to all who have served and died for our freedoms to make Canada the finest and most tolerant nation on Earth.

Here are a few quick snapshots showing our snowy 2019 Remembrance Day ceremony in Toronto’s “Beaches” neighborhood. Things went off nicely, especially with the absence this year (at long last) of speechifying politicos. Keep politics out of Remembrance Day, OK? First, three pictures of the set-up and our crowd of solid citizens getting right into it in true Canadian style. Next, the march-off, then the neighbours at our Kew Park war memorial before they headed for a warmer spot. So it went at Remembrance Day events across Canada on this important day.

Keeping the History Alive — Canada and USA Aviation Halls of Fame 2020 Inductees

We need to keep in touch with what’s going on in aviation history in and beyond Canada. Here’s something possibly new for you. Have you ever heard of “The Living Legends of Aviation”? My old pal since back in the 1960s, Walter Eichhorn, is the only Canadian member of this honourable society. Do you know about the Canada and USA Aviation Halls of Fame? Both recently have announced their 2020 inductees. It’s interesting that the CAHF includes some aviation heroes who worked both in Canada and the United States, but I don’t see any such members in the US hall. The CAHF has honoured Alexander Graham Bell and Rogers Smith, who worked in both countries. With scientific, financial and moral support Bell, for example, made possible the first powered airplane flight in Canada in 1909. From Toronto and formerly in the RCAF, Smith became a NASA test pilot with many hours flying the SR-71 (see their profiles at Here are our 2020 CAHF inductees:

Clifford MacKay McEwen, MC, DFC and Bar Born in Griswald, Manitoba in 1898, Clifford MacKay McEwen enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916 before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps. He flew the majority of his war in Italy, distinguishing himself as a scout pilot. McEwen then joined the fledgling Canadian Air Force in England and remained in uniform after war’s end, serving as part of the Air Board and the inter-war Royal Canadian Air Force. Holding the rank of group captain when war again broke out, McEwen was promoted to the rank of air commodore working to establish Canadian authority over aerial operations in the northwest Atlantic while conducting anti-submarine warfare. A disciplined leader, he was transferred to England and further promoted to air vice-marshal, taking command of No. 6 (RCAF) Group, part of Bomber Command. Facing low morale and lacklustre performance, McEwen instituted a rigorous training regimen that achieved results; by the end of 1944, 6 Group was considered a premier force, sustaining the fewest losses of the heavy bomber groups. In recognition of his outstanding leadership, McEwen was appointed to command of the RCAF’s contribution to Tiger Force in preparation for the Pacific theatre. McEwen supported veterans’ causes in his postwar career, working with both the Royal Canadian Legion and the Last Post Fund. He died in Montréal in 1967, having made a lasting mark on Canadian aviation. (We feature C.M. “Black Mike” McEwen in our 2018 book Aviation in Canada: Fighter Pilots and Observers 1915-1939. In fact, McEwen is on the book’s cover.)

Joseph D. Randell President and Chief Executive Officer of Chorus Aviation Inc, Joseph Randell was born in Curling, Newfoundland in 1954. He has been devoted to Canadian aviation, and the regional airline market especially, for more than three decades. In 1984, Randell pursued an MBA that examined the airline industry – work that led to the founding of Air Nova two years later. Recognizing that Canada’s vast geography was ideally suited to regional carriers, his company, which had previously relied on a fleet of turboprop aircraft, pioneered the use of regional jets. Success with Air Nova led to its eventual purchase by Air Canada, after which he oversaw a series of regional carrier mergers. In 2002, having overcome significant regulatory challenges, Air Canada Jazz was launched. A successful re-organization stemming from Air Canada’s filing for bankruptcy protection soon followed and, in 2006, Jazz was brought public. Renegotiation of its relationship with Air Canada has continued apace, as has the airline’s profitability. Chorus Aviation, Randell’s next venture, which acquired the regional operation Voyageur Airways in 2015, has become a global player in aircraft leasing. A widely-respected leader in Canadian aviation, Joseph Randell is a strong supporter of his alma mater, Dalhousie University, and his professional and philanthropic support for the aviation and broader community more generally has earned him well-deserved awards of recognition.

Shirley Linda Render One of Canada’s foremost aviation historians and a leader in the stewardship of this country’s aviation heritage, Shirley Render, born 1943 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, earned her wings in 1973 and shortly after began volunteering at the Western Canada Aviation Museum. Soon, Render was sitting on the Museum’s board, writing for and editing its quarterly magazine, and curating its exhibits. After earning an MA in History, she undertook two influential books: No Place for a Lady, the first on Canada’s women pilots, and Double Cross, about James A. Richardson and his importance to Canadian aviation. Render held multiple positions of leadership at the museum and was critical to its growth. In 1990, she entered politics, being elected as the member of the Legislative Assembly for St. Vital. She served as legislative assistant to Premier Gary Filmon and as minister of consumer and corporate affairs. With the museum in difficulty, Render, no longer in government, was asked to return as executive director and curator in 2002. Her leadership, which has been recognized with her appointment as executive director emeritus, helped revitalize the museum, a process that culminated in its redesignation as the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. A recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a YM-YW Women of Distinction Award, and a University of Winnipeg Distinguished Alumni Award, among many others, Shirley is a role model for young people across Canada.

Bjarni Valdimar Tryggvason Bjarni Tryggvason was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1945. Captivated by aviation at a young age in Richmond, British Columbia, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and earned his commercial pilot wings by age 20. He has been involved in Canadian aviation ever since. Tryggvason completed a degree in engineering physics and, despite his goal to become a commercial airline pilot, he accepted a position with the Atmospheric Environmental Service. His work as a researcher then took him to the University of Western Ontario at the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel, to Kyoto, Japan, and to North Queensland, Australia. Keen to add to his piloting skills, he earned his instructor rating. In 1982, Tryggvason joined the National Research Council’s Low Speed Aerodynamics Laboratory. A year later, he applied for and was accepted to Canada’s first astronaut corps. With the NRC and the Canadian Space Agency, he helped design and develop satellites and fluid dynamics projects, but his primary focus was vibration isolation systems. In 1997, as part of STS-85, Tryggvason served as payload specialist aboard the shuttle Discovery. Since returning to earth, he has remained active in Canadian aviation. But, having been at the forefront of Canada’s aerospace program, this more recent work involves Canada’s aviation heritage and the flying of vintage aircraft, notably his 2009 flight of the replica Silver Dart – the first powered, heavier-than-air aircraft to fly in Canadian skies.

Belt of Orion inductee … The Red Knight The Royal Canadian Air Force Training Command’s solo performer between 1958 and 1969, the Red Knight flew more than 600 air show appearances – making it second only to the Snowbirds for the number of performances flown by a Canadian military aerobatic display team. During its 12-year run, seventeen different pilots flew as the Red Knight, beginning with Roy Windover, an RCAF Central Flying School instructor. Equipped with their venerable Canadair CT-133 Silver Star and later with Canadair CT-114 Tutors, decked out in Day-Glo red, various Knights flew alongside the Golden Hawks and the Golden Centennaires. But the solo display is best remembered for performing in smaller communities unable to accommodate larger, established teams. Notably, all the Red Knight’s manoeuvres were performed within the airfield’s boundaries. All told, the team performed in each of Canada’s ten provinces and in the Yukon. It also made appearances in the Bahamas and in the United States, flying in Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington. The Red Knight was awarded the Centennial Medal in 1967. As a testament to its lasting impact and as a tribute to the influence of the Red Knight’s displays, the team’s distinctive paint scheme has been revived by civilian operations across North America.These are are the new CAHF members:

Here’s the recent NAHF news from south of the border:

The National Aviation Hall of Fame has revealed the individuals who have been selected for its enshrinement in 2020 … Each year, the NAHF Board of Nominations, a voting body comprised of more than 120 aviation professionals nationwide, selects from a prestigious group of previously-nominated air and space pioneers to be recognized for their achievements with induction into the NAHF. Since its founding in 1962, 246 men and women have been honored with enshrinement into the Congressionally-chartered, non-profit National Aviation Hall of Fame. “We believe that this is an excellent class and we are already looking forward to their induction in our home, the Birthplace of Aviation, Dayton, Ohio,” NAHF Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Quiello said. “From pioneer Bullard, to visionaries Faget, Sullivan Garrett and Kaminski, to aerospace hero Gordon, the NAHF’s Class of 2020 represents the best in aviation.” The NAHF Class of 2020 will be inducted at the 58th Enshrinement Dinner & Ceremony on Sept. 26, 2020, in Dayton, Ohio:

Second Lieutenant Eugene J. Bullard, USAF. World War I pilot, first African American combat pilot, denied in the U.S., flew for France, and is one of the highest decorated pilots, including the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur.

The late Dr. Maxime “Max” A. Faget, Ph.D. Mechanical Engineer. Developed rockets, missiles and aircraft, designed the Mercury Spacecraft and was part of the design team for Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle.

Joan Sullivan Garrett . Medical Professional, founder of MedAire, established the first aviation global medical emergency response and directs real-time safety services to thousands annually throughout aviation.

The late Captain Richard “Dick” F. Gordon, USN. Naval Aviator, Test Pilot, Bendix Trophy Winner;,Gemini 11 Pilot, Command Module Pilot Apollo 12, back-up Commander Apollo 12 and part of design team for the Space Shuttle.

Colonel/Dr. Paul G. Kaminski, USAF (Ret). Ph.D. Aeronautical Engineer, led many technical aerospace programs, including guided munitions, lead developer of Stealth Technology, and directed F-117 and B-2 programs.

Norm Avery 1929 – 2019

I’ve often been asked by readers about this or that title by Norm Avery. Over the years, I listed Norm’s four books, but eventually lost contact – I hadn’t heard that he had moved into a seniors residence in recent years, then passed away on July 7, 2019. Norm’s aviation titles are Altimeter Rising (autobiographical, by Al MacNutt), then three by himself — Whiskey Whiskey Papa, Spartan: Seven Letters that Spanned the Globe, and Mayhem to Mayday. See for more info about these books. Norm’s fascinating obituary summarizes his many achievements:


Born in Parry Sound to Sydney and Hazel Avery, the family moved to Huntsville when he was 2. He had four siblings – survived by Lois and predeceased by Ken, James (Mac), and Harold. He was married for 55 years to Ruth (nee Robinson) – deceased (2011). He is survived by two children – Dean (Colleen) and Joel (Catherine) and two grandchildren – Shannon and James.

When he was 19, he earned his pilot’s licence. When he was 20, he left the grist mill behind and joined the Air Force where he was stationed in St Bruno, Quebec as a public relations specialist. Within a couple of years, he was promoted and then served in France as part of 2 Wing where his work with NATO was rewarded with a special service medal. He took the time to travel extensively in Europe and only stopped travelling until a few years ago. After ten years in the force, he left the force with a new wife to pursue a second career and start a family.

When he was 30, an Air Force colleague provided a lead which resulted in an eight year stint at the Ottawa Citizen where he was a staff writer, columnist, reporter and eventually assistant city editor. He specialized in aviation writing and began winning national awards after just one year on the job. Historical pictures show he interviewed PM candidate Robert Stanfield, Governor General Roland Michener, and, in 1966 while being escorted by the UN, Archbishop Makarios III – the president of Cyprus. He also fathered two children while at the Citizen.

Working at the Citizen spawned many freelancing engagements (including the publicity for the Paris air show in 1965). In 1967, he made freelancing his full time job and again was responsible for the publicity of the Paris air show in 1967. It was all good with the Citizen as he continued to write the aviation column for a few more years – however he no longer had to write the column in the smoke filled rooms at the Citizen. In this period he served as a correspondent for CBC Northern Services and also found time to be the founding editor of the monthly Armed Forces Review. In 1968 he formed a PR firm with his Air Force squadron friend Doug Harvey and famed photographer Malak Karch (brother of the other famous Karch photographer, Yousef Karsh). While they predominantly had aviation related clients, the firm of Harvey, Avery and Malak were the PR force involved in the resumption of the CFL all star game in 1970. They also represented IMAX which was founded in part by his cousin Robert Kerr; A & W and FTD florists. In 1970, he began his third career in the Federal public service in Fisheries and Forestry; the Canadian Forestry Service; Environment Canada; and Energy, Mines and Resources.

He rose through the ranks and several MPs specifically thanked him for making them sound intelligent. He travelled quite a bit across the country and had friends everywhere it seemed. He also went on an expedition to the Arctic. Through all of this, he found time to be a director of the Ottawa Flying Club; an executive in the camera club of Ottawa; and teach a PR course at Algonquin. With 26 years of service in the federal government, he retired in 1987, he began his fourth career as an author. He wrote and self published four historical aviation books (available in the lobby on the way out). His books were: Altimeter Rising; Whiskey, Whiskey, Papa; Spartan: Seven Letters that Spanned the Globe; and Mayhem to Mayday.

His true writing love was fiction for which he won several short story writing awards. Throughout his life, he could be found sailing, travelling, golfing, skiing, taking pictures and telling stories. He could also be found in front of the computer writing, researching, playing games and sleeping.

*For copies of the famous CANAV aviation booklists, drop me an email at*

Canadian Fighter Pilots Association 1992 + Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC and Bar, Turns 100 + Old Canadair CRJs Go for Scrap

One of Canada’s grand annual aviation highlights in “days of yore” was the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association reunion. Hundreds of veterans used to attend to renew acquaintances and keep alive that old spirit of 1939- 45. By the 1980s the fellows still mainly were in their 60s and hadn’t lost much of the old zip from their heyday. Few were worrying about how time slowly was catching up on them, and there were more and more obits to read and funerals to attend. Inevitably, the CFPA dissolved and today almost none of the “originals” survive. I just came across a few miscellaneous old colour prints from the CFPA reunion at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel in September 1992 – getting to be 3 decades ago. It’s important to be reminded about those fabulous Canadians who, when hardly out of their teens, were flying, fighting and dying in theaters of war from the UK to Europe, “the Med”, North Africa, and eastward to India, Ceylon, Burma and (in the Fleet Air Arm) into Japan’s home waters. You’ve read a lot about these great Canadians in many a book. Here today are some of the “quickie” snapshots I took that weekend back in ‘92.


A.R. “Andy” Mackenzie (left) with his great wartime pals, Eric G. Smith and Fred Evans. Each had the Distinguished Flying Cross (the striped ribbon on the left in these medal groups). A junior writer of RCAF history (as I was) could not have had such wonderful friends and supporters. During WWII Andy (1920-2009) scored 8 confirmed kills while serving on 421, then, 403 squadrons in the UK and European Theatre of Operations. The citation for his DFC noted: “Flying Officer Mackenzie is a skilful and resolute fighter whose determination to destroy the enemy has always been evident.” Postwar, Andy excelled flying Vampires, then Sabres. He commanded 441 Sqn in the UK, then accepted a tour flying Sabres with the USAF in Korea. On his final patrol there, he was shot down by friendly fire. Captured by the enemy, he spent 2 years in North Korean/Chinese captivity. He was brutally tortured by these masters of the art and forced to sign a phony document admitting to being “a baby killer”. Finally repatriated, Andy returned to RCAF service. He once told me that he was never forgiven by RCAF HQ for his “capitulation” while a POW, so never again was promoted. Andy’s own biography is Mayhem to Mayday: The Two Air Wars of Andy Mackenzie, DFC. For you serious readers … occasionally a copy appears for sale at or

I already have featured Eric G. Smith (1921 – 2019) on this blog. You can find that item (with photos) simply by searching for “Eric”. Eric had flown night intruder Mosquitos during the war. The citation for his DFC reads: “This officer has completed a large number of operational sorties. He is a 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 the enemy lines of communication, mechanical transport and rolling stock. He has at all times exhibited great determination, initiative and daring and set  inspiring example by his fine fighting spirit and devotion to duty.” That sure sounds like the Eric Smith whom we all knew and loved. Eric also flew Sabres in combat with the USAF in Korea. He then excelled as a Sabre instructor/flight commander at RCAF Station Chatham, but also suffered from RCAF HQ small-mindedness. While CO of 413 Squadron (CF-100s) at Bagotville, one night he “put up a black” (nothing serious) in the mess. As had been Andy Mackenzie, this exceptional Canadian airman then was shunted aside. He soon left air force life to succeed in beef farming and real estate near Oxford Station south of Ottawa. Every summer for many years, the CFPA would enjoy a rip-roaring get together at Andy Mackenzie’s farm in the same neighborhood.

Fred Evans (1919 – 2009) flew Spitfires with 421 Squadron.
Although he tallied just one confirmed kill, he was revered among his
“Red Indian” mates at 421. The citation for his DFC explains: “This
officer has completed a very successful tour of operations. His skill and
resolution to frustrate the enemy on all occasions have set an outstanding example to his fellow pilots. While flying over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, he has destroyed or damaged large numbers of enemy road transport vehicles, five locomotives and fifty railway goods wagons. He has also destroyed one enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of another. Flying Officer Evans’ gallantry and fearlessness have proved him to be a brilliant and capable pilot.” As with Andy and Eric, postwar “civvie” life was not for Fred, so he re- joined the RCAF as a “retread”, flew fighters and also had a USAF Korean Sabre tour fighting the MiG-15. We cover the careers of these wonderful RCAF characters in such books as Sixty Years, The Canadair Sabre and Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations. Also see Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky.

Bob and Crystal Middlemiss with Eric and Andy. Bob (1920 – 2013) excelled as a Spitfire pilot first over the UK beginning in late 1941, then in Malta at the height of the German/Italian campaign to destroy that strategic little island, finally in the ETO. Postwar, he commanded 421 Squadron (Sabres), then pioneered on the F-104, being one of the first in the RCAF to fly it (he also flew the Grumman Super Tiger, the main contender challenging the F-104 for RCAF use – see Sixty Years). Bob commanded 427 Squadron (CF-104s) in NATO, and later in life was 427’s Honourary Colonel. One weekend in 2003 he took me along for 427’s annual “Gathering of Lions” thrash at Petawawa – another memorable event done up to perfection, Twin Huey flights for we VIPs included. Bob died on his 93 rd birthday.

(Above) Bob with his great friend, E.D. “Dean” Kelly. In fact, Dean (1920 – 2000) was beloved to every CFPA member worth his salt. I first was in touch with him in the early 1980s, when researching for CANAV’s project covering the first 60 years of the RCAF. When Hugh Halliday and I later wrote The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945, I talked to Dean about his Spitfire days, which also had included Malta. On a later sortie, he ended “in the drink” in the English Channel. I’d heard that there was a photo of him being fished out by an RAF rescue launch. Sure enough, Dean came up with a copy — here it is. For his efforts during WWII Dean received no DFC, but did receive a “Mention in Despatches”. After the war he excelled on the F-86 with the RCAF Air Division in NATO. Writing to me 35 years ago about those days, the great Sabre pilot, Johnny Greatrix of Winnipeg, noted about those times: “There were so many outstanding pilots, men like Dean Kelly, a superb solo aerobatic star. His shows made our eyes pop out!” Dean next flew the CF-100. When Eric Smith left 413, Dean took over from him. He later became one of the kings of the CF- 101 Voodoo, commanding 416 Squadron 1962-64. His solo Voodoo airshows were also said to be spectacular. He would put the normally non-aerobatic (but noisy and smoky) Voodoo, through its paces all within the tight confines of the airfield.

Dean with Andy Mackenzie. In my experience, all such RCAF wartime fellows were so jolly and positive, always ready to answer a question, come up with a photo, or suggest a good lead.

Another CFPA stalwart was R.D. “Joe” Schultz (1922 – 2011), also known as “Dutch” and “The Big Drifter”. Here’s Joe at the Royal York reunion with former CF-104 pilot, MGen D.R. “Don” Williams, then commanding Canadian Forces Fighter Group. Joe is remembered in many books including Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky. He flew the Beaufighter and Mosquito in the UK and ETO, scoring 8 confirmed kills against German night bombers. Postwar, he pioneered on the CF-100 and commanded Canada’s first Voodoo squadron. I first tracked down Joe while researching for my 1981 book, The Avro CF-100. That’s when Joe told me about almost losing a wing, when he over-stressed an early CF-100 at Toronto’s CNE airshow. Joe later appeared in such other CANAV titles as Sixty Years, The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945 and Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace Vol.2. Too bad, but he never took up my challenge to write his own story. Joe was the best friend to any history researcher – generous of his time, demanding of accuracy, always positive, etc. The citation to Joe’s DFC reads: “As pilot and observer respectively, Flying Officers Schultz and Williams have completed several sorties at night and have displayed a high degree of skill, courage and determination. During one sortie one night in December 1943, they destroyed three Dornier 217s, a feat which well illustrates their fine fighting qualities. In other sorties they have attacked locomotives and bridges.” That to the Bar to his DFC states: “This officer has at all times displayed great skill and courage in air operations. He has completed a large number of sorties and has invariably pressed home his attacks with much success. Flight Lieutenant Schultz has been responsible for the destruction of eight enemy aircraft at night, two of them during a patrol in April 1945. This officer has set a splendid example of keenness, ability and gallantry.”

As young men, Ron MacGarva (1922 – 2009, right) and Norm Howe (1920 -2018) flew Typhoons with 175 Squadron (RAF). Hugh Halliday summarizes a bit about Ron in his book, Typhoon and Tempest: The Canadian Story: “Having joined the RCAF in 1940, he trained at No.16 EFTS (Edmonton) and No.10 SFTS (Dauphin. Overseas, he did his OTU at Crosby on Eden and went for a few weeks to 412 Squadron, before being posted to 175 Squadron at Warmwell in the spring of 1943. There, many of his ops were against shipping targets and enemy airfields across the Channel. MacGarva was tour-expired that autumn and posted to the Far East to instruct on Hurricanes, then flew more ops with 60 Squadron from Agartala [India]. Post-war, he studied agriculture at the University of Manitoba, but the lure of flying drew him back into the RCAF in 1948. He spent several years on Sabres – instructing at Nellis AFB in Nevada and at RCAF Station Chatham, and doing NATO tours. He led the RCAF team, which won the 1959 NATO gunnery trophy [Guynemer Trophy], and finally left the RCAF in 1969 to work for the Department of Transport” For more about this great RCAF fighter pilot, also see The Canadair Sabre and Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace, Vol.3.

Ron MacGarva accepts NATO’s 1959 Guynemer Trophy from A/V/M Larry Wray (Air Officer Commanding of RCAF No.1 Air Division). Looking on are Ron’s teammates Dave Barker and Bill Norm on the left, and Alfie McDonald and Bill “Kiwi” McArthur on the right.

Norm Howe received the DFC on August 8, 1944, the recommendation for which (likely from his CO) reads: “This officer has been with the squadron since March 1942 during which time he has flown 79 hours operationally. He took part in the Dieppe Raid when he led his section in low level attacks on gun positions. He is now a Deputy Flight Commander and has led his flight on a number of occasions. He has displayed great keenness and enthusiasm and throughout has set a magnificent example. During a dive-bombing attack on the Cherbourg area he was very badly shot up by flak and in spite of severe damage he brought his aircraft safely home.” Norm died at age 98 on December 6, 2018. His obituary, describing yet another typical member of “The Greatest Generation”, reads in part: “Decorated Royal Air Force fighter pilot, jazz aficionado, fabulous dresser, champion tennis player, amateur water colour artist, bird watcher and skilled raconteur and joke-teller. He also made a very tasty chili and clam chowder, and his blueberry pancakes were first class. It is next to impossible to come up with any negatives about Normie – except perhaps his penchant for never getting rid of anything that he acquired, ever, and during his heyday making a undrinkable, potent, purple, unfiltered-for-fruit flies concoction that members of his Niagara-on-the-Lake cabal astonishingly termed “wine”. He was intelligent, loving, funny, engaging, generous, witty, empathetic, creative and self-sacrificing. He saw the best in others and gave the best he had. He was just someone you wanted to be around. We will miss him terribly.” See even more about Norm Howe at Go there and search for “Typhoon and Tempest – Reminiscences”. That will take you to some rare coverage of the RCAF’s last few Typhoon pilots.

Norm Howe (right) of Toronto with his pal Duval Wescott of Winnipeg, while they were tempting fate on a daily basis flying Typhoons with 175 Squadron.

Stanley M. Deluce (1923 – 2010, left) and R.A. “Dick” Watson (1923 – 2010) at the 1992 CFPA get together. Born in Chapleau, Ontario, Stan flew RCAF Hurricanes with 126 Squadron (Eastern Air Command). Postwar, he founded White River Air Services, a small bush flying outfit in Northern Ontario. He also was an engineer with the CPR, a job he held for more than 40 years. Meanwhile, the Deluce children became involved with the family business, “learning the ropes” as young bush pilots. White River eventually absorbed such companies as Austin Airways, grew into Air Ontario, and operates today as Porter Airlines – still family run. In 2007 Stan was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Born in Oba, Ontario, Dick Watson joined the RCAF in 1941 and eventually excelled overseas as a Typhoon pilot. A 1944 RCAF statement about Dick reads: “This officer has completed a tour of operational duty during which he has taken part in many sorties against heavily defended ground targets. At Caen, on 18th July, 1944, his aircraft received a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire and exploded in mid-air. He was able to parachute safely to earth and found himself in the midst of a furious tank battle, but he returned to our lines bringing back 139 prisoners with him. He has displayed great presence of mind and gallantry and has been an outstanding example to all those with whom he flies.” Dick received the Croix de Guerre from both France and Belgium (the medals on the right with red ribbons). Postwar, Dick operated a bush flying and tourist operation from Wawa on the Lake Superior shore. For many years it was an annual thing for Dick and his “wild and crazy” Typhoon buddies to gather at one of his lodges to fish, hunt and reminisce.

P/O Dick Watson (then about age 20) about to take his mighty 440 Squadron Typhoon on an operational sortie from one of our advanced fighter bases in France. This has always been one of my favourite Typhoon “action shots”. (RCAF PL40736)

On October 30, 2019 W.C Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC and Bar, was honoured for reaching 100th year. Here, he cuts his cake at the Toronto Cricket Club during Royal Canadian Legion Branch 165’s monthly dinner. Russ is a legendary figure in Canadian aviation, famous originally for his wartime career as a Mosquito night intruder pilot. During his many operations in such roles as CO of 418 “City of Edmonton” Squadron, Russ and his navigators attained ace status, destroying and damaging many enemy aircraft in aerial combat and during daring raids on enemy airfields, and downing 19 V-1 flying bombs (more than any other crew). The citation to Russ’ Distinguished Service Order notes, “As squadron commander, Wing Commander Bannock has proved to be an outstanding success. Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross he has destroyed a further seven enemy aircraft bringing his total victories to at least eleven enemy aircraft destroyed and others damaged. He has also destroyed nineteen flying bombs by night. In addition he has caused considerable disruption to the enemy’s lines of communication. Under this officer’s inspiring leadership his squadron has obtained a fine record of successes and reached a high standard of operational efficiency.” Postwar, Russ joined De Havilland of Canada, where he made the first flight of the DHC-2 Beaver in 1947. Russ eventually rose to be head of sales, then president of DHC. He later founded Bannock Aerospace, which operates to this day. His civil honours include membership in Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Order of Ontario. Russ is featured in many books from Hugh Halliday’s The Tumbling Sky to Fred Hotson’s The De Havilland Canada Story to one that Hugh and I did together, The Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945.

The famous night intruder team of Russ Bannock (pilot) and Robert Bruce (navigator) under the nose of their Mosquito.

Always supportive of our aviation heritage, Russ Bannock to this day shows up at history events. Here he is (right) ages ago with two other renowned (but late) Canadians at one of CANAV’s famous book launchings. Bob Fowler (left) flew Mitchells over France after D-Day, then excelled postwar as a test pilot at DHC. Centre is K.M. “Ken” Molson, who has done more for Canada’s aviation heritage than anyone. His achievements include founding Canada’s national aviation museum and authoring some of the most prominent Canadian aviation history books. Russ and Bob ever so deservedly are members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. We are hoping that some day the Hall will also admit Ken.

Canadair CRJs Go for Scrap

This year, aviation historian, Jan Fosgren, photographed some early Canadair CRJs consigned for parting out and scrapping in Sweden. Shown are photos taken in January 2019, when these aircraft were complete except for engines, then how they recently ended. Jan noted on January 18, 2019: “Just thought I’d send you some photos of three CRJ200’s that have been stored at Arlanda airport near Stockholm for several years. I took these last Thursday at Arlanda’s ‘Desolation Row’, which also includes two Caravelles (destined for preservation), one ATP, one Saab 340 and one DC-8-62.”

CRJ-200 VP-BMR was Canadair Serial No.7192 delivered initially as N623BR in September 1997 to Atlantic Coast Airlines of Dulles International Airport. In 2004 ACA became Independence Air. In 2009 N623BR was acquired by Air Volga of Volgograd, then (when the airline went bankrupt in April 2010), it joined RusLine of Moscow the following year. By 2019 RusLine is said to have had a fleet in 17 old CRJs. “BMR” flew to Arlanda for storage in February 2014. Jan wrote to me again on October 30 this year with some details: “After a Russian team had removed anything of value, the scrappers moved in two days ago. A sad sight, but a reminder that even 20-year old airliners can be of no value other than as scrap metal. I managed to obtain one item from JA01RJ — a ‘Mind the Steps’ sign in English and Japanese.” Notice that these CRJs are in “ER” (“engines removed”) condition. The GE engines go first as quite often they still have a few years left in them. At least they are good for spare parts.

Japanese-registered CRJ-200 JA-01RJ was a very early CRJ-100 (s/n 7012). In April 1993 it went new from Canadair of Montreal as N914CA to Comair/Delta Connection of Cincinnatti. In 2010 it was in storage at Calgary, where CRJs mainly were meeting their sad endings as piles of mangled aluminum (once anything of value had been stripped). Somehow, 7012 ended with a short reprieve, having been ferried out of Calgary some time after October 2012 (no details presently known). What is the meaning of 7012’s Japanese registration? Sometimes such details are elusive.

Built in Y2K, CRJ-200 s/n 7426 VQ-BBW started with ACA and Independence Air as N651BR. In 2006 it moved to Mesa Airlines of Phoenix and in 2009 went to Rusline of Moscow. In their dying days, such well-worn CRJs often get a quick new paint job. They look fine, but really … quite often they are being “flown into the ground” to squeeze the last few cycles/dollars out of them. In June 2011 “BBW” was consigned to the boneyard at Arlanda. Jan adds this interesting bit of history, “Built by Bombardier, the 50-seat CRJ-100 entered airline service in 1994, with 226 being built. The improved CRJ-200 proved a huge success, with 709 being delivered.” Many of these early CRJs remain in daily use. Most are very well cared for, a few “out in the boonies” are basket cases.

Early Film Footage of the Boeing 707 + Rick Mercer Reports on the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster + Dave Fairbanks Is Honoured at Ithaca

The Boeing 707 — Early Development and Initial Service This is a very worthwhile viewing experience. It’s a 1960 Boeing promotional movie with some very nice footage from around the world, including by one of my earliest correspondents, the great Gordon S. Williams. Have a look and enjoy — just google this link and you should get there:

And … if you have another spare 6 minutes, check out Rick Mercer’s wonderful coverage of his flight in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster!

Dave Fairbanks Honoured in Canada and the United States

While serving the RCAF during WWII, Dave Fairbanks mainly flew the powerful Hawker Tempest V, an advanced British fighter that was greatly feared by the enemy.

Among new members inducted at the Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame annual dinner this year (2019) in Montreal was the great David Charles “Dave” Fairbanks. Born in Ithaca, New York in 1922, early in WWII Dave joined the RCAF, where he excelled as an instructor, then as a fighter pilot. In combat in the European Theatre of Action, Dave gained “ace” status and received the Distinguished Flying Cross three times. Postwar, he led the way with several key projects as a test and demonstration pilot with De Havilland Canada in Toronto. That’s the period when I first met Dave. During the Toronto airshow on September 2, 1961, Dave flew me back and forth between Downsview Airport and Toronto Island Airport in Caribou No.2 CF-LAN. Flipping through some early pages in my passenger logbook, I see that I flew again with Dave on August 28, 1963 (at the same airshow) in Caribou CF-OYE. Those were the years when we local high school aviation buffs often could scrounge such flights from the ever-friendly DHC pilots.


Dave Fairbanks with his Tempest EJ762 following a severe encounter with German flak on November 19, 1944. Commanding 274 Squadron, Dave became the top Tempest ace with at least 11 kills.


Dave Fairbanks was a prominent part of several key De Havilland Canada programs during the height of the STOL (short takeoff and landing) development period. His first big assignment was the DHC-4 Caribou, which he and fellow pilot George Neal flew initially on July 30, 1958. Here they are that day (Dave on the right, George on the left) with flight test engineer Hans Brinkman.

CF-LAN-X was the second prototype Caribou. The US Army became the main Caribou operator.

Pilot’s Progress

Dave Fairbanks certainly made his mark at DHC. Besides Caribou test flying, from October 1959 to May 1960 he and A.W. “Mick” Saunders piloted CF-LVA on the first Caribou round-the-world sales tour. Dave contributed steadily to various on-going and upcoming DHC projects, the Twin Otter, Buffalo and Dash 7 included. He also carried out a lot of routine flying duties. Recently, Darrel Smith told me about one of these. Darrel had been with the Vancouver RCAF air reserve flying everything from Harvards and Vampires to Otters. When his squadron (442 Sqn) received its first Otters in 1960, Dave Fairbanks went west to make himself useful by giving some Otter seminars and flying instruction to 442. Lately, Darrel told me, “Certainly nice that Ithaca’s air event [see below] was dedicated to Dave. I too was really pleased that he was inducted into the CAHF last May. I had the pleasure of flying with Dave when we received our first Otters at 442, He was certainly a very well respected pilot.”

Following the Caribou, Dave did much development flying on the DHC-5 Buffalo and DHC-6 Twin Otter. Here, he does a dramatic Buffalo STOL departure from a baseball park along the East River in New York City. This was part of a grand demonstration to show the potential to city life of STOL aircraft. Then, a Twin Otter is seen landing in a tight spot during the same demonstration. These two wonderful photos were taken by the late, great Howard Levy of New Jersey.

Dave Passes On

Dave Fairbanks during his later years at DHC.

On February 20, 1975, just two weeks after the Dash 7 had been rolled out, Dave died of unexpected heart failure at the young age of 52. Happily, the basic details of his eminent aviation career are recorded in Fred Hotson’s 1995 book, De Havilland in Canada, and in Norman Franks’ 2019 book, Gallantry in Action: Airmen Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Two Bars 1918-1955. There’s also a good summary of Dave’s life on the “Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame” website You can check out these sources for the fuller story.

When you get a chance to visit Canada’s National Air Force Museum in Trenton, Ontario, be sure to look for the wonderful display of F/L Dave Fairbanks’ memorabilia, his wartime logbook and DFC Citations included. (Photo by Ken Swartz)

Getting Dave Inducted

How did the process work to get Dave Fairbanks inducted into the CAHF? The initial push came from longtime DHC pilot, Tom Appleton. Tom had worked under Dave since the mid-1960s as a test and demonstration pilot, excelling especially in Buffalo test and development flying. Tom later was president of the Amphibious Aircraft Division at Bombardier Aerospace, president of Piaggio America, and to this day is active in aerospace. In 2018 he asked if I would second his nomination for Dave to the CAHF. That, of course, was an honour and, happily, Tom’s efforts panned out – Dave was selected. However, the preliminaries had not been “a piece of cake”.

Although Dave was well known in test flying circles around the world, few details about his personal life were known. Tom knew that he had grown up in Ithaca, but Dave seemed to have no known relatives. His wife was believed to have passed away and they had had no children. Dave’s parents had long ago passed on and there was no sign of any siblings. Meanwhile, I had heard that MGen (ret’d) Mike Hall now was airport manager at Ithaca Tomkins Airport. I had known Mike when he commanded the 174th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a New York Air National Guard A-10 unit based at Syracuse. I connected Tom with Mike, then, one weekend Tom visited Mike to see what more he could learn. This foray paid off, for Tom found some leads about Dave’s youth, etc. through the Ithaca high school, local newspaper archives and other historical sources. Meanwhile, retired Canadian War Museum historian, Hugh Halliday, provided us with all known details about Dave’s wartime RCAF career by reviewing his personnel file at Library and Archives Canada. After filtering through all such material, Tom was able to present the CAHF with a good argument in Dave’s favour. At the CAHF Induction Dinner held in Bombardier’s business jet completion hangar at Dorval (Montreal) in May, we all enjoyed a video covering Dave’s accomplishments. CAHF historian, John Chalmers, CAHF stawald, Mary Oswald, and others at the CAHF in Wetaskiwin, Alberta teamed to create this wonderful piece of history. Mike and Sheela Hall attended from Ithaca. Dave Fairbanks now was formally recognized in the wide world of aviation history. Everyone went home satisfied and the Hall of Fame staff began looking ahead to 2020 and a new group of inductees.


Meanwhile, down in Ithaca other wheels of aviation history were turning. When he took over as airport manager in 2014, Mike Hall had introduced an annual airport open house. For 2019 it seemed important to him that this year’s event should be dedicated in honour of Dave Fairbanks, and so it happened. Tom, his wife, Heather, and I were invited. On September 13 we drove from Toronto to Ithaca, where we enjoyed a wonderful evening in one of the main Ithaca Tomkins Airport hangars. Banquet tables were arranged around the EAA’s fabulous B-17 “Aluminum Overcast” (an impressive backdrop), Mike and Tom spoke, and a fine time was had by all.

The crowd starts to gather in the hangar for the Dave Fairbanks event. Then …  time to eat!

Mike Hall delivers his opening remarks. Through his distinguished USAF career, Mike flew NORAD’s top fighter – the F- 106. He later joined the New York Air National Guard, flying the A-10 and F-16 with the 174th TFS at Syracuse. Eventually, he commanded the squadron.

Tom Appleton outlines the Dave Fairbanks story. Tom worked several years as a test pilot under Dave at De Havilland Canada. Then, Mike Hall chatting with Tom and Heather Appleton.

Ithaca Tomkins Airport

Next morning the airport tarmac was open to the public. It was great fun with many displays of aircraft, collectable cars, and much airport equipment for everyone to enjoy at the “hands on” level. Topping it all off, “Aluminum Overcast” made several passenger flights.

The flying club hosted a pancake breakfast. Visitors packed the hangar. Then, EAA B- 17 N5017N on the tarmac ready for its first of several flights. Happily, the weather was starting to clear. The detail photo of the instrument panel shows a mixture of old and new technology.

N5017N “Aluminum Overcast” as I first saw it at the Canadian Warplane Heritage airshow at Hamilton, Ontario in June 1979. Note that it still was in “stripped down” condition. Originally USAAF tail number 44-85740, N5017N had been delivered too late (1945) to see combat. Instead, in 1947 it was sold for $750 scrap value to Charles Winters, who soon re-sold it for $3500. Registered N5017N, it was converted to haul cargo, so all excess weight (gun turrets, etc.) was removed. It then started freighting between Florida and Puerto Rico. In 1949 N5017N was re-sold for $28,000 (how its market value had exploded!) to Aero Service Corp. and converted for high level aerial photography. Later, N5017N had a life as a bug sprayer, until finally getting into the warbird world in 1978, when acquired by Dr. William Harrison. In 1980 he donated the plane to the EAA, which eventually, re-converted it to look as it would have when rolled off the Boeing production line. For more about “Aluminum Overcast” see Scott A. Thompson’s superb book Final Cut The Post-War B-17 Flying Fortress: The Survivors and B17 Aluminum Overcast Tour – EAA

Lots of car collectors turned out for the Saturday event at Ithaca Tomkins Airport. Here, vintage car aficionado, Tom Appleton, admires a 1937 Packard, and talks it over with the owner.

All sorts of airport equipment were on display, including this 1958 American Lafrance (Dodge Power Wagon) fire truck. Meanwhile, the nearby community of Lansing was taking visitors on “flights” in the bucket of its 100-foot aerial ladder.

Ithaca being in a New York state snow belt, the airport is ready for the worst in winter storms. A variety of exotic snow removal equipment is always at the ready once winter closes in. Everyone had a chance to inspect this amazing technology.

Airport manager, Mike Hall, (right) on duty on the ramp.

Commercial flights came and went during the day. Here, Delta Connection’s Bombardier CRJ-200 N496CA arrives.

Cornell University

Ithaca is renowned as the home of Cornell University. Dave Fairbanks grew up in this rarefied atmosphere and his own father was a Cornell professor. For our weekend visit, our hosts set us up royally in the Statler Hotel on the Cornell campus. Here are a few snapshots taken during my walk-arounds. First, the Ezra Cornell monument, then the famous Cornell clock tower.

This week, Cornell’s renowned art gallery was featuring an interesting “installation” – a beat- up old “hippy” Volvo.

Another typical scene on the historic Cornell campus.

RCAF Nostalgia No.19 Elementary Flying Training School Virden, Manitoba, Course 45 Graduating Class of February 26, 1942

During the Second World War, hundreds of classes and tens of thousands of  pilots graduated from elementary flying training courses held at schools across Canada under the umbrella of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. One such school was 19 EFTS at Virden, Manitoba. The graduating class of February 26, 1942 included 80 proud young men, their draft being mainly from Western Canada, with the exception of a few Americans.

Every graduation featured a program of events and list of graduates. During the day, a parade would be held, followed by the final banquet. The excited young pilots, each with a few flying hours on the De Havilland Tiger Moth, then would be posted to a service flying training school to train to “wings” standards. If destined for fighters, they usually would go on to a Harvard school; if going to bombers or other multi-engine planes, they usually would be posted to a school flying Ansons or Cranes.

Recently, I came across this course graduation program among the vast and endlessly fascinating holdings in the William H.D. “Bill” Meaden, DFC, Collection, which I inherited long ago from the Meaden Estate. Over the decades, readers of CANAV’s RCAF history books have seen quite a bit about Bill Meaden’s illustrious wartime and postwar RCAF careers. From Edmonton, he had begun on Course 45 at Virden on December 29, 1941. He finished on February 26 with 80 hours flying the Tiger Moth. He went on to Cranes at Dauphin, Manitoba; went overseas into the RAF training system, and finally on to operations. He excelled in Bomber Command, coming home with the Distinguished Flying Cross. You can read of Bill’s exploits in such CANAV titles as Sixty YearsThe Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945, and Aviation in Canada: Bombing and Coastal Operations Overseas.

As the war proceeded, many of these young airmen kept in touch. I have many of Bill Meaden’s wartime letters. In these he and his pals often traded war stories (sometimes dreadful ones) and sometimes he received a letter back that he had written to a pal – a letter stamped “deceased”. Yes, these were young men tied up in some very brutal realities.

What about 19 EFTS, Course 45? EFTS was just the first of the flying hurdles that aspiring pilots had to face in the BCATP and later. So what became of these 80 fellows on leaving Virden early in 1942? No one’s fate could be predicted at the time. Certainly, several would have “washed out” at SFTS, where standards were tougher than at Virden. Even a small failure could see a fellow sent home to his mother. Even worse … hundreds at the SFTS stage would be killed or injured in flying accidents. Others would die in traffic accidents, drownings, fatal illnesses, even the occasional murder or suicide. It was not an easy go.

I’ve had a look through the graduate list for Course 45 at Virden and it’s clear that most of the fellows survived the war. Yes, some would not have made it through the rigours of SFTS, being shipped home perhaps for many a reason to work in the war industries, return to school, etc. From what I can see (although my work here has been limited) ten Course 45 fellows were killed either in action (KIA – killed in action) or training (KIFA – killed in flying accident). One man lost in eight is a high casualty rate, especially considering that several others did not even get beyond SFTS.

Interestingly, you can see that a number who had survived at Virden, washed out of pilot training at SFTS, but then selected alternate trades in order to fulfill their dream of serving their country in time of great need. Four of the 10 fatalities from Course 45 were not pilots. Here is my tentative list of those lost. I know of just one (Meaden) who later served in the postwar RCAF. The majority of survivors simply went home after the war to do other things. Notice the scribble on the Course 45 program – “LAC Morgan, J.C.” His bio on Wiki is worth a look. Morgan later transferred from the RCAF to the US Army Air Force, flew on B-17s over Germany, then one day had a horrendous mission. For his determined work that day, he would receive the Congressional Medal of Honour — as good as it gets at the Presidential level.

19 EFTS Course 45 – Wartime Fatalities

P/O Joseph Eloi Bohemier of St. Anne, Manitoba Age 21. KIA January 23, 1945. 441 Squadron, Pilot, Spitfire MK585 lost off Shetland Islands. No known grave. Remembered on the Runnymede War Memorial.

Sgt Douglas Oliver Broughton of Vancouver Age 21. KIA May 13, 1943. 429 Squadron, Air Gunner, Wellington HE913, shot down by a night fighter on operations to Duisberg. Broughton previously badly injured in a crash at 22 OTU (sole survivor of this crash). Buried in Nijmegen, Netherlands

F/O Harry Allan Danniger of San Bernadino, California. Age 26. KIA September 6, 1943. 419 Squadron, Bomb Aimer, Halifax DJ210, shot down, target Mannheim. Buried at Durnback, Germany.

P/O Warren Douglass Hall of Crossfield, Alberta Age 21. KIA May 7, 1944. 211 Squadron. Pilot, Beaufighter TF539, lost on operations. Remembered on the Singapore War Memorial.

FSgt James Douglas Hamilton of Kenaston, Saskatchewan. Age 22. KIA June 23, 1943. 427 Squadron, Pilot, Halifax DK141 shot down by a night fighter during operations to Mulheim. Buried Bergen-Op-Zoom, Netherlands.

FSgt Elmer Charles King of Peace River, Alberta. Age 20. KIA July 16, 1944. 44 Squadron, Air Gunner, Lancaster PB206 lost on mining operations. Remembered on the Runnymede War Memorial.

FSgt James Lawrence McConnell of Calgary, Alberta. Age 22. KIFA January 29, 1943. 22 OTU, Pilot (in training), Wellington HE650, crashed Gloucestershire. Buried Moreton-in-Marsh.

Sgt Samuel Hampton McBryde of Kingsville, Texas. KIFA October 13, 1942. 15 AFU, Pilot (in training), Oxford crashed during night training at Acaster Malbis aerodrome near Leeds.

F/O Robert Jordan Sheen of Owendale, Alberta. Age 26. KIA July 13, 1944. 415 Squadron, Pilot, Wellington MF494, lost on night anti-shipping operations North Sea. Remembered on the Runnymede War Memorial.

FSgt Hugh Phair Spencer of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Age 20  KIA May 1, 1943. 51 Squadron, Air Gunner, Halifax HR733 shot down near Essen. Buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

Canadian Forces Supports the Former Soviet Union: 1993 Mission to Krasnoyarsk

The aircraft for the first leg of our trip to Krasnoyarsk was CanForces/437 Sqn Boeing 707 13705, operating as Canadian Forces Flight 7356. ‘705 was one of five 707-347Cs ordered (but not taken up by) Western Airlines. Instead, they were delivered to the Canadian Forces in 1970-71. These fantastic aircraft would serve Canada well, until sold in 1995-97 to the USAF, which converted them to E-8C reconnaissance configuration, ‘705 becoming 96-0042. On September 24, 2005 it was 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. (Click on any photo to see it full frame.)

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. It wasn’t the easiest thing to get on a trip such as this, but for the Krasnoyarsk mission, BGen Jeff Brace, then commanding Canadian Forces Air Transport Group, knew of my interest. Jeff was the sort of Air Force officer who always had enjoyed RCAF history and appreciated  the books that I was doing. As Operation Boreal II was ramping up, he called personally to invite me on one of the missions. As a young RCAF captain, Jeff had begun with an exciting career flying the C-130 with 436 Squadron, then advanced to the 707 at 437. Eventually, he commanded 437, then was Base Commander, CFB Trenton and, finally, Commander, Air Transport Group itself.

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.

The City

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. 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 not expected. 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.

My first view stepping off the plane. Wonderment seemed to be the feeling among the crowd 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 chilly winter’s day, and mainly what I noticed from the door as I stepped off ‘705 were aged Russia airliners. 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 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 happy to find that I could wander around on the tarmac freely covering all the action around our Boeing.

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 hefty Red Cross kits.


Airport Tour

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 air side photo tour at the airport. This came about when I found someone to introduce me to the airport manager. After I pleaded 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 the plane was not on radar. Since it actually was a bit off course (which ATC somehow had not noticed), it flew into a mountain 300 m below the summit.

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. I once got to spend a day flying around East Africa in an Il-76. What a super airplane.

In the early 1990s Krasnoyarsk — besides being an key regional airport — 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. 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, the 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 jetliners, no!

Tu-154s and Il-86s – 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, jetliner. 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 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 reside 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.


More good reading … scroll back to read about similar historic ATG missions — Horn of Africa, Nairobi, Rwanda, DRG, etc. Also, I’ve updated the item covering the 2009 restoration of the F-86 on display in Peterborough. Just search for “Peterborough” and that’ll get you there. Well worth a read 10 years later. Cheers … Larry

Books, Books, Books

If you get a spare moment, please check out these aviation booklists. You’re certain to find something you’d like!

Aviation in Canada Series

CANAV Booklist Spring_Summer 2019

Booklist Special Items August 2019

TTC CLRV Recycling Phase in High Gear + A Nifty 3-Minute OSHKOSH 2019 Overview

OSHKOSH 2-19 Overview … worth a quick look:

TTC PCCs and CLRVs — The Scrapman’s Perspective (also see our subsequent item of January 21, 2020)… 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 car barns 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 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…

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 – Air Engineer and Airplane Photographer

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

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

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 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.


Happy Canada Day 2019

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.

Blog Canada Day 3

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.

Blog Canada Day 3A

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.

Blog Canada Day 5

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.

Blog Canada Day 20

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”.