As the 1930s came to a close, America’s aircraft industry was booming, and the US Army Air Corps and US Navy were ordering new aircraft fleets in the rush to be ready for potential war. In one case there was a competition among manufacturers to produce a new medium bomber to surpass the current frontline type, the Douglas B-18 Bolo. Douglas proposed a revamped B-18, the result being the B-23 Dragon, first flown in July 1939. However, as impressive as the B-23 was – it was fast, had good range, carried a load, etc., it did not compare overall with the competing North American B-25 and Martin B-26. In the end, only 38 B-23s were built and these spent their forthcoming war on the home front more or less in the shadows as advanced trainers, glider tugs, etc., and UC-67 transports.
What makes the story of extra interest by 2022 is how – immediately after the war — the B-23/UC-67 became a sudden star, once discovered by corporations needing a fast, comfortable, impressive executive transport plane. Soon many large companies and some wealthy individuals were operating UC-67s. That’s how we young “airport rats” got introduced to the UC-67 as we hung around Malton airport near Toronto, and travelled around with our cameras spotting between Chicago and Montreal.
As promised a few weeks ago, here are some of my UC-67 black-and-whites. For a good source of B-23/UC-67 history, google “Warbird Information Exchange B-23 Project”. For simplicity, in the captions I call these planes B-23s, but feel free to substitute UC-67.
News From Buffalo Airways of Yellowknife(March 26, 2022)
Buffalo Airways is on the verge of the jet age. Famous for its DC-3s, DC-4s, C-46s and Electras, the company has just announced its purchase of a Boeing 737. Here’s the work straight from Mikey McBryan of Buffalo: http://www.pierregillard.com/blog/index.html
Welcome to the CANAV Books blog for February 2022. As usual, there’s a lot to cover. You can start right here by downloading our Spring/Summer 2022Booklist. Any reader will find something enticing — guaranteed! For one thing, you’ll spot some excellent Avro Canada books, including a top new CF-100 history, Canadian Cold Warriors. “CCW” nicely complements the Jan Zurakowsi and Bill Waterton test pilot autobiographies. Chris Gainor’s Who Killed the Avro Arrow caps off this selection. There’s also Paul Ozorak’s new Abandoned Military Installations of Canada, Vol.4, a massive production for anyone with the least interest. Covering Gander in wartime, North Atlantic Crossroads is another gem. What else? Any Canadiana reader will revel in The Company, ditto for Chris Hadfield’s Apollo Murders. And don’t miss our special offers on Canada’s Air Force at War and Peace and Air Transport in Canada, two monumental and legendary Canadian aviation book publishing projects that are beloved anchors in many an aviation home library. Here’s your list … have at it!
Russian assault on Antonov airport February 24. If you google these bits, you should be able to see these dramatic scenes as Russian commandos take the airport by helicopter assault. Not a happy sight — so far not a single nation is willing to help Ukraine. Putin has the world terrorized. pic.twitter.com/SnvmwQ1Ge
More Oldies — Wartime National Film Board Aviation Short
During WWII, Canada’s National Film Board’s primary job was turning out propaganda shorts. 75-80 years later these are a window on the day’s documentary standards from storyline to editing and presentation. By today’s standards, the acting seems almost ridiculous in how the NFB narrators (this one is the great Lorne Greene) put across their message in that panicky style of the times, but that was then and this is now. Here’s a good example of the NFB’s wartime effort. I’m sure you’ll be able to overlook the aggravating presentation to enjoy the fascinating film clips from Canadian aviation “way back in the day”. Google it at:
In Air Transport in Canada all of our post-WWII air carriers are covered in decent detail, for such a general book. You see all about the roots of such carriers as Maritime Central Airlines, Mont Laurier Aviation, Wheeler Airlines, Transair, Queen Charlotte Airlines, etc. for which air cargo was so important. “ATC” provides solid background for what was happening – the war was over, surplus airplanes were available, markets beckoned (or did they?), on and on. To the credit of the visionaries, many companies survived for decades, until gradually absorbed into larger ones. If this sort of business/aviation story interests you, there are good books to track down. Besides “ATC” for the Canadian story, two of my favourites are R.E.G. Davies Airlines of the United States since 1914 and Commuter Airlines of the United States, but so far I’ve yet to see a book about the US postwar cargo airlines. Is this one in the works? Here’s an excellent old movie covering Sante Fe Skyway, a short-lived 1940s carrier with DC-3s and DC-4s. It’s an excellent business case study and the ancient propliner footage is not to be missed. Sante Fe Skyway reminds me of such great Canadian companies as QCA and World Wide Airways. For an informative and enjoyable 18 minutes, google The Failure of Santa Fe Skyway – YouTube
More of Les Corness’ Unique Photography
Any time I glance through a pile of old Les Corness transparencies from the 50s, I spot many that I’d like to share. Regardless of their sometimes rough condition with scratches and crud, or Les’ preference (when called for) to favour content over form, there’s always something inspirational about his photos. You’ll know what I mean if you have your copy of The Leslie Corness Propliner Collection (if you don’t, see the booklist for a great deal). Also, you can search for earlier blog items featuring Les, this item included: “Leslie Corness Propliner Review” which features lots more of his magnificent photos.
Over the decades CAF/RCAF aircraft procurement has been a subject of discussion, analysis and befuddlement. Project timelines themselves have been mindboggling at times. How long, for example, long did it take to replace the Argus? It seems that since the late 1960s the Argus was going to be “replaced”. Finally, the Aurora arrived at Greenwood in 1980. So it went with the F-104/CF-5/CF-101 replacement, which culminated with the delivery in 1982 of Canada’s first CF-188 Hornets. Then there was the Sea King replacement, which finally has arrived in the form of the Cyclone, a much modified civilian Sikorsky. Most recently, the fantastic old Buffalo has been phased out after 50+ years of stellar service. Its replacement, the C-295 Kingfisher, has arrived, but with a list of either unacceptable features or yet-to-be sorted out mods (so it also went with the Cormorant). Somehow, each such fleet gradually has been sorted out. The main thing about DND procurement seems to be that Canada rarely acquires an airplane without massive gobs of time to contemplate and complicate everything, plus astounding (sometimes unjustified) over-spending.
When, lately, I spotted the wonderful old photo (above) of Richfield Oil’s NC13777, I was reminded of how the RCAF had acquired its first modern, all-metal airplane in 1936. Just then it needed a new type to replace its ancient Bellancas and Fairchilds of 1920s vintage. Somehow, RCAF engineering HQ learned of the Northrop, maybe simply by a salesman knocking at the door, or spotting a trade magazine advertisement or article. It looked like a good airplane, and (RCAF HQ soon learned) industrial and trade skills spinoffs were available. But the Delta was a civil design. The great Joseph P. Juptner describes it as “a highly advanced single-engined airliner, a speedy conveyance … for medium roads on the trunk airline routes”.
Unfortunately, TWA had cancelled its order for 15 Deltas when the US government ceased licencing single-engine airliners for night schedules. Northrop was left holding the bag, but the RCAF came to the rescue, buying three Deltas from Northrop’s surplus, then contracting with Canadian Vickers for licence production of 17 more. These served well into early WWII, then had extra duty into late the war as ground training aids. In the end, the RCAF saved Jack Northrop’s bacon by buying his orphan. In RCAF service, the Delta proved to be a solid, versatile plane. Meanwhile, it must be admitted that DND procurement can get things rolling in a hurry if necessary, not just with the Delta. Look how it acquired its fleets of C-17s and C-130Js – they seem to have come out of nowhere compared to the decades needed to replace the Sea King or Buffalo.
Canada’s Hornets –Retrospective
We fans started following the CF-18 Hornet back in 1982 and since then haven’t missed much about this exciting, ongoing episode in CAF/RCAF fighter history. My first chance to photograph Hornets was at Cold Lake in 1983. Since then I’ve chased them all over the place, and even had some backseat rides (starting at Baden-Soellingen in 1987). Other highlights were at Maple Flag at Cold Lake, various exciting events at Bagotville, fighter meets at Tyndall AFB, Langley AFB and Burlington, Vermont, a few days with 437 Sqn refuelling Canada’s last NATO Hornets between Lahr and Goose Bay via Keflavik, Doha for Gulf War I, and airshows from coast to coast. Another historic event occurred in 1993, while I was waiting at CFB Lahr to catch a Hercules back to Canada. There on the ramp sat a lone Hornet getting ready for departure. Here’s that story as it appeared in the November 1993 edition of “Wings” magazine.
Harsh Realities in Space Flight
Terranauts … here’s an important Space Program retrospective. The topic is melancholic, but needs to be contemplated to have a realistic sense of where we’ve been and where we’re going tomorrow in space exploration. Chris and Helene Hadfield are the guests. Google this: We remember – A special episode of Terranauts with Helene …
You’ll never run out of solid history to read or photos to enjoy on our blog (which dates back to 2009). What are your interests? Here are some of the worthwhile topics you can find in a flash via the search box or by scrolling back through the years:
440 Squadron Gets Together in Ottawa A History of Austin Airways Aircraft of the USAF Museum Antonov AN-124 Apollo 40 th Anniversary Beech 18 Boeing 727 Turns 50 C-119 The Travels of Nick and Larry Canada’s Enduring DC-3s Canadian Fighter Pilots Association Canadian Forces in Ethiopia, Somalia and Rwanda Canso CF-104 Warbird Emerges Dash 8 No.1000 Is Delivered Fox Moth Discoveries From the Wilf White Collection Homebuilding Roots in Canada Last Lockheed Jetstar Retires Light Planes Lockheed Lodestar More CF-TGE Nostalgia Norseman Northern Aviation in 1977 Old Canadair Originals Postwar Adverts Super Connie Field Trip The Crash of CF-100 18417 The Great Bob Halford The Great War Flying Museum Toronto/Winnipeg Turn-Around Winter Photography
Next Time on the CANAV Blog?
Have a close look at our promo sheet for CANAV’s grand history of CAE Inc. of Montreal. If you pride yourself in having a serious Canadian aviation home library, The CAE Story belongs in it. There isn’t a more wide-ranging aerospace history book with this depth of coverage anywhere in the world, nor a more beautifully-produced book at such a bargain price.
Since we’ve had a very snowy winter here in Toronto this year, I got thinking about winter photography in years gone by. I was further encouraged by Pierre Gillard’s recent winter aviation photography at St. Hubert — see http://www.pierregillard.com/blog/index.html This is not to be missed!
First, here’s a January 1976 scene from the bad old days of the Queen St. East morning commute. Well do we remember packing ourselves onto such PCCs as 4690. Talk about the wretched lives of sardines, eh! Then, 4449 rounding the loop at Neville Park on January 15, 1968 ready to battle its way on another cross-town Queen Street grind. Finally for this trio … PPCs 4230 and 4309 stored at the Wychwood Barns as I spotted them on December 6, 1969.
Old Magazines Are Real Treasures
There is no more fun with the printed page than flipping through old magazines reading the articles and perusing the wonderful old advertisements. Lately, I spotted these two wonderful old “adverts” in “The Aeroplane” from 1955 — one featuring the Viscount for TCA, the other the Avro CF-100. The first one illustrates the heyday of the UK’s post-WWII aviation industry; the second — Canada’s at its peak, a time when such other types as the Beaver, Otter, Tracker and Argus all were coming off the lines. Canada was at the top of its aviation industry game. For more such delightful reading, see our earlier item “Postwar Adverts”.
Martin Mars … Many older fans have been watching the great Martin Mars story since several Mars came to Canada in the late 1950s. Lots of us eventually made the pilgrimage to Port Alberni, BC to photograph these giant beauties. Today, two Mars remain at their Port Alberni base, but they’ve been dormant for years, bypassed by newer technology. Now, the last airworthy Mars is for sale. Here are all the details and much more about the classic Mars: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/martin-mars-for-sale-1.6317194
A Bit of News – CANAV’s RCAF 1924-2024 Project
Hello to all our great fans keeping up with the CANAV blog. Nothing much huge to report this time, other than about how we are making solid progress with our 2024 book to cover the history of the RCAF in its 100th year. This will be the ultimate among all general RCAF books over the decades. If you have our 1984 60th Anniversary book Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924-1984 or any such other CANAV book (Canada’s Air Force Today, etc.) you’ll know what to expect. Our “2024” book will have no equals. So far we’ve laid the groundwork and roughed out our coverage of lead-in and interwar years chapters, and now are starting to put together the many chapters covering 1939-1945 on the homefront and overseas. In case you have anything that’s unique re. hardcore history (log books, other original documents) that you think might fit in, let me know firstname.lastname@example.org
In the early 1960s we still were shooting North Stars, Super Connies, Viscounts and all such propliners out at Malton airport (today’s YYZ). Suddenly, things started to perk up when BOAC started showing up with the Comet 4. Service was infrequent. Several times I hitchhiked out to Malton after school on Fridays to try to catch the Comet on its weekly run, but always missed it. It wasn’t ‘til a trip to Dorval on July 26, 1959 that I finally got to shoot Comet G-APDB. ‘DB was the first Comet that I got close enough to at Malton to catch the registration, that being on April 29 the following year. Then, on May 6, I spotted G-APDD. Still, I came away with no photos.
Finally, the first 707s and DC-8s started to appear at Malton, making for really exciting times. Now we were turning up our noses (like little idiots) at the propliners. The big jets had us mesmerized for a while. Here are a few of my early photos from this period.
C. Don Long — Aeronautical Engineer, CAHS No.104
One of the great early members of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society (Member No.104) was C. Don Long. From the first days of the CAHS Journal, Don contributed many authoritative articles, often covering the history of De Havilland of Canada, but also such special topics as the Toronto-Buffalo air service using Sikorsky amphibians c.1930.
Born in Toronto in 1911, Don was smitten by aviation as a boy. Cycling to old Leaside aerodrome, he got to know and photograph dozens of local and transient planes. Leaside, of course, had trained WWI pilots in 1917-18, then was home to the Toronto Flying Club from 1928, before being ploughed under for industrial use. Graduating in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto in 1933, Don was hired by De Havilland of Canada. Soon he was known as the go-to man whenever any UK DH type needed Canadian “mods” – winterized cowlings, skis, etc. Just before WWII, Don created the mods for the Canadianized D.H.82C Tiger Moth – its sliding canopy, brakes, tail wheel and skis. Next, he became chief inspector of Mosquito production.
Postwar, Don had positions with such other organizations as AVRO Canada, DH in the UK, Canadair, Spartan and the National Research Council. He returned to DHC in 1959, then joined the staff of McMaster University in 1970. Other organizations to which he contributed included the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, and the Society of Automotive Engineers. Don died fairly young on May 18, 1972. Here are some of his wonderful pre-WWII photos. I don’t have many details about these, but here’s a chance simply to enjoy some historic photos taken around Toronto by a keen young spotter (probably before the term was in use). Most of these would have been taken at Leaside and the airports around what today is Downsview. One of these strips was the second home of the TFC, another belonged to International Airways. These all had disappeared by the time DHC had developed Downsview into a modern airport just before WWII. Sometimes Don could get his subject “in the clear”, but even if there was a mob scene he was keen to shoot off a frame. Thank goodness that he did.
Short Flying Boats in Canada
In 1937 Britain’s Imperial Airways and America’s Pan American Airways began experimenting with flying boats on the North Atlantic. The dream for Britain was to add to its growing system of routes that eventually would encircle the world, bringing the old “Empire” closer together. Pan Am had its own global dreams. This challenging effort commenced on July 5/6, when 4-engine flying boats took off from opposite sides of the Atlantic — the Imperial Airways Short “C” Class “Caledonia” flying from Foynes, Ireland to Botwood, Gander Lake, Newfoundland; and the Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-42 going from Shediac, New Brunswick to Foynes. Canada was involved, having helped to finance facilities at both western termini. This was just as Ottawa, under the determined drive of J.A. Wilson (Controller of Civil Aviation) was on the brink of launching Canada’s national airline.
Establishing a North Atlantic air service was vital for Great Britain, which already had flying boat links as far as distant Australia. Now, Ottawa envisioned Canada being part of Great Britain’s globe-encircling plans. Meanwhile, France and Germany already were well-entrenched on the Atlantic, operating flying boats and Zeppelins. Imperial Airways, unfortunately, was at a disadvantage, since its Short “C” Class boats lacked range, so could not carry loads on the Atlantic. For its flights “Caledonia” had all excess weight stripped out and long range fuel tanks added, then it barely could make it across to Botwood. America’s Boeing, Martin and Sikorsky flying boats, on the other hand, were built from the outset for range and payload. Imperial Airways’ Short “G” Class flying boat, which would match the American designs, still was on the drawing boards.
After landing at Botwood, “Caledonia” pushed on to Montreal, where its arrival was a huge media event. Its sister ship, “Cambria”, already having made proving flights to the Mediterranean and Azores, also was involved, but its first crossing to Botwood was a near-disaster, when navigation and radio equipment broke down. Temporarily lost, “Cambria” finally reached Botwood. Next, it continued on a public relations trip to Montreal, then Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor and Hamilton. Cambria’s arrival in Toronto Bay was heralded by the local press: “The Cambria’s landing will be marked by a shrieking outburst from factory and locomotive whistles.”
Instead of boisterous headlines the next day, the front page of the “Toronto Daily Star” reported grim news. Front and centre was a large photo of “Cambria” floating cockeyed on Toronto Bay with the caption, “Flying Boat Soars above City, Breaks Pontoon in Landing”. On touching down on Lake Ontario in front of the Canadian National Exhibition, Captain Griffin J. “Taffy” Powell seems to have miscalculated, perhaps fooled by a crosswind. His port wing dug in, the huge sponson near its tip tore off, and the mighty flying boat slewed dramatically to a stop.
Once the situation was under control, “Cambria” was towed into Toronto Bay. A repair crew from De Havilland of Canada (including Don Long) was organized and eventually completed repairs (needed parts were shipped from Belfast aboard the Queen Mary and on by surface express to Toronto). On September 23 Captain Powell test flew “Cambria”. Next day he flew to Hamilton for a civic event, then left for the long flight home. “Cambria” landed in Foynes on September 28 after a record-setting 10:35 hours for the eastbound leg.
These C. Don Long photos of “Cambria” rarely have been seen. They show Don’s great facility with a camera, getting wide, medium and close-up views, taking it all in, as we used to say. I’m sure that somewhere there are other photos from this series, but these are impressive enough.
n.b. For the in-depth story of the “Cambria” in Toronto see Patrick Fitz Gerald’s 2005 history “The Cambria Incident: A Very Public Mishap” in the Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal Vol.43 No.4. Also see Ray Crone’s 1998 summary “Canada and the Short Empire Boats” in CAHS Journal Vol.36 No.4. For membership in the CAHS please go to www.cahs.com If you are not a member yet, you will thank yourself for joining.
This series of Don Long photographs shows “Cambria” moored in Toronto Bay. There were no telephoto lenses in everyday use in 1937, so this is enlarged from a small part of Don’s negative. Then, a series of photos of “Cambria” in the Toronto Islands lagoon near the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, where repair work was done. Any true aviation history fan will revel in these scenes. The cockpit photo will really get the flying boat aficionados going. I haven’t seen such a nice one.
Toronto Bay History Treasure
Also among my small collection of C. Don Long negatives is this one of the Toronto Harbour Commission’s 214-ton tugboat Rouille. I’m guessing that it was named for Fort Rouille, the original European settlement here. Fort Rouille was a small French trading post somewhere on the Lake Ontario shore where York later was founded in 1793 by Governor Simcoe (York became Toronto in 1834).
Tugboat Rouille was built by Collingwood Shipbuilding Co. in During WWII it was impressed by the RCN. Postwar, it worked for J.P. Porter and Sons of Toronto, but ended badly. On December 3, 1954 it was sailing from Sydney, Cape Breton Island to Rimouski on the lower St. Lawrence River, when it got into stormy waters. Just off Cape Smokey, about 60 miles north of Sydney, it sank, taking its five crew to their deaths.
Here, Rouille is tied up in the Keating Channel near the mouth of the Don River. To this day, the scene is not hugely different, although the Keating Channel is destined for a major facelift as the Lower Don is redeveloped. This photo exemplifies the stalwart photographer. Airplanes are of great interest, of course, but a fellow like Don Long always had his eyes open, looking for other fascinating subject matter. What great work such hobbyists do in preserving ordinary Canadian history.
Lately, the fabulous AeroTime News website has featured some items about the plane spotting hobby. Here’s the introductory part of it. What an excellent summary, but has the hobby ever changed since we old timers got interested. Who would have thought that a hobbyist could end in jail over his simple interest in photographing airplanes? Well, it’s happened, mainly because there actually are rules … and always have been. One day at Malton, for example, I had cycled up to the Avro end to see what there was to see. Spotting some CF-100s about a half mile away, I decided to have a go at them by trudging through some fields of thick grass and weeds along the Avro fenceline. We always had known about this spot, but had been warned by pals that Avro sometimes patrolled the fence. Finally I reached the CF-100s, which were parked on a run-up pad. Nobody was around, so I took a few snaps through the Frost fence. All of a sudden I heard yelling, turned and spotted a couple of uniformed Avro security cops huffing and puffing through the field heading my way. Soon they had me cornered and were giving me the gears. Who did I think I was, etc., etc. After confiscating my roll of 120 and jotting down my particulars, we parted on good enough terms. A couple of weeks later my negatives came in the mail, all of them, so Avro security had a heart after all. However, it had been a good lesson for a kid. After that I was a bit more cautious about when and where to push my luck at the airport. We had other even more exciting run-ins with airport security, about which I’ll write in a future book.
About two years ago Don McVicar of Hamilton put a team together to restore Canada’s first Piper PA-23 Apache – Central Airways’ CF- KFX. “KFX” was brought into Canada by Central’s always forward-thinking owners, Bobby and Tommy Wong. This is really a newsworthy story that any fan will enjoy. It’s all about how CF-KFX recently has risen from the boneyard. There are many interesting threads and the project has spun off some worthwhile activity. In one case, it’s brought some old time Central Airways (Toronto Island Airport) staff and former students back in touch with each other. Here’s your link to this nifty story:
Click on this link to see the stills and action-packed videos showing the crash landing on December 9 at Anchorage airport. In spite of it all, this C-117 “Super DC-3” should be flying again before long:
In the late 1950s the RCAF ordered a small fleet (10) of Grumman G-111 Albatross amphibians for its search-and-rescue units. These replaced Canada’s long-serving Cansos and complemented the RCAF’s Otters, Dakotas, etc. doing SAR work. Retired in 1971, our Albatrosses returned to Grumman, then were re-sold, some to the Mexican military.
In 2022 the Albatross is having a revival. Many of the 466 built survive, and there is a plan to refurbish some, and maybe build new examples in Australia powered by Canada’s famous PT6 turbine engine. Will this actually happen? We shall see, as usual. Pratt & Whitney Canada’s recent press release explains (the PT6 stats are amazing):
The G-111T is the only large transport category amphibious aircraft for passenger, cargo and utility in the marketplace,” said Chairman of Amphibian Aerospace Industries, Khoa Hoang. “Because of its ability to land and take-off from both land and water, the G-111T is ideal for use in inland rivers, ocean rescue, mountainous terrain and tropic river basins.”
Pilots and operators fly the PT6A engine with confidence, even in the most challenging of conditions. The engine builds on the experience gained from more than 900 million hours of operation expertise across our portfolio and reliability of the PT6 family. With more than 50 years of experience in general aviation, the PT6A engine further benefits from 425 million flying hours – more flying hours than any other engine on the market – the PT6A is a proven engine and the most prolific in the segment.
PT6A-67F engines have been identified as the engine of choice from within the PT6A family for the G-111T aircraft application,’ said Anthony Rossi, vice president, Business Development, Pratt & Whitney Canada. “We have been working with Amphibian Aerospace for the past five years on this program and have developed an effective and productive relationship that bodes extremely well for the success of the program.
Pierre Gillard Blog
If you are not familiar with the superb aviation blog by Pierre Gillard, please take a look. This week, Pierre features a wonderful gallery of Nordair 737 photos:
One of the best sources for news and developments for Canadian aviation fans is Paul Squires’ monthly “News Round Up” blog-0-paul-squires. You can get on Paul’s list by checking in with him at email@example.com or paul.squires.capa@mattamatic
Check in here to see the latest progress on Red Lake Norseman CF-DRD. See photos of the wings and fuselage recently coming together again. Here’s your chance to send your gofundme bit along to help with this very important (and expensive) Canadian aviation heritage project.
Some Exotic Flying Test Beds of the Fifties
When it comes to old airplane photos, treasures keep popping up in dusty files, boxes and forgotten albums. Recently, in sorting some things, I found this exotic black-and-white by aviation photographer, Ira Ward, of Needham Heights, Massachusetts. In 1964 Ira had mailed this one to his pal in Toronto, the great M.L. “Mac” McIntyre, an early member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Subject matter? The one-off Curtiss Wright B-17 engine test bed N6694C, which Ira had shot at Woodbridge, Connecticut. Built as a B- 17G by Lockheed-Vega in Burbank in May 1945, it originally rolled out as USAAF 44-85813, but would not see military service. Instead, it went straight to Curtiss Wright that October for engine testing as a civil B-17. The major mods were done at Wichita by Boeing. N6694C’s initial “5 th ” engine was the 5500-shp Wright XT35 Typhoon turbine. First flight was in September 1947, but the T65 proved to be a dud. Not everything has been published about N6694C’s career, but its second big assignment seems to have been testing Curtiss Wright’s licence-built version of the UK’s Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojet. In the US, this became the J65, widely used in such fighters as the FJ-4 Fury and Grumman Tiger.
In 1966 Curtiss Wright sold its exotic test bed to Ewing Aviation. It then was ferried to South Dakota for conversion back to a more usual B-17 for fire bombing. On April 16, 1980 it crashed while working a fire at Bear Pen, North Carolina. For further details see Scott A. Thompson’s essential book, Final Cut — The Post-War Flying Fortresses: The Survivors. Having a chance to catch such a nice set-up of N6694C would certainly have made Ira Ward’s day. Mac, of course, would have delighted in getting Ira’s print in the mail – those were the days when most of us swapped airplane photos using the always-efficient postal services of the day. We never followed the Curtiss Wright B-17, but as kids used to delight in seeing any B-17. In the late 50s we often saw Kenting’s aero survey “Forts”, CF-HBP and CF-ICB at their base in Oshawa, then at Malton, starting around 1960, once Field Aviation had built its new hangar at the north end of the airport. The Kenting fleet then started using Field for mods and servicing.
Local Flying Test Beds
This is mostly forgotten history, but Toronto had some flying test beds of its own. In the early 1950s Avro Canada was using a Lancaster to test the jet engines being developed by its Malton subsidiary, Orenda Engines. These were produced initially for the CF- 100, but they later powered hundreds of Canadair-built F-86s. I never saw this “Lanc”, since it was destroyed when Avro’s flight test hangar burned on July 24, 1956 – a bit before my time at Malton.
In 1956, when Orenda was developing the Iroquois engine for the Avro CF-105 Arrow, USAF B-47 51-2059 was borrowed from the USAF to use as a test bed. For this program the B-47 was taken on RCAF strength as X059. Its first destination in Canada was Canadair at Cartierville, near Montreal, where the mods were installed to accommodate the 30-foot-long Orenda engine. This made X059 one of the rare 7-engine B-47s (a second was used to test fly the GE TF34). For Canadair purposes, the B-47 was designated the CL-52.
NORAD ECM/EW – The Story of 414 Squadron and the 134th DSES of the Vermont ANG
Beginning in the 1950s, the RCAF began experimenting with a new concept – electronic counter measures (ECM). This eventually became known more commonly as electronic warfare (EW). The first I wrote about this was a 1980 feature item in Carl Vincent’s superb journal, “High Flight”. The topic was enticing, especially since NORAD was using some interesting airplane types.
In Canada, the first RCAF EW unit was 104KU (Composite Unit) at St. Hubert. Using Dakotas and C-119s, “104” trained ground radar stations to deal with airborne radar jamming using electronic means and chaffe dispersal. In 1956, 104 added its first CF-100 equipped for the same tasks. Communications jamming soon was added. In April 1959 the RCAF stood up its Electronic Warfare Unit at St. Hubert with C-119s and CF-100s. The CF-100 pilots came from existing NORAD squadrons, while their “back seaters” – the electronic warfare officers (EWOs) — usually had been CF-100 navigators, trained later in EW by the USAF. The EWU came to be a busy operation, always in demand to fly ECM exercises across North America. In September 1967 the EWU became 414 (EW) Squadron. For all the details of the famous RCAF EW unit see the detailed history in my 1980 book The Avro CF- 100.
While the RCAF was perfecting its EW capabilities, the USAF had a similar but much grander operation, comprising several squadrons flying the EB-57 Canberra. In the early 1980s I was getting deeper into this special NORAD topic. Having covered the EWU/414 closely and flown with 414 in 1980 (by then at North Bay), I needed to learn about the USAF operation. This led me to spend a few days in Burlington, Vermont with the 134 th Defense Systems Evaluation Group of the Vermont Air National Guard (part of the 158 th Defense Systems Evaluation Group). This really solid field trip (the 134 th was all in with me for this project) culminated on March 17, 1980 with a 2-hour flight in a B-57. To my delight this included shooting air- to-air Kodachromes of EB-57s. Under the heading “The Black Knights and the Green Mountain Boys: Electronic Warfare in NORAD”, my story appeared in October 1980 in the lead UK aviation journal, “Air International”. Here it is for your enjoyment.
By 2021 NORAD’s EW training role is very different from CF-100 and EB-57 days. To a large degree, such training is done by commercial contractors flying civil-registered types including the Lear Jet, Alpha Jet and MU-2. Much training also is done using simulators. Such types as the USN EA-6B and EA-18G are important EW operational assets. Electronic warfare has become a huge specialty by comparison to 1980.
134th Scorpion Nostalgia
My first meeting with the 134th was one of the most exciting that a 16-year-old aviation fan could have. The date was May 16 1959 and my sidekick Merlin “Mo” Reddy and I were visiting the USAF base at Niagara Falls, NY. It was “Air Force Day” and turned out to be one of the highlights of our airplane spotting hobby. We drove down from Toronto early to make sure we got as many photos before the place got too crowded. Naturally, the sight as we arrived of such aircraft as the B-47, KC-97 and H-21 got us fired up.
Then various visitors started arriving, the highlight for me being a flight of five gorgeous F-89D Scorpions of the Vermont ANG. This was really something and there we were wandering around the ramp with our cameras. Can you imagine? An F-89 taxiing in but no one yelling at you to clear off. Talk about the good ol’ days, right! As you can see, Scorpion 54-0193 was magnificent as I photographed it. Doesn’t it look 100% operational with its wingtip rocket pods, long- range fuel tanks and VTANG markings. (Aircraft of the 134th VTANG: P-47D 1947-51, P-51D 1951-54, F-94A/B 1954-58, F-89D 1958-65, F-102A/B 1965-74, EB-57 1974-81, F-4 1981-86, F-16 1986-2019, F- 35 2019-XX. For an excellent history of the 134 th … google “Vermont Air National Guard” to get on the unit’s excellent website.)
This Month’s Reads … Three Books for the Avid Reader
Three aviation books are on my list this time around. To start there’s the incomparable Fate is the Hunter. This is the great Ernest Gann’s 1961 in-depth history covering his days starting back in the “Golden Years” of aviation when he started into his career at the very bottom. You absolutely will be spellbound by this gem of a classic. Inch by inch Gann progresses, at first spending years as a lowly American Airlines co-pilot on the DC-2, then DC-3. He learns the ropes and eats a lot of crow, as captains and other superiors show their distain for his nothingness as an aviator. His captaincy finally arrives, but he’s still at the bottom.
Along the way Gann describes in his inimitable style all the adventures of flying, the many close calls in those early years, the sheer joy of being in the flying game, yet its all-too-many tragedies. A stint delivering Lodestars to South America ensues – the details will make you squirm. With WWII, Gann flies the global airways on the DC-4 and C-87. The adventures multiply, then the war ends and he strikes out to make his way (rather than returning to American Airlines with his low seniority number) with a new trans-Pacific carrier using DC-4s. This soon falls apart and the once proud captain of the airways finds himself scrounging for jobs.
All along, Gann his weaving his story in wonderful prose, just the best you’ll find anywhere, while philosophizing about aviation and life. How have things panned out? How is it that so many of his aviation friends have given their lives? How is it that fate in the hunter? If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this aviation beauty, here you go! 390 pages, paperback. $38.00 all-in
*Any two of these $60.00 all-in. Buy the three for $95.00 all-in. You can order via PayPal or Interac paying straight to firstname.lastname@example.org Any questions? Email me at the same address. Good reading to one and all. Cheers … LarryMilberry
PS … Scroll back for loads of other Canadian aviation history coverage.CanForces readers will be interested in some of these stories:
Red Lake Norseman “DRD” needs your personal help. Restoration has been underway and the job nearly is done. The wings have just arrived back in Red Lake from Gordy Hughes’ shop in Ignace. If you can help with even $10.00 “DRD” will love you forever. Here’s your chance to be part of Norseman heritage … right here, painlessly: Save DRD – Red Lake’s Norseman icon It’s easy as pie, give it a shot!
Homebuilt Fly-In Have a look here at the wonderful photography of the great Gustavo Corujo. All through the summer, Gus and Clara cover flying events across Southern Ontario. Here’s their latest adventure. Miss this lovely slide show at your peril:
You’ll notice the sweet photos of Corben Baby Ace CF-RAC. I first photographed “RAC” 60 years ago at Oshawa and Kitchener. Here it is in 2021 in front of Gus’ lens … still on the go. You can see the squib I did about this historic plane earlier on the blog. Just enter CF-RAC in the search box and it’ll put you right there.
Calgary Mosquito Society Have a look at what this important organization is doing. Please take a moment and join. How better to show your support, right. No such society can get by without an involved membership. Members always get their money’s worth, guaranteed, and the price of admission is always a bargain:
Last week’s blog item covering the longevity of Colombia’s DC-3s includes a headline photo of Colombian police Basler turbo DC-3 PNC 0213 – formerly CF-POX from Ottawa. As with any such surviving DC-3, this is an enticing story for any curious reader. Built in August 1944 with Douglas serial number 20875, a few weeks later this “Gooney Bird” was with the USAAF in North Africa. The war soon over, in January 1948 it was acquired by the French Air Force at Naples, then gave 20+ more good years of service. Appearing briefly on the French civil aircraft register as F-BTDG, in late 1971 it was sold to John Bogie’s famous Laurentian Air Service of Ottawa. Transport Canada documentation dated September 18 of that year noted that total airframe flying hours then were 10,283.6. Also mentioned was how both engines were low time. Being under 100 hours per side was a very big “plus” for any purchaser. TDG’s legal all-up weight listed as was 26,900 lb.
After many repairs and mods were done in France to make it “legal”, “TDG” was re-registered CF-POX. Early in 1972 it set off for Canada burdened with a planeload of paperwork and spares. LeaIt followed the time-honoured Greenland – Goose Bay trans-Atlantic ferry route. Joan Turner photographed it at Ottawa Uplands airport on June 3, 1972 and Ian Macdonald provides us with Joan’s lovely photo.
As one of the last DC-3s imported to Canada, “POX” soon was toiling in the north. In the spring of 1973 and winter of 1975 it had short leases to Austin Airways. Along the way it took some lumps, including being put on its nose at Schefferville in May 3, 1975. Repairs were made at St. Louis Aviation of St-Jean, Quebec. However, by then the log books and all maintenance data for “POX” had been lost in a fire at Lachute, Quebec airport in early October Subsequently, “POX” spent a long period collecting dust at Ottawa Uplands airport.
Finally, in early 1980 “POX” became N8059P with Sunset Aircraft (a bit of an ominous name?) of Miami. Then came a long list of owners. Who knows what “under the radar” activity was going on. Then, in 1984, “POX” was purchased by USAC Turbo Express of Phoenix for conversion to PT6-45R engines. Nothing seems to have come of this, then this prototype was acquired by Warren Basler of Oshkosh, where in 1988-89 it became Basler’s first turbo DC-3s using the PT6-67. It was the company demonstrator until sold in 1994 to Air Colombia. Having soon been caught in the illicit drug trade, it was seized and transferred to the Colombia national police. As far as I know, there ol’ “POX” remains to this day.
English Language Beat Down: Only in Canada
If you’re age 50 or more, you’ll be mortified at the decline of the English language in the 2000s. In Canada this is the result of ministries and school boards deliberately launching offensives against the language. Where else in the world would you find this? Try it in Quebec, where the language cops soon would straighten you out. Quebec, happily, is fully aware of the importance of language as a foundation block of any civilization. Most countries are the same – language is paramount and sacred. Meanwhile, do you think that China is undermining its educational standards?
Try messing with the national language in any civilized, even, half-civilized nation, and you quickly will be called out. Not in Canada, however, where liberal “progressives” are on the rampage against anything to do Canada’s incalculably fantastic accomplishments over the decades/centuries. Pull down a statue, re-name a street or building, go for it! Sabotaging anything genuinely cultural is what the “progressives” in Canada call a good day’s work. And look who approves – our self-besmirched PM leads the charge, the “progressive” mayor of Toronto is gung ho. Anything to appease the obnoxious minorities, few of whom have read a history book in their shallow lives.
These “progressives” have decided that, if anything good in Canada has been accomplished by the Euro-North Americans (i.e. pretty well everything worthwhile about Canada and the civilized world as we know it today), that must be torn down and its defenders made to apologize. The “progressives” are not messing around. They’re high stakes campaigners — the language, the great founders and achievers, Canada’s global record for doing good (see the following article about Honduras), etc. Leading the charge are the PMO, the CBC, then the rest of the go-with-the-flow mainstream media.
I’ll give you a few simple examples today from the language front. All these come straight from the airwaves, chiefly from radio hosts, many times from Radio Canada. Each is a stupid little gaff, you might say, but these snowball and soon your grandchildren can’t spell. The “progressives” know that they are bungling the language, rattling off one faux pas after another, the sorts of gaffs that Grade 3 kids 50 years ago would not commit, since they were being so well taught. Try these beauties on for size:
Some politico on the radio invents a new phrase: “public outbringings”. The liberals just love to make up a totally moronic non-word. “Outbringings” already!
Most, however, are straightforward language errors. Let’s hope that our radio station managers start doing something about these travesties. How do you like this one? “Some of the other topics we cover is …” Is they, really!
“My expectations is …” Perfect, Homer!
“There has been rumblings…” I guess there has been, if you say so..
“The most common drugs was …” Was they?
“There has been many cases …” Of course, there has. Go to the corner, you dunce, for being so clueless about the fundamentals of singular and plural.
Someone, “may of threw a wrench into the works”. No, this is not a “Don Cherryism”, but some radio host or news reader showing his/her lack of English language skills. Of course, they’ll explain that learning is “way too hard”, so go away with your language rules.
“There is a lot of guests.”
“There was a couple of storms.” If you respect the English language, you’ll probably be starting to feel a bit ill by now. Hang is, check out a few more gems.
Some yahoo with a microphone recently put this one out: “to fragilize”! Google almost melted down when I searched for this one, telling me, sharply: “No results found for ‘What does it mean to frangilize?”’
Here’s another category of language atrocity. My wonderful old Grade 13 English teacher, Brother Ignatius, would have had a stroke if he ever heard this one — “a hot heatwave”, which a TV weather “reporter” spouted recently. I had to change channels. On top of this, here’s another prize-winner: “Mendacious lies”.
“Workers at de Havilland and Bombardier have went on strike.” Arghhh!
And no … I am not making these up. They pour from my radio all day long.
Moving right along … “There was a thousand revellers”. Next to churn your stomach ulcer — “Flames have destroyed everything in its path …”
Sometimes there are subtler examples. Since spelling, grammar and handwriting no longer are serious subjects in most Canadian public schools, I suppose we can understand how a radio voice has no clue that there is a difference between “number” and “amount”. Such subtleties used to be commonly understood by Gr.7 or 8. Here’s an example: “a good amount of games”. No … that would be “a good number of games”. Look it up.
While I’m at it, what about “between” and “among”? In Toronto, if there is a lone on-air voice who knows this difference, that would be John Oakley on 640 AM. Oakley is one of the few on Toronto radio with an understanding and respect for the importance of the English language on the public airwaves.
Besides all such language abuses across Canada, it seems that there no longer are standards for pronunciation. When I was a boy in the 1950s, future broadcasters attended such schools as the Radio College of Canada. There they learned the finer points of accurate English usage. No excuses were accepted for the least faux pas. The CBC had the best broadcasters in the country, the likes of Lorne Greene. An announcer with poor pronunciation would be unemployable. Today? Being a klutz may be an asset at the job interview.
Elocusion was a vital course for every broadcasting student. Today, of course, few people on-air could spell the word, let alone know its meaning. However, decades ago grade school children learned elocution:
“el·o·cu·tion /ˌeləˈkyo͞oSH(ə)n/noun the skill of clear and expressive speech, especially of distinct pronunciation and articulation.”
Well, that sure sounds hard, so fergit about eleyqushun, eh.
What do we have these days? Turn on your radio and find out. If you can stand the punishment, you’ll soon hear such brutalizing of the English language as: “miracusly” (miraculously), “fortunly” (fortunately), “vunable” (vulnerable), “definly” (definitely), “measural” (measurable), “differutly” (differently), “corinated” (co-ordinated), “Chrona” (Toronto). It’s a laugh a minute. Many of these blunders were heard on CBC. Apparently, the CBC no longer has a language ombudsperson and it’s open season there in 2021 on the English language.
Here’s a final example today of a “CBCism”: “a lot of parents who doesn’t”. No, wait … one more beauty: “It’s not based off of anything”. “Off of”? Right – an actual “Don Cheeryism”. CBC people used to mock Don’s slaughtering of English, “now they is Don himself”. Well, the “progressives” are doing an ace of a job tearing down Canada. They’ve sure been brilliant in their campaign to wreck the English language – simply punt formal lessons “off of” the school curriculum. Makes all the rest of their campaign that much easier – cancelling this, cancelling that, etc.
PS … don’t get me going with “exact same”! Grade 3s used to know how stupid a saying this is. Today? What radio host doesn’t use “exact same” as if it was correct English usage. One last turn of the knife in your gut – here’s another real CBCism – “logicality”. There aren’t enough corners in the big classroom of Canada to accommodate all these dunces, I fear.
With book publishing in Canada, there are two essentials if a publisher is to succeed: produce a top quality book for which a readership exists, then, somehow win some media support. As you’ve seen in our past few blogs, CANAV Books has done exceedingly well at both. As I continue going through the CANAV archives, almost daily I still turn up long forgotten media clippings about our many projects.
July 4, 1995 was a red letter day for us – the launch at Marché Bonsecours in Montreal of Canadair: The First 50 Years. Sponsored by Bombardier, this was the glitziest of all our book launches. Soon, I had distributed the usual batch of copies to the aviation and general press, and the reviews starting to appear. To this day, not a negative line has appeared about this magnificent book. This week I came across some typical press coverage. This was from the inimitable Mike Filey, best known for his regular columns in Toronto’s “Sunday Sun”.
Massey-Ferguson Flight Department c.1960
I contrast to MUR’s long and useful career, Dove “GYQ” did not fare well once sold by Massey. Having left Canada late in 1961, it became N424SF, but I have few details. By 1972 it was serving Trans National Airlines of San Francisco. On March 6, 1975 it was hauling freight in bad weather from Paso Robles, California to Los Angeles. Along the route it crashed into 3000-foot terrain, killing the pilot.
Backseat Excitement in the F-16D
On June 16, 2000 I was at Cold Lake hoping for a famil flight in an F-16. This story went far back to the mid-80s, when I met Capt Grant Bruckmeier, a young F-106 pilot with the 49 th FIS, Griffis AFB, New York. What was I doing down at the 49 th ? It all had to do with an assignment from “Air Classics” to do a feature story about the 49 th . Having made 2 or 3 trips from Toronto to gather my basic story material, in the end I was scheduled in January 1986 for a flight in “the Six”. Naturally, this included cockpit famil and the ejection seat course, also some basic winter survival training, and how to extricate myself if I ever ended stuck in a tree after a parachute ride. All this was exciting stuff for any “civvie”, and was very seriously taught by the safety systems staff at the 49 th . In the end I was scheduled on January 6, 1985 to ride along on an F-106 2-ship ECM mission against a pair of EW T-33s. LCol Steve Rogers, CO of the 49 th , took me flying for an hour and what a fantastic trip it was. After the EW training, we formatted with the other Six and the T-birds for a brief session shooting air-to-air Kodachromes.
What a wonderful opportunity this all was. You can see the results of my efforts in “Century Series Survivor” in “Air Classics” July Later, I bumped into Grant Bruckmeier at an airshow at CFB Trenton, where he was showing off the F-106, again in July 1986 when we attended the stand-down of the 49 th FIS at Griffis. As the years passed, we occasionally touched base and always had the idea the we should do a ride together. Ages later, this panned out. One day Grant called to say that about a year down the line he would be leading his F-16 squadron from Hill AFB to CFB Cold Lake to take part on Ex. Maple Flag. If we got started on the paperwork now, maybe Grant could get approval to fly me.
So it happened that in June of 2000 I travelled to Cold Lake to meet with Grant and his squadron, the 4th FS from Hill AFB, Utah. The base people made sure that I was well received and got to cover all the exciting Maple Flag actvities. However, Grant still didn’t have approval to fly me. The wheels had been turning slowly in the Pentagon. Then, the day before the 4th FS was to fly home, approval came through – some USAF General had decide to put his neck on the chopping block for us. The 4th FS medical officer gave me a look- over, I was given a cockpit and ejection seat checkout, then Grant and I walked out to his sparkling new, 2-seat F-16D-40. We strapped in and fired up, then away we went in a 2-ship for a wonderful hour- long trip around the Cold Lake area. Such were the types of great aviation connections I had built up over the decades. There always were serious folks in uniform who recognized we little people in the aviation press and could make things happen for us. With Grant and I, it took about 15 years of waiting, but the day came that we got finally together in F-16 89-2174. But … it was easily worth the wait!
Canadian Civil B-25s Update
If you search here for CF-DKU, you’ll find an important little article about how some keen fellows once operated a fuel hauling business in Western Canada using B-25s. You’ll enjoy this item. Lately, someone with a special interest in this operation – Aurora Aviation – dropped me an email:
I just came across this article, brings back many memories! My dad was Harley Koons, and this was such a dream for him. I remember at the age of 15 occasionally helping out during the post- purchase re-fit, and also having a couple of exciting shake-down flights in DKU. Thank you!
Airside at YYZ, September 1 and 3, 1990
It’s always great fun to get airside at any airport with your camera. As you’ve seen at the CANAV blog, 50 – 60 years ago my pals and I got airside pretty well any day of the week at such a place as old Malton Airport (today’s YYZ). There were many openings to the ramps, so we could wander around when it clearly was safe to do so. By the 70s, however, there was no such a chance, for better security was needed. Traffic was increasing at all commercial airports. Then, with the era of the aviation terrorist, there was no choice but to tighten up to the max with fences, patrols, checkpoints, etc. No more airside, except on special occasions. Today, many rules for airside visitors have to be observed – escorts, badges, etc. All fair enough.
Those of us who had some connections with the aviation press or general media often have enjoyed a day “on the ramp”, when there was some special event. Case in point: September 1 and 3, 1990, when I was invited to join the media at YYZ for a Canadian International Air Show session. Of course, it was great to hang out with the team and photograph the flightline. Here are a few old K64s that show the media buzzing around, the team and their colourful little Tutors. This was always a great chance to mingle with the who’s who of the local media, so I made sure to photograph some of these great characters, Boris Spremo included. Meanwhile, the airliners were coming and going over our heads, so that distracted some of us. We always looked forward to all such CIAS fun. For me and the other early Toronto spotters, there couldn’t be a more enjoyable summer’s day. These airliner shots are run of the mill side views, but most of these planes long since have gone to the scrap yard, so their colour schemes and individual stories remain fascinating.
Canada to the Rescue in Honduras
Some of you will remember how “Hurricane Mitch” ploughed across Honduras in 1998 causing huge devastation. In typical form, Canada and the United States were quick to respond with a full humanitarian relief effort.
No sooner was Canada mobilizing to send aid, than I received a call from CFB Trenton. Would I be interested in accompanying this mission to cover it for CANAV Books and the press. Well, since the 1960s I’ve never turned down such an offer, so, on November 15, I rendezvoused at Trenton with 436 Squadron and soon was southbound on a Hercules laden with relief workers and supplies. We refuelled in the dead of night at McDill AFB, Florida, then pushed on for a dawn landing at LaCeiba on the Honduran Caribbean coast. I spent the next few days covering the scene, mainly the dreadful damage caused by “Hurricane Mitch”.
To get my work done, I took helicopter flights to different areas aboard a Honduran Air Force Bell 212, a Venezuelan Puma, and a CAF 427 Squadron Bell CH-135. The results of these travels were published in “Aircraft Illustrated” of February 1999. Here’s the story for your enjoyment.
This operation was so typical of Canada at its normal humanitarian best. This is an age-old Canadian process, contrary to what those yahoos in Canada today would like you to believe, i.e., Canada is a terrible place, we’d all be far better off in North Korea, etc. Shame on every one of these moral weaklings. They’re an embarrassment to Canada and to any civilized society. All they can do is nitpick away, stupidly magnifying any flaw in our ancient history, most of which occurred long before we were born, and during the normal advance of humanity as it gradually moves (as it never has stopped doing, no matter how slow a process) towards an ever improved level of civilization. Let these idiots read this article about the real Canada, and weep (as if they have any shame, right).
*For similar in-depth articles about Canada’s military operating on humanitarian duties, check out these detailed blog items:
Not only had 1985 been a stellar year at CANAV with the Austin Airways book, but we also published our first collaboration, and turned out more than one title for the first time. Our baby steps were over. Helicopters: The British Columbia Story (1985) was the first major book covering the rotary-wing industry in Canada. Authors Peter Corley-Smith (1923 – 2002) and David N. Parker (1945 – 2018) then were historians at the BC Provincial Museum. They had an idea for a book, but the museum wouldn’t fund it. Such things are a mystery. Why would a major museum not recognize the great opportunity and honour in publishing such an important book, especially when the job could be done affordably and to the museum’s specs? Something to do with the eternal verities, I suppose.
A call from Peter and David to CANAV Books got them on the right track. The fellows worked well as a team. Peter was especially qualified – he was well-known as a pilot with experience flying large choppers on such projects as the Mid Canada Line (you can look up Peter on the web to see more about his aviation accomplishments). The fellows wrote an excellent manuscript, found all the essential photos, and produced an important map. Topping it off, they found Clive Brooks, a talented Victoria artist, to paint a series of impressive helicopter colour profiles. CANAV did the rest, paying all the bills, turning out a very fine book, etc. Oddly, the BC museum was less than happy about the book and ordered almost no copies. Nothing ever was explained, yet, over the decades everything that CANAV ever heard about the book was positive. Not surprisingly, Helicopters: The British Columbia Story sold out. That said, I still have a few copies. If you’d like one, email email@example.com All-in? CDN$33.50. Here’s a sample page from the book showing three of Clive’s wonderful colour profiles.
CANAV Books that Might Have Been
Also of interest in these early CANAV Books years, I had to turn down some tempting outside offers. Les Wilkinson wanted CANAV to publish the book he and his “Arrow Maniac” pals were doing about the Avro Arrow. Being buried in work with CANAV’s own CF-100 book, I had no choice. The Arrow book was published in 1980 by Boston Mill Press and went on to huge success in multiple printings. A bit later, Jim Floyd succeeded in having me at least consider his Avro Jetliner book. On April 1, 1985 Bryant quoted me $18,739 for 3000 copies. In the end, my own pace of work overcame things and I had to stand aside. In the end, his lovely book, The Avro Jetliner, was nicely produced by Boston Mills. Today (September 24, 2020) I noticed that bookfinder.com was listing 46 used copies, the cheapest at CDN$108.09++, the priciest $288.80++. Quite literally, these would be cheap at twice the price — book lovers understand such things. Another book that I had to turn down in these years was Ken Molson’s history of Canada’s national aviation museum. Ken was adamant that CANAV publish his book, but my workload and lack of experience led to my decision – can’t do it, Ken. In the end (1988), the museum published the book in co- operation with the University of Toronto Press. One of Canada’s finest aviation books to this day, Canada’s National Aviation Museum: Its History and Collections ought to be in your library. You can find a nice used copy on the web.
The Canadair Sabre 1986
While I still was struggling with the CF-100 and North Star projects, I was gathering material for a book about the Canadair Sabre. This just seemed “a natural” for our on-going series. In 1985 I already was making trips to Canadair at Cartierville, scrounging for old records and interviewing staff and retirees. I also got on the road to interview such Sabre luminaries in Moncton (for example) as Al Lilly, Ed Lowry and Jack Seaman, or, in Winnipeg — Bill Bristowe and John Greatrix, and. closer to home the likes of Ralph Heard and Bob Caskie.
I see from the CANAV archives that Bryant first quoted on the Sabre book on September 24, 1985. I already had decided to walk the plank by ordering 10,000 copies. This was pretty well an absurdly large quantity at the time for any Canadian trade book, but something told me that 10,000 was the way to go for the long haul. Bryant gave me a quote of $94,300 and I mustn’t have flinched! By then, thankfully, I was No.1 in their good books.
Besides doing interviews, I also was hunting down Sabre squadron DROs (daily routine orders), ORBs (operational record books), and annual reports to see what history I could unearth. Besides the RCAF, I also had to cover other air forces that had flown Canadair Sabres. In this quest, Roger Lindsay in the UK and Gerhard Joos in Germany laid the groundwork for two major chapters – the RAF and Luftwaffe. I also needed material for Colombia, Greece, Italy, South Africa, Turkey and Yugoslavia. There even was a story about an Israeli order to track down. Then, there was the question of what happened to all those Canadair Sabres after their military days. It was mind-boggling and to this day I have no idea how we ever finished the job. Somehow, things again came together in a glorious book delivered to me in August 1986. Some 35 years later The Canadair Sabre (all things considered – see the reviews below) still holds up well.
Over the summer of 1986 we put on several book launchings. If you have the time, scroll back in the blog to find “CANAV Anniversary Highlight: The Canadair Sabre” featuring our Toronto book launch on August 19 that year. People came from far and wide, Roger and Gerhard included. This was such a crazy time that some of our events are “missing” from the record. For example, we had a book launch at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto, where the renowned 72nd scale model-building club – the “Aero Buffs” – turned up with dozens of beautiful Sabre models to play their part that afternoon. Sad to say, I’ve never seen a photo from that event. Of course, not everyone carried a camera back in 1986.
Sabre Book Launch in Ottawa, June 19, 1986
Another book launch from which I have no photos was the great one at Ottawa’s International Hotel located a stone’s throw from the Public Archives of Canada. Being “back in the day”, this was a fantastic event, a real who’s who Sabre people. There were something like seven RCAF pilots who had flown Sabres in action in Korea (Bruce Fleming, Omer Levesque, Andy Mackenzie and Eric Smith come to mind), there were Golden Hawks, COs, all sorts of squadron pilots, technical people, folks from DND HQ who came by after work, etc. Our big room was shoulder-to-shoulder and the great WO Vic Johnson had an AV program going, including a classic Golden Hawks 16mm movie.
The special bit about our book launches this summer was a sign- in book put together by Sabre pilot Paul Apperley. Paul carried this around with him to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal launch events to collect autographs without me spotting him (until the end), then presented this magnificent souvenier to me, something that knocked me over with surprise. What a treasure to still have decades later, after so many of my great Sabre pals (Paul included) have left us. Here are two sample pages from Toronto. Anyone familiar with the RCAF fighter scene of the 1950s-60s will relate to this astounding gallery of autographs. You can be sure that Paul Apperley was responsible to a fair degree for this large turnout, many of the fellows having travelled a good distance to attend …
… a page from the Ottawa launch:
… and one page from Montreal. At the top is the great Jean Gaudry’s signature. Eric turned 90 on October 9, 2020. Further down is Bob Carew, another RCAF Korean Sabre pilot. Several Canadair people also attended this launch, which we held at the International at Dorval.
Sabre Book Launch in Montreal
Here are a few photos from our Dorval book launch of June 25, 1986, where I finally got wise to Paul Apperley’s “sign-in book” skit.
Sabre Book Reviews
How about the official reviews for The Canadair Sabre? Well, they could not have been better. The leading French journal “Air Fan” loved The Canadair Sabre, calling it: “The aviation literary event of the year.” Greece’s journal “Ptisi” added, “A real oasis for F-86 fans and anyone interested in the Golden Years of the 1950s-60s.” “Air International” called the book, “A mine of information … there seems scant prospect of a better history.” Even more glowing commentary came from Bob Halford’s “Canadian Aircraft Operator”, Vol.24, No.20: “With The Canadair Sabre [Milberry] continues to enhance his reputation for producing top-of-the-class books that compare more than merely favourably with any of the works of the major publishing houses. This is a remarkable achievement …” Typically, “CAO” goes on to describe the book in detail. Bob, of course, knew his stuff … the Sabre in particular. He had visited Canadair during Sabre production years, also the RCAF’s NATO bases in Sabre years during his time editing “Aircraft” magazine. Bob concluded, “The book is, indeed, all that anyone could ever want to know about the Canadair-built Sabre … it’s a people book as well as an airplane book.”
Fighter Pilot Biographies 1987
In 1987 CANAV Books published the biographies of two important Canadian fighter pilots: Vernon C. Woodward, DFC and Bar — Woody: A Fighter Pilot’s Album, and Robert Hampton “Hammy” Gray, VC, DSC — A Formidable Hero: Lt R.H. Gray, VC, DSC, RCNVR. For production, I turned for some reason from Bryant Press the T.H. Best (located not far from Brant in east Toronto), then Canada’s oldest book manufacturer. Maybe I went to Best since these books were small format and small runs that Bryant wasn’t crazy about doing. Who knows at this stage, especially since both companies have long-since faded away. The main thing is that each of these biographies was welcomed and nicely reviewed. However, likely since they were small hardcovers and “quick reads”, reviewers made quick work of them. “Brown’s Books”, for example, simply concluded about Woody: “A worthy history of a relatively unknown Canadian ace.”
Hammy Gray biographer, Stuart Soward, himself had begun as a Canadian naval fighter pilot. Having earned his book authorship “wings” with A Formidable Hero, he went on to self-published a monumental (and essential) 2-volume history of aviation in the Royal Canadian Navy, Hands to Flying Station. Certainly, it was CANAV’s honour to publish Stuart’s first book.
As did The Bremen (see below), A Formidable Hero had important spin-off. After decades in the shadows, thanks to Stuart, “Hammy” Gray was re-introduced to the Canadian history scene. Our book launching was auspicious, being held in Ottawa at a convention of RCN aviators known as the CNAGs – Canadian Naval Air Group. From there, of course, word spread across the land about A Formidable Hero and our small 2000 print run sold out. In 2003 Stuart produced an important update of his book.
Yes, in 1989 Stuart’s dogged efforts led directly to a permanent monument in Hammy Gray’s honor. This was dedicated at Onagawa Bay, Japan, with Stuart in attendance, even if the DND could not find a place for him on the 707 it sent to Japan with VIPs and freeloaders. Get all the details from Stuart’s own edition of the book – this is one story you don’t want to miss! Subsequent to CANAV’s and Stuart’s Hammy Gray books, and to Stuart’s Onagawa triumph, late last year I had a call from the RCN seeking a copy of A Formidable Hero, although my caller wasn’t sure that the navy could afford a copy, or, if he could authorize a purchase (this really drives me crazy about Ottawa). We finally negotiated a price (what a laugh, eh), a purchase order was struck, and I mailed the RCN my last new copy. What was this all about? I was delighted to hear that the navy had decided to name one of its new Harry DeWolf-class offshore patrol vessels in honour of Hammy so, in advance of commissioning the ship in 2021, the navy wanted to know all it could about Hammy Gray himself, and what better source than Stuart’s book!
Hugh Halliday’s Woody also fared well. Although both books today are “OP” – out of print – nice used copies can be found at such internet book sites as http://www.bookfinder.com Today for example (October 10, 2020) I noticed that there were 83 copies of Woody for sale there, 61 of A Formidable Hero. Get these two little gems into your library before it slips your mind.
The Bremen 1988
Our 1985 book — The Bremen, by Fred Hotson — is the in-depth history of the 1928 trans-Atlantic Junkers christened “Bremen”. Beautifully designed by Robin Brass, this book caught the eye of many serious bibliophiles and aviation history organizations. In one case, the American Aviation Historical Society journal observed: “There are many books dealing with pioneer ocean flying, but only a very small number can be classified as important. This book belongs in that select group.” On top of the AAHS’s magnificent conclusion, for his decades of Bremen research and our efforts in publishing it all, in 1988 Fred received the “Best New Aviation Book” annual award from the Aviation and Space Writers Association of America.
Not only did The Bremen bring kudos to Fred and CANAV, but it had major historic spin-off in Germany. Firstly, Fred teamed with publisher, Josef Krauthauser (NARA-Verlag Books) to have a German edition – Die Bremen – – published in 1996. This spurred further interest in Germany in that the City of Bremen sent a delegation to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan to negotiate the repatriation of “The Bremen” to Germany. An agreement was reached, and Fred and I later were VIPs at the Ford Museum, when the Bremen delegation visited for several days. Plans were finalized and the tired-looking, dusty old “Bremen” was dismantled and flown home aboard two Luftwaffe Transal transport planes. A fastidious restoration was undertaken and the resplendent Junkers was dedicated in Bremen in June 1998. Fred Hotson was present as the very deserving guest of honour. How more delighted could a small aviation book publisher be than to see such results from his efforts – a war memorial erected in Japan and a historic airplane restored in Germany.
Welcome to the new CANAV Books blog! This site is a work in progress, but will feature Larry Milberry‘s razor sharp observations and always colourful commentary about Canadian aviation and the state of Canadian independent publishing. Stay tuned!