Tag Archives: B-23

The Douglas B-23 Dragon + Big News from Buffalo Airways

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.

B-23 Dragon N58092 caught my eye during my visit to Malton on a gorgeous June 16, 1960. The first things we noticed about the B-23 was its DC-3-style wing and massive empennage. Originally USAAC 39-0053, among other things during the war, N58092 was an RB-23 reconnaissance plane based at Muroc Lake, California. At war’s end it joined the countless thousands of surplus equipment being disposed of by the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and was sold for scrap. Instead, however, it was acquired by some dealer, converted for executive use, then served Lehman Brothers in NYC from 1946. Next (1954-64) it was with H.K. Porter Co. of Pittsburgh, a famous manufacturer of steam locomotives by this time in the defence industry, one product line being components for the Nike series of anti-aircraft missiles. One wonders all these 60+ years later what N58092 was doing at Malton this day. Little is known about this impressive big corporate plane’s history, but what stories its log books could tell, right! Later owners included Monarch Aviation of Monterey, California (1966) and Trans Aero Systems of Miami (1969-70), whatever such companies were doing with N58092. Its ultimate fate is not known.
Frequent visitors to Toronto in the 1950s-early 1960s were General Electric’s N33310 and N33311 (GE had operations in Hamilton, Peterborough and Toronto). N33310 had been 39-0062 through the war, then was with such owners as Pan American World Airways of NY, the famed air racer Roscoe Turner, and Fairbanks-Morse Company (manufacturer of scales, pumps and engines). In 1954 it joined GE. It served there into 1966, when it was sold to Florida-based Palm Beach Yacht Sales; then various change-of-ownerships followed. By 1973 the once glorious executive plane was derelict in Panama. It’s said to have gone for scrap in 1978. Here is N33310 at Malton on July 12, 1960. Then, N33311 (39-0064, the final B-23) landing at Malton on August 11, 1960, then on the ramp there in the same period. It had a similar history, going postwar to Pan Am, then to GE in 1954. A decade later it was sold to the Los Angeles Board of Education. One wonders for what purpose. There’s a story that the majestic old plane was destroyed in a fire during the LA riots of 1965. While serving GE, these two lovely UC-67s were based at White Plains, NY.        
B-23 N4000W (39-0031) at Detroit Municipal Airport on April 16, 1963. It also had been acquired postwar by PanAm, which seems to have been brokering B-23s and maybe doing the conversions. I didn’t make a note this day about its ownership. Note the modern Douglas logo on the rudder. In 1968 N4000W was sold to an operator in Ecuador and survives today in Ecuador’s national aviation museum in Quito.
Pittsburg Construction Co.’s N34C (39-0051) at Detroit Municipal on the same day as N4000W. It also had begun postwar with Roscoe Turner, then was with Celanese Corp. of America. Also on the ramp was a new Grumman G.159 Gulfstream, a sign of things to come. About this time, the Gulfstream and F.27 were starting to nudge the older DC-3s, B-23s and Lockheed twins out of their envied position at the top in corporate aviation. Then, N34C landing at Dorval  September 5, 1960. In 1966 N34C moved to Ohio State University, then had further owners. Today it may be seen in Tucson at the renowned Pima Air and Space Museum.

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