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:
Check out this lovely period photo showing RCAF Norseman 3528 at Watson Lake in the Yukon on June 15, 1944. Whatever task 3528 was about, in these few moments the crew was not too worried. Who would know there was a war on, eh, with the fellows having knocked off for some fun in the cool, fresh water under the wing of their big yellow bird.
Earlier, Norseman 3528 had been on strength at 124 (Ferry) Squadron based at Rockcliffe, but in August 1942 had be reassigned to Northwest Air Command for duty in the Yukon, mainly supporting the Northwest Staging Route and CANOL Pipeline projects. In the Yukon, 3528’s usual pilot into 1943 was a pre-WWII northern legend, F/L Carl Crossley. See Aviation in Canada: The Noorduyn Norseman, Vol.1 for the Crossley/Norseman story.
And what of 3528 in the end? It’s not a happy tale. Moments after taking off from Fort Simpson, NWT on July 10, 1945, it crashed. Crewman LAC Sidney B. Ladell freed himself from the wreck, but powerful currents in the Liard River carried 3528 away with pilot F/O Charles T. Wheeler trapped in the cockpit. He was never seen again. (DND PL25434, click to see full screen) One of Canada’s best-known Norsemans in recent years has been CF-DTL, owned by Gord and Eleanor Hughes of Ignace, Ontario. Since the 1980s, it’s been a regular summer visitor across the North. Having begun as RCAF 2484 in 1941, postwar CF-DTL had served the Department of Transport and Wheeler Airlines, until wrecked at Moosonee in 1965. Rebuilt by Lauzon Aviation, it flew again for years in the Quebec bush. Gord and Eleanor eventually did their own restoration of this historic Norseman, and still care lovingly for it. While visiting Red Lake from France for the 2009 Norseman Festival, Michel Léonard photographed CF-DTL with Gord up top refuelling.