The story of our PBY 5A Canso

The following story is quoted from Sentinel: Magazine of the Canadian Forces. It was written by  former Museum member Mike Whitehead and published in the third quarter issue of 1987. This quote covers the recovery operation of the Canso. The museum plans to restore the aircraft over a period of 15 years. Ultimately, the aircraft will be repainted in the colors of EPA, to look like the day she crashed in the Labrador wilderness.

Old Bird Placed Under Museum’s Wing

Eastern Provincial Airways’ Canso CF-HFL touched down somewhat behind schedule last fall at Goose Bay, Labrador.  In fact, it took her 29 years and 29 days to complete her 233-kilometer flight from Sona Lake.  The ‘flying boat’ started her return trip after delivering fuel on Oct. 1, 1957 to an isolated communications site at Sona Lake. Her three-man crew had been watching dusk overtake the vast Labrador wilderness when, suddenly, about 80 kilometers from her destination, both engines began losing power. The port engine rapidly gave out. Distress calls were sent.  The pilots desperately tried to nurse his other still serviceable – but fading – engine long enough to reach a large lake he had seen below.  The power plant failed, however, and a landing in the trees became inevitable.

The big amphibian mushed through treetops, bounced off a marsh, then struggled briefly back into the air until her starboard wing struck a small copse of pines.  The aircraft slewed around in a violent about-face the left the shaken but unhurt crew sighting along the path from which they’d come. The crew was reached the following day by a rescue float plane and soon the investigation team arrived to assess the Canso. Her leading edge was chopped by the trees, her hull was wrinkled and her props were bent.  The last ground loop had bent her port wing tip and cracked her spar.  The aircraft was written off.  Her cockpit was stripped and she was left to the wilderness.  For almost  three decades she lay in the bush – her paint work fading and her huge fabric surfaces slowly deteriorating.

In early 1986, however, the old plane was donated to the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum in Halifax, NS.  Realizing that this aircraft was an important representative of Atlantic Canada’s  rich aviation heritage, museum staff began to arrange a recovery operation.  It was apparent that the only aircraft capable of lifting an object the size and weight of Canso and carrying it to Goose Bay was a Canadian Forces CH-147 Chinook helicopter. After more then six months of communications among representatives of the museum, The Department of National Defense and the Canadian Transport Commission, the recovery project was approved. It was deemed worthwhile both as a training exercise and as an effort to assist a worthy cause.  A Chinook from 450 Transport Helicopter Squadron in Ottawa would carry out the lift on a regular deployment to Goose Bay.

Air Nova – Air Canada’s Maritime subsidiary – provided free passes for a three-man museum team to fly to Goose Bay.  On the way, they picked up Canso maintenance equipment courtesy of the Newfoundland government’s water bomber fleet in St. John’s. The three days preceding the lift saw much activity at the crash site.  Rescue Flight Twin Hueys from CFS Goose Bay ferried equipment and personnel to the aircraft it was prepared for recovery. The Canso’s engines were removed to reduce weight.  The fabric which covered the trailing third of the wing and all the control surfaces was stripped to reduce aerodynamics.  Loose equipment was removed and landing gear was strapped firmly in the full retract position.  The ice and frozen earth that held the hull were chopped clear.  Meanwhile, members of a Tactical Air Movements team from 2 Service Battalion in Petawawa labored to prepare the huge lifting slings.

Finally, on the third afternoon, everything was ready.  As Hueys and civilian helicopters hovered about – recording the event on film – the giant Chinook roared into position.  The ground  crew retreated to a safe distance as two TAMs men, buffeted by the downwash, made the hook-up.

Slowly, the big tandem rotor rose, taking the strain.  The slings – which had been ‘accordioned’ (folded and tied with breakaway cord) on top of the wing – deployed perfectly.  The Canso’s 31 -meter wings leveled and began to rise.

The Chinook has a maximum capacity of more then 9,000 kilograms.  On the first attempt,  the pilots’ digital “skyweight” – readout rose to well over 8,550 kilograms.  At this point, several unrelated factors combined to benefit the operation. The engines, though removed, had not been moved from the immediate vicinity of the aircraft.  As the Canso rose, it swung slightly and struck one of the engines, tearing a small gash in the aircraft’s hull.  The temperature was uncommonly high the day of the lift, melting several hundred kilograms of ice hidden under the floor boards.  Water now cascaded out of the gash, considerably lightening the aircraft.  The pilots decided to reduce their weight even further and gently rested the load back on the snow, hovering to burn off their own fuel.

At last the pilots were satisfied.  The Chinook’s rotors bit the air.  The old bird slowly lifted, obediently swung around and began to follow the Chinook home.  The crew commented later that, even with a good portion of the wing surface removed, the Canso generated approximately 2,000 kilograms of lift as the pair moved forward into the clear air. The faded, battered old aircraft was a fascinating sight as she felt the slipstream again after so many years.  With her faded white paint, skeletal ribs bare and strips of torn fabric fluttering in the  wing, she moved slowly over the snowy landscape, as one pilot said, “not unlike a ghost!”

Since that day, museum staff have been dismantling the aircraft to prepare her for shipment to Halifax for restoration.

The Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum is grateful to the Canadian Forces for their assistance and support.  In particular, it thanks the pilots and crews of Goose Bay’s Twin Hueys and 450 Sqn’s Chinook ‘007′, without whose skill and enthusiasm an old bird would rest still in the Labrador wilderness.

PBY-5A (Bu05021): The Story

ACAM’s aircraft did not see service in the Canadian Military. It was not built under the Canadian contracts or constructed in Canada.

Our PBY-5A (Bu05021) was built by Consolidated’s San Diego plant and was accepted by the USN on Feb 27th, 1942. It was part of a second batch of 134 aircraft ordered on November 25th, 1940. Since only 1418 Amphibian PBY’s were built, to the best of our knowledge, our PBY-5A is the oldest PBY-5A in existence!

Military Service Summary:

  • Bu05021 was delivered to the Transition Training Squadron Pacific at San Diego on March 1st, 1942.
  • Assigned to Commander Patrol Wings Atlantic on March 11th, 1942.
  • Reassigned to NAS Pensacola on March 17th, 1942.
  • On Feb. 27th, 1943 she was assigned to NAS Alameda.
  • Assigned to NPG (Naval Proving Ground) Dahlgren on April 10th, 1943.
  • Sept. 1st, 1943 transferred to the Atlantic Fleet at Norfolk.
  • Assigned to ComAirLant on Nov. 18th, 1943.
  • The period from November 1943 to September 30th 1944 remains a mystery. During this period, it was apparently based at NAS Norfolk, Va. This would have been an active period for all US Navy patrol aircraft during the war, the U-Boat fleets were starting to lie off the US East coast and our aircraft could have participated on these patrols against this threat. This part of the aircraft’s history remains a mystery, which requires further investigation.
  • On November 22nd 1944 05021 was received by Hedron-2 FAW-5
  • In January 1945, it was transferred to the U.S Coast Guard. She was stationed at CGAS Miami Florida, until July 1945 when she was flown to NAS Seattle where she was stricken off the Navy’s list on Jan. 31st, 1946.

Civilian Service Summary:

  • After service as Bu05021, this PBY-5A was first registered on the USCAR as NC18444 and saw service on the US West Coast with California Maritime Airlines of Long Beach, California.
  • After the failure of CMA, AeroCorp acquired it.
  • Later sold to Caribbean International, in the Bahamas, where it flew as VP-BAR until approximately August 1950.
  • It was then transferred to the Jamaican register as VP-JAU in the following February.
  • It was then sold to Dominion of Canada Aircraft Brokers (becoming CF-HFL) who sold it to Eastern Provincial Airlines in November 1953. CF-HFL now had a new career supplying remote locations in Eastern Canada. (To read more about this period of CF-HFL’s career I recommend you get a copy of The Little Airline That Could! which tells the story of EPA and it is available from the Museum gift shop!). It was during one of these supply missions that it met its presumed demise.

On October 1st, 1957 CF-HFL was returning to Goose Bay, Labrador after supplying diesel fuel to an isolated communications site. Suddenly, about 50 miles out both engines started to fail, the port engine rapidly gave out followed by the starboard just as a suitable lake was found. The plane crashed through treetops, bounced off a marsh then struggled back six feet into the air until her starboard wing struck a small copse of pines. This caused the aircraft to slew around in a violent way turning the aircraft into the direction it had just come. The crew spent a long night in the woods and was rescued the following day by a floatplane. Due to damage caused by the crash, the aircraft was written off and stripped of any usable parts and the airframe was left.

In early 1986 the aircraft, now owned by airline pilot Captain Lionel Clark, was offered to the Museum. The hard work of recovering and restoring the PBY was yet to come.

North American F-86 Sabre History

Just as World War II began to come to an end, initial plans for the Sabre were being drawn up. It was the straight winged North American FJ-1 Fury that provided the basis for developing the F-86. Howevere, when the completed aircraft left the factory in 1947, however, bared very little resemblance to what was initially proposed.

On the 18th of May, 1945, the F-86, initially named NA-140, passed the proposition stage. The problem, however, was that the F-86 would be required to pack a top speed of at least 600 mph (965.4 km/h). The prototype drawing would only be capable of a maximum speed of about 582 mph (936.4 km/h).

The following month, the team responsible for building the prototypes analyzed the design of the suggested F-86, and the research that was put into the aerodynamic design of the body. Very quickly the verdict was reached that the required speed could be made easily if, rather than building it straight winged, they made use of swept back wings. By sweeping the wing, it will delay the onset of shockwaves as the aircraft approaches the speed of sound. This reduces drag, allowing the aircraft to go faster.

The brand new NA-140, renamed the F-86, rolled out in August of 1947. The Sabre very quickly gained the admiration of everyone there to see it. The swept back wings, sleek body, and several other features new to aircraft gave it an image which impacted very positively on all.

After being moved to the High Desert in September, the Sabre made its first flight on October 1, 1947, with George Welch as the pilot. Welch was to make the flight last no longer than 10 minutes, however, this plan did not last, when Welch tried to lower the landing gear. Both back wheels of the plane worked well enough, but the nose wheel light in the cockpit didn’t light. After flying past the control tower, the operators could see that the front wheel was only halfway down. After 40 minutes of working at trying to bring the wheel down all the way, Welch said he would attempt to land with the nose up, so as to cause the least possible damage. He was lucky, however, for when the back wheels hit the runway, the jolt loosened the nose wheel, and it dropped down all the way, locked in position, and the landing was made successfully, without any damage.

Through out the duration of the Korean War, the F-86 Sabre made itself a place in the warplane hall of fame. The Sabre reached this standard of excellence due mainly to the high percentage of enemy planes shot down.

The Sabre also played its part in NATO, after soon finding its way overseas, where it was most noted for its use with the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE). Overseas production, however, was started by Canada, who were anxious to obtain more modern equipment in order to meet its commitments to NATO. However, the Sabre would go on to fly with many of the NATO Airforces, and Air Forces of other countries as well. In fact, some F-86 Sabres remained in front line service with Third World Countries until the Late 1970’s early 1980’s.

Total Canadair Production

Sabre Models Serial Number Range Quantity Produced Additional Information
Sabre Mk. 2 19102-199 98 RCAF
2 19201-452 252 Including 60 F-86E-6- CAN to USAF as 52-
2833/892 and three to  RAF
Sabre Mk. 3 19200 1 Orenda-powered prototype
Sabre Mk. 4 19453-890 438 All for RAF including US-funded machines with US identities 52-
Sabre Mk. 5 23001-370 370 Including 75 for Luftwaffe
Sabre Mk. 6 23371-760 390 RCAF
6 2021-2026 6 Columbian AF
6 350-383 34 South African AF
6 1591-1815 225 Luftwaffe

Total Quantity 1,815

Information on this page was collected from Classic Warplanes – North American F-86 Sabre.

CF-104 Starfighter

The first flight of F-104 took place in 1954 under the control of Lockheed test pilot Tony Le Vier. The USAF purchased 676 of the new fighter plane. Very few flew with the USAF, many were supplied to other countries. In 1959, the CF-104 was selected by the Royal Canadian Air Force to replace the Sabre for use with the Air Division in Europe. These aircraft were built under license by Canadair in Quebec. The aircraft were built and used in the attack role instead of it’s designed fighter role. In service these aircraft were initially used for photo recce and nuclear strike missions. Later in their career they reverted to a conventional strike role.

Canadair rolled it’s first CF-104 out of the Cartierville plant on March 18, 1961 it was the first of 238 built for the RCAF Canadair built an additional 150 Starfighters for other NATO Nations. First flight of a CF-104 occurred on August 14 1961. Some components for the CF-104 program were built by Enheat in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

In Canadian service the CF-104 performed very well, it was loved by it’s pilots and was a powerful aircraft to fly. In the ground attack role the 104 could out run any of it’s opponents, however, it was not a forgiving aircraft to fly at low level. During the CF-104 era 37 pilots lost their lives flying this aircraft. Unfortunately the CF-104, while fast, was not as maneuverable as many other types of aircraft. At low level, this lack of maneuverability could be dangerous if a pilot was not paying close attention. Canadian pilots, excelled with the Starfighter, some being considered among the best pilots in NATO.

The last of these great aircraft where transferred to Turkey in 1986, where some were flew into the late 1990’s. Canada’s Starfighters were replaced by the CF-18 Hornet. Other Starfighters had also been transferred to Norway and Denmark, in the 1960’s although these are now retired from service as well, being replaced by the F-16 Fighting Falcon in the 1980’s.

In Canadian service the CF-104 flew with the following squadrons: 417 (The Operational Training Unit), 421, 422, 427, 430, 434, 439, 441, and 444. Not all of these squadrons served during the entire life of the 104.

Common Nick Names for the CF-104 Starfighter:
Zipper, Aluminum Death Tube, The Lawn Dart, The Silver Sliver, Missle with a man in it, the Widow Maker, Starfighter and 104

Specifications for the CF-104 Starfighter:
Powerplant: one General Electric J79-GE-11A turbojet of 7076 kg (15,600lb) afterburning thrust.
Perfomance: maxium speed 1845 km/h (1,146mph) at 15240 m (50,000 ft); service ceiling 15240 m (50,000); range 1740 km (1,081 miles)
Weights: empty 6348 kg (13,995 lb); maxium take-off 13170 kg (29,035 lb)
Span    21 feet 11 inches
Length   54 feet 9 inches
Height    13 feet 6 inches

CF-104 Starfighters on Display in Atlantic Canada:

104783 Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum (Halifax International Airport, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

CF-101 Voodoo History

(A.K.A. The Washing Machine)

In June of 1961 the Canadian government placed an order for 56, 2 seat F-101B Voodoo fighters  plus 10 dual control F-101Fs. These aircraft were purchased to augment the failing Bomarc missiles that were purchased when the CF-105 Arrow, being manufactured by Avro, was canceled.

The first Voodoos were available to the RCAF by November of the same year. Eventually it would equip 5 squadrons (410 Cougars, 409 Nighthawk, 414 Black Knight, 416 Lynx, and 425 Alouette). These aircraft were tasked with the Defense of Canada and would play a major roll as part of NORAD.

With a maximum speed of Mach 1.85 and armed with either a pair of nuclear tipped Genie missiles and 2 infrared Falcon missiles, the Voodoo was a formidable weapon, in its day. In fact the Voodoo would be the last nuclear weapon system in Canada, a roll they did not completely give up until they were stood down by the military in 1984.

In August of 1970 an unusual deal was worked with the USAF, in which the surviving 58 CF-101s were swapped for 58 ex-USAF F-101s plus an additional 8 aircraft to replace those lost in crashes. The former Canadian aircraft were then converted to RF-101B’s by the USAF and used in the Recce roll for many years. The CF-101s were flown by the CAF for another 14 years until the entire force was replaced by the CF-18 Hornet.

CF-101s in Atlantic Canada:

CF-101 Voodoos were based at CFB Chatham in New Brunswick from November 1962 until the Voodoo phase out in December 1984. They could be armed with nuclear weapons. In fact, there were nuclear armed Genie missiles stored at CFB Chatham from April 1963 until June of 1975. After that, in times of tension or war, the 416 (Lynx Squadron) Voodoos would receive their Genies by flying to CFB Bagotville in Quebec.

Specifications for the CF-101B

  • Weight Empty 13,141 kg (28,970 lbs)
  • Take Off Weight 23,768 kg (52,400 lbs)
  • Max. Speed 1,965 km/h (1,221 mph) or Mach 1.85 at 40,000 feet
  • Max. Ceiling 54,800 feet
  • Range 2,494 km (1,550 miles)
  • Span 39 feet 8 inches
  • Length 67 feet 4 3/4 inches
  • Height 18 feet

Voodoos That Can Be Seen In Atlantic Canada:

101043 Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum (Halifax International Airport, N.S.)
101063 Shearwater Aviation Museum (CFB Shearwater, Dartmouth, N.S.)
101006 Gate Guard at the former CFB Cornwallis
[The last Voodoo to fly in the world] (Cornwallis, N.S.)
101028 Hillsboro Transportation Museum (Hillsboro, N.B.)
101053 Gate Guard at the former CFB Chatham (Mirimachi Airport, Mirimachi, N.B.)
101037 Gate Guard at the former CFB Summerside (Summerside Airport, Summerside, P.E.I.)
101003 Gate Guard CFS Goose Bay
101065 North Atlantic Aviation Museum, Gander Newfoundland.

NOTE: All of these Voodoos finished there service with 416 Lynx Squadron, with the exception of 101006 which finished its career with 414 Black Knight Squadron. As well, 101003 is painted in 410 Cougars Squadron colors.

CF-100 History

CF-100 Canuck History

The first requirements for an aircraft similar to the CF-100 were published by the Air Force as early as January of 1945. However, with the end of the war and a return to peace, the requirement for such an all weather fighter was temporarily put on the hold. By November of that same year, A.V. Roe Ltd. was contracted to design and construct and airframe that would eventually be called the CF-100.

After some development problems that plague any new fighter design, the first CF-100 was completed in late 1949. On January 17, 1950, taxi trials occurred and the first flight was just 2 days later, with Bill Waterton at the controls.  This was the first of 692 models that were eventually produced. There were many variants, culminating in the CF-100 Mk 5, which was the ultimate rocket armed interceptor version. Many Mk 5’s were later converted to electronic warfare birds. In this role the CF-100s simulated the enemy bombers they were designed to defend against. By simulating enemy aircraft, the CF-100’s of 414 squadron helped to keep NORAD in a high state of preparedness to guard North America against Soviet air attack.

In many ways, the CF-100 provided Canada with a first rate aircraft. It had a good range and payload carrying ability but the CF-100 was not considered to be a great dog-fighter, when compared with the Sabre. However, in the all weather interceptor role, it was second to none. When compared to its American counterpart, the F-89 Scorpion, the CF-100 Canuck is considered to be superior in all aspects.

The last CF-100’s were retired from Canadian service in 1981, some 29 years after the first aircraft joined the ranks of the RCAF. The CF-100 was designed and built by AVRO Canada. To this day it remains the only Canadian fighter that was designed, built and put into Canadian service with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The Canuck also served in the Royal Belgium Air Force from 1957 to 1960. They purchased a small force of 53. These were replaced by the F-104 Starfighter in Belgium service. When Belgium retired its force, they scrapped them so fast that not one aircraft was preserved. In 1971, Canada sold a CF-100 to Belgium to put on display in Brussels, where it remains today.

The AVRO Arrow was to replace the CF-100 in its roll as defender of Canadian airspace. However, with the cancellation of the Arrow in 1959, the RCAF would be forced to buy American and eventually purchased the CF-101 Voodoo for the manned air defense of Canada.