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Barnstormers Logo ISSUE 373 - April 2015
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Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre PART I

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Watford, Ontario, Canada

During "Bushplane Days" in September, the Ministry of Natural Resources flies some of their aircraft in a display over the St. Mary's River across from the Centre including one of the most effective firefighting, water-bombing aircraft in the world, the Canadian designed and built, Canadair CL-415.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, tucked away along the bank of the St. Mary's River, you'll find the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. You could almost be forgiven for missing it when traveling along the river with its relatively unassuming and simple "Bushplane Museum" along the top of the old water-side hangar. When on the land side, however, you'll come across a Beech 18 on skis, sitting on a pedestal outside the museum, and you can't miss that!

From the river side of the building, the CBHC is relatively unassuming, left, but step inside and you see Canadian aviation history at its best, right, including the venerable de Havilland Beaver.

In 1987 a small group of volunteers interested in preserving the history of both bushplanes and their firefighting legacy formed the CBHC. Through the generosity of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, who allowed them to use a portion of their hangar on the St. Mary's River, the group found space for displays and storage.

Crest of the Department of Lands & Forest, Air Division, Ontario, left. A "modernized" version of the de Havilland Beaver with the original P&W radial engine replaced with a turbine engine, right, known as the Turbo Beaver.

Eventually, the Fire & Aviation Division, formerly the Ontario Provincial Air Service, moved from the hangar to the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, allowing the CBHC to expand using the full potential of the hangar space. From there, the centre has grown into a wonderful tribute to bushplanes, firefighting services and the men and women who flew, serviced and contributed to the history of both.

One of the workhorse aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s was the Canadian designed & built Noorduyn Norseman, left. Looking at the instrument panel of an earlier de Havilland Beaver, right.

When first entering the centre's hangar you are taken back decades to a time when flying meant big radial engines, airplanes on floats or skis, along with blood, sweat and tears. It was a time without satellite navigation and GPS, a time that brings visions of famous Canadian bush pilots such as Bannock, Thompson, MacDougall and Beauchene to mind. Pilots who opened up the Canadian north with mail service, delivering food and other supplies to remove communities, assisted in the development of the northern mining industries, aerial surveying and, of course, aerial firefighting.

The de Havilland Canada Otter, left, could carry more cargo and people than the Beaver. One of the bushplanes of early days, the Fokker Trimotor, right.

Of the first three aircraft you're likely to notice immediate you enter are the de Havilland Beaver, de Havilland Otter and the Noorduyn Norseman. These three iconic aircraft really opened up the north post-war, but they were certainly not the first aircraft to be seen in remote areas. In the 1920s and 1930s aircraft of the day were sometimes nothing more than wooden aircraft held together by wires and struts, such as the Curtis HS2L H-boat, the DH 61 Giant Moth, the Buhl Aircraft Company Air Sedan and the Fokker F.VIIIb-3m Trimotor.

This Fokker Trimotor was restored and used in the movie "Amelia,"
a story about Amelia Earhart.

The Centre's Fokker Trimotor is a replica and was built for the movie "Amelia," a film about the life of aviatrix, Amelia Earhart. The Trimotor had a plywood laminate wing, which contributed to the demise of the aircraft after a fatal accident when a TWA Fokker Triplane crashed killing Knut Rockne, legendary football coach of Notre Dame. Floyd Bennett and Richard Byrd became the first to make the trip across the North Pole flying a Fokker Triplane called the "Josephine Ford," which was named after the daughter of Edsel Ford who was one of the sponsors of the flight.

One of the oddest looking aircraft at the CBHC is the de Havilland DH89 Dragon Rapide.

The de Havilland DH 89A Dragon Rapide initially flew in 1934 with the first aircraft flying in Canada a year later, though with modifications such as a larger fin to help counteract the extra forward weight of the floats and a large side door when used in a seaplane role. Most Rapide's in Canada flew along the west coast and along the St. Lawrence with companies such as Queen Charlotte Air, Canadian Airways and Quebec Airways. The Centre's Rapide was built in 1944 and is registered C-FAYE, "The Lady Faye," and was purchased by the Centre in 1999 with financial assistance from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.

The de Havilland Fox Moth is currently undergoing restoration, left,
and is sitting in the small but busy restoration area, right.

Currently under restoration is the beautiful DH Fox Moth. This aircraft was built based on the DH Tiger Moth using the same wings, landing gear, engine mounts and tail but had an enclosed cabin allowing for 4 passengers with the pilot located in an open cockpit at the front of the aircraft. The prototype was shipped to Canada where Canadian Airways Ltd performed testing with skis and floats. The museum's example, C-FBNI, was owned by Parson Airways in Kenora, Ontario.

Fully restored by volunteers at the CBHC, the beautiful Stinson SR-9 Reliant.

One of the more elegant looking aircraft at the CBHC is the Stinson SR-9 Reliant. This aircraft once flew with the Ontario Provincial Air Service from 1937 until 1948 when it was then sold to Green Airways in Red Lake, Ontario. Sadly, the aircraft was almost destroyed by vandals when they set a grass fire where the aircraft was parked. It was restored by volunteers of the CBHC to it's former glory and is now a beautiful example of the aircraft. Powered by a P&W 440 H.P. Wasp Junior engine. The Reliant had a cruise of 120mph.

The Turbo Beaver, left, has a very different look than the DHC Beaver with the big radial slung on the nose. The Beech C-45H, right, which was operated by Sparton Aero Services, was donated to the Centre by Springer Aerospace.

This week we've visited the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and have seen some of the aircraft and displays they have. Next week, we'll return to the Centre to see what else they have and check out their 2014 Bushplane Days event.

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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