One Century to the Next

On this day 95 years ago, the first aero engine developed by Pratt & Whitney (USA) was first run. This being the R-1340, a single row nine cylinder air cooled radial piston engine. Also known as the wasp series on the civilian side this family of engines ranged from 450 to 3,500 HP and eight of the largest R-4360 powered the Spruce Goose flying boat.

85 years ago on November 14, 1935 the very first Mark 1 model of the Norseman flew, Canadian registration CF-AYO. Originally powered by a 420 HP Wright R-975 Whirlwind, this was soon changed to the R-1340 on production models developing up to 600 HP because the Whirlwind was to small for the new design.

In todays world, where most things are considered obsolete in 5 to 10 years I simply find it amazing that we have an airplane still in use, basically unchanged with 100 year old technology! This speaks to the thought and ingenuity put into the Norseman design. On the other hand, Noorduyn wanted an airplane that used the tried and true methods of the day, that was simple and easy to repair when away from base and incorporated the ideas from daily operations of bush planes in the 1920’s to “30’s.

Another Norseman was recently resurrected and is back in commercial service! (subject for the next blogpost). Even 2020 can’t keep the Norseman grounded and many warbird enthusiasts continue their work on projects with plans to get them flying again.

Canadian Norseman Extraordinaire!

Autumn of 2020 on Forster reservoir in Alberta just before ferry flights to Ignace, Ontario.

If one Norseman exemplifies what the type is about and its connection to Canada perhaps that would be a Mark V model known as BSC.

Serial N29-17 was registered as CF-BSC in June of 1946 for K. V. Gamble and Co, Toronto. This company went bankrupt before delivery and by August the new bush plane was flying at Austin Airways, the start of a 27 year career with the northern Ontario based airline. True to its purpose of design, BSC formed an integral part of transportation and development beyond roads end for many decades. Being utilized for 400 to 600 or more hours per year the airplane amassed almost 14,000 hours with Austin before Cargair in Quebec bought it.

BSC on the front cover of Larry Milberry’s authoritative volume 2 book about the Noorduyn Norseman. Photo by Rich Hulina.

Here BSC was used in the James Bay area during construction of Quebec Hydro dams. By the end of 1974 this well used Norseman was taken apart and put in storage.

After passing through a couple more owners the aircraft was donated to the Canadian Museum of Flight and Transportation in 1983. It was restored to Austin Airways’ classic red and black colours and shown on static display at the Expo 86 world fair in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Eleven years later in May of 1997 Collin Oliver of Brooks, Alberta purchased BSC and the restoration work became more serious with the intent of having the airplane fly again while further detailing to take the airplane back five decades as if in a time warp. Considering you can’t rush perfection another 15 years passed before BSC took to the sky in July 2012 after nearly 38 years on the ground! Gord Hughes, owner of Northland Aircraft Service in Ignace, Ontario completed the job and it wowed the crowd at the Norseman festival that summer.

It has been on book covers, a model, and seen at no less than a world’s fair. Now with just over 15,000 hours of flight time and having always resided in Canada, BSC is offered for sale in Ignace to a serious collector who will hopefully keep this famous bush plane flying in Canada for many years to come.

Contact Eleanor or Gord Hughes for information at 807 934-6394 or email: