‘Til Rust Do Us Part

For every active airworthy Norseman in the world there are probably five in various states of non flying status from immaculate museum restorations to fuselage airframes one trip away from the scrapheap.

On March 21, 1995 C-FKAS literally landed in the water after a spreader bar float failure near Chemainus, British Columbia. Unfortunately for serial 367 the salty seawater later caused corrosion in the airframe tubing that made future repairs uneconomical for continued commercial use.

This Mk VI started as a UC-64A with the USAAF (43-5376) and is reported to even have carried U.S. President John F. Kennedy in South America. Other more recent unique features are the oval shaped panoramic windows and having its fuselage skinned with metal at some point allowed for murals to be painted on both sides like seen on semi-trailer trucks!


Arno van der Holst from the Dutch Transport Museum stands by KAS on November 13, 2018. The frame is near Dryden, Ontario and at the aft bottom of the fuselage can be seen a sliver of a mural. The last commercial operator was West Caribou Air, Savant Lake, Ontario.


From 1947 to 1966 CF-BSH was operated by Algoma Steel Corp. Limited of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Below the right triangular window is a metal plate with that name and registration.

In northern Minnesota at the Baudette airport sits Norseman serial N29-23, N45TG. Having remained on the ground for well over a decade out in the open this Mark V is definitely starting to show deterioration from the elements.

Unlike many Norseman, this postwar model spent its life with only a handful of operators and mostly flying in Ontario, Canada including Red Lake based Green Airways, then Pikangikum Air before going stateside in 1990 with Tom Griffen. A couple points of interest in the picture below are the added ventral fin at the bottom of the empennage (not a common feature) and the TG in the FAA registration representing the current owner. Rather obvious is the missing air rudder and the fabric on the fin looks particularly rotten.

Will this Norseman return to the sky one day? The prognosis looks unlikely, but never say never when considering those seemingly timeless machines still existent.

Photos taken on November 11, 2018.



CF-ZMX is the first Norseman to be repaired since the violent hailstorm that hit Red Lake in July of 2017 only one week after the festival.  Recently seen in storage at its Selkirk, Manitoba wintertime home, ZMX (serial #669) is looking factory fresh. In fact, Park Rapids Aviation of Minnesota did such a precise, beautiful finish it pains me to think of bug impacts when this classic flies over to Red Lake again next float season.

A complete exterior fabric recovering was done and observers will note the same colours and paint scheme were applied. The only difference upon a second review appears to be a slightly changed font for CF-ZMX.

The Green family was without their heirloom aircraft for a year, but we now look forward to seeing this star attraction at the 2019 Norseman festival.

The other damaged Norseman are CF-DRD, CF-JIN, and CF-KAO. In due course, it is planned to have these three fully repaired as well.

JEC Update

Work is progressing slow and steady at Northland Aircraft in Ignace, Ontario on the restoration of Norseman CF-JEC. Not having flown for many years and being outside in the weather has deteriorated the fabric and now some woodwork of the wings needs to be replaced. Originally plans were to have the airplane flying to its new home in Quebec this fall but that has been pushed ahead until the next float season. JEC, serial 469 is a Mk VI, military model designation UC-64AS and in 1976 the fuselage fabric was replaced with aluminum. Thus, when it is back in the air, JEC will be one of two metal fuselage Norseman flying (N164UC in the United States is the other).

At this time, there are numerous projects ongoing and within the next couple years more Norseman should be returning to the sky. Not bad for a design from 83 years ago! In Europe alone there might be three Norseman warbirds flying at museums and airshows.

Back on topic, thanks to the new owner of JEC, Olivier Lemieux for sending a couple pictures that give us a good look at the internal wing structure of wood ribs and spar in the Norseman. We wish him well with this restoration and many more years of service as JEC starts another chapter in the larger story of the Norseman saga.

BSB Northern Tour

Recently CF-BSB made a tour “north of sixty” and next float season of 2019 might see this Mk V model return to the Yellowknife area. Owner, Tom Phinney normally has the aircraft overwinter at Riverside Aircraft Maintenance in Selkirk, Manitoba.

The only other Norseman flying in that area of Canada is Joe McBryan’s CF-SAN and it has been many decades since two active Norseman have flown there!

Beautiful picture of BSB at Sawmill Bay on Great Bear Lake.

Hanging out in Cowtown

In a somewhat unusual setting and geographic local, a Mk V Norseman can be seen in downtown corporate Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

CF-MAM, serial N29-26 started out with the Manitoba Government Air Service in September 1946. A civil, post WW II model it spent most of its working life with various operators in the Province of Manitoba after nearly ten years of duties with the government. During the mid to later 1970’s it became a common sight with Ignace Airways in northwestern Ontario.

The Certificate of Airworthiness expired 37 years ago and the aircraft was purchased by the Aero Space Museum of Calgary in 1982, then refurbished for display. For many years now, it can be found hanging in the atrium lobby of the Suncor Energy Centre “flying” over the lush vegetation on straight skis!! To me, this seems a mismatch and seeing this type of bush plane in the concrete jungle far from the lakes and boreal country of northern Canada is at odds with the cowboy cultural roots of the area. Then again, the Norseman is Canadiana wherever it is and the business people probably just glance at it as a piece of public art, not totally realizing it as a real aircraft intertwined with the history of the nation and their livelihood.

Here’s the irony, the Norseman and other aircraft types were paramount in developing Canada’s vast north and natural resources that the corporate headquarters in the south represent. To a large degree, our big southern cities, our wealth and standards of living depend on resources and aircraft to this day. Do you agree? e-mail me at c46commando@hotmail.com about anything Norseman related. Thanks!

Festival 2018

With CF-ZMX not ready in time to participate in this years festival we had no Norseman arrive for the flypast!  Also, sometimes logistics come into play during the busy summer flying season and it can be a challenge to have aircraft in the right place at the right time so only three floatplanes were present.  In another twist, all three were De Havilland DHC-3 Otters, but with different powerplants;

Superior Airways (Ex. Chimo Air) C-GYYS, original R-1340 600 HP engine.

Superior Airways (Ex. Chimo Air) C-FODQ, PT6 turbine engine.

At the tail end was Lac Seul Airways/Amik Outposts C-FHXY with a PZL 1,000 HP engine.

Next year should see a return of a couple Norseman to the line up.

On a brighter note, the expanded Superior Airways water operations were busy giving rides over the festival site in Centennial park and around the townsites in De Havilland DHC-2 piston Beaver C-GEZU and Otter C-GYYS carrying a total of some 100 passengers over two days.

Restoration work has started on CF-DRD and the fuselage on floats could be seen at the former Chimo Air yard located at the head of Howey bay.

On June 20, DRD’s wings were trailered to Northland Aircraft Service in Ignace, Ontario for refurbishment. Gord Hughes and Duane Riddell discuss their condition. Note Gord’s yellow Mk IV Norseman CF-DTL in the background.

CF-LZO, Serial 535 sits dormant at the Red Lake airport as a Ontario CL-415 water bomber takes off in the background for a mission.



Further sleuthing around town turned up the only full metal Mk VI Norseman, C-FOBE.

It last flew in July of 2004 until grounded by an accident.

The main wing metal structure can be seen in the following photo. See Metal Makeover from July 2016 for more detail.

End of an Era

Chimo Air of Red Lake, Ontario was recently purchased by and merged into another local operator, Superior Airways. The two Norseman, CF-JIN and CF-KAO were not part of the deal and recently left town for a new venture (more news to come as the aircraft are refurbished).

These were the last commercially operated Norseman in Red Lake and their daily summer presence in Howey bay will be missed by local aviation fans and tourists from afar. Privately operated CF-ZMX is expected to be back for the 2018 festival after repairs are finished from last summers crazy hailstorm. ZMX usually takes up residence in the bay for the open water season so at least one Norseman will continue to fly from Red Lake. Also, private Mk IV, C-FFUU occasionally flies into the area on a fishing lodge resupply run.

Happy plane spotting!

Annual Norseman List 2018

           ZMX- Photo by Larry Milberry

As the 2018 Norseman Festival is a little over one month away it is time to review and update the Airworthy Norseman list.


If you have any information about Norseman happenings so we can have an accurate record for 2018 please e-mail me at; c46commando@hotmail.com

Why C-46 Commando and not something Norseman related for the e-mail? Well that is another story!

There will be some changes as a few Norseman are pending sales to new owners. As of now eleven Norseman in the world are regularly flown.  If one is in airworthy condition but not flown at least once per year, I consider it not active. That said, Norseman are now normally only flown during the warmer months and the only one I know of flying last northern winter was N164UC on skis. Going forward there are always projects in the works and I’m confident there will be more flying in the years ahead.

Private owners, collectors, museums and nostalgic air tours are becoming the majority of operations and the last commercial “working” Norseman are one in Alaska, N78691 and three in Manitoba, Canada.

Any help or comments are appreciated, thanks!

There’s Three to See

With recent posts about CF-DRD’s fundraising for restoration it brought to my attention two other displays of Norseman on pylons in Canada. Fittingly, all three are on floats and in communities that are still gateways for northern aviation. DRD was the first to go up in 1992, but looking beyond Red Lake have you seen CF-HPY or “CF-BHS”?

A project spearheaded by Joe McBryan’s Buffalo Airways and the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton culminated with a celebration on September 25, 2004 when this Mk V, N29-52 took its place alongside Kingsway NW in front of the museum. In turn, the museum is located at the now defunct Blatchford Field airport which has a rich history of pioneering aviation and as the “Gateway to the North”. Inside the building is immaculate Norseman CF-EIH, a Mk IV and the museum is well worth a visit.

CF-HPY carries the Buffalo Airways title and green colour but was never flown by them. Also, the aircraft is mounted in a steep nose high attitude as seen by the slanted horizon in the photo.


Next, in 2008 a component of the Thompson Spirit Way attraction in Thompson, Manitoba was unveiled as a tribute to Lambair and all the pilots of the north.

The white building on the far side of the Burntwood River used to belong to Lambair, an airline with a long history in northern Manitoba and beyond from 1935 to 1981. The bush plane is purposefully positioned to depict a take off from the river and points to Lambair headquarters in The Pas, Manitoba. Photo © Volker Beckmann.

NOTE – Many casual observers and even Norseman fans mistake this display for the actual CF-BHS and this is a testament to the amazing job done by all involved. This replica was made from several Norseman wrecks and fabricated wings. BHS was a Mk V, serial N29-7 registered to Lamb Airways in October 1945.

From the old Canadian Aviation Safety Board comes a report dated October 11, 1989 when the aircraft was operated by C & M Airways. As the pilot taxied the float-equipped aircraft away from the shore, he saw smoke and found the aircraft on fire. He beached the aircraft which was almost totally consumed. All research indicates the remnants of serial N29-7 remain near Prowse Island in Cree Lake, Saskatchewan.

Wearing Lambair colours, the Norseman greets visitors after they cross the bridge when coming from the airport – CYTH.                                            Photo © Volker Beckmann.

For more information on the Aviation Tribute and the Thompson Spirit Way go to; http://thompsonspiritway.ca/take-the-walk/aviation/