The (dis)Information Age

We appear to live in a time when the volume of superfluous information has degraded quality or accuracy and this often leads to skimming as an instant answer is sought without attention to details. Technology addiction and information manipulation, one may argue, are becoming serious issues in society and we need to look deeper into the longer term ramifications.

Those big thoughts aside, how does this relate to the old Norseman bushplane you ask? There are a few examples I will touch on and hopefully clarify the subjects.

Time and again, I see on social media people posting pictures and writing about Norseman CF-BHS on the pylon in Thompson, Manitoba not realizing it is a replica. Occasionally someone will interject with factual information yet it seldom seems to be absorbed. The actual BHS, a Mark V, serial N29-7 was on the Canadian register from 1945 to 1990. In October 1989 this aircraft was destroyed by fire on Cree Lake in Saskatchewan. The “BHS” in Thompson was put together from a few Norseman wrecks and the wings were fabricated to match the original.

Next we have CF-BHU. The confusing part here is that two different Norseman have carried that registration in Canada. Sometimes details will get crossed up and the wrong serial number and/or model is attributed to the other. The first BHU was a Mark V, serial N29-8 and rolled off the production line right after CF-BHS! It came to its demise on June 19, 1974 in a crash at Sachigo Lake, Ontario. The second BHU, a Mark VI, serial 506 came to Canada from the USA in 1999 and is presently flown commercially by Wings Over Kississing in northern Manitoba.

Another potential mix up involves the very first Norseman, serial 1, CF-AYO. The twisted remains of AYO can be viewed at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Currently at the Montreal Aviation Museum work on the restoration for static display of Norseman serial 427, C-FGYY continues with tentative plans to depict this airframe as CF-AYO considering the Norseman was developed at Montreal, Canada in the mid 1930’s. Again, if there is no clear communication about it being a replica of AYO then we can probably count on some keyboard surfers getting it wrong from lack of oversight.

*NOTE* – With regard to correct information, the Red Lake Norseman Festival will take place on August 6, 7, and 8, 2021 instead of the usual July weekend. This summers event will be small as planning is more complex during what we hope will be the tail end of the pandemic.

Down The Rabbit Hole

Identifying old airframes can be a lot of fun when a mystery is solved to one’s satisfaction and it can be a dive deeper into confusion at the same time! This was the case when visiting a museum storage facility at the end of April.

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada is waiting to move into a brand new, purpose built location at the Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At present, the aircraft collection is stored at various indoor and outdoor sites. Immediately west of St Andrews airport are a couple buildings and storage yard where three Norseman airframes are located and the goal was to positively identify the two weathered frames out in the yard.

Initially the airframe we thought was CF-CRT turned out to be CF-GTM! The mystery airframe right beside it was actually CF-CRT.

CF-GTM, Serial 828 is a Mark VI and the next picture shows what remains of its fuselage airframe.

Now it gets more interesting because CF-GTM was believed to belong to Joe McBryan and stored at his Red Deer, Alberta maintenance base. See Keep them Flying? from February 2019. So now another project starts! Although trying to be accurate and confident in identifications, there’s always the possibility records will be crossed up and some parts will just need to languish in the mystery category.

Last airborne over 72 years ago, CF-CRT is a Mark IV model, Serial 15 and was also with the RCAF as 696 and prior to then registered as CF-BFR.

Inside the storage building is CF-BTC, Serial 29 and longer term plans are to have this Norseman fully restored for static display to complement the museums extensive focus on the early days of Canadian commercial aviation.

CF-BTC fuselage. The wings appear to be in great shape and are on an upper storage shelf.

Noorduyn Serial 365

Steady progress is being made on the restoration of Norseman Mk VI, serial 365 last registered in Canada as CF-GLI until 2014. For some background on the project see; www.norsemanfestival.on.ca/norseman-pickers/

These recent photos were sent by Arno van der Holst of the Nederlands Transport Museum and show the top quality work that will send this Mk VI back into the sky after a mishap in northern Manitoba, Canada during 2010.

When completed this Norseman will have the number 35374 across the rudder and fin as it was USAAF serial number 43-5374 upon completion at the Noorduyn factory in Montreal. This reflects a growing trend in the Norseman community where airframes are being restored to their original appearance and identity from military service. Of all the 903 Norseman ever built it is estimated close to 90% left the production facility directly to the two largest military customers, the United States Army Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) from 1938 to 1945.

For a look at the ongoing restoration of a RCAF Norseman that will hopefully fly before the end of 2021 see; www.huronvintageaircraft.ca

Kississing update, Part two

C-FOBR, on the left, and C-FSAP appear to be parts sources for now.

Here is a brief update on the status of the other Norseman with Wings Over Kississing after a visit to Flin Flon, Manitoba on October 28, 2020. For some background information on the fleet, see Flin Flon Visit from November 2017 and CF-BHU was featured in last months post. The following is in order of production;

C-GRZI, Mk VI Serial number 175. Airworthy. Stored for the winter at Flin Flon airport, Bakers Narrows, Manitoba.

C-FSAP, Mk VI Serial number 231. Not airworthy. Stored at Channing airstrip, Flin Flon.

C-FENB, Mk VI Serial number 324. Written off in a landing accident at Big Sand Lake, Manitoba on June 18, 2019. The pilot was the only occupant and thankfully escaped with minor injuries.

CF-BHU, Mk VI Serial number 506. Airworthy. Stored for the winter at Flin Flon airport.

C-FOBR, Mk V Serial number N29-35. Not airworthy. Stored at Channing airstrip, Flin Flon.

Also featured in a recent post, the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 that powers these wooden winged aircraft passed its 95th birthday and the following two pictures are close ups of the engine in OBR.

Kississing update, Part one

The latest Norseman to return to commercial service is CF-BHU after extensive refurbishing started in 2019 into 2020. Operated by Wings Over Kississing in northern Manitoba, Canada, the floatplane was utilized for about two months in the later half of the season before freeze up. To avoid any confusion, this is the second Norseman to be registered in Canada as CF-BHU. The first was a Mark V model, serial N29-8 operated by Ontario Central Airlines that crashed at Sachigo Lake, Ontario in June of 1974 and was damaged beyond repair and reportedly completely scrapped. Link here.

BHU of today is a Mark VI, Noorduyn serial 506 that in common with most Norseman started out with the United States Army Air Force during WW II. Subsequently the aircraft was on the U.S. civil register as N13340 and highlights include service with the U.S. Forest Service from 1949 to 1955, Parachutes Incorporated from 1960 to 1984, and the Lone Star Flight Museum in Texas before coming to Canada in 1999. From April 2001 to July 2006 “BHU number 2” was registered to Grass River Lodge in Manitoba then entered a long period of dormancy until airborne again last year. The owner of the lodge had previously flown the original BHU so he asked Transport Canada if the mark was available!

USAAF data plate shows TYPE as UC64A – ND and SERIAL NO. 43-35432. The military took delivery in June 1944.

Beside the above data plate is the Noorduyn one showing SERIAL NO. 506. All the numbers, type designations and marks for one airplane can get a little confusing!

CF-BHU in winter hibernation at Flin Flon airport, Bakers Narrows, Manitoba on October 28, 2020.

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: cfdtl@hotmail.com

Norseman News Bites

In the USA, Norseman N164UC (Noorduyn Serial 224) was finally sold and flown to southeast Idaho by its new owner. Scroll down a few blog posts to learn more about this unique Norseman and link to Metal Makeover. The airplane is now based at the Driggs-Reed Memorial Airport and for now will maintain the same registration. N164UC is a play on the USAAF designation of UC-64 for the Norseman. Flown privately on wheels or wheel/skis in this high mountainous region, this rugged aircraft will be suited for the environment.

As Covid-19 continues to change schedules all over the world, the work on Red Lake’s iconic CF-DRD has slowed due to staffing shortages. July 16, 2021, at the opening of the Norseman festival is the date to have everything completed and a rededication event mark a “re-birth” for this community supported monument and the festival in general. The original dedication and first official Norseman festival took place in July 1992 and this anticipated annual weekend has only missed 2011 and now 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions. In 2011 a related Rock the Runway festival was held instead at the Red Lake airport marking the opening of a new air terminal building.

Over in Europe restoration work is progressing on USAAF Serial 44-70509 with the attachment of the wings and adjustments to flight controls. Also, the electrical system is coming together and engine runs are planned for next summer. A big thank you to Raymond Oostergo of the Aviodrome for this update and providing the following pictures.

Looking factory fresh on a different continent and 76 years later!

Fly into the Future

BSB gets airborne at Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Photo credit – Matt Cairns

Even in these times of uncertainty most Norseman that can, continue to fly although not likely as many hours as a typical year.

In the latter half of July CF-BSB was flown by Turner Thomson over southeast Manitoba and on into Ontario lake country. During the past few years, even in the Norseman Capital of the World it is rare to see more than one tied to the same dock. Thanks for stopping into Red Lake and visiting!

Hopefully next year the Norseman Festival can go ahead as planned and a freshly restored CF-DRD will be back up for all to admire!

ZMX (Mk VI, Serial 669) and BSB (Mk V, Serial N29-15) share a dock on Howey bay, Red Lake. Photo – Turner Thomson

Airworthy Norseman List 2020

The legendary Noorduyn Norseman is arguably the oldest, essentially unmodified transport design in the world that continues to fly in its intended role, although we are now moving into the private collector, warbird, nostalgic flights and air show phase.

There are currently 37 Norseman on the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register, but 17 are not actively flying and 11 have had their Certificate of Registration cancelled.

Find out which ones are still flying and which ones are not here…

Here is the list of Airworthy Norseman in 2020

AIRWORTHY NOORDUYN NORSEMAN 1 July 2020