Flin Flon Visit

Last September I spent a day in Flin Flon, Manitoba, Canada with Wings Over Kississing at their Channing floatplane base.  Owner, Curt Enns is a huge Norseman fan and his company is presently associated with five Norseman, although only two are used on floats during the northern summers.  C-FENB, serial 324 is used primarily on contract with Big Sand Lake Lodge approximately 350 kilometres northeast of Flin Flon/Channing.  Curt’s dad, Ike flies C-GRZI at his Grass River Lodge for day fishing flyouts.  This is where the Norseman still shines economically, on shorter trips and payloads that keep hard wear to a minimum.

Serial 175, Mk VI RZI at Channing after completion of the fishing lodge season.  Of note, this is the only Norseman on the Canadian register with C-Gxxx.

Serial 175, Mk VI RZI at Channing after completion of the fishing lodge season.  Of note, this is thought to be the only Norseman on the Canadian register to have C-Gxxx.  All others started as CF-xxx, then C-Fxxx and most are now changed back to CF-xxx.

Now a parts source, C-FOBR is a Mk V model and carries the Kississing title as seen at the top of this post. It is located at the adjacent Channing airstrip along with SAP.

Now a parts source, C-FOBR is a Mk V model and carries the Kississing title as seen at the top of this post.  It is located at the adjacent Channing airstrip along with SAP.

Flown by Nueltin Lake Lodge, C-FSAP originally was 43-5240 with the USAAF in 1943. Serial 231 was operated under Kississing's certificate and is indicative of numerous Norseman now awaiting a chance to fly again.

Flown by Nueltin Lake Lodge, C-FSAP originally was 43-5240 with the USAAF in 1943.  Serial 231, a Mk VI, was operated under Kississing’s certificate and is indicative of numerous Norseman now awaiting a chance to fly again?

Finally, under cover in Steinbach, Manitoba is Mk VI CF-BHU, serial 506.  Formerly used at Grass River Lodge by Ike, it went for refurbishment, was stored instead and could be made operational again if needed.  This Norseman is not to be confused with Mk V, serial N29-8 which was also registered as CF-BHU until destroyed in a crash at Sachigo Lake, Ontario in June of 1974.

Red Lake Hailstorm

A little over a week after the 2017 Norseman festival the Red Lake townsite and Howey bay was hit by a strong hailstorm that left significant damage in its wake.  Flypast Norseman CF-ZMX and CF-KAO along with Chimo Air’s other Norseman CF-JIN were punctured at the docks as the hailstones pummelled them.  The storm was localized and arrived suddenly, leaving everyone surprised.  DRD, on its pedestal nearby, also was damaged and repairs will likely necessitate it being removed from the pedestal at considerable time, expense and labour.

Initial reports indicate ZMX, having received the least damage, is now being fixed.  The futures for KAO and JIN are less certain and there is a possibility that one or both may have reached the end of their flying days.  From a purely business standpoint, the cost of repairs versus future useful income needs to be analyzed and make economic sense.  As more information becomes available the blog will be updated as to their status.

Numerous holes and tears in the fabric of CF-KAO's left wing.

Numerous holes and tears in the fabric of CF-KAO’s left wing.

 

 

MAM Norseman Project

 

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In an exciting development the Montreal Aviation Museum (MAM) acquired Norseman C-FGYY last summer from Kuby’s Aircraft of Kenora, Ontario.  Kuby’s salvage yard was cleaned out for future land use and a trailer load of wings, skis, the fuselage and plenty of parts went east to the museum located on the Macdonald Campus of McGill University in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue (Montreal), Quebec.

Even more interesting are the plans by MAM to restore this Mark VI, serial 427 to static display depicted as CF-AYO, the first Norseman from 1935.  The remains of CF-AYO are at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (see 80 YEARS! from February 2016).  To showcase a reproduction of AYO is a natural idea considering its birthplace and that of almost every Norseman was only about 20 kilometres northeast in Cartierville at the Noorduyn production plant.

Serial 427 was delivered to the USAAF as 43-35353 in April of 1944 and spent the majority of its airborne years with various Canadian commercial operators.  On June 25, 1985 during a take off in high winds the floats buckled on Bishop Lake, Ontario and the airplane overturned.  Years of open storage has deteriorated the fuselage and parts significantly and the project will be a major effort of sweat equity, passion and dedication.  Using GYY for a reincarnation of CF-AYO will be a momentous occasion and welcome addition to the aviation history of Quebec and Canada.

GYY arriving at the MAM

GYY arriving at the MAM

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NOVEMBER 8th UPDATE – As work starts on the restoration process, Mike Alain from the museum has passed on information that a data plate under the pilots floor has serial number 435 and that they have also found 435 stamped on the airframe!  Records show serial 435 crashed in France, May 1945 so it seems serial 427 and 435 have a crossed history and highlights how some Norseman are actually combinations taking parts from two or maybe more airframes.

 

FQX Back in Canada

“Buffalo Joe” McBryan recently purchased Norseman serial number 625, a Mark VI and moved it to his maintenance/storage facility in Red Deer, Alberta.  This aircraft last flew from Pickle Lake, Ontario about 17 years ago and was in Minnesota for many years as a potential restoration project.

Joe’s plan for FQX is unclear, but over the years he has collected many Norseman airframes and has a ready source of spares to keep his personal Norseman, CF-SAN flying.  Certain parts, like teleflex flap cables, propeller blades and hubs are getting hard to find and expensive.  Also, the future of avgas in the present form is questionable with lead free alternatives likely to be mandated.  As more turbines come online burning jet fuel, it’s evident the commercial radial piston era is flying into the sunset.

The Noorduyn Norseman Warbird

With the Norseman being primarily designed as a civilian aircraft in 1935 we may not recall that at the time forces of global conflict were intensifying.  World War II started in September 1939 and it had a profound effect on Norseman production and longevity.

The war ensued for six years until September 1945 and almost every Norseman coming off the production line during this time was delivered directly to the military.  Records indicate the United States Army Air Force was the largest customer taking approximately 82% of the total 902 Norseman built.  The Royal Canadian Air Force accounted for about 8%, thus only 1 in 10 Norseman went brand new to civilian users.  Put another way, 9 out of 10 Norseman ever produced first took to the sky in the time of WW II.

If this surge had not occurred you likely would not be reading this blog for the Norseman would have faded into the past by now.  After the war, with so many now surplus airframes around, new Norseman were competing with cheaper military used versions and production dropped to a trickle in the flooded market.

So while most of us only see this legendary airplane as a floatplane bobbing on a northern lake others see a utility warbird that filled a niche three quarters of a century ago.  In the past few years a definite interest by the world warbird community has emerged and more warbird Norseman could be going back to their future.

 

Serial 139 (Ex. CF-IJG) fuselage airframe.  Yanks Air Museum in California is starting restoration of this Norseman, originally built as USAAF 43-5148 to airworthy status.

Serial 139 (Ex. CF-IJG) fuselage airframe. Yanks Air Museum in California is starting restoration of this Norseman, originally built as USAAF 43-5148 to airworthy status.  Photo – January 2017.

Hibernation

Each winter three Norseman routinely spend the wintery off season with Riverside Aircraft Maintenance at Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada.  Privately owned Mark VI’s CF-IGX and CF-ZMX are protected from the elements inside while Mark V CF-BSB is outside.  Here are a few pictures from December 2016.

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In Alaska N78691 is back at Lake Hood.  Photo credit - Lambert de Guarve.

In Alaska N78691 is back at Lake Hood.  Now with rear door ladders.  Photo credit – Lambert de Gavere.

N78691 Update

As noted last spring, Norseman N78691 was sold and ferried to Alaska for a new career with Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures out of Bethel in the western part of that state.  Well, serial 637 has finally been converted to floats and flew from Lake Hood, Anchorage to Bethel at the end of August to become the only commercially operated Norseman outside of Canada. Certainly an interesting paint scheme on the airplane with gold coloured metal parts and burgundy fabric.  If you like it, that’s one good looking, panoramic windowed, moose haul’in Norseman!

img_2406Note absence of rear ladders to aft doors.  This likely will be changed when time permits.  Photo credits – Lambert de Gavere.

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Metal Makeover

In simple terms, the Norseman airframe is mostly made of steel tubing with a wood wing structure and fabric covering. Over half a century ago there were a couple projects that changed this to metal being primary like the aircraft designs that followed the Norseman.  Today only light sport/utility airplanes use the “rag and tube” and wood is a foreign material for critical components, so the Norseman is truly from a different era.

Perhaps even the focused Norseman enthusiast is not aware that a prototype Mk VII was flown in the early 1950’s. It had metal wings and empennage, was stretched 3 feet and retained the same Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine. However, this derivative never achieved certification so never went into production and the sole example was destroyed in a hangar fire at Fort William, Ontario in November 1957.

The other project was more straight forward and involved metallizing the fuselage skin of serial number 224 and using a metal wing instead of wood and fabric.  This was developed by C. R. Ursall of San Antonio, Texas, but once again only a single example was produced.  In 1967, this metal Mk VI came to Canada and was registered as CF-UUD.  Another interesting feature unique to UUD is the oversized cargo door on the left side and the removal of the corresponding right door, thought to be for keeping structural integrity.  Forward to the 1980’s and UUD’s metal wing was transferred to the metalized fuselage of C-FOBE, serial 480 and thus it became the only metal Norseman in the world until a crash at Birch lake on July 3, 2004.

A few other Norseman have had their fuselage skin changed to metal, but they are currently not active, so the “all metal” Norseman is no longer flying and CF-UUD is thought to be the only metal fuselage Norseman flying today.  All this to say that UUD (serial 224) was recently sold at auction, deleted from the Canadian register,  and has returned to the United States to be reborn as N164UC.

IMG_0544Above photo taken on April 19, 2016 at Red Deer airport, Alberta.  Now N164UC, note removal of aft cabin windows and wheel/skis.

 

Airworthy Norseman

At the bottom of the page titled About the Noorduyn Norseman, the airworthy list has been recently updated and shows 16 active airworthy Norseman in the world today. While this number is down, there are many restorations ongoing and the warbird community of Norseman appears to be growing. The largest single customer for the Norseman was the United States Army Air Force during World War II accounting for approximately 83% of total production!

As a private owner/operator the type is rather expensive to fly and commercially a handful continue to shuttle between northern lakes.  Keep ’em flying!

Born Again BSB

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Above; CF-BSB wintering at Selkirk airport, Manitoba.  December 21, 2015.

Throughout the decades most Norseman have moved around numerous operators, some with longer periods of inactive ground bonding hibernation. Also, nowadays all commercial Norseman are on floats in the colder parts of Canada so they only fly seasonally when the freshwater lakes are free of ice.

The latest example to re-enter service for hire is CF-BSB of Interlake Aviation based in Gimli, Manitoba. Being a post WWII Mark V model, serial N29-15 is a relatively young 70 years of age.

Owned by aircraft mechanic Tom Phinney and leased to Interlake the plans are to fly out of Riverton and Pine Dock in the southwestern quadrant of Lake Winnipeg. Used for general charters and servicing a fishing lodge approximately 240 statute miles north-northeast from the city of Winnipeg, another Norseman is starting a new chapter!