The Canso Flies Again!
5″x7″ Canso Card and envelope
Cover photo and card design by Sharon Krushel, Peace River, AB
Story on the back:
Canso PBY-5A C-FNJE was built in Quebec to serve the Royal Canadian Air Force as RCAF11094 and had its first flight in 1943 as a patrol bomber during WWII, protecting convoys from enemy submarines. After the War, it was converted for civilian use, mostly as a water bomber to help fight forest fires, first in Newfoundland and later in western Canada. In 2001, while fighting fires in the Inuvik, NWT area, it started taking on water while loading and sank in about 100 feet of water. It was floated to the surface and pulled to the north east shore of Sitidgi Lake where the engines were removed and salvaged. The aircraft, according to the Aviation Safety Network, was written off.
In April 2008, with the help of local guide and trapper, Albert Frost, six farmers from Fairvew, AB salvaged the plane from the shores of Sitidgi Lake. The Canso was transported across the frozen lake by a snowcat machine, by NTCL barge up the MacKenzie River to Hay River, then by truck to Fairview Alberta – a total of about 3000 km. There it would be restored by aircraft enthusiasts with a passion for preserving and sharing the Canso and its 75-year history of defending Canadians at home and abroad.
After nine years of Wednesday night work bees and support and cooperation from people across the nation, including the “Great Canadian Aircraft Engine Exchange” with the towns of Stephenville and St. Anthony, Newfoundland, the restored Canso took flight before a cheering crowd at the annual Fairview Father’s Day Fly-In Breakfast in 2017. The pilot, Bill Brady, had completed more than 5,000 water bomber runs on Canso aircraft. Special guests included two men who both flew this Canso in WWII, 99-year-old Jim McRae and 94-year-old Hal Burns who served with 162 Squadron based in Reykjavik, Iceland.
This beloved flying boat has been depicted in a painting by Brian Hohner, had a song written for it by Jim McRae Jr., is delighting air show crowds and school children as a flying museum, and now you can even get a Canso coin from the Canadian mint. Check out videos, photos and stories at www.savethecanso.com, and see restoration photos in our Canso blog post at DonaBona.ca.
Three cheers for the group of six – Joe Gans, Norbert Luken, Brian Wilson, Don Wieben, Doug Roy and Henry Dechant – for using their farmer skillset, adaptive intelligence and neighbourly teamwork to take action on the inspiration: “Let your dreams take flight.”
See more photos of the restoration and flight in our blog post.