Canadian Car & Foundry / Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Perhaps the most unusual aircraft design ever built in Canada was the Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster, built by Canadian Car and Foundry (CC&F) in Montreal. The development of the aircraft, of a lifting body design, is a story in itself, covered in Ray Conrath's article "The Cancargo CBY-3 Loadmaster" in the Spring 2004 edition of the CAHS Journal. However, its operational usage forms another story, as it almost seemed as if it was always seeking a home.
The Loadmaster was in built in Montreal at the former Curtiss-Reid plant that CC&F bought. First flown on 17 July 1945 and registered as CF-BEL, the airplane received only a limited Domestic Certificate of Airworthiness, as it did not meet the stall requirements. CC&F formed a subsidiary, Cancargo, in February 1947 to market the aircraft, which soon resulted in an operational trial.
In March 1947, Canadian Pacific Airlines became a participant in the airlift of mining equipment to the Knob Lake area of northern Quebec, in what was to become the site of Iron Ore Company of Canada's Schefferville operations. CPA operated two DC-3s while Bristol Aircraft of the UK crewed its Bristol Freighter for demonstration. The DC-3s operated by Hollinger Ungava Transport formed the bulk of the transport effort, which would carry on until 1954. In March and April 1947, a total of 300 tons of equipment was airlifted from Mont Joli and Sept Isles, Quebec. The CBY-3 carried 28 tons of this; however, CPA decided not to buy any Loadmasters.
Thereafter, the Loadmaster made various test flights in the Montreal area before proceeding to Uplands at Ottawa on 28 August where it conducted two test flights, one for the Department of Transport and one for the Royal Canadian Air Force. In early September there was even a demonstration for the Argentinean Navy. Cancargo's marketing efforts produced another chance to demonstrate the Loadmaster, when from 24–29 May 1948, the Loadmaster flew demonstrations in the Washington, DC area and then flew further tests for the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base from 16–20 June. The USAF concluded that the aircraft's cargo configuration was not suited for their cargo loads and complained of the lack of heat in the cabin when carrying passengers. More flights were made for the RCAF on 20 and 21 December 1948 and in April 1949, the Loadmaster dropped paratroops at the Canadian Joint Air Training Centre at Rivers, Manitoba.
In February 1951, CC&F gave up trying to have the Loadmaster certified in Canada and exported it to the United States. There it was registered as N17N to the Central Aircraft Corp. of New York (the successor to Burnelli Aircraft) on February 9. More marketing followed, with a potential chance at glory being announced on 29 December 1954. The Loadmaster had been selected to land an Arctic expedition at the North Pole in March 1955; however, after the Loadmaster had been reconfigured to carry 20 passengers and 41 sled dogs, the expedition was cancelled.
In 1956, it appeared that the Loadmaster would get a break when the Venezuelan national airline Rutas Aereas Nacionales leased the aircraft, where it was registered as YV-C-ERC or possibly YC-X-ERC). Despite the fact that the Loadmaster served well, no orders were forthcoming. When the decision was made to upgrade the engines, which could not be done in country, the Loadmaster was flown back to the United States on 8 December 1959. And there it was allowed to languish before finding a final resting place in 1964 at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, north of Hartford.
The Loadmaster was an aircraft whose benefits from its lifting body design could apparently not overcome its most unusual design. It also could not compete with surplus Second World War Dakotas going for $5,000, which Canadair was refurbishing for Trans-Canada Air Lines, Canadian Pacific Airlines and other customers. In addition, newer designs offering greater speed and comfort. The Loadmaster was simply not the right aircraft at the right time.
Editor's Note: The CBY-3, retired to the New England Air Museum, has shown noticeable deterioration from its extended time in outdoor display. In 2011, the museum announced that the one-of-a-kind Burnelli CBY will be moved into the restoration facility for its restoration, anticipated to begin in mid-2012, and take several years.