Veteran Canso Back in the Air!

Story and photos by John Chalmers,
CAHS Membership Secretary

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A Canso of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which flew from Iceland on maritime patrol during the Second World War, has been appearing at air shows in western Canada. Canso PBY-5A, flown as RCAF 11094 during the war, bears insignia C-FNJE. Built by Vickers of Canada in Cartierville, QC in 1943, it was used post-war as a freighter and later as a water bomber in aerial firefighting.

Last flown by Buffalo Airways, the Canso was damaged in 2001 while picking up water for firefighting east of Inuvik NT. The aircraft sank in 100 feet of water. Then floated to the surface, it was pulled to shore, where it remained for several years. With its engines removed, the Canso was written off. Recovered by a group of farmers from Fairview AB in 2008, the aircraft was moved to Fairview and restored to flying condition over a period of nine years. It first flew again on Father’s Day 2017.

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Although the original engines were salvaged, two low-time Pratt & Whitney 14-cylinder Twin Wasp radial engines were located and serviced, putting the Canso back in the air.

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The view from the pilot’s seat now that the aircraft is airworthy again.

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Pilot Bill Brady of Victoria BC, seen here, flew the Canso into the Edmonton Air Show with co-pilot Rodney Kozar of Kelowna BC, for static display on August 18-19.

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Doug Roy, a farmer/rancher from Fairview who was involved in restoration of the Canso, serves as president of the Fairview Aircraft Restoration Society, which operates the aircraft and took it to air shows in Alberta and British Columbia this year.

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The magnificent aircraft has a 104-foot wingspan with floats built in to the wingtips which are lowered when the Canso is on water. The aircraft was a star attraction at the 2018 Edmonton Air Show, held at the Villeneuve Airport close to the city. Visitors lined up to go inside for a tour and speak to crew members. To learn more about the veteran amphibian, click here and here.

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Hal Burns of Victoria BC, formerly of Edmonton and now 96, flew the Fairview Canso on submarine patrol from Reykjavik, Iceland, while serving as a pilot with the RCAF during the Second World War. He’s pleased to see the Canso flying again and was present to watch it take to the air from Fairview AB in its first flight on June 18, 2017, after a complete restoration.