Monday, April 20, 2015

The Second Canadair Starfighter

Here is a neat set of photos of Canadair CF-104 Starfighter 104702.  Accepted by the RCAF in 1961 as 12702, the airplane spent its whole career flying with CEPE (Central Experimental and Proving Establishment), 448 (Test) Squadron, and their successors AETE (Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment).  It had a brush with fame when it flew as a chase plane for Lockheed built Starfighter 12700 piloted by Wing Commander Robert A. “Bud” White, who set the Canadian altitude record of 100,110 feet on December 14, 1967.

Renumbered as 104702 after unification in 1968, the X on the tail was AETE's "squadron" marking.  The aircraft was slightly bent during arrest hook trails, but the CO of AETE Col. Dave Wightman claimed that that the tail markings made it fly faster.  Looking at these photos, it is hard to disagree!

702 was struck off strength in 1983 and now spends it time sitting on a pole at Joe Hoffner Memorial Park at Grand Centre, Cold Lake, Alberta.

The photo above was adapted into a decorative metal pin.  In a fun twist of fate, my mother found my Dad's copy of this pin and gave it to me last week after I had started preparing this post.  It now has a prized position in my model display case.  I really need to build a CF-104 to park behind it.   (Photos courtesy of the Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada.)

Modeler's Note: There have been many Starfighter kits issued in 1/72 over the years.  Most modelers consider the Hasegawa kits issued in the late 1980s as the best kit of the type, but I would counter that the ESCI kit from the early 1980s (also issued by AMT/ERTL and Italeri) kit is well worth considering.  The Hasegawa kits strike me as overly complex and I enjoy the simple construction of the Italian company's Starfighter.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Fleet Model 21

The Fleet Model 21 is one of those minor, but fascinating, Canadian aviation projects of the pre-World War Two era.  I became enamoured by the type after seeing one at a Hamilton Air Show in the early 1980s.  It just oozed 1930s biplane grace and power and in my young mind looked very much like a biplane Harvard.  It turns out that the Fleet 21 was a Canadian built version of the Consolidated Model 21, also known by the USAAC as the PT-11, PT-12 and/or BT-7 depending on the engine.  Eleven aircraft were built in Canada with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine.  One interesting feature is that the Fleet 21 had a deeper belly than the PT-11, making the aircraft look beefier than the more delicate Consolidated predecessor.  Of the eleven aircraft, designated Fleet Model 21M, ten went to Mexico.  Armed with three .30 guns, you have to wonder what military use these hefty biplanes offered the Mexicans.

The subject of the above photo was the eleventh aircraft built.  (The photo is dated 1938, and the caption says it was taken at Camp Borden.)  Built as a demonstrator by Fleet in order to entice the RCAF to purchase the type as a trainer, it was flown with absolutely no markings; neither a RCAF serial number nor a civil registration was assigned.  Evaluated by the RCAF at Rockcliffe during 1937 and 1938, the aircraft was found to handle well, but the RCAF considered it antiquated.  With the Harvard about to enter service with the RCAF in 1939, the Fleet does look like a leftover from a previous epoch.  The RCAF decided not to purchase the type, which may have had less to do with its antiquity, and more to do with the lack of funds.  (Keep in mind the RCAF did eventually pony up and buy Canadian Car and Foundry Goblin biplane fighter for which the RCAF had minimal want or use.)

However, the Fleet 21 did find some work to assist with the war effort.  Fleet shared their Fort Erie location with the Irvin Air Chute Company who supplied parachutes for the BCATP and the RCAF.  The contracts required that each chute be dropped from an aircraft prior to acceptance by the RCAF.  Therefore, the Fleet was converted into a single seater, a drop bay was opened up under what would have been the rear cockpit, and it was loaned to Irvin during the war.  During that time, thousands of parachutes were dropped from the Fleet.  I have heard in passing that the Fleet carried RCAF roundels at some point in its life.  Not so long ago, I came across the photo below which appears to show the drop test Fleet with roundels, but again, no distinguishing marks.  Sadly, the quality is such that it is hard to draw many conclusions from the photo.

Post war, the Fleet was finally assigned a civil registration, CF-DLC, and was purchased by Fleet test-pilot Tommy Williams, who also had done most of the parachute drop test work in the aircraft for Irvin.  He installed a Jacobs L-6MB engine in place of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior, converting in into a Fleet 21K.  Williams owned the airplane for many years and in the mid 80s it was donated to the Canadian Warplane Heritage in Hamilton.  Still flown occasionally and converted back into a two seater, the Fleet looks just as good as it did the day it rolled off the Fleet construction line.  While the CWH Fleet is the last airworthy survivor, the Reynolds Museum has parts of an ex-Mexican Fleet 21M in storage as a future restoration project.  (Black and white photos courtesy of the Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada.)

Modeler's Note: No kit of the Fleet 21M has ever been issued.  It also appears that the Consolidated PT-11 has yet to attract any model manufacture's interest.  One for the resin guys, someday?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spitfire APR

I've been spending most of the morning trying to finish up my Spitfire APR.  The white winter camouflage is turning out to a little more difficult than I hoped...

If you don't know about the RCAF's use of the Spitfire APR visit Vintage Wings for the full story. Once again Evad has done a great job telling the story of this previously unknown piece of RCAF history.  ; )

Monday, March 30, 2015

WWII Modeling Day at the Flying Heritage Collection

On Saturday, my local model club, the Northwest Scale Modelers, hosted the first of what we hope will be quarterly modeling displays at the Flying Heritage Collection.  Each modeler gets a table to build on and to display a few models.  We spend the day BSing with each other and talking to the museum patrons.  It is a nice way to spread the word about scale modeling and I even got some progress made on an Academy P-40N.

My workspace for the day.  Yep, it is a rough life...

The nose of Lancaster Mk. I (FE) TW911 makes a nice display. This Lanc was built for the Tiger Force but carries the more common night bomber scheme.

One of the newest displays at the Museum is a Scud missile on its launcher.

The Spitfire had the engine off for some winter maintenance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Vought XF8U-1 Crusader Unveiling

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Vought XF8U-1 Crusader (Bu.No.138899) unveiling at the Museum of Flight restoration center. Sixty years to the day that the prototype XF8U took to the air for the first time with John Konrad at the controls, the Museum took the wraps off the same aircraft which had been under restoration for decades. The Crusader exceeded Mach 1 on its maiden flight and it still looks speedy to this day. Originally, the Museum had requested the loan of the Sageburner F-4A Phantom II, but instead the XF8U was offered. The Crusader was on display at the Museum for a short while and then sat in storage until restoration work commenced in 1996.

The covers come off...

The restoration team.

F-8 pilots, the restoration crew, and one of the aircraft's designers.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Some progress has been made on the Airfix Mustang 4.  The natural metal finish has been simulated with Mr. Color H8 Silver.  I was pleasantly surprised, as it turned out a little shinier than expected.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Canadair Argus

Title: The Canadair Argus:  The Untold Story of Canada’s Cold War Maritime Hunter
Authors: Major Cary Barker and Major Bert Campbell

During the Cold War, the Canadair Argus plied the skies of Canada’s East and West Coast and, outside of a few preserved airframes, is almost forgotten.  Even in books about the RCAF, it only gets mentioned for a few pages in chapters on Maritime Command.  This 190-page hardcover book changes all that.  It tells the story of the Argus from development to retirement and everything is here; weapon’s trials, stories of patrols, crew and maintenance tails, etc.  I was fascinated by the Bullpup missile trials and the references to the Argus's use during the Cuban Missile crisis.  The book is well illustrated with both colour and black-and-white photos and nicely done aircraft paintings.  A must for an RCAF fan of Maritime operations.