The Booming '60s (1960 - 1969)
From 1960 to 1969, domestic and international air carriers such as Trans Canada Airlines, Pacific Western and Canadian Pacific Airlines began to dominate the scene. There is a restored former Trans Canada Airlines/Air Canada Vickers Viscount aircraft on display at the BC Aviation Museum. As well, local aerospace industries such as Fairey Aviation, Vancouver Island Helicopters, Victoria Air Maintenance Ltd. and a few courier companies began to establish thriving businesses at British Columbia airports. In the ever-increasing battle against forest fires, the BC Forest Service built several air tanker bases located at airports throughout the province. These bases are used by forest fire-fighting companies such as Conair Group. There is a former Conair Douglas A-26 air tanker on display at the BCAM.
Douglas A26 “Invader”
Of course the Douglas A26 was a late Second World War combat aircraft. The pair of 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800s provided a blistering performance and it was very versatile. It proved to be so valuable that it served with distinction in the Korean War, and by 1963 was being remanufactured for further service in the Vietnam War. This elderly aircraft went on to serve as a combat aircraft into the late 1970s. However in the 1960s it acquired a new profession as a fire bomber.
Our example of the Douglas A26 “Invader” entered service with Conair of Abbotsford BC in the spring of 1970. It completed over 2,000 hours of duty in its new role, until its last operational flight in 1984. Conair is a world leader in aerial fire-fighting, and generously donated the aircraft to the Museum in 1989. It was decided to keep it in its fire-fighting configuration.
Falconar AMF-S14 “Maranda”
This is a high-wing kit plane, with a large cabin for big people. It can mount a Lycoming or similar engine of between 100 and 200hp. It is ruggedly built as it is intended for rough field operations. Handling is docile and the design is well liked. Our example was started in 1966, but was donated in incomplete form by the Air Cadets.
The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) selected the Grumman Tracker for Anti-Submarine Detection (ASW) operations. One hundred were built under license from de Havilland Canada and fitted with Wright Cyclone engines built by Canadian Pratt and Whitney.
ASW gear included: retractable Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD), retractable radome; 70 million candlepower searchlight and sixteen sonobuoys. Homing torpedoes or depth charges were carried in the weapons bay and under each wing. The first aircraft flew in May 1956 and they entered service in 1957. Operations off Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Bonaventure began January 1959. Major updates were made to the aircraft during its life to improve ASW detection equipment. The first of those entered service in 1960. Further improvements to the ASW systems were made in 1966 and 1968. HMCS Bonaventure was retired in 1970 and Trackers became shore based patrol aircraft later re-designated as the CP-121. They were finally retired in March 1990.
The BC Aviation Museum’s Tracker was donated by the Military Education Centre in Chilliwack in 2021. It is similar to those used by the Royal Canadian Navy/Canadian Armed Forces based at Patricia Bay/Victoria International Airport with VU-33 Utility Squadron 1962 to 1974. In 1974 under Canadian Armed Forces Unification VU-33 was was renamed 414 Squadron and transferred to CFB Comox, Vancouver Island.
The “Westwind IV” is a much-modified Beechcraft 18; a small transport and trainer first flown in January, 1937. The Beechcraft 18 was built in large numbers and remained in production until 1967. It featured two Pratt & Whitney R-985 “Wasp” engines, a tailwheel undercarriage and twin end-plate fins. The RCAF had 394 in service as the “Expeditor” between 1941 and 1968.
Our “Westwind IV” was an ex-RCAF Beechcraft 18 built in 1943. It was used as a trainer in the 1950s before becoming a BC Government transport. It was extensively modified in the mid-1960s by B.C. Government Air Services to “Westwind” standards. Two Pratt & Whitney PT-6 turboprops replaced the radial engines. A tricycle undercarriage was installed, and a single-piece swept fin and rudder replaced the twin tail. This airplane was assigned to the well-known Highways Minister of the day, Phil Gaglardi. It was subsequently sold to Keewatin Air of Manitoba as a light transport, and was damaged by fire. The damaged airframe was donated to BCAM in 1990, without engines.