In 1986, a friend and I were planning a summer tour of America and we both had a list of ‘must-do’ places to visit. These included the USAF museum, the water-bombers of Wyoming and the
Oshkosh airshow. For many years an Air Pass provided a popular, relatively inexpensive way for enthusiasts to travel extensively around the US. Several airlines offered the passes, which varied from a few flights to unlimited travel within a set timeframe, and you had to fly with the carrier across the Atlantic before being entitled to buy them.
Our travel agent said the best deal was with Northwest Orient, with unlimited travel within the continental USA and Canada over a
60-day period available for $379 (which equated to £253 at the time) on standby basis or $449 (£300) for confirmed seating. We chose the latter and it proved to be well worth the extra cost as many of our flights were full and being on standby would have ruined our schedule.
Our tickets booked, we planned our schedule, measuring distances, pouring over road maps, finding out which airshows were on, where we should stay and the flights to book. Before long we had our plan, flights booked, hire cars reserved and letters sent off requesting visits. This was years before the invention of e-mail or websites.
CROSSING THE POND
We had an early start on the first day, Thursday July 24, as our initial flight was the 07:00 British Caledonian service from Manchester to
London Gatwick. One-Eleven Series 528FL G-BJRU ‘City of
Edinburgh’ was our ride for the short 45-minute sector. We went up o the spectators’ viewing area at Gatwick as we had several hours before our transatlantic flight. Among the aircraft we saw were Boeing
747s of CAAC, Philippine Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Cathay
Pacific. The oldest type was Aviation Caravelle 10B1R (HB-ICO) of Compagnie de Transport Aérien.
It was soon time to board flight ‘NW45’ to Minneapolis-St Paul
Airport, Minnesota, which that day was assigned to 747-151,
N605US. The entertainment during the 8hr 45min-flight consisted of a single film shown on a large screen in the cabin after the meal.
MSP turned out to be a good place to fly into in the USA as it had international services and on arrival we were the only flight going hrough immigration and customs.
We landed at 16:00 local time and then immediately headed for our next flight, which was due to depart in two-and-a-half hours to Omaha,
Nebraska. MSP is a major hub for Northwest though we also saw, among others, aircraft from Eastern Air Lines and Republic Airlines.
We boarded Boeing 727-227 N206US for ‘NW229’ and had a flight time of 67mins. We arrived just after 19:30, picked up a Chevrolet
Chevette and after a long day of travelling went straight to the hotel.
STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND MUSEUM
Our first visit the next morning was to the Strategic Air Command (SAC)
Museum at Offutt Air Force Base that cost $2.50 (£1.67) to enter to see 30 aircraft. All the aircraft were displayed outdoors, except North
American F-86H Sabre 53-1375, which was in a small building with exhibits about the history of the SAC, and a gift shop. The bombers included the ten-engine Convair B-36J (nicknamed Peacemaker),
Boeing B-47E Stratojet and Boeing RB-52B Stratofortress 52-8711. This was the reconnaissance version of this famous bomber of which only 27 were built, the bomb-bay was used to carry cameras or electronic reconnaissance equipment. With the many close ties between SAC and the RAF, upon its retirement, Avro Vulcan B.2 XM573 was presented to the museum and is the only non-US aircraft on display. The oldest jet bomber present was North American RB-45C Tornado 48-0017 and the fastest Convair B-58A Hustler 61-2059– capable of 1,385mph
(2,228km/h) at 40,000ft (12,192m).
Among the fighters were Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, a Convair
F-102A Delta Dagger and McDonnell F-101B Voodoo. The oddest was
McDonnell’s XF-85 Goblin, 46-0524, which was designed to be carried by a B-36 as its own escort. The idea was to release it in flight to defend the bomber when threatened by enemy fighters and then recover it by a hook and trapeze system (see Aviation News, June 2011, for an article on this unusual aircraft). However, the programme was cancelled after only a few hours of testing due to the difficulty of recovery to the mother ship and its performance against fighters of the day. Transport aircraft included a Douglas C-47A Skytrain and C-54D Skymaster Before returning to Omaha’s Eppley Airfield we de-toured to find
US Navy Douglas A-4C Skyhawk 149618, on display in a park, that I had seen from the aircraft window on our final approach. At the airport there was time for a circuit of the field and at the cargo area was a sole example of a Boeing 727 from Federal Express, UPS and Emery
Worldwide alongside Gulfstream 1 N142TG of General Aviation. We returned the car with just 43 miles (69km) driven, but our other hire cars would be put to far greater use!
We checked in for flight ‘NW242’ back to MSP and boarded 727-251
N286US for the 45 minute sector. During the hour-long wait between flights at MSP the only international visitor was Fokker F28 Fellowship
C-GTEO of Saskatoon-based Norcanair. A highlight among the US carriers at this time was Convair 580 N2728R of Republic Express (the commuter division of Republic Airlines) though also of interest was
Northwest’s Airlink Swearingen SA-227 Metro N423MA and Fokker
F27 Friendship N4560Z.
Our next flight was ‘NW154’ to Boston, via Cleveland, and 727
N286US was once again our ‘chariot’. It was 85 minutes to Cleveland
Hopkins International Airport; we did not disembark but managed to photograph Air Ontario Convair 580 C-GGWI, Airlink Short 360
N617FB, New York Air DC-9-31 N1311T and PEOPLExpress 727-232
N513PE. A 90-minute flight to Boston Logan International Airport followed and we arrived at 21:00, collected a Pontiac Grand AM and drove out of the city to stay in a motel in Agawam, a small town in
Massachusetts. BACK EAST
On a cloudy morning our first call of the day after a 30-minute drive was the New England Air Museum in Bradley, Connecticut, which had more than 50 aircraft. A tornado hit the museum in 1979 and many aircraft had been destroyed or badly damaged, the effects still Above: Intercity Airways Avro HS748-244.2
C-GLTC at Oshawa, Ontario. The company ceased operations in October 1986.
Right: Canada was one of the last operational users of the Avro Lancaster with its final examples retired in 1964 and has more preserved Lancasters than anywhere else in the world. Former maritime patrol configured aircraft FM104 on display in Toronto. In recent years it has been removed from outdoor display and is being fully restored to exhibition standard.
Below right: Lockheed L.188CF Electra C-GNWC, of Northwest Territorial Airways, day stopping at
Toronto’s Lester B Pearson International Airport.
Below: The smallest freighter in the fleet of Torontobased Millardair was the Beech 18. Model E18S
C-FWDV outside the company’s hangar. apparent seven years later. A newly constructed hall was packed with many exhibits that included Republic P-47 Thunderbolt 45-49458, albeit marked as ‘420344’, Grumman FM-2 Wildcat 74120 and Vought
XF4U-4 Corsair 80759. This was the prototype of a variant that had increased power by the use of water-methanol injection, boosting the output to 1,827kW (2,450hp).
Outside and showing signs of severe damage was Boeing B-17G
Flying Fortress N5111N that had been used as an engine test bed with an additional turboprop engine fitted to the nose. The rarest aircraft was Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster N17N. Only one of the the type was built and its design as a lifting fuselage gave it an unusual shape.
It first flew in 1945 and trials took place with different powerplants, but it never went into production.
On then to the state capital of New York, Albany and an open air viewing area. Only commuter types were seen and included a Short
330 of American Eagle, Beech 1900Cs of Piedmont Commuter with two more from Business Express and a Beech C99 of Precision
Airways. A long, wet drive followed through upstate New York to stop overnight in the small town of Keesville.
A sighting of a B-47E Stratojet 53-2385 on the gate of Plattsburg heralded the start of our next day, but it was a Sunday with no flying at the base so we went to Plattsburg’s small civil airfield where we glimpsed a Cessna Caravan I of Federal Express, Beech 1900C of
Piedmont Commuter and Beech 18 tri-gear N20PK.
We continued north into Canada, and headed for St Jean in
Quebec Province, the home of Conifair Aviation. The company’s fleet of Douglas C-54s and C-118s had been converted as spray aircraft to combat budworms. These insects defoliate coniferous forests and have to be controlled for the benefit of Canada’s huge timber industry.
Present was C-118 C-GBYA and C-54s C-GXKN, C-GDCH, C-GBNV and C-GBSK, plus Beech 18 C-FDWS.
We then had a drive of three hours to Rockcliffe and the Canadian
Aviation Museum, the national collection. Examples dating back to
World War One were among the exhibits with the highlight for me a
AEG-G4 574/18, the only surviving German twin-engine bomber of the conflict. Avro Lancaster 10 KB944, de Havilland Mosquito B.20
KB336, Supermarine Spitfire P8332 and Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk 1
1076 represented the World War Two era. Civil aviation was also on show with the prototype de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver CF-FHB and Vickers Viscount 757 CF-THI in the livery of Trans-Canada Airlines among others.
Our next stop was the nearby Ottawa Uplands Airport with just a
DC-9-32 of Air Canada and a Piedmont F28 at the terminal. However, on the other side of the airport was CASA 212 C-GILU of Terra
Surveys together with C-47s C-GRSA and C-GRSB, Dassault Falcon
20C C-GRSD and Convair 580 C-GRSC, all owned by Innotech
Aviation, though they also had Department of Energy, Mines and
We night-stopped in the town of Kingston, Ontario and to our surprise found Canadair CF-100 Canuck 18731 on display outside the Royal Military College.
An early start and a 90-minute drive to Oshawa Municipal Airport was our first location on day five with an interesting selection of aircraft.
Based carrier Skycraft Air Transport had two DC-3 freighters C-GSCB and C-GYBA as well as Embraer E110P Bandeirante C-GHOY.
Bradley Air Services supplied DC-3 C-FQNF and Soundair Falcon
20D C-GTAK, although it wore titles of freight carrier Purolator. Two
British-built aircraft were Hawker Siddeley HS748-244 C-GLTC of
Intercity Airways and Percival Sea Prince N57AW. Like many airports in Canada there was an aircraft on display, in this case Canadair CL-13
Back in the car we took a one-hour drive to Toronto Exhibition Park to photograph Lancaster 10(MR) FM104 before heading to the city’s
Lester B Pearson International Airport. We had written to Millardair for a visit to its facility and had received a reply from owner and founder
Carl Millard giving permission. The company operated a fleet of
Dakotas, Skymasters and Beech 18s for cargo services, the Dakotas were a mix of C-47s and tall-tailed C-117s. Beech 18s noted were
C-FSIJ, C-GWSV, and C-FWGP; C-47s were CF-WGN and C-FDTV;
C-117s C-GDOG, C-GGKG and C-GGKE, while C-54s were C-GDWZ, C-GFFQ and C-GQIB. Also in the cargo area were C-54s C-GPSH and C-FGNI of Soundair, Lockheed L-188F Electra C-GNWC of
Northwest Territorial Airways and Botswana-registered Dakota A2-ADL.
This aircraft was owned by Aerial Survey Botswana and was having survey equipment installed, such as a magnetometer tail, wing tip housings and a long pointed nose.
We moved round to the passenger side of the airport and went to the top floor of the car park which had a good view of the ramp. Toronto is the nation’s largest city and this is reflected in a wide range of domestic and international services. During our relatively short stay we saw 737-
200 and -300s of a number of Canadian carriers including: Canadian
Pacific Air Lines, Eastern Provincial Airways, Nordair, Pacific Western Airlines and Quebecair. Air Canada was represented by DC-9-32s, 767-
200s, a 747-200 and Lockheed TriStars. Two DC-8s were seen, a ’-73AF of Air Canada Express and a ’-62 from Nationair. Three wide-body DC-
10s were in the livery of Canadian Pacific, two -30s and a single -10.
The highlight was two Convair 580s of Air Ontario. The only overseas aircraft were a Lufthansa DC-10-30 and a 747-230F from the German airline’s cargo division.
An hour away was one last call of the day, Hamilton Airport. On display was CF-100 18506 and visiting was City Express Saunders
ST-27 C-FFZP. This was a Canadian conversion of the de Havilland
DH-114 Heron with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6A-27 turboprops each producing 533kW (715hp) replacing the four de Havilland Gipsy
Queen 30s of 186kW (250hp) each. The nose was extended and the wing re-engineered, among other modifications.
The next day we headed back to Hamilton Airport to visit the
Canadian Warplane Heritage collection. Star items among the 20 Above: Nationair was a Canadian charter operator based in Montreal, its Douglas DC-8-
62 C-GMXY was seen at Toronto.
Left: Air Ontario had a fleet of 11 Convair 580s, one of which C-GQHA is shown at Toronto.
This variant is the turboprop conversion of the piston-powered Convair 340 and 440.
Below: Canadian Pacific was once one of the most famous names in the country’s transport system. As well as aviation it was involved in rail travel and even had a song written about it. One of its Boeing 737-217s,
C-GCPO, photographed at Toronto.aircraft included airworthy Lancaster 10 (MR) C-GVRA, Fairey Firefly
AS.6 C-GDBG and Hawker Hurricane XII C-GCWH (sadly destroyed in a hangar fire in 1993). One of our last visits in Canada was to
Jackson Park Gardens, in the town of Windsor, Ontario to see yet another Lancaster 10P FM212 on a plinth.
We crossed back into the US via a road tunnel into Detroit,
Michigan, en route to the Henry Ford Museum at Dearborn. The tunnel had brought us into a part of the city that made us uneasy and within a few hundred yards we both, without a comment to the other, clicked the door locks on. Above: Many B-17s were latterly used for fire fighting into the 1980s, N3193G is pictured at the Yankee Air Museum, Detroit-
Willow Run, still in its water bomber colours, shortly after retirement from the role. Today it has a World War Two scheme and is named
Right: All three of Reliant Air’s Falcon 20s line up at Detroit-Willow Run.The museum admission price was $8 each (£5.30) and is not just about aircraft, but has a whole range of exhibits on American life including a chrome roadside diner, cars used by US presidents and a 600-ton locomotive. The aviation section had 16 aircraft including two built by the Ford company — the tiny Ford 1 Flivver, s/n 268 and its most famous design the 4-AT-B Tri-Motor NX4542. Other notable exhibits included Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro, in the colours of ‘The Detroi
News’ newspaper, and Fokker /3m BA-1, the first aircraft to fly over the North Pole (piloted by Floyd Bennett) during the explorer.
Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1926 expedition.
The last call of the day was to the Yankee Air Museum at Detroit’s
Willow Run Airport. Outside was B-17G N3193G, still in the livery of aerial firefighting company Globe Air of Mesa, Arizona. Also, baking in the sunshine, were B-52D 55-0677, McDonnell F-101B Voodoo 56-
0235 and Grumman F11-F Tiger 141872 in the markings of the Blue
Angels display team. Inside F-86F Sabre, 51-2852 complemented the museum’s 14 aircraft.
Willow Run Airport was, and still is, a major cargo centre flying parts for the American motor car industry. There were no passenger flights when we visited and with a few requests we were able to wander the ramps. Two companies dominated the airfield Trans
Continental Airlines with a fleet of six Douglas DC-6s and two Convair
440s and Zantop International Airlines. In their fleet were three DC-6s, two Convair 640s and an Electra. Other aircraft of note were Sikorsky
S-64 Skycrane N4035S of Siller Brothers from Yuba City, California, and three Dassault Falcon 20DC freighters of Reliant Airlines. After leaving we crossed into Ohio and stayed the night in the town of
Our plan on the seventh day was to reach Dayton via airfields en route, first up was Toledo Express Airport. On the gate of the Air
National Guard unit, 112th Fighter Squadron then flying A-7D
Corsair, was F-84F Thunderstreak 51-9525 and North American
F-100D Super Sabre 55-2855, but a tight schedule prevented us seeing the A-7s. However, we spotted Vertol 107 N191CH of Oregonbased Columbia Helicopters as well as some light aircraft on the airfield. 15 miles away was Bowling Green Airport where among the
Cessnas and Pipers was BAe125-800A N528M and Boeing Stearman
N49684. The Ohio town of Wapakoneta while not well-known, is the birthplace of the first man on the moon, the late Neil Armstrong. Proud residents built a museum in 1972 to honour the life of their most famous son and outside it is Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer NASA 802/139208, a type
Armstrong flew during his test pilot career. Last call of the day was
Dayton’s James M Cox International Airport where we made our way to the viewing balcony to see US domestic traffic in operation. Piedmont was the dominant carrier, and in addition to 727-200s and 737-300s we saw BAe Jetstream 31 N821JS of Piedmont Commuter. Another commuter airline was Britt Airways with Fairchild FH-227C N377NE and
Metros N325BA and N326BA. We ended the first week of the trip at the local Days Inn and relaxed with a dip in the pool.
Above: Just four examples of the Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer were produced and NASA used them as research test-beds. NASA 802 is seen at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum at Wapakoneta,
Ohio, the home town of the first man on the moon. He flew the aircraft during his career as a NASA test pilot.
Left: Piedmont Commuter System Jetstream 31, N821JS, arrives at
Next Month Gerry Manning continues his Air Pass tour of
North America, which includes visits to the huge US Air
Force Museum at Wright-Patterson and the world’s biggest airshow – Oshkosh.
Left: Originally built as a heavy-lift helicopter for the US Army, the Sikorsky
S-64 Skycrane first flew in 1962. As they were phased out of service some were acquired by specialist companies working for the lumber industry or as firefighters. N4035S of California-based Siller Bros, pictured at Willow
Run, still serves with them in the heavy lift role.