Old bushplanes never die, they just fade away: A few lines, all right, many lines on the remarkable career of a Junkers Ju 52 “flying box car” named CF-ARM, part 3
Welcome back, my reading friend, and profuse apologies. Yours truly remembers only too well my December 2022 statement according to which I hereby and heretofore endeavoured to valiantly attempt to be briefer in my perorations. I had, however, prefaced that statement by stating that resolutions for the new year could be (tend to be?) fleeting. Well, now you have proof. Hence the apologies.
Now, where were we? Ah yes. The Junkers Ju 52 of Canadian Airways Limited of Montréal, Québec, was being repaired, in a hangar one hoped, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was fall, and the year was 1932. Let us proceed from that point.
As the days turned into weeks, the CF-ARM’s recurring engine problems did not abate. Nay. Indeed, Canadian Airways’ general manager and comptroller, Wilfred Carl Sigerson, described the aircraft as a white elephant in a letter / memorandum addressed to the firm’s president, James Armstrong Richardson.
By March 1933, the situation had worsened to such an extent that a note was sent to Sigerson and to Canadian Airways’ secretary treasurer, George Chipman Drury. Repairing the BMW VII engine again and again was proving expensive, and as said repairs took place, the aircraft was not making money. Leaving dollars and cents aside, one could not discount the possibility that an in flight failure could lead to a tragedy. Canadian Airways had been lucky thus far, but that luck was bound to run out sooner or later.
Given that, concluded the authors of the note, the Ju 52 should be grounded and efforts made to find and obtain a more reliable engine. Canadian Airways’ management abided by these recommendations. The firm seemingly looked at 4 engines, and came to the conclusion that a British one, the Rolls-Royce Buzzard liquid cooled Vee engine, was the long term best option. In the meantime, the firm ordered some engine parts from Germany and hoped for the best.
Once fitted with these new parts, the Ju 52 was deemed operational in June 1934, and no, it did not fly a lot between October 1932 and that date. Ow…
In late August 1934, the engine of CF-ARM suffered yet another failure, at Collins Lake, in northwestern Ontario. An American firm seemed willing to design improved parts but the management of Canadian Airways had had enough. The BMW VII liquid cooled Vee engine of the Ju 52 would be replaced by a Buzzard, and…
Do you have a question, my reading friend? Given the frigid temperatures in Canada’s northern regions, might an air-cooled engine have been preferable? After all, while it was true that the water in the radiator of the Buzzard could freeze solid at night if left unprotected, the oxygen and nitrogen in our atmosphere will turn into solids only at -219 and -210 degrees Celsius (-362 and -346 degrees Fahrenheit), temperatures one was unlikely to encounter even at the North Pole, or the South Pole.
You raise a good point, my weather wise reading friend, just like you did in the first part of this article. The truth is that I once again cannot say why a liquid cooled engine was chosen. This being said (typed?), a combination of power, cost and availability was quite likely, but back to our story.
Canadian Airways duly contacted Rolls-Royce Limited only to be told that manufacturing a single engine to power its Ju 52 was not economical. The British firm would of course have been delighted to build that engine had the British Air Ministry decided to order some Buzzards. As it turned our, that government ministry had no such intention. Adding insult to injury, the Air Ministry did not wish to sell one of the Buzzards it had in stock to Canadian Airways. Even a letter to the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Edward Leonard Ellington, failed to elicit a favourable reply.
The firm eventually heard that some Buzzards could be found in National Socialist Germany and that is where it bought the engine it so sorely needed, in 1935. Said engine might, I repeat might, have cost $ 37 000, or more than $ 775 000 in 2023 currency. You will of course remember, smart naked ape that you are, that Canadian Airways had paid the princely sum of $ 72 500 for its Ju 52 back in 1931, which corresponded to almost $ 1 350 000 in 2023 currency.
As you may well imagine, the design of a new engine mount for a single aircraft flying in Canada was not a huge priority for Junkers Flugzeugwerke Aktiengesellschaft. After all, at the time, the firm was assembling Ju 52/3ms stop gap bombers for the German air force, or Luftwaffe. It was also developing the Ju 87 dive bomber. Mind you, the late delivery of CF-ARM’s engine did not help either.
CF-ARM seemingly got its engine no later than February 1936. And yes, there were initially some issues with the German Buzzard. On top of that, one or more components on the left leg of the landing gear failed that very month, during a practice landing in Winnipeg. The collapse of that leg caused some serious damage to the left wing. And yes, a component on that same leg had failed in May 1932.
Once repaired, though, CF-ARM gradually shed its white elephant status. Indeed, it arguably became Canadian Airways’ most significant money maker, for a while. A few examples of its accomplishments will suffice.
Incidentally, Canadian Airways was able to find at least two additional Buzzards in England in 1937-38. They were quickly shipped to Canada, just in case, but back to the accomplishments of CF-ARM and its crew.
In early 1936, Canadian Airways and Argosy Gold Mines Limited of Toronto, Ontario, signed a contract according to which the air carrier committed to carrying hundreds of metric / Imperial / American tons of supplies and equipment, most of that fuel oil from the looks of it, to Casummit Lake, in northwestern Ontario, and that before freeze up. Said fuel was for the diesel generators needed to keep a gold mine going. CF-ARM was one of several Canadian Airways machines involved in that airlift, which took place between June and September. Incidentally, the aircraft was based at Gold Pines, Ontario, on the shore of an artificial lake / reservoir, Lac Seul. And no, the use of the word Lac was / is not a typo.
The Casummit Lake airlift was the largest operation of its type undertaken on Canadian soil up to that time. The Ju 52 simply proved invaluable, in spite of minor troubles with its new engine. Indeed, some tests conducted at Lac Seul might have been less than fully satisfactory.
Would you believe that the frequent trips made possible by the relatively short distance between Casummit Lake and the Canadian Airways bases, at Gold Pines and Sioux Lookout, on Lake Pelican, in Manitoba, turned said bases into some of the busiest airports on planet Earth – for only a few months of course?
From the looks of it, in the summer of 1937, CF-ARM and its crew flew to the Gold Pines area yet again, to deliver the fuel that the diesel generators of Argosy Gold Mines needed to keep things going. Mind you, again, during the fall or winter, the aircraft also carried hundreds of metric / Imperial / American tons of equipment to the Pickle Lake area, which was another gold mining area of northwestern Ontario.
In late December 1937, or at some point in January 1938, the crew of the Ju 52 transported an organ from the Anishinaabe community of Blodvein, Manitoba, on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, to Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba, on the shore of Family Lake, near the border with Ontario. As large as the largest cargo hatch was, however, the bulky musical instrument initially and steadfastly refused to go in. During the lunch hour of the baffled pilot, an unknown bright man came up with the idea of cutting off the top of the organ with a saw. I kid you not. The organ was then loaded without a hitch. Once in Little Grand Rapids, the musical instrument and its top were reunited by the subtle insertion of several nails. Reverend M. Schultz was thus able to play for his delighted parishioners.
In January 1938, I think, CF-ARM and its crew delivered 20 metric tonnes (20 Imperial tons / 22 American tons) of cement to the hydroelectric power station of Island Falls, on the Churchill River, in Saskatchewan, northwest of Flin Flon, Manitoba. Did you know that Island Falls was the very first hydroelectric power station in Saskatchewan? You did. Oh.
That power station was operated by Churchill River Power Company Limited of Regina, Saskatchewan, a subsidiary of Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company Limited of Toronto, I think, to provide electricity for that firm’s mining operations at Flin Flon and Cold Lake, Manitoba. Did you know about that? No? Good. Sorry. Let us move on.
In early March, CF-ARM and its crew began to transport the equipment that Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited of Toronto, I think, needed to build a hydroelectric power station at Tazin Lake, near the gold deposits recently discovered at Goldfields, Saskatchewan, on the north shore of Lake Athabasca, near the border with the Northwest Territories. The aircraft was seemingly based at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Mind you, the crew seemingly also delivered freight to the site of another hydroelectric power station on the shore of nearby Wellington Lake.
The largest, heaviest and bulkiest item carried early on was a ginormous steel boom. How large, heavy and bulky was this item, you ask, my inquisitive reading friend? Well, it was so large, heavy and bulky that a full size mock-up was made in Winnipeg to see if the actual item would fit through one of the large cargo hatches of the Ju 52. It did, and the boom also did.
Later on, during the summer of 1938, the crew of CF-ARM delivered a pair of trucks, delivered one at a time of course.
The crew had carried a slightly different payload on one occasion, in late March 1938. Yea, it had. It was pleased to transport 30 or so employees of Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada, including 3 women, from their isolated and boring construction camp near Tazin Lake to a Saturday night dancing party at Goldfields.
Only 35 or so kilometres (22 or so miles) separated the two locations but snowshoeing over such a distance to go to a dancing party and snowshoeing back over that same distance to return to the camp afterward was admittedly a tad much, however promising the event was. In any event, much fun was had by all. The 30 or so humans flew back to their camp the following day. Whether or not anyone onboard was slightly hungover was unclear.
Would you believe that this joyride caught the eye, or ear, of the good people at the Department of Transport, which had officially come into existence in 1936? Some questions were asked. After all, the aircraft might not have had actual seats when the 30 or so would be revellers were taken aloft. In the end, however, no action was taken. Even so, Canadian Airways presumably understood that it would not have been wise to make a habit of such flights.
In any event, at the time, CF-ARM and its crew were busy carrying heavy mining equipment from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. They did not stay there long, however. Nay.
You see, as April began, Central Patricia Mines Limited of Toronto needed to move a heavy and bulky ore crusher / ball mill to its gold mine near Pickle Lake, and this before the spring thaw and thinning of the ice on the rivers and lakes made air travel impossible. If the ore crusher was not delivered pretty fl*pp*n fast, said mine would come to a… crushing stop, sorry, until June, when a boat or seaplane would be able to make the trip. Investors would not be happy and… You do remember Pickle Lake, do you not? Sigh…
Anyway, the Ju 52 and its crew hightailed it to Hudson, Ontario, near the border with Québec – more than 2 500 kilometres (1 500 miles) from Yellowknife. As this was taking place, the ore crusher hightailed it to Hudson aboard a train operated by a crown corporation, Canadian National Railway Company. As these hightailings were taking place, employees of Patricia Transportation Company Limited of Hudson, a fresh water shipping company, built a ramp to load the ore crusher. Employees of Central Patricia Mines, on the other hand, built a ramp to unload it at Pickle Lake.
Would you believe that said ore crusher was up and running little more than 3 days (!) after Central Patricia Mines sent its request? Now, that was service. And yes, the growing radio network in Canada’s northern regions played a crucial role in that delivery.
Since they were already more or less in the neighborhood, CF-ARM and its crew transported a lot of freight between Gold Pines, on the northwestern shore of Lac Seul, and Uchi Lake, where gold deposits had been discovered.
Before I forget, although nominally based in Winnipeg, CF-ARM and its crew went wherever they were needed and often stayed there for weeks on end.
And one more thing. Canadian Airways seemingly contacted Junkers Flugzeug- und -Motorenwerke Aktiengesellschaft, a new corporate identity adopted in 1936, around 1938-39 to order another single engine Ju 52. By then, as was mentioned in the first part of this article, the German firm was producing 3-engine Ju 52/3ms for civilian and military operators in many countries. Junkers Flugzeug- und -Motorenwerke certainly tried to convince the Canadian firm that such an aircraft would perform very well in Canada’s northern regions. In the end, however, the greater operating costs of an aircraft with 3 engines led Canadian Airways to politely walk away.
Mind you, the optics of buying an aircraft made in National Socialist Germany might have been unfavourable as well, but back to our story.
If you thought that the content of the previous paragraphs was impressive, you have read (seen?) nothing yet. Let us move forward a few months, my reading friend, to a truly horrific period of the 20th century, the Second World War.
You see, the need to produce ever increasing amounts of aluminum for the war effort led Aluminum Company of Canada Limited of Montréal, I think, a subsidiary of Aluminium Limited of Montréal, to build a new smelter in Arvida, Québec. The production of aluminum requiring huge amounts of electricity, two news dams were to be constructed. The absence of surface transportation facilities near one of them, at Manuan Lake, Québec, meant that everything would have to be delivered by air.
And yes, my reading friend, I believe I have my nums and niums in the right places.
The airlift began in early August 1940. Originally located at Roberval, Québec, on the shore of Lake Saint-Jean, Canadian Airways’ base was moved north, to Beauchêne, Québec, on the shore of Lake Onatchiway. CF-ARM was one of the six aircraft involved.
Would you believe that a full size mock up of CF-ARM’s cabin was put together in Montréal so that Canadian Airways’ staff could check whether or not a particularly large and / or bulky item would fit through one of its cargo hatches? The arm of a diesel-powered shovel which did not fit was actually cut with acetylene torches, flown up north and welded back together.
Other items carried by Canadian Airways small fleet included a complete sawmill, a few small bulldozers, a 6 metre (20 feet) long boat, 6 oxen, 4 horses and a cow. The latter was to provide fresh milk for the workers.
The large and / or bulky items were usually loaded at night and flown early in the morning to minimise their impact on flying operations.
The heaviest item weighed approximately 2 200 kilogrammes (4 800 pounds). Thus loaded, the float-equipped Ju 52 was heavier than its maximum permitted weight. This, of course, meant that Canadian Airways had to contact the Department of Transport to see if the delivery flight could be made as planned. Given the importance of the project, the firm got a green light.
It looks as if CF-ARM carried all 4 horses, one at a time. Although nervous, the first equine passenger agreed to be led in and suitably tied, standing upright. At some point during the flight, however, it became frightened / annoyed and let loose a few kicks. Crew members might, I repeat might, have been forced to further restrain the animal to prevent injury and / or damage. The other horses received an injection of sedative after being led aboard the aircraft.
By the time the airlift ended, in October 1941, I think, more than 3 000 metric tonnes (3 000 Imperial tons / 3 300 American tons) of supplies and equipment had been flown to Lake Manuan. That airlift was the largest operation of its type undertaken on Canadian soil up to that time.
It should be noted that CF-ARM had suffered an engine failure in July 1941. The crew had to make an emergency landing on a lake located between Lakes Onatchiway and Manuan. That body of water being quite shallow, it proved impossible to beach the aircraft to undertake repair. Canadian Airways’ staff therefore had to build a dock around the Ju 52. Said dock was used to undertake a complete engine change.
That same year, the crew of CF-ARM helped the crew of a smaller floatplane operated by Dominion Skyways Limited of Rouyn, Québec, a bush operator which was assisting Canadian Airways. You see, the aircraft in question, a Fairchild Model 82 if you must know, had suffered some damage to one of its wings during an emergency landing. As luck would have it, no one had a spare wing.
If you asked me, everyone should have a spare wing, especially hospitals. If I may, though, yours truly would like to make a plea in favour of museums. Museum collections also need to grow, you know. Museums are keepers and guardians of national and international treasures. Such treasures were not, are not and will not be produced or discovered solely by white dudes, hence the need to build up these collections so they can become more inclusive. Hence the need for more space – and more repatriation of treasures removed (by force?) from their homelands.
Incidentally, in that regard, you may wish to watch a most interesting television series, co-produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Stuff the British Stole. End of plea.
Luckily, a well known and respected Dominion Skyways pilot, Walter “Babe” Woollett remembered that a Fairchild Model 71, very similar to the Model 82, had hit a motorboat on Lake Onatchiway, and sunk, in May 1941. Even though its fuselage had been destroyed by fire during an attempt to dry it out, the wings themselves had been put in the woods near the shore. Canadian Airways readily agreed to help. A wing was soon latched on CF-ARM and delivered to the kale, sorry, the lake, where the Model 82 was stranded. Installing the wing did not prove too difficult and the aircraft soon returned to service.
A brief digression, if I may. Did you know there was a Model 82 in the prodigious collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario? That collection also includes a Fairchild FC-2W2, a machine very similar to the Model 71.
Another brief digression if I may. By 1940 at the latest, the Ju 52 may, I repeat may, have been informally referred to as the Goon by Canadian Airways people. Yours truly cannot say if that moniker was linked in any way to Alice the Goon, the muscular and fearsome nursemaid of Swee’Pea, the adopted son of famous newspaper comic strip / animated cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man, a character my maternal grandfather was quite fond of if memory serves me right.
As successful and popular as it was, the Ju 52 was beginning to have issues. And yes, you are quite right, my perspicacious reading friend. These issues were engine related. Spare parts for the aircraft’s Buzzard engine, an engine produced in very small numbers, were increasingly hard to come by.
In December 1941, Canadian Pacific Railway Company of Montréal gained control of Canadian Airways. Indeed, that Canadian transportation giant had gained control of 10 or so other Canadian bush operators in 1940-41. Canadian Airways thus became the crowning jewel of United Air Service Limited, a subsidiary formed no later than June 1941 which became Canadian Pacific Airlines Limited in February 1942, a firm mentioned moult times since May 2019 in our blog / bulletin / thingee, and…
Oh, criminy. Yours truly just realised I had not pointed out, in the first part of this article no less, that Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian Airways were mentioned moult times in our you know what, and this since April 2018 and January 2018. Will you ever forgive me?
Canadian Airways’ founder, the aforementioned Richardson, had not lived long enough to witness the takeover, however. He had died in June 1939. Richardson was only 53 years old.
By 1942, the engine issues experienced by the Ju 52 were becoming increasingly preoccupying. By July of 1943, some people at Canadian Pacific Airlines (seriously?) considered the possibility of replacing its troublesome Buzzard with a far more reliable if hard to come by Rolls-Royce Merlin engine made under licence in the United States by a well known car manufacturer mentioned in several issues of our awe inspiring blog / bulletin / thingee since February 2019, Packard Motor Car Company.
Even though CF-ARM was thoroughly overhauled in Winnipeg around that time, the management of Canadian Pacific Airlines chose for some reason or other not to proceed with the change of engine. The fact was that its inquiries about the possibility of acquiring a Merlin might have been politely rejected by the American, British and / or Canadian authorities. There was a war on, after all. In the end, the certificate of airworthiness of CF-ARM was not renewed when it lapsed, in late June 1943.
Worse still, the Ju 52 was not put in a hangar for storage. It was simply put outside, at the mercy of the elements and of the local fauna, both animal and human animal. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, the Ju 52 was repeatedly vandalised by individuals of various age. Canadian Pacific Airlines took the aircraft off its books in May 1947 and sold it as junk.
The very large floats of the Ju 52 were not part of that sale however. Nay. Some time before, the Richardson family had acquired them for use in a new floating dock at the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club, on the shore of… Lake of the Woods, Ontario, near the Manitoba border. They were sunk onsite many years later, presumably (well?) after the end of the Second World War
If one was to believe the article published in January 1948 by Photo-Journal, the Montréal weekly newspaper yours truly used to anchor the first part of this article, an otherwise unknown gentleman from Winnipeg acquired the remains of the Ju 52 around May 1947, in order to turn its fuselage into some sort of trailer. Whether or not that actually happened was / is unclear.
CF-ARM’s registration was cancelled only in December 1950. From the looks of it, the Department of Transport had pretty much lost track of that most remarkable machine.
CF-ARM deserved a lot better, if I may state so.
And that is it for this week – and for this month too, now that I cogitate about it.