This page is dedicated to the Noorduyn Norseman

and the people who keep them flying.

 

 Please note that I'm in the process of converting and adding material to this page in downloadable PDF files.     - Ed 



Metal skin for the Norseman

Canada’s first purpose built bush plane, the Noorduyn Norseman was a sturdy aircraft built of 4130 steel tubing, wood, and fabric.  As the years went by and technology advanced, aluminium skinned airplanes such as the Otter and Beaver became the standard because of their lower maintenance.  Nevertheless, a few Norseman have been skinned in aluminium.


                                      Read more...

 

                                           (Opens a downloadable PDF file)

 

Share your comments by contacting Ed Zaruk



Elliott Brothers Skis      

In 1927 Harold (Doc) Oaks had become the first managing Director of Western Canada Airways Ltd.   That year he approached Warner and Carmen about manufacturing skis for his airplanes. The Elliott brothers designed and built a ski that would handle the rugged conditions encountered in Canada’s bush during winter flying.  

                                                        READ more...

                                             (Opens a downloadablePDF file)

 

Share your comments by contacting Ed Zaruk



How Tough is a Norseman?


CF-AYO was the first Norseman aircraft manufactured by Noorduyn Aviation. This Mk I prototype first flew in November of 1935. Built for tough bush work it was sold the following January after a brief period of testing, to Dominion Skyways Limited.
During the summer of 1941, and with RCAF approval, Warner Brothers Pictures negotiated the use of AYO for the movie, Captains of the Clouds. The link will take you to a scene that was shot August 2, 1941.                                                

Brenda Marshall watches as the Black Norseman, with wings and tail painted a Technicolor-compatible orange, and re-lettered HGO, lands in the lake. Director Michael Curtiz wanted some spectacular splash and bounce for Jimmy Cagney’s landing and the video is the final take. Warner’s pilot, Jerry Philips literally drove the plane into the water so hard it bounced four times, catching the stabiliser in the process.
Two reports were filed on the incident. One stated that, other than the damaged elevator, there was a broken lower left pontoon fitting. That, and a buckle in the left float. Damage to the elevator was repaired and the fitting was wrapped with metal. The airplane was flown for 30 more hours to finish the movie shoot. 
Later, it turned out that both floats had buckled at the front spreader bar, the back spreader was bent. Both wing struts were bowed and later had to be replaced. When word of the incident got out, Department of Transport, obviously slighted by the violations, stepped in and mandated the aircraft be sent to Noorduyn in Montreal for a complete dismantling before it would issue a new Certificate of Airworthiness. Noorduyn’s bill for parts and a thorough inspection came to $1,212.60. 
Norseman airplanes would continue to take similar, although not as severe punishment, month after month as they flew Canada’s north country on floats and skis.

The fact that after all their years of rough service, there are still a couple dozen flying, half in commercial service, not only is it a tribute to Robert Noordyn, but has also earned this bush plane the title, “A Canadian Legend.” 

 



 

Noorduyn Norseman's Wooden Wings

 

Robert Noorduyn designed wood and fabric wings for his Norseman bush plane.  Structural support was provided by two main spars of laminated Sitka spruce.  Steel compression members held them an equal distance apart along the length of the wing.  Nose ribs, main ribs between the spars, and rear ribs, attached to a wooden trailing edge provided a frame work for the fabric covering. 
Originally all this was held together with Casein glue, a protein derivative of skimmed milk whose controllable drying time made it idea for laminated spars. Effective at both quite cold and hot temperatures, it’s one downfall was moisture penetration.  Varnished spars were protected, but rib attachments and blocking were prone to deterioration.
One of the first indications of nose ribs coming lose was in 1957, The Casien glue let go on one of  Warren Plummer’s Norseman in flight, allowing the forward section to shift upward, spoiling the aerofoil.  The airplane staggered through the sky until they landed next to Ontario Central Airlines’ ramp at Lakeside in Kenora.  The whole leading edge had broken free and could be moved up and down inside the fabric.
Ontario Central Airlines rebuilt wings on a regular basis using 3M phenol formaldehyde resin, Resorcinol.  One of the difficulties in rebuilding wings was the corner blocking on both sides of the ribs where they jointed the spar.  This required cross-clamping and a bit of fiddling with each rib to get it centred.  (In the picture to the left, note the two clamps across each other holding the blocking in place.)  Syd Green and Albert Vaness out at Redditt came up with an ingenious little fitting to do away with this.  Syd cut a slot in each end of a short piece of angle iron, the length of which equalled the distance from the top of the rib to the bottom, and welded a tab on it.  This was slipped up over the blocking and tightening a single clamp sucked the assembly together in alignment.
At Albert’s suggestion, they also began building the trailing edge out of a single piece of wood with the blocking cut into it, thus avoiding the need to block each rib individually.  This also eliminated the tendency of the trailing edge to curl and spoil the airflow.  Albert and Syd’s stories are both told in my new book, Ontario Central airlines - The Kenora Years. 
Refurbishing a set of Norseman wings would take on the average about three weeks if it only required minors repairs and new fabric.  To rebuild a set completely from the spars up took two men two to three months.  Specially graded Sitka Spruce with 13 gains to the inch was the only wood certified for use in the wing structure.  Norseman wings were tough.  It was not unusual to see and airplane pulled into the hangar with a tree branch sticking out of the wingtip.
A couple of attempts to put a metal wing into production failed, although one set was built was built by Charlie Ursal in Texas.  Barney Lamm come into possession of CF-UUD when this airplane came to Canada.  He then removed the metal wings and had them installed on CF-OBE, the only all metal Norseman OCA built.  Today, every Norseman flying has wooden wings, most all of them built around spars dating back to the 1940s & ‘50s.  It is said that you can grow a new set of Norseman wings every 60 or 70 years.  Lets hope the airframes last that long. 

In 1935 Robert Noorduyn designed wood and fabric wings for his Norseman bush plane. Structural support was provided by two main spars of Sitka spruce. Each spar was built up from nine laminates.  Steel compression members held them an equal distance apart along the length of the wing. Nose ribs, main ribs between the spars, and rear ribs, attached to a wooden trailing edge provided a frame work for the fabric covering. Originally all this was held together with Casein glue, a protein derivative of skimmed milk whose controllable drying time made it idea for laminated spars. Effective at both quite cold and hot temperatures, it’s one downfall was moisture penetration.  Varnished spars were protected, but rib attachments and blocking were prone to deterioration.

One of the first indications of nose ribs coming lose was in 1957. The Casien glue let go on one of  Warren Plummer’s Norseman in flight, allowing the forward section to shift upward, spoiling the aerofoil. The airplane staggered out of the sky and landed next to Ontario Central Airlines’ ramp at Lakeside in Kenora.  The whole leading edge had broken free and could be moved up and down inside the fabric.

Ontario Central Airlines rebuilt wings on a regular basis using a 3M product, phenol formaldehyde resin called Resorcinol. One difficulty in rebuilding wings was the corner blocking on both sides of the ribs where they jointed the spar.  This required cross-clamping and a bit of fiddling with each rib to keep it centered.

(In the picture to the right, note the two clamps across each other holding the blocking in place.)  Syd Green and Albert Vaness out at Redditt came up with an ingenious little fitting to do away with this.  Syd cut a slot in each end of a short piece of angle iron, the length of which equalled the distance from the top of the rib to the bottom, and welded a tab on it.  This was slipped up over the blocking and tightening a single clamp sucked the assembly together in alignment. 

At Albert’s suggestion, they also began building the trailing edge out of a single piece of wood with the blocking cut into it, thus avoiding the need to block each rib individually.  This also eliminated the tendency of the trailing edge to curl and spoil the airflow.  Albert and Syd’s stories are both told in my new book, Ontario Central airlines - The Kenora Years. 

Refurbishing a set of Norseman wings would take on the average about three weeks if it only required minors repairs and new fabric. To rebuild a set completely from the spars up took two men two to three months.  Specially graded Sitka Spruce with 13 gains to the inch was the only wood certified for use in the wing structure. Norseman wings were tough.  It was not unusual to see and airplane pulled into the hangar with a tree branch sticking out of the wingtip.

A couple of attempts to put a metal wing into production failed, although one set was built by Charlie Ursal in Texas. Barney Lamm come into possession of CF-UUD when this airplane came to Canada. He then removed the metal wings and had them installed on CF-OBE, the only all metal Norseman OCA built.  Today, every Norseman flying has wooden wings, most all of them built around spars dating back to the 1940s & ‘50s.  It is said that you can grow a new set of Norseman wings every 60 or 70 years.  Lets hope the airframes last that long. 

Send you comments to Ed Zaruk

 


 


Queen Charlotte Airlines' Norseman

 

Jim Spilsbury originally started in the radio business, building small radio telephones for the small communities and logging camps along British Columbia’s rugged coast. Finding boat travel too slow, he was granted permission to fly to these places during WW II, when no other civil air traffic was allowed. After the war he expanded the air operations under the name Queen Charlotte Airlines.

Norseman aircraft became the mainstay of his single engine fleet, serving the fog bound inlets from Vancouver to Prince Rupert. CF-EJB was the first Norseman purchased. A pre-war Mark IV, it had served with the RCAF at wireless schools across Canada. Crashing once and being rebuilt by Noorduyn Aviation in 1941. In 1946 it was put up for sale and QCA bought it for $15,000. No sooner was in on the west coast than Jim Spilsbury had it flown north with a pilot named Hughie Hughs to Whitesail Lake where he spent the summer flying for Northern Construction and BC Engineering, doing preliminary survey work on the Alcan project. The season netted QCA fifteen thousand dollars.

Sadly, three years later after faithfully serving the west coast, CF-EJB would be taken into the hangar, stripped down for overhaul, and found so badly corroded, that she was deemed uneconomical to put back in service. So ended QCA’s first Norseman’s days.

 

Seventeen more would follow, bringing freight and passengers to places on Jarvis Inlet, Seymor Inlet, Kingcome Inlet, Knight Inlet and others on the west coast until QCA was sold to Pacific Western Airlines in a political deal that saw the demise of The Accidental Airline.

"I recommend this book as an excellent read about Canada's west coast air services during the years the Norseman reigned as king."

 http://www.harbourpublishing.com/title/TheAccidentalAirline

 



 

 

Falklands Norseman VP-FAD

Ian White, whose father Freddie White was Captain of RMS Fitzroy and subsequently RMS Darwin, took these pictures of VP-FAD when it was with the Falkland Islands Air Services in 1951.  This airplane was painted all in red and had been purchased by the Falklands Islands Dependency Survey to rescue stranded scientists on Stonington Island in 1949.  While with FIGAS, it served the Islanders from a base out of Port Stanley from the roofless hangar then under construction. The sprog on the beaching gear in this picture is Ian getting a head start on his aviation career. He flew for FIGAS for just under three years in the early ‘80s, interrupted briefly by the Argies.
All the other pictures are taken of the airplane at Goose Green.  The pilot at that time was Vic Spencer who held licence number 001 in the Falklands. This airplane was fitted with two belly tanks and the filler caps can clearly be seen in two of the pictures.  
Eventually the Norseman was retired and the airframe towed on a barge out of Stanley so the Royal Navy could have a target for gunnery practice. The engine ended up lying on the beach adjacent to the hangar and probably has become petrified! The floats apparently are still in use on Saunder Island as a barge. They were auctioned off during Ian’s time there.
I’m sorry my site doesn’t have the ability to enlarge these pictures, but the link following will take you to Bob Noorduyn’s grand daughter, Julie Bodie’s Flicker site where this feature is available.

 

I would like to add a few things to an article I did earlier about the Falklands Island Norseman located HERE in my archives.

Ian White, whose father Freddie White was Captain of RMS Fitzroyand subsequently RMS Darwin, took these pictures of VP-FAD when it was with the Falkland Islands Air Services in 1951.  This airplane was painted all in red and had been purchased by the Falklands Islands Dependency Survey to rescue stranded scientists on Stonington Island in 1949. While with FIGAS, it served the Islanders from a base out of Port Stanley from the roofless hangar then under construction. 

The sprog on the beaching gear in this picture is Ian getting a head start on his aviation career.  He flew for FIGAS for just under three years in the early ‘80s, interrupted briefly by the Argies.

All the other pictures are taken of the airplane at Goose Green.  The pilot at that time was Vic Spencer who held licence number 001 in the Falklands. This airplane was fitted with two belly tanks and the fillercaps can clearly be seen in two of the pictures.  Eventually the Norseman was retired and the airframe towed on a barge out of Stanley so the Royal Navy could have a target for gunnery practice. The engine ended up lying on the beach adjacent to the hangar and probably has become petrified! The floats apparently are still in use on Saunder Island as a barge. They were auctioned off during Ian’s time there.

I’m sorry my site doesn’t have the ability to enlarge these pictures, but the link following will take you to Bob Noorduyn’s grand daughter, Julie Bodie’s Flicker site where this feature is available.

VIEW ENLARGED PICTURES

 

 

  



Fish guts Story

The following story came to me from Stan Vander Ploeg who used to work for Fred and Ann Chiupka in Lynn Lake.  Fred ran a small fleet of air planes in conjunction with his fishery in Northen Manitoba.  CF-EPZ, an ex Ontario Central Airlines Norseman that Hank Parsons bought in January of 1959, was leased to Fred before he bought it.  As an operator, Fred wanted his planes in the air, not sitting at the dock being loaded or unloaded.  To that end, he had lots of help available to assist his pilots.  Stan was one of them.

As the tubs of fresh fish were brought in from the north they would be unloaded at the filleting plant and the guts from the previous load would be put on the plane.  I would be called from the main dock to go to the filleting plant to assist.  The pilot (Ernie) would start up the engine, I would untie the aircraft and stand on the left float and ride the aircraft to an island across from the main dock and dump the guts there, and ride the float back to the main dock reload and refuel the aircraft for the next flight.

It was at one particular time, as I stepped on the float of EPZ after dumping the guts, that Ernie detailed me to hang on because he suspected a magneto problem and that he would carry out a high power run on the way back to check out the mag problem.  He turned the air craft into the wind and revd her up, checked the mags, then he throttled back and taxied back to the start point. It was a bit breezy hugging the float struts but I toughed it out any how.  After turning into the wind, again he reved her up.  This time it was balls to the wall.  I pounded on the side of the fuselage to remind Ernie that I was still there, but to no avail.  The big Norseman was about to get on the step, and as I thought she might get airborne, I crouched into ball and rolled off the side of the float.  I rolled at least one rotation on top of the water before going in.  After surfacing and getting my breath back I watched the aircraft lift off the water.

As I was wondering if he would come back to get me I heard a racket from the dock, Sal (Stan Warschuck, I think), came out with a motorboat to rescue me.  Ernie came back after a test circuit and apologized up and down for his part in this.

This of course was the talk of the dinner table.  They concluded that I probably could have hung on for the entire circuit.  Now that might have been exiting but I'm glad I got off when I did anyway.  As a result of this ordeal I still wear a scar on my right knee where I hit the chine above the step of the left float on my way down.  Today there would be a hell of an investigation over this, and an episode like this would be called an incident wouldn't you think?  Back in those days, stuff like this was quite common.  We are today so cautious and safety minded that there are few stories left for the next generation.  Maybe that is just as well.

Contributed by Stan Vander Ploeg

Contact author with a comment 

Comments:

Uwe H A Ihssen
Flew EPZ for Fred for one summer out of Lynn Lake. Fred was one of the better operators like you say. Had a cook house, Lots of help on the dock.Ernie Gorman was the Chief Pilot. Great place to fly out of. Flew mainly fish out Big Sand, South Indian Lake and several Other places, also to Arctic Lodge on Reindeer Lake Fred Lockhart was the manager very nice guy.Left Chiupka when Carl Moberg owner of Calm Air took over and got rid of most of the Chiupka Staff with Norm Carsely the last to leave after a year of working for him.
______________________________________________________________________

Mac McCrimmon

The picture of the Norseman is one I took of fishermen at Sturgeon Landing Sask loading Parsons Airways Norseman IV CF-FEW. From Sturgeon Landing, the fish went to the processing plant at Beaver Lake. If you look closely, you can see by the different colour of the fabric where the area aft of the door has been repaired, something very common on a Norseman. The belly of that airplane was also repaired (paint faded to match) when the chief pilot landed on a row of survey stakes laid out on a lake. He landed perfectly straddling the line.


You can contact Ed Zaruk
 
__