Thursday, February 22, 2007


"Blast from the Past"!: The Flying "W"!

Recently I received a photo of an aircraft operated by Transair and others years ago. It is of an aircraft I love immensely. The first time I saw a photo of this aircraft was in the 1980s at Northway Aviation's Float Base in Riverton, MB. A couple of years later, friend and Northway Aviation "sched" pilot Lorne Goulet came to borrow CF-HDL, Northway's 1953 Cessna 180, which was on floats. Lorne was going to check his "wild rice"at "Maskwa" Lake (Maskwa is Ojibway for "bear"), which he had the "harvest rights" to. He noticed the picture of said aircraft on the wall and stated: "Hey, I have flown that aircraft." He had flown it years before when Transair owned it. In the picture it was on floats in Hooker Air Service "livery", whom Transair had sold it to. Pretty amazing. Anyways, I know of a little more recent history on this aircraft, but first some background on the "Bellanca Aircruiser", affectionately known as the Flying "W"!

The Bellanca Aircruiser (originally the Airbus) was a high wing, single engine aircraft built by Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of New Castle, Delaware. The aircraft was built as a "workhorse" intended for use as a passenger or cargo aircraft. It was available as land, sea or ski plane. The aircraft was powered by either a Wright Cyclone or Pratt and Whitney Hornet engine. The Aircruiser served as both a commercial and military transport.

With a Pratt and Whitney "Hornet" aircooled supercharged radial engine rated at 875 hp, the Aircruiser could carry a useful load greater than its empty weight. In the mid-1930s, the Aircruiser could carry 4,000lb payloads at a speed of between 145-155 mph, a performance that multi-engine Fokkers and Ford Trimotors could not come close to matching.

In 1934, US federal regulations outlawed single engine transports on US airlines, virtually eliminating future markets for the Aircruiser. Where the workhorse capabilities of the Aircruiser stood out was in Canada. Several of the the Flying "Ws", as they were commonly dubbed in Canada, were used in northern mining operations, ferrying ore, supplies and the occassional passenger into the 1970s.

The last flying Aircruiser, "CF-BTW," a 1938 model, after serving in Manitoba, is now on display at the Blimp Hangar Museum NAS, in Tillamook, Oregon.

Another Bellanca Aircruiser, "CF-AWR", named the "Eldorado Radium Silver Express", built in 1935, is presently under restoration at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg.

Here is the picture friend Jim Gulay sent recently.

What a beautiful machine, posing on her skis.

Below is how BTW looks in recent times.

Photo by - Budd Davisson

Not bad-looking for a 69 year old "female". Lots of history in this old girl. If she could speak, she could tell "volumes" of stories. Also, there is another Aircruiser at the Western Canadian Aviation Museum (WCAM) in Winnipeg, presently being restored, and she also has "her own stories". That these aircraft have survived speaks as to the "robustness" of "Guiseppe Bellanca's design". Anyways, check out a few more "links" below, they are quite interesting.

TILLAMOOK AIR MUSEUM - Bellanca Aircruiser

FLIGHT JOURNAL - Bellanca Aircruiser BTW

LINK - Vintage Bellanca Photographs and Reminiscences


WCAM - Eldorado Uranium Silver Express

AVIATION HISTORY - Eldorado Uranium Silver Express CF-AWR

Enjoy the history! Till next time, CF-BTW has the "last word"!

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