December and the Christmas season are upon us. Long term followers of Pickled Wings will know that means it’s time for a bit of a tradition at the site that I call “Rudolf the Red Nosed Airplane”.
Simply put, it’s a time I go through photos I’ve taken of aircraft over the past year and weed out the ones that show machines with fully red noses or at least a significant amount of red on them. A trip to Canada in October ensured that I could get red nosed aircraft from both sides of the Atlantic this year.
All things considered, 2019 was a pretty respectable year for “Rudolfs”. Let’s take a look:
Canada has a rich history with aviation that dates back to before the the turn of the 20th century. This should come as no surprise when one considers that Canada is the world’s second largest country and even up to the present day it contains vast unpopulated areas that are best traversed by aircraft as well as many isolated communities that are only accessible by aircraft.
With such great distances to be covered and a wide variety of often extreme geographical and climatic conditions to offer, Canada took to the technology of aviation early and has been a unique proving ground for exactly what can be done with aircraft and how capable aircraft can be in even some of the harshest and most demanding of conditions.
Spread across two buildings at Ottawa’s Rockliffe airport, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is Canada’s nationial aviation museum and a great showcase of the people and machines that have made the nation’s history of aviation and space travel the fascinating and unique story that it is.
The location itself carries great history as there has been an airport at the Rockliffe location since 1918. In 1924, the newly formed Royal Canadian Air Force took the airport at Rockliffe as one of their first bases. The Canadian military stayed at Rockliffe until 1994, when post Cold War cutbacks led to the reduction and reoganization of Canada’s military and bases. In the years that followed, much of the former Rockliffe property was sold off and redeveloped for private use and little if any evidence of the former military presence remains today.
The museum itself was established at Rockliffe in 1964 under the name of the National Aeronautical Collection and was created through the amalgamation of the collections of three separate aviation museums. The museum has been through many organizational and name changes over the years. Its current form dates to an expansion and modernization that took place around 2010. The museum is presently part of Ingenium, a network of three technological museums in the Ottawa area.
The Main Hall – A Timeline of Flight
The main hall of the museum is an expansive and cavernous place with aircraft organized in a quite logical fashion by both age and category. You can work your way from the pioneer era to the space age and see a wide variety of military and civil aircraft between. The main hall also contains a small café, the museum library, temporary exhibits and museum’s sizeable and well stocked gift shop. The museum has a number of friendly and helpful guides staffing it and it is possible to tour the main hall on your own or as part of a guided tour in either English or French.
You’re in touch with aviation as soon as you walk through the front door, and before you can pay your entrance fee, as a Canadair CT-114 Tutor jet in the colours of the Canadian military’s Snowbirds air demonstration team is suspended in an appropriately aerobatic position in the entry hall.
Pioneer Era and World War I
Immediately after you pay your entry fee and start your journey through the exhibits, you’re met with the sight of a replica of the Silver Dart, the aircraft which in 1909 made the first powered flight in Canada. Nearby are a small munber of other aircraft from the same era, including a Blériot XI that dates to 1911 and the McDowall Monoplane of 1915 which holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving Canadian built aircraft.
In the First World War collection, sitting alongside fighter aircraft from legendary producers of the period such as Fokker and Sopwith, you’ll find a truly one of a kind exhibit in the form of a German AEG G.IV bomber. The aircraft was brought to Canada shortly after the conflict as a war prize and has been in the museum’s collection since 1970. A total of 320 of the type were built and the museum’s example is the only one of them left.
Between the Wars and in the Bush
Following on from the First World War exhibits, you can take in a collection of civilian aircraft that represent the interwar boom in the emergence of flying clubs and schools as well as the birth of the airline industry and corporate aviation.
From a Canadian perspective, it was also the heyday of bush flying. Numerous enterprising aviators, many of them First World War veterans, used aviation to open Canada’s more remote and inaccessible regions. The bush planes on display here show the progression from improvisation with aircraft never meant to fly in such harsh conditions to more refined aircraft tailored to the rigors of the bush flying business.
In this grouping, you find early recreational aircraft types such as Travel Air 2000 from the 1920s as well as an example of the DeHavilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver; considered by many to be the ultimate bush plane. There are also examples of early airliners such as the Lockheed 10 Electra and the legendary Douglas DC-3 Dakota.
In the vicinity of the civilian aircraft collection, you’ll find a display of aircraft engines dating from the pioneer era onward.
World War II and the BCATP
The museum’s Second World War exhibit has two aspects to it; aircraft that were directly in the conflict and aircraft that were based in Canada as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
In the combat aircraft section you’ll find examples of Allied and German fighter aircraft as well as a Westland Lysander utility aircraft and a Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber grouped together in the imposing presence of an Avro Lancaster Bomber.
Next to the combat aircraft is a group of distinctive yellow painted aircraft representing Canada’s major contribution to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Owing to its close proximity to the actual conflict and very real threat of enemy attack, Great Britain was seen as an inappropriate location to carry out the basic training of the air and ground crews that would eventually enter the fight.
Due to its clear weather and wide open flying spaces, Canada was selected as the main location for most of the BCATP program.
Over 230 BCATP flying bases were established in Canada and yellow aircraft that flew from them became a familiar and memorable sight to people who lived nearby.
This part of the museum’s collection contains legendary trainers such as the DeHavilland Tiger Moth and North American Harvard as well as a Fairchild Cornell, Avro Anson, Cessna Crane and the domestically designed and built Fleet Finch.
This section is a fitting tribute to the immensity of the BCATP and Canada’s contribution to it.
Helicopters and Vertical Flight
A smaller, but no less significant, part of the main hall display is the section dedicated to helicopters and vertical flight.
In this section, you’ll find an example of the Boeing CH-113 Labrador which played a vital role in the Canadian military’s search and rescue force for many years until the last of them were retired in 2004.
There is also a Canadair CL-84 Dynavert, an unseccessful attempt from the late 1960s and early 1970s to merge the qualities of a helicopter and conventional aircraft in one machine. The Dynavert here is one of only two remaining of the four built.
The Jet Age
Even before the Second World War was over, the clouds of the Cold War were forming. The jet age was dawning and Canada’s aviation industry was a key player in developing jet technologies and building jet aircraft either of domestic design or license building designs of other nations.
In the jet age exhibit, you can see a variety of aircraft that have defended Canadian skies up to the present and that Canada has deployed internationally to fulfil their commitments to NATO over the years.
Notable in this section is the domestically designed and built Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck interceptor. The CF-100 first flew in 1950 and served the Canadian military until the early 1980s. The aircraft was operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force from bases in Canada, France and the former West Germany. It was also used by the Belgian air force.
The jet age section also contains a forward fuselage and engine from the ill fated Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow interceptor. The Arrow was a highly ambitious, some might say over ambitious, attempt by Canada to make a supersonic interceptor to replace the CF-100. The cancellation of the Arrow project in 1959 still stirs strong emotions among Canadian aviation enthusiasts and historians to the present.
Canada in Space
The last section of permanent exhibits in the museum’s main hall is dedicated to Canada’s contributions to space exploration.
This exhibit is split between some display cases on the main floor and other displays on a mezzanine that gives one a good general overview of the exhibits in the main hall.
Among the items on view here is a replica of the Alouette 1 satellite which was launched in 1962 and holds the distinction of being the first artificial satellite to be designed and built outside of the USA or former Soviet Union.
An example of the Canadarm, easily Canada’s best known contribution to space exploration, is also on view. The one on display in the museum was used in the Endeavour space shuttle.
There is also a gallery of Canadians who have gone into space and an exhibit about health in space.
The Reserve Hangar
Opened in 2005, the museum’s reserve hangar presents an opportunity to see more of the museum’s collection than would fit at one time in the main hall.
Unlike the main hall, the reserve hangar does not have particular organizational themes to the aircraft that are on display there and it can only be visited as part of a guided tour and at additional cost. Don’t let the additional cost put you off of visiting the reserve hangar, there are some rarities in there that make it well worth the extra cost to see it.
You can see more of the Avro Arrow in the reserve hangar in the form of some wing sections. You can also see a section of space shuttle payload bay.
A rare example of a Bristol Beaufighter was on view at the time of my visit in October of 2019 as was a Bristol Bolingbroke, the Canadian built version of the Bristol Blenheim bomber.
If you wish to take a tour of the reserve hangar, keep in mind that tours only happen twice per day and not on Tuesdays. The maximum group size is 15 and it’s first come first serve when getting onto a tour.
Visiting and Learning More
The museum is open year round, though the hours vary depending on the time of year.
It is accessible by car, bicycle, public transport or even by light aircraft.
I travelled by public transport using the number 7 route from the city centre to the stop at the junction of St. Laurent Boulevand and Hemlock Street. From the stop, it’s about a 20 minute walk further along Hemlock Street and Aviation Parkway to get to the museum.
According to the museum website, there is a number 129 route that gets you directly to the museum. While I did see a bus stop near the museum’s main entrance, the information I found on the Ottawa public transportation website stated that there was no number 129 route in their system.
You can find out more about the museum, events happening there and the other two museums in the Ingenium network through their official website:
As I mentioned a few posts ago, some changes are in the works for both my websites.
Here, at Pickled Wings, I’ve done a slight adjustment to the titles of the drop down menu sections in that they are all now by decade increments rather than the rather inexact way I had them before. As a result, some articles were moved into more fitting time ranges in the menu.
I’ve also changed the theme of the page from “Plane” to “Lodestar”.
After much deliberation, I chose “Lodestar” for the new theme as it maintained the page layout you’re used to here, but gave me the opportunity to have bigger header images. The smaller header image window of the “Plane” theme was getting quite limiting with the images I could share with you through it, so I decided to give myself a bit more room for that at the top of the page.
I am still experimenting with how to make pictures fit nicely in the new header window, so bear with me on that.
Another good aspect of “Lodestar”, I think anyway, is that the main menu bar moves as you scroll. That means that no matter how far you scroll down a page, the menu will be right there and you won’t need to scroll all the way to the top of the page to chose something else from the menu.
I think it will be a good theme to take the site through the next few years.
September 21 and 22 saw the annual NATO Days show at Ostrava, Czech Republic take place.
The weather was great with lots of sun but bearable temperatures. Some old favorites were there along with some new visitors there for the first time. Romania did a very respectable job as the special guest host nation this year.
At that, here’s a bit of what was on hand when I visited the event on Saturday:
It will probably be a while before my next larger article. Partly, it’s because I have quite a bit going on in life outside of blogging at the moment and also because I have to take a longer and closer look at all the changes WordPress has made to the editing functionality.
I’ll also be taking the opportunity to do more intensive housekeeping tasks on the blog. I’ll be keeping everything accessible to you, though you might see a few changes here and there from one visit to the next.
You might also see some of the older articles disappear for a while. The text is saved, but I might be taking them off the site for a bit until I can bring them up to scratch in quality and structure with more recent articles. Rest assured, if you see a favorite article of yours vanish, it’s not permanently gone.
I’m also testing the blog with different themes that WordPress offers, so a new look may become part of the changes you see.
Thanks for your patience and continued readership.
As quintessentially Swiss as fine cheese, precision timepieces and Swiss Army knives; Pilatus’ PC-6 Porter family of aircraft have been proudly representing the small nation’s aviation industry to the world for over half a century.
Progressing from piston powered early variants to the turboprop versions we see today, the Porter family has assured its longevity and value through unrivaled STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) abilities. Indeed, the Porter is renowned for its ability to operate from areas that would otherwise only be accessible by helicopter.
Able to operate in a wide variety of climatic and weather conditions as well has having been used on every continent on Earth including both polar ice caps, the Porter is still supported by Pilatus more than 50 years after its first flight in 1959.
Let’s spend some time with the Pilatus PC-6 Porter:
Wings for Work and Fun
When a particular type of aircraft earns the “Swiss Army knife with wings” nickname; it’s because that type exhibits an exeptional degree of versatility, flexibility and adaptability. Many aircraft have had that nickname bestowed upon them; it’s particularly appropriate in the case of the PC-6 and not simply because of its country of origin.
The resumé of the PC-6 is indeed a very long one; it would be far less of a challenge to compile a complete list of jobs it hasn’t done and environments where it hasn’t worked than to make a list of those it had.
In purely utilitarian terms, the Porter family has found much favour in work that calls for low speed and and high stability. As such, it’s proven itself very useful in police work, search and rescue, air ambulance, military observation, aerial survey work, firefighting and agricultural work to name but a few.
Outside of hard work, the PC-6 can put its exceptional STOL abilities to work getting more intrepid holiday makers to much less accessible and off-the-beaten-track locales. With the ability to operate from short, semi-prepared strips on the top or slopes of mountains; a porter could get one access to an unforgettable day of skiing or exploring a glacier.
The popularity of the PC-6 as a skydiving platform almost goes without saying. Its impressive stability and capacity to reach jumping heights faster than some other types makes the Porter much sought after for jumping in both civilian and military circles.
The PC-6 can also list acting in its list of accomplishments. The aircraft featured significantly in the 1990 film “Air America” which starred Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. Two Porters were seen in the 1994 film “Drop Zone” which starred Wesley Snipes. A Porter was also seen in the 1995 James Bond film “Goldeneye” which starred Pierce Brosnan.
With as unique a machine as the PC-6 is and the unique flying qualities that were designed into it, it should come as no surprize that it has been used to set a number of records over the years:
In 1960, the prototype set a record for the highest landing by a fixed wing aircraft at 5,750 metres when it set down on the Dhaulagiri glacier in Nepal.
A PC-6/A2-H2 set the world altitude record for aircraft of its weight class at 13,485 metres in 1968.
An Australian army PC-6/B1-H2 set the record for longest distance flown in a straight line when it was flown 3,893 kilometres from the west coast to the east coast of Australia.
1998 saw a PC-6/B2-H4 used to set the world record for banner towing by pulling a 1,500 square metre banner over Bremen, Germany.
In 2001, an American registered PC-6/C-H2 was used in the setting of three records. It set a record for the most take offs and landings by one aircraft in a 24 hour period in support of a skydiver setting a record of 500 jumps completed in 24 hours
The same Porter was used to set a record for the most consecutive take offs and landings in a 24 hour period with the same pilot at the controls. The result was 424 take offs and landings over 21 hours.
The Porter Family
The Pilatus Porter family covers around 20 variants, most of which were created by modifying earlier versions.
In the most general of senses, the best way to look at this aircraft family is through the divide of piston engine and turboprop engine powered versions.
The Piston Porters: The PC-6 340, 350, PC-8 and PC-6D
The earliest member of the Porter family was PC-6 340. The basis of this name is in the Lycoming 340 horsepower piston engine it possessed. The PC-6 340 was built in two subvariants, the 340-H1 and 340-H2.
The 340-H1 differed from the baseline 340 in having a modified landing gear design and a somewhat increased maximum takeoff weight from just under to just over 2,000 kg. the 340-H2 saw the maximum takeoff weight increased to 2,200 kg.
With the introduction of a Lycoming 350 horsepower engine to the design, the 340 became the 350 with coresponding H1 and H2 subvariants.
These early configurations of the PC-6 are truly rare sights owing not only to the fact that Pilatus made less than 100 piston powered machines before switching the PC-6 to turboprop engines, but also due to the fact that most surviving piston engine porters were converted to turboprop engines at somepoint in their lives.
1967 saw the debut of the PC-8 Twin Porter, an unsuccessful attempt two add a two engine variant to the family. Work on the PC-8 was halted in 1969.
The last chapter of the PC-6 story that involves a piston engine was written in 1970, when the PC-6/D debuted. Powered by a Lycoming turbocharged piston engine, only one PC-6/D was ever built. It is perhaps unsurprising that this variant was not successful given that the Porter had been running very well on turboprop engines for nearly a decade before the PC-6/D first flew.
The Turbo-Porters: The PC-6 A, B, C and AU-23
Pilatus was quick to shift the Porter from piston to turboprop power early in the type’s life. The first prototype of a Turbo-Porter took place in 1961, two years after the first flight of the initial piston powered Porter prototype.
The first generation of the Turbo-Porters were the PC-6/A versions. This group consisted of the baseline PC-6/A as well as A1 and A2 sub variants. All three versions drew their power from members of the French made Turbomeca Astazou engine line.
The second generation, and by far most numerous and popular, of the Turbo-Porter line debuted in 1964 when the first PC-6/B took to the air with a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A engine driving the propeller. Both aircraft and engine were relatively new when they first flew together in 1964 and both have gone on to become legendary machines in their own ways. Indeed, the reliability of the PT6A engine family has likely had much to do with the longstandng reputation for reliability that the PC-6 aircraft possesses.
The B version of the Turbo-Porter encompasses the baseline PC-6/B and three subvariants; the B1, B2-H2 and the B2-H4. The B, B1 and B2-H2 are primarily differentiated by the version of PT6A engine they use. By contrast, the B2-H4 is an offshoot of the B2-H2 with a strengthened internal structure and refined flying surfaces that include and enlarged tail and modified wingtips. These modifications resulted in the B2-H4 having a significantly higher maximum takeoff weight compared to the B2-H2.
The third generation of Turbo-Porter is the PC-6/C, the prototype of which flew in 1965. This was an American license built member of the Porter family by the Fairchild Hiller Corporation with a view to providing American forces in Vietnam with a multi-purpose armed STOL aircraft.
The C version consisted of the C prototype along with the C1, C2-H2 and the AU-23 Peacemaker, all of which took power from different versions of the Garrett TPE311 engine.
The AU-23 Peacemaker was the U.S. Air Force name for 15 PC-6/C aircraft which were tested for combat use between 1970 and 1972. Ultimately, due to insufficient speed and structural failures, the aircraft were not accepted for combat by the USAF. However, the 15 aircraft were provided to the Royal Thai Air Force in 1972 under the Military Assistance Program.
The Porter Today and Learning More
In August of 2017, Pilatus announced that the PC-6 production line would close in 2019. However, they also announced the intent to continue supporting the aircraft for at least 20 years past that point. A total of around 600 PC-6 aircraft had been built when production ended in early 2019 and well over 200 are known to be actively flying in militaries or on civil registers worldwide.
The PC-6 is a much sought after aircraft and does very well for itself on second hand markets. If you see one, it will most likely be a version of the PC-6/B line, though the particular aircraft you see may not have started out that way. It has not only been piston powered Porters that were converted to turboprop engines, more than a few Astazou and Garrett powered versions have been converted to Pratt & Whitney engines and redesignated as B models.
As it stands, unless a new aircraft type of similar or better STOL abilities comes to be, members of the PC-6 family are very likely to be seen still earning their keep in practical ways when the design marks its centenary.
If you wish to know more about the PC-6, it’s history, development and the current disposition of known extant airframes, this website is a wealth of such information: http://www.pc-6.com