Article: Cause for Thought

  • Flying Boats Raises Some Hairs

    Banks CPA PBY Painting

    Consolidated PBY Canso, CF-CRV

    Lorne Langstaff worked as an air engineer with Canadian Pacific Airways in the 1940s and ’50s at the company’s original float plane base at the end of Brandon Avenue, on the banks of the Red River, in Winnipeg. Ever stoic, Langstaff relates two hair-raising experiences flying Noorduyn Norseman and PBY Canso flying boats in northern Manitoba which may have shaken less-experienced airmen.

    Langstaff sat down for an interview at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada in February 2014.

    Banks Norseman Painting-640x400-copyright

    Noorduyn Norseman, CF-BHW


    Noorduyn Norseman, CF-BFT

    This 1939 photo of Noorduyn Norseman, CF-BFT, shows the plane undergoing cold weather engine start-up procedures at an unidentified northern airport.  CF-BFT was built in 1938 and at the time of the photo was operated by Hudson Bay Air Transport. It is now owned by the Canadian Heritage Bushplane Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and is the oldest operational Norseman in the world.


    Consolidated PBY Canso

    Last built in 1945, the Consolidated PBY Canso, a Canadian-built amphibious flying boat, was the standard RCAF anti-submarine aircraft of late WWII.  The Canso was once a familiar sight in Canada’s northern skies, being operated by bush flying services such as Canadian Pacific Airways and Transair. Eventually, construction of airstrips at remote settlements eliminated the requirement for amphibious aircraft. In 1977, there were 39 PBYs registered in Canada; however, by 1990 fewer than 20 remained. Those remaining were mostly used for water-bombing.

4 Responses and Counting...

  • Barbara Barnes Chambers

    I was hired as a stewardess with Canadian Pacific Airlines in April, 1952. I flew the old PBY Canso “CF-CRP” every day but Saturday from Prince Rupert to Sandspit. Old Bulah, as she was affectionately called, landed in the harbour in Rupert, let the wheels down and drove up the ramp to the passenger waiting room. Conversely, she let the wheels down at Sandspit and landed on the runway. Two other Cansos were in the fleet. They were “CF-CRR” and “CF-CRV”. They were elaborately refurbished with leather seats and beautiful large blisters on either side of the aft cabin. They were flown up from Vancouver to Prince Rupert three days a week in the summer. We called these planes the Land-Sea-Airs or Landseas, and the Rupert Crew flew them up to Terrace and back in the afternoons.

    On May 11th, 1953, CF-CRV (which is pictured on this page, and which you may have in your museum?) was in an accident landing in the harbour in Prince Rupert. It started to “porpoise” on landing. An RCMP Officer and the Stewardess, Miss Clara Langden, were sitting in the forward compartment and were both killed. The cockpit broke off, and the two pilots, both still in their seats, were rescued from the water. Passengers in the centre and rear compartments got out on the wings and fish boats came right away and got under the wings to keep the plane from sinking. It was taken to the Dry Dock.

    I was then flying out of Vancouver, but went up to Rupert the next day to replace Clara. We went over to look at the plane. The sides were all peeled back, like a sardine tin, to the first bulkhead, but behind that, the thermoses still hung intact over the galley counter.

    At the end of May, we ferried the remaining Landsea (CF-CRR) to Vancouver with salvaged parts from CF-CRV. That is what happened to the beautiful Canso “CF-CRV”.

  • Stephanie Woodend

    I think my Dad was a passenger on this Canso when it crashed. He talked about one survivor with two broken legs and walking along the wings waiting for a fishing boat rescue.

  • Ross Shears

    My father , Les Shears was Captain on the CP Canso that was written off at Rouyn Noranda in the late ’40s. They struck an embedded drill core that ripped the hull open. He was able to just make it to an island where they beached it on shore. Interesting stories associated. Captain Ross Shears ACJ Retired.

  • Ross Shears

    Further notes on the accident at Rouyn. If any humour can be found in the accident and subsequent aircraft loss, as the hull was severely compromised and water was flooding both the passenger compartment and the cockpit,as described, the addition of power just drove the nose down making things worse as they attempted to make it to the island. The First Officer , John Dart ( I believe) had undone his seat belt and was standing on the arm rests of the seat so as not to get his NEW uniform shoes wet! A cool head in a moment of crisis. The stories gleaned from rom a long and interesting career in very interesting times. Somewhere in the family archives I have the photos and news paper clippings of this. Cheers RS.

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