Assets for an Air Age
We have the airmen, we have the planes the factories, the airfields, the key routes. What are we going to do with them ?
MUCH discussion and disagreement go on, albeit prematurely, concerning Canada’s potential role in the realm of aviation, global and continental, in the days after the shooting has stopped. Some of the things said have been constructive. Others, uttered at home and abroad, have no relationship to the facts of aerial life.
In the latter group of classics must be included the declarations of prominent, but uninformed, Americans who argue that Uncle Sam should grab control of world aviation as the payoff for LendLease. On the Canadian side of the debate the statement that we are sitting in the driver’s seat in respect to global flight and that anybody (meaning principally the United States) who wants to fly the Great Circle routes to Europe or Asia must do business with us, is just about as fatuous. Canada is sitting on the crossroads of world aviation. This is all the more obvious when we begin to think of the transpolar routes of the day after tomorrow, when Canada will become the hub for spokes reaching out from America to China, India, Russia and to almost everywhere in the world. The day for that is not as far off as you might think. But before that day comes routes over what are commonly called the Great Circles, under international agreements and codes designed
with an eye to equitable arrangements, must be established. Although in this connection Canada occupies a strategically placed seat she does not rule the roost. But if it is our plan to deny the use of our sovereign air to the planes of friendly powers you may be sure we shall soon be getting ready for World War III. However, we are extremely well placed to bargain and, after closing our deals, to jump into the business with both feet and become a first-rank commercial air power. The question arises, therefore: with what?
As participants in global aviation we shall require certain assets. With the exception of geography, which is discussed elsewhere in this issue, these are terminal facilities and intermediate fields, scientific aids to flight, aircraft to fly, men to fly and service them, an overhaul and repair industry capable of taking care of any job which turns up, an aircraft industry, or free access to the industrial setup of others. . . plus traffic. All these are musts in the realm of internal aviation as well. With what, then, shall we face the morning after the war ends?
Certainly Canada’s problem is not going to be a scarcity of trained personnel to fly, to service aircraft or to make them. When war ends at least 200,000 young Canadians will be members of the RCAF and the RAF. Of these probably 20,000
will wear pilots’ wings. Others will lie navigators and wireless operators. Still others will be bombaimers, rear-gunners, members of classifications and trades the tasks of which are destruction of the enemy and which have little association with peacetime flying.
But a cool 100,000 men will be demobilized W'ho will have spent the months of their war service in the specialized jobs of servicing and emergency repair. The postwar RCAF may absorb a large number of these . . . but who knows what the structure of the RCAF is to be until the nations have met around the conference table? Of one thing you may be sure, however, Canada will face no shortage of trained manand womanpower from the pilot’s seat to the work-bench.
Plenty of Craftsmen
SIMILARLY we shall have a plethora of skilled O aircraft workers on our hands. At this writing more than 100,000 Canadian men and women are employed in aircraft production, in final assembly plants, in fabrication of major components and in putting together of bits and pieces. The land abounds in skilled instrument makers, parachute packers, and all manner of precision workers and
scientists in the field of aerodynamics. Excepting engines, virtually everything required in the fields of materials and skills is here in abundance.
What about terminal facilities for intercontinental flight, on the one hand, and for domestic services, on the other?
As to the first, Canada has created a number of the world’s finest jump-off bases under the driving necessity of getting the product of North American aircraft factories to the places where that product can do the most harm to Hitler and Hirohito. Goose in Labrador and Gander in Newfoundland are examples. They are not on Canadian soil, it is true but they were built by, or for, Canada and Canada operates them.
In Canada proper we have built great termini and shops for the transocean fliers, as at Montreal’s Dorval, headquarters of the RAF Transport Command. These, and others, compare favorably with any terminal facilities in the world.
Westward we have opened an arterial route to Asia by carving the Alaska Airway out of the almost impenetrable NorthWest Territories. It too has excellent terminal facilities, (one of which is Edmonton), intermediate fields and strategic bases. East and west we have equipped our flying channels with every known scientific aid to flight.
Looking out toward the Great Circle routes then, Canada is amply provided with ground facilities for her own use and for that of anybody else with whom we may deal reciprocally for the use of the air of tomorrow. So there is no shortage of facilities in the long-haul field.
Plenty of Airdromes
ON the home front at the start of the war we had the Trans-Canada system, a pattern of big-city termini and emergency fields. This whole line is equipped with excellent communications, meteorological services and other aids to flight. To satisfy the requirements of our own Air Training Plan and provide for training RAF personnel in Canada, stations running into three figures have been added to the nation’s supply of airdromes—at Airdrie, Blissville, Bowden, Buttress, Carberry, Centralia, Estevan, Halbrite, Hamlin, Innisfail, Kirkcaldy, Neepawa, Pennhold. All of these, and 60 more, were built specially for the RAF. Add to this more than 100 turned out for the RCAF: for the Training Plan, on the one hand, and for the home war establishment, on the other, situated all the way from Scoudouc to Vanscoy and from Pennfield Ridge to Old Glory Mountain.
Today you can fly pretty nearly anything to
pretty nearly anywhere in Canada. Not all the fields are first-class stations. Some are purely emergency ’dromes. But our supply of major fields is greater than that of any country on earth when population is taken as the yardstick. On all but the emergency fields every known aid to safety in flight, servicing and general repair facilities and hangars is in use—everything the well-dressed airport should wear. Thus it can be said that we face no shortage in ground equipment for long hops or domestic flight.
Now, what about our industrial potential? Can we produce aircraft to serve us on the air lanes of the world? Can we supply our own domestic needs? Can we make a ship for the man who wants to fly his own flivver?
First, consider the small machine, the aircraft which the flying clubs of tomorrow will use and which the private pilot or the businessman who wants to get around in a hurry will want to buy. What facilities have we created to answer this possible demand?
At this time Canada’s small-aircraft industry is concentrated in the Fleet plant at Fort Erie, Ontario. There three variations of the Fairchild Cornell are rolling down the assembly lines. One
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model is for the RCAF, one for the RAF schools, and a third (equipped with radial engine instead of the Ranger in-line type used in the two British machines) for the U. S. Army Air Corps. When you think of Fleet production, think in terms of hundreds, thousands if need be, of jaunty little trainers tripping off the assembly belt. The plant is readily adaptable to peacetime types. Its problem is not going to be how to look after the Canadian market, but how to find customers elsewhere for its overflow production. The gentlemen are looking around.
Then there is de Havilland, currently rolling out the Mosquito bomber, but also pioneer in the smallship field and as knowledgeable as anybody in the world in hammering together low-priced airplanes at low operating cost. If the producers of elementary trainers in Canada decide to make a living in small aircraft after the war, no Canadian will ever have to wonder where he can buy an airplane.
First in Bush-Aircraft
AS WORLD-PIONEER in bush aviation Canada lists among her men of the air a notable gallery of experts, from designers and builders to operators and pilots. Such firms as Fairchild, Noorduyn, MacDonald Brothers, Vickers and Boeing, driven by the demands of war production, have added to their already vast experience in the bush-aircraft field. With their Catalina, Boeing and Vickers have learned much about tough-hulled flying boats. It is reasonable to assume that peace will bring about a renewal of aerial exploration, bush-freighting and all the other flying jobs which opened the Canadian North during the years between wars. With the exception of Bob Noorduyn’s sturdy Norseman, this job was done with imported aircraft or with Canadian adaptations of designs from abroad. Today we have men wrho have accumulated design experience to add to our already extensive knowledge of what is needed in this intrinsically Canadian flying job. Aircraft for these purposes can be turned out in large numbers in Canada not merely for the home - grounds job but for pioneering work in Siberia, in China or wherever tomorrow’s frontiers may be.
In other quarters, however, the picture begins to lose its roseate hue. Can we build multi-engined aircraft in Canada to compete economically or from the viewpoint of performance with those which will be manufactured in the United States? Should we attempt to do so? Let us examine the evidence.
The main line inland carrying trade at this writing is done entirely by the Government-owned TCA which provides service from Newfoundland via the Maritimes to Montreal, thence through Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg to the Pacific Coast. A feeder cuts north from Lethbridge through Calgary to Edmonton and links up with the southern end of the route to Alaska. The Government air line also operates a fast service between Toronto and New York and is working on a passenger service to Britain. Yet is is doing all these jobs with less than 30 comparatively small twin-engined aircraft.
Canadian Pacific Air Lines, by far the greatest private Canadian operator, runs the bulk of the northsouth feeders stemming from the Government’s transcontinental route It operates in B. C. It plies from Edmonton into the Peace River District and the Yukon, across the North West Territories, down the Mackenzie River and into the Western Arctic. Out of Winnipeg, Sioux Lookout and Kenora, Ontario, it provides freight, mail and passenger services into the goldfields of northern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. Its planes operate not only from Montreal and Quebec but also along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and haul freight and people into Labrador. It is doing the job with 60 aircraft.
Will Home Market Suffice?
BY THE end of the war our present commercial equipment will be obsolete and will have to be replaced as soon as possible. But the replacement job will call for not more than 200 great and medium-size ships. After that the home market becomes a replacement market, or at best a market calling for a few new aircraft per annum. Is it enough to support a domestic big-aircraft industry? If not, can we compete in the world market with the product of such American masters of big-ship design as Boeing, Consolidated and others?
The writer doesn’t profess to know. He can find all manner of aircrafters who are ready and willing to guess and to hope, but in the last analysis they do not know either. Neither do any of us know what is going to happen in the field of international relationships after the war, whether we are going to try and pass production around among the nations and let the fellow best equipped to do a job be the man to do it, or try to get back to economic nationalism, barring others from our domestic markets and, in turn, being barred from theirs.
Actually Canada is toying around with the idea of big-ship production. Within recent weeks money has been appropriated by the Government to be used to design an outsize job for peacetime commercial use which will vie with anything the neighbors are likely to come up with. The scheme may or may not pan out. In the event that it does we shall still face the question: Is it worth our while? Can we get into the world market?
Nobody can answer that one yet. Too many factors enter into the problem and condition the answers, and some of the factors are outside our control. The writer’s guess is that we are setting out to get ourselves into a good bargaining position against the day when world-aviation is sugared off among the nations. We’d like to be able to say at the conference table that we not only have the geography and the terminal facilities for global flight, but that we are also in a position to produce long-range de luxe airplanes. It will be nice work if we can get it.
Much moaning has been heard apropos our lack of an aircraftengine industry. The Jeremiahs claim that we are not actually in the aircraft business at all inasmuch as we do not make what are solemnly dubbed propulsion units—engines to you and me. The experts laugh that off with what appears to be good reason. Every aero-engine in the world, they aver, will be completely obsolete the day the shooting stops. The whole industry will be revolutionized by new power-plants already off the drawing board, past the blueprint stage and ready for tooling. To drop everything and get them into production now is impossible. For one thing there is the tremendous
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time-lag of tooling job. For another there is the unremitting demand for everything we can yank off today’s production lines. But when the time comes Canada may have access to designs recently developed in Britain. Hence do insiders brush off the plaints of those who bewail our lack of an engine industry. We simply don’t need one, they say.
Can Keep ’em Flying
CUTTING back into the realm of facilities, we shall face the postwar future from a well-established position in the field of overhaul and repair. The country is packed with plants designed to keep ’em flying: from the Clark Ruse repair plant across the harbor from Halifax to the Canadian Car shops at Amherst, N.S.; from plants in Montreal and Toronto to the Ottawa Car and Aircraft enterprise in the capital; from the MacDonald Brothers in Winnipeg and the great TCA facilities in the same city to repair depots operated by C. P. Air Lines in the prairie cities, such as Edmonton’s Aircraft Repair Ltd.; and finally to the big Canadian Pacific show just up the river from Vancouver.
In addition to this Canada abounds in many of the strategic materials of airplane construction: aluminum,
steel, plywood, the finer woods, all manner of things.
We now reach the final question: where is the traffic to come from, first in the domestic field and second in the international carrying trade?
Last year 104,500 people rode the TCA main line. This number utilized approximately 75% of its capacity. If you are one of those who have been out-prioritied by brass-hats and bureaucrats you may be amazed to learn that the planes ever take off with empty seats. But they do. A great part of those 104,500 riders were on war business, which is no yardstick of what peacetime travel may be. Nor are pre-warTrans-Canadafigures much use—only 21,500 passengers carried in 1939—because the airway was still in swaddling clothes when war broke out.
Nevertheless it is reasonable to believe that enough domestic passenger traffic will be available which with air mail will enable TCA to carry on profitably at least on its current schedules. The quantity of air mail may, of course, grow tremendously. Possibly all first-class mail will go by air shortly after the war. (TCA alone carried 2,308,000 pounds of air mail in 1942.) But a period of adjustment and planning will elapse after the war before we can finally assess our normal flow of domestic main-line ! business. Neither present nor past provide yardsticks.
Meanwhile Canadian Pacific Air I Lines carried 60,000 people on their I feeder and bush routes during 1942,
; plus one and three-quarter million pounds of mail and ten million pounds of freight. The bush is still potentially big time Canadian operation. In the writer’s view it will be the backbone of our internal aviation for years to come after the war. That is as it should be, for this is the intrinsically Canadian operation, the business we invented, and still
the most useful purpose in which aircraft can be employed.
In 1937, the all-time high year, Canadian bush fliers moved 24,000,000 pounds of cargo into the country back of beyond. Our nearest competitor was the United States with a mere 9,000,000! Even in 1939 with the world cracking over our ears we carried almost 20,000,000 pounds of air cargo. We shall pick up that business and more like it when the war ends. The saga of the bush fliers is not finished. It has merely been interrupted by war.
Who Will Fly Where?
TO ATTEMPT to assess the Canadian potential in intracontinental flight is to embark upon a voyage into the fairyland of supposition. Who is going to fly what, to where? Nobody knows. Are we going to have Freedom of the Air as once we had Freedom of the Seas? If so, then presumably Canadian Pacific air liners will be allowed to ply over Africa, the U. S., Britain, India and China, as their ships once put into ports of those faraway lands. But Prime Minister Mackenzie King is on record as having stated that the Government agency, Trans-Canada, is to be the Canadian instrument “in services operating across international boundary lines and outside Canada.”
This statement launched a roaring controversy. Public Ownershippers acclaim the idea. Free Enterprisers view it with dudgeon and alarm. Some of the more politically minded gentry in the air trade call it a trial balloon; others say it keynotes the Prime Minister’s determination to fight shy of commitments at home, as abroad, until we know just what kind of international dickering faces us.
One thing, however, is sure. Cutthroat competition, so far as Canada is concerned, is out before it comes in. But do not assume that the private operator is as good as dead either in the home field or in the international. The score is not in yet. It will not be until the United Nations have time to sit down and size up the world situation. And that is what Mr. King is waiting for.
Our potential, so far as it can be assessed at this time, is as follows: We are geared to produce 6,000 aircraft a year, comprised of small ships and bush-freighters. And there are larger craft on the drawing board.
We abound in skilled people to make, repair, service and fly them.
We are exceptionally well equipped in major terminal facilities, emergency fields and in scientific aids to flight.
We can support an internal mainline system at least as great as the present transcontinental route and its feeder links.
We shall face an increased volume of air-freighting into the North.
We are in a strong position to go horse trading with the boys when the question of global aviation comes up for settlement.
That is the score up to now. Meanwhile there’s still a war to be