Mystery Airplane: October 2014
1948 Canadair C-54GM North Star
Before the end of WWII, Trans-Canada Air Lines foresaw the need for a domestically produced airliner. After considering the Douglas and Lockheed products, the decision was made to adapt the DC-4 with 1760 hp Rolls Royce Merlin 620 engines and a pressurized fuselage. The RCAF also expressed interest, but without the pressure cabin. After the war, Canadair brought C-54 tooling and components from Douglas's Chicago plant. Initial DC-4M and C-54GM production used many Douglas built parts.
The prototype, CF-TEN, was first flown on 15 July 1946 at Cartierville by Robert Brush and Alexander Lilly. It was officially named North Star on 20 July. In addition to Trans-Canada, the North Star was ordered by Canadian Pacific and British Overseas Airways. TCA service began on 15 April 1947 and used North Stars until 1961. BOAC renamed it Argonaut and used them on African and Far Eastern routes for 11 years. One Argonaut was used to carry the Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth. RCAF aircraft remained in service until December 1965. Although faster in cruise by 60 to 80 mph than the Douglas model, the North Star was noisy. The Merlin's inboard engine exhaust system could never be made quiet for passenger comfort. Canadair tried, as did Rolls Royce and TCA, but nothing worked. The RCAF didn't even attempt to quiet the noise.
The last North Star to fly was CF-SVP, which was operated for research until 1976, but as N8022L was allegedly used for smuggling until 1980! I photographed RCAF 17515, the only surviving North Star, at Rockcliffe in 1991. It had been delivered to the RCAF on 8 March 1948 and assigned to No. 426 Squadron. During its long career, it carried supplies across the Pacific during the Korean War and supported the UN peace keeping mission in the Belgian Congo. It was retired to the National Aeronautical Collection in 1966.
Congratulations to David Lundgren of Rosemount, this month's winner, as well as Joe Connell, Walt Ray, Joe Schlosser and Ed Wells who all knew the Canadair. Blue skies for autumn. Brief before each flight!