Note from President Mark WJ Balodis BA:
The following are stories submitted by veterans of all ages and backgrounds who worked on and flew the Beech 18. Because they chose to stand up and be counted in the fight for democracy; because they made numerous sacrifices at all ages; and through their actions proving that "Freedom does not come for free", NOT ONE WORD has been edited from their stories!
"Per Ardua Ad Astra"
The following excerpts from the article "The Little Airplane That Got No Respect", written by Richard Bentham, are being displayed here with the permission of the author and the editor of the Airforce Magazine, Vic Johnson.
Feb 2nd 1960
Five airmen, their personal bags and large toolboxes filled C-45 No.1592 to overflowing - the aisle was packed high. Grossly overloaded and with the CG probably somewhere aft of the elevator.
I got airborne from Comox for Port Hardy with the passengers destined for the Pine Tree Line radar site at Holberg near the north tip of Vancouver Island. In the right seat was another pilot from 409 Squadron making his first ever flight in a C-45.
Entering solid cloud at about 3,000 feet, we climbed sluggishly on Amber 1 Airway to our minimum en route altitude of 8,000 feet.
The weather guy had forecast moderate airframe icing in cloud above the freezing level of 5,000 feet. Moderate icing didn’t sound so bad, and as I had never been in icing in the C-45 and knew nothing about it, it didn’t seem to be factor.
As I was to subsequently learn, flying an overloaded C-45 into known icing with a minimum safe altitude of 8,000 feet could easily result in an abbreviated life span and a pile of wreckage on a mountainside. But ignorance is bliss, and so, into the jaws of death flew the innocents.
The icing was light at first. On went the carb heat. On went the max prop de-icing alcohol. On went the wing de-icing boots. And they stayed on. Wrong on two counts. The prop alcohol tank was small and intended to prevent ice, not take it off. We quickly ran out. The wing boots, if left on, wound up with ice building around and over the boots such that it could not be removed. We became an icewagon.
Undaunted I pressed on, figuring we could soon descend and get rid of this stuff. Eventually, with the airspeed at 100 kts indicated and all the power I could get out of the engines, we could not hold altitude. All the radios had been dead for a while- the ice build up had overwhelmed them. Our position was a bit of a guess. The flying ice smacked the fuselage with a constant tattoo of rifle shot-like bangs.
It was time to turn around and go home. We had been airborne about 50 minutes and were in the vicinity of the highest peaks on the route.
In the 180 degree turn we lost about 300 feet. Victoria Peak at 7,095 feet lurked somewhere nearby, just outside the south edge of the airway. The ambient lighting darkened a couple of time – either from denser cloud or a mountain top disturbingly close.
Having no means of navigation all I could do was fly a reciprocal heading – lay off a few degrees for drift – and hope for the best.
Below 5,000 feet the ice started to shed in alarming sheets – the wing ice flying off and the fuselage ice rumbling as it slid aft hitting the tail with a mighty bang. The radios came back on.
Waterfall, the Comox radar, had us and it was a sweet moment to break cloud and see Campbell River and the grey winter scene of Vancouver Island. Air Traffic Control seemed content with a brief explanation of radio failure and a bit of icing.
The passengers, somewhat wide-eyed, got another day away from Holberg. I learned a couple of C-45 things myself – the hard way.
Jan 18th 1962
I had flown to Winnipeg from Ottawa in the morning in T-33 21617 to do an acceptance test flight of C-45 No.1573, just overhauled by Bristol Aviation. It was cold in Winnipeg – very cold. Maybe minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
The C-45 had a simple system to quickly warm up the engine oil. The pilot could pull out two push/pull controls to bypass the oil coolers. They were used routinely and I had never had a problem and didn’t know of any problems. So I bypassed the oil coolers for a speedy warm up.
But Ottawa is not Winnipeg.
After the start-up, all was normal and prior to take-off the bypass controls were pushed In to send the warm oil through the coil coolers – the oil temperature to be controlled now by oil cooler shutters.
On take-off, as the gear came up, my eye caught the oil temperature rising beyond the normal range upper limit of 70 degrees Celsius. Opening the oil cooler shutters had no effect. This was odd.
Climbing away from Stephenson Field, the oil temperature kept on rising and was shaking hands with the red line of the maximum allowable temperature of 85 degrees Celsius.
This was serious. The oil would soon have the viscosity of hot water, the engines would no longer be adequately lubricated and would overheat, and mechanical failure would quickly follow. Landing sans power on Portage Avenue was not an attractive proposition.
Power was reduced to minimum which stopped the climbing oil temperature on the red line, Winnipeg tower agreed to a landing on the nearest runway “to clear a minor problem”, and I was relieved to be back on the ground only a few minutes after takeoff. I never got above 500 feet. Best of all, the tower didn’t ask any questions, and no one was the wiser.
No doubt every C-45 pilot on the prairies knew not to use the oil cooler bypass on cold winter days.
But I did not.
In the bitterly cold weather on bypass, with no oil flowing through the oil cooler, the oil trapped therein would quickly congeal and effectively plug the oil cooling system. This was not apparent with low power while taxiing. But with take-off power, oil cooling was absolutely necessary and without it, the oil temperature had nowhere to go but up. And fast. If the weather had not been VFR, this story might have ended differently.
Another C-45 cold weather lesson augmenting my on-the-job training.
March 29th 1962
I was returning from Cold Lake, Alta, to Ottawa in C-45 No. 1524, giving a ride to a genial Group Captain Knowles as a passenger in the right-hand seat. Take-off from Winnipeg was just at nightfall and the trip looked OK from a weather viewpoint. Lakehead (Thunder Bay) was forecast to be cold and snowing with IFR ceiling and visibility – but not too bad. At 9,000 feet cruise altitude we should be clear of the cloud tops and pick up a decent tailwind.
During the last hour of the flight to Lakehead, we occasionally flew through thin cloud tops of the solid undercast. There was no sign of icing and these brief whiffs of cloud seemed to be without any significance. Lakehead weather was as forecast and about a half an hour out, a descent into the cloud and snow was in order. Carburetor heat was critically necessary in the descent in these conditions. Otherwise the carburetors would ice up and the engines would eventually stop for lack of fuel. The trouble was, I discovered that the two levers to apply carb heat were frozen solid in the full cold position. They would not budge.
There was no way we could descend into the murk below and hope to keep the engines running. Furthermore, there was nowhere else we could go because the cloud deck was forecast to be extensive and we didn’t have the range to look for clear skies.
How things can change from “no sweat” to a high pucker factor in only a few seconds!
We gloomily discussed our predicament and while we did, I remembered a long-ago bit of hangar flying where somebody has brightly mentioned that carb heat controls icing up and freezing solid could be cured by backfiring the engines. This was C-45 folklore not to be found from more conventional sources. Might as well try it!
I slowly leaned out the port engine mixture until the engine protested with some backfiring and loss of power. I tried the carb heat. No luck. Another session of backfiring was applied – this time more prolonged.
Hallelujah! The carb heat lever was free. The starboard engine got the same treatment and its carb heat suddenly became operative.
The rest of the trip to Ottawa was uneventful.
I discovered that some, but not all, pilots knew that in very cold conditions and flying through even innocuous tufts of cloud, ice could build up quickly on the carb heat control linkage such that nothing could budge it. Only by sending sheets of flame from a backfiring engine through the carburetor intakes could the ice on the linkage be removed.
Without my dim memory of a bit of hangar flying long ago, I cannot see how we would have survived. The moral is that not all hangar flying is BS.
Yet another C-45 lesson learned.
The following article, “Bug Smashers… Ho”, written by James A. Morrison, was first published in "Airforce" Vol 20 No 3 April 1996, pages 24-26. The copy of Airforce Magazine used was generously provided by Vic Johnson, editor of Airforce Magazine.
Operation Beechflight was mounted in May 1959 to fulfill a gift from Canada to France and Portugal of 25 surplus C-45 Expeditors (Beech 18 twin-engine trainers) under a NATO mutual air aid programme; 19 were to go to France and six to Portugal. Included with the aircraft were 10 spare engines (six for France and four for Portugal), together with a one year supply of associated equipment.
The Expeditors, also known as “Exploders” or “Bug-Smashers,” then used by the RCAF as short-range navigation trainers and communications flight aircraft, were among some 417 purchased from the Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas, and delivered to Canada by RCAF Ferry Command pilots during WWII.
Operation Beechflight was the first mass flight of this type of aircraft from Canada to Europe. The North Star mother ship, with technical support personnel under the command of S/L Cy Nevatet, and led by WO2 J.B. Reardon, accompanied the Expeditors. W/C Harry Forbell commanded the operation, and with navigation expert S/L Lorne Deyell, chose a familiar trans-Atlantic route from Trenton, Ont, via Goose Bay, Labrador; Frobisher Bay NWT; Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland; Keflavik, Iceland; Prestwick, Scotland, and on to Marville, France. Nineteen of the aircraft were then delivered to the French Air Force in Châteaudun, near Paris, and six to the Portuguese Air Force in Lisbon. One C-47 was delivered to the Air Division during the same operation.
The aircraft were picked up by operational pilots from storage facilities at Claresholm, Alta, and other western RCAF, and assembled at Trenton in early May 1959. While long-range fuel tanks were fitted inside the passenger cabins to extend the operating range from seven to 10 hours, the crews practiced ditching drills in the Trenton swimming pool, and were briefed on North Atlantic weather conditions and en route facilities and procedures. Liaison officers were detached to all stop-over bases.
Prior to departure from Trenton, there was some discussion regarding asymmetric flight with full 100 gallon long-range fuel tanks in the cabins. Some of us pilots thought that an engine failure on take-off might put an end to our Air Force careers, or indeed, our lives! (Several wives expressed an opinion that the whole operation was a bit dicey.)
On May 19, Advance Warning Order AO817 went out: “One Dakota and 27 Expeditors will depart 20 May 59.” I was to pilot Expeditor No. 1475, along with my co-pilot, F/O Dave Milne. On 20 May, with a forecast of VFR (visual flight regulations) weather, or at the worse, between cloud layers to Goose Bay, the aircraft, in sections of five departed in one hour intervals on the first leg with an assigned block of airspace to 10,000 feet. At 820 statute miles, this was to be the longest leg of the trip. The weather deteriorated between Montreal and Quebec City and as sections became IFR (instruments flight regulations) they broke formations. At one time 27 aircraft, including the two spares, were scattered all the way from scraping under the cloud, in cloud, and between layers to 13,000 feet. Flying at 5,000 feet, we logged two hours 30 minutes cloud time on this leg out of a total flying time of six hours 45 minutes button-to-button.
One section leader, after polling altitudes of the rest of his formation over an open air traffic control channel, and finding that they were altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 13,000 feet reported his section near Sept-Iles, Que, at 9,000. Trans-Canada Airlines flights were re-routed east of Quebec City to be on the safe side. Shortly after we encountered IFR conditions, our radio compass packed up, making that leg somewhat interesting.
When our trusty Expeditor broke out of cloud about an hour out of Goose Bay in late afternoon, we hadn’t seen another aircraft for more than two hours. The weather at Goose was clear, and the landing was uneventful. Many stories were swapped in the mess that evening. The forecast weather looked good for an early start.
Next day we all departed for Frobisher, flying VFR which held for most of the sections. With a new radio compass, our aircraft performed well, however on arrival at Frobisher the weather started to deteriorate. Above the overcast, with one other C-45 on my wing-tip, my request for landing clearance was met with instructions for a ground control approach (GCA) and landing. While taxiing in, we heard our liaison officer in the tower mutter over the radio, “Thank God for American radar!”
The weather in Frobisher closed right in and we were grounded until 24 May. We were all fed and quartered in construction company facilities where windows in the sleeping quarters were shuttered to keep the 24 hours of daylight at bay.
A search and rescue Lancaster was tasked for weather monitoring on the third leg between Frobisher and Sondre Stromfjord. Finally on 4 May we got the green light to depart. The weather was VFR most of the way and we all landed safely oat our destination for a quick refueling.
The first three sections to depart from Sondre Stromfjord for Keflavik immediately encountered moderate to severe icing condition over the Greenland ice cap. A number were forced back to Sondre Stromfjord. The last two sections to take off had caught up and joined the crews that had turned back while awaiting news of those who had pressed on. In so doing, they had a near miss with a westbound USAF Globemaster. The oceanic control chief was not happy.
C-45s unlike the larger C-47 Dakotas, which were said in jest, able to carry their own weight in ice accretion, were not known for their capability to perform in even light icing conditions. It was nail-biting time. News finally came that all aircraft were accounted for, but the weather continued to dog Operation Beechflight. W/C Harry Forbell, our commander, remarked that our progress could be easily followed by the numbers of Tums wrappers he left behind! Our USAF hosts in Sondre Stromfjord were very efficient in de-icing the RCAF aircrews during our three-day layover there, and we made the best of a bad situation.
On May 27, with an appreciative audience of an Artic fox observing our departure, we were airborne again. On this leg, one right –hand –seat man later confided that his pilot, who had apparently partaken of too much de-icing the previous evening, and shall remain un-named, surrendered control to his navigator, who piloted the aircraft for most of the flight to Keflavik.
Military Air Transport (MATS) had been tasked for air-sea rescue from Goose Bay to the UK. The USAF assured us that if any of us came down on the ice-cap, they would pick up survivors within 30 minutes.
We departed Iceland for Prestwick on 28 May. This was the only leg of the trip flown under clear skies. One aircraft suffered a complete radio failure, putting the wind up the Scottish controller who, unable to make contact, thought one of us was finally in the drink. This radio “failure” was later found to have been caused by a right-seat man, who having tired of the noise in his headset, turned the radios off!
On 29 May the sixth leg was completed. The first aircraft was airborne at 0915 hrs and the last at 1110. The weather continued to be un-cooperative, resulting in changes in assigned altitude and some low flying over the continent before arriving at Marville. There, 1 Air Division was responsible for removing the long-range fuel tanks prior to deliveries to the French and Portuguese Air Forces. Surplus crews were relieved and immediately left by train for Paris. The remainder completed delivery of the Expeditors.
While the weather conditions and long distances encountered during this operation were, for the most part, extreme for the type of aircraft involved Beechflight crews met the demands placed upon them, delivering all aircraft safely to Europe.
The following article, “Bug Smasher”, written by Mo Morrison with assist from Chuck Sloat was first published in “Airforce” Vol 17 No 1 April 1993, pages 10 and 11. The copy of Airforce Magazine used was generously provided by Vic Johnson, editor of the Airforce Magazine.
The Bug Smasher
By Mo Morrison with assist from Chuck Sloat
Chuck Sloat opens his Aerospace Monthly, Feb 1992, story on the Beechcraft 18/C45 with: “Expeditor – Bug Smasher – Twin Harvard – Navigator – Exploder – Kansan – Wichita Wobbler? Call it what you will, but the Beech Model 18 is a truly classic aircraft…” I can’t improve on that, so why try?
The Bug Smasher (also called that in a recent Airforce article by Doug Munro) may well be a classic – several are still flying, but that doesn’t mean it was universally loved when it was flown by the RCAF and the CF from 1943 to 1970. Certainly my more that 500 hours on type didn’t endear me to the sometimes nasty little brute, but than I had trouble landing even real airplanes.
And it was little, in all dimensions, particularly the flight deck or cockpit area. One of my most vivid recollections of the relative size of things is that of seeing Joe McArthy (‘Big Joe’ of Dambuster fame) at the controls one. The lasting impression I have is that of a grown man trying to ride a kid’s trike. Joe’s massive hands smothered the tiny wheel while his massive bulk spilled out of the miniature seat provided. This was at the Instrument Flying School at Centralia in 1950 but the memory lingers.
Joe’s flying technique is also remembered. He simply cuffed the airplane into submission – correct course and altitude, with his big mitts as one imagines he did with the Lancaster he flew so well in WWII.
My introduction to the Expeditor was at Sea Island during the winter of 1948/49 when I, along with a bunch of other WWII re-treads, were brought back into the air force to bolster the tiny group that had survived the massive post-war cuts of 1945/46. There didn’t seem to be any retraining system in place so we were usually inflicted upon the unit closest to our point of re-entry. In my case it was 121K Flight which worked along with and eventually became part of 123 Search and Rescue. The commanding officers were F/Ls Cec Hoseason and Lyle Harding, both pre-war types who had inherited a motley crew indeed.
Of course the aircraft were left-overs from the war as were the pilots so it didn’t take long to match us up with machines we were familiar with – except for that damned Expeditor 1413. I expect it was one of several used by the RAF at their OUT at Pat Bay during the war. In 1948 very few RCAF pilots had experience on the Expeditor. At any rate I only got to ride in it once or twice and collected exactly one hour of dual instruction from F/L Johnny Howarth and my first grey hairs from another hour flying with the station CO. However I did check out on the Lancaster and Canso so it wasn’t all wasted time between poker games in the crew room that winter or too many pilots chasing too few serviceable aircraft. When real work was called for – ie: a search, the old timers invariably got the nod while the new boys kept on dealing those cards.
So a posting to the “bald praireee” to a unit with four aircraft (one each Mitchell, Dakota, Auster and Expeditor) for three pilots was not unappreciated and I wound up at something called the Chemical Warfare Experimental Establishment, Suffield, Alta, on 4 Jul 1949. And I was a fully qualified Expeditor captain by July 7! Don Laidler and Dave Adamson were not ones to let grass grown under my feet – but I would have liked to have had time to relocate my recent bride and six month old son before getting into the bug smashing trade.
The prototype Beech 18…was powered by two 320 h.p. Wright air-cooled engines…Its cruising speed was 195 mph. 195 mph? Ha! I expect that the only Beech 18 that ever reached that speed was going straight down under full power after some IFS student had botched a “recovery from unusual attitudes” while under the hood. You were lucky if you could coax 150 mph out of the beast on the best of days.
Design of the Beech 18 was started in 1935 and the first prototype flew less than two years later in Jan 1937. The first 18A was registered in Canada later that year when Starratt Airways of Hudson, (near Sioux Lookout) Ont, took delivery in December. They operated it both on skis and floats.
Three model 18Ds served with the RCAF early in the war. There were all civil models and before the C45/Expeditor designation was applied. The first of these was a gift from John David Eaton (Eaton stores) who had purchased it in Jun 1939 and donated it to the war effort in Nov of that year. In fact, except for a few change in registration designators it flew in Eaton livery at least until 1943 when other Beech 18s were coming into service.
The Beechcraft Model 18S (C45) was by far the most numerous model built and Pratt and Whitney engines were to power all military models of the aircraft.
One may find fault with the Expeditor but not its engines. The P&W Wasp Junior is perhaps the most reliable piston engine ever made. While the engines kept on turning, if one remembered to switch fuel tanks once in a while, there were times when flying the Expeditor was exceedingly dicey. This was mostly in bad weather where the very hint of ice was enough to put panic in even the most experienced drivers. Not only did the ice turn your beautiful airframe into a lead balloon but you couldn’t even see where you going to plough in! That large sloped windscreen that destroyed so many bugs was not treatable for ice attacks and the side “clear vision’ panel was a useless as mammary glands on a male hog.
In addition to the six civilian models in service and the 55 British serialled aircraft taken on strength, the RCAF was to acquire an additional 327 Beech Model 18s between 1944 and 1953.
Now, while the post WWII air force was numerically small there were lots of stations (bases) and as the cold war build-up got into gear more were added or re-opened. All of these had COs and all of those, it seemed, had to have their own Expeditor whether it was needed or not.
One suspects it was a matter of pride; ie: You are the boss of the fliers ergo you fly. But you are intimidated by the new jet aircraft and there are lost of Expeditors sitting in storage and gas is cheap. Voila!
There were plenty of Expeditors doing useful work though (if you could keep them out of ice). Besides the IFS they were providing platforms for multi-engine pilot training, navigation training, light transport and hole boring exercised for the reserves to name a few. Even the Navy had some – starting with 25 and rapidly diminishing thereafter so it was virtually impossible to miss them for the 25 years or so after the war.
One outstanding piece or work was done by the only tri-motor Beech 18. This RCAF aircraft was loaned to Pratt and Whitney Canada in 1960 and was used for 20 years as a flying test platform for what was to become one of the world’s most successful turbine engines, the PT-6 and all its progeny. Every time you step aboard a King Air, Twin Otter, Dash 7 or 8, a Cheyenne or Citation to name a few, give a little tip of the hat to the old Bug Smasher.
When production ceased in 1957, 6326 examples of the basic Model 18 had been completed...On 26 Nov 1969, three Super H18s were completed…to bring to a close the longest continuous production run of any aircraft type.
Tracing the history of the Expeditor, C-GZCE now flown by Canadian Warplane Heritage (CWH) gives a glimpse of what a versatile breed they are. Completed in 1946 it flew in US under designator NC44596 until coming to Canada in 1952 to fly for the first year with a charter company. Then it was over to INCO’s stable of aircraft where it remained until placed in storage in 1957. In 1963 it was back in the air and after being modified for floats in Winnipeg and returned to Toronto where it flew again for INCO. In 1974 the floats were removed and it was flown to Guatemala. In 1976 it was back in Canada flying parachutes in Saskatchewan for a while then returned to Ontario with Interflite Air Services in Hamilton before again being placed on the shelf until rescued by CWH in 1981. It first flew with that organization in RCAF colors in 1986.
A real trooper.