Print

on Saturday, 22 May 2010 13:25.

by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail

Canadian-aviation-history-028Softcover, perfect bound, full colour
224 pp, 220+ photos, 6.75 x 9 in., $30.95
Detailed aircraft appendices, notes, index
Robin Brass Studio, Montréal, QC, 2009 ISBN 978-1-896941-57-8

Aviation enthusiasts know that much has been written about wilderness flying but sadly, few writers have been able to successfully convey readers into the cockpits or beneath the bellies of oil-streaked bushplanes. Now, newcomer to the world of glassy water and frozen lakes, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail documents sights and sensations rarely experienced by those who have not eased in a throttle or pumped a seaplane float. In this history of Laurentian Air Services (LAS), Metcalfe-Chenail pays tribute to the men and women involved in the growth of a company that came to life in June 1936 and lasted more than 60 years.

Entrepreneurs Barnet Maclaren and Walter Deisher discovered a little known niche later described in a 1939 issue of Canadian Aviation magazine as “air tourism.” By hauling skiers, hunters and fishers into remote lakes near Ottawa, the company prospered with fabric-covered Wacos. In September 1937, however, Deisher sold his interest but the company continued upward. During the Second World War, Laurentian did not allow gasoline and staff shortages to shut down the organization. Instead, everyone pitched in and contributed by overhauling, testing and ferrying RCAF aircraft.

Print

on Saturday, 22 May 2010 13:23.

by Kathy Bergquist

Canadian-aviation-history-029Hardcover with glossy dust jacket
315 pp, 5.75 x 8.75 inches, $20.00
ArtBookbindery, Ottawa, ON, 2008
ISBN 978-0-9811108-0-6

One of the more monotonous clichés of Canadian writers is that this or that person has been “forgotten.” Keith Greenaway has certainly been honoured in his lifetime – McKee Trophy (1952), admission to Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame (1974), Member, Order of Canada (1976). As much as any man, he has freed Canadians from the tyranny of Mercator maps that distort one’s perceptions of northern geography. However, his remarkable career has not been front and centre in many other venues. Indeed, the government forced obscurity upon him in 1948 when his first publication, An Aerial Reconnaissance of Arctic North America, was classified as “confidential” and confined for years to a narrow service audience. Kathy Bergquist’s biography is therefore a welcome assembly of information that ensures the perpetuation of his record.

I liked this book, in spite of its faults. Scattered throughout the text are small errors that undermine the general credibility of the work. On page 22 we read, “Germany was not allowed to manufacture motorized aircraft in the years following World War One.” The prohibition covered military aircraft, but the world’s most ubiquitous bush planes of the 1920s were Junkers W.33 and W.34 machines. In 1946, the RCAF’s Chief of the Air Staff was Air Marshal Robert Leckie, not Roy Slemon (page 78). The aircraft illustrated on page 143 is a Dakota, not a North Star. The German Condor was not a flying boat (page 307). In writing of the Second World War, the author repeats air force mythology, stating that by the late summer of 1943, Allied victory was in sight “primarily through some key successes by Bomber Command” – oblivious to events at Moscow, El Alamein, Stalingrad, Tunisia and Kursk where Bomber Command was scarcely a factor, much less a primary one.