Aviation Museum Completes First Historical Airplane Replica
By Bruce McLeod and Mark Whittaker
For the first time in about 8 decades, the Montreal sky becomes the backdrop for a piece of Quebec's aviation history. The Fairchild FC-2, nicknamed the "Razorback" after its triangular sectioned fuselage, emerged on 27 October 2012 from the Canadian Aviation Heritage Centre's (CAHC) workshops (at the Old Cow Barn on the Macdonald Campus of McGill University) after over 12 years of work.
Built from scratch with original plans, and supplemented by the creativity, ingenuity, craftsmanship and enthusiasm of volunteers in the restoration team led by Jake Wilmink, Mark Whittaker and John Duckmanton, this full scale 1926 "multi-tasker of the skies" aircraft is the first of several aviation projects currently underway at the CAHC.
The Canadian Aviation Heritage Centre – a non-profit organization and Montreal's only aviation museum – is located in the "old stone barn" on the Macdonald Campus of McGill University in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec on the Macdonald Campus of McGill University. Hours of operation are Monday, Tuesday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The CAHC invites the public to come and visit our aircraft restoration projects, workshops, aviation art gallery and artefact displays. The FC-2 will be on permanent display beginning on Saturday, 17 November 2012.
The Fairchild FC-2 "Razorback" was part of a family of light, single engine, high wing utility monoplanes, originally designed in the 1920s to provide a camera platform for aerial photography and mapping/survey work. The Fairchild series was the product of the innovative aerial photography and survey business that stemmed from inventor Sherman Fairchild's need for a suitable aerial platform. Designed by Alexander Klemin and Norman McQueen, the configuration of a conventional strut-braced high-wing monoplane with tailwheel undercarriage, (featuring wooden wings able to be folded back against the tail for storage) and a fully enclosed, extensively glazed, heated cabin, led to a sturdy multipurpose aircraft that found its niche in the Canadian wilds.
Manufactured initially at the new Fairchild factory at Farmingdale, New York, the FC-1 prototype for the series, flew on 14 June 1926 and despite being considered underpowered (equipped with the ubiquitous Curtiss OX-5), with subsequent Wright J-4 and later J-5 Whirlwind powerplants, soon found a market in both civil and military applications. The RCAF encouraged Canadian Vickers to obtain licence rights in 1927 to manufacture the definitive FC-2, leading to a small production run of 12 airframes.
In civil use, the Northern Aerial Mineral Exploration Ltd (NAME) used the type in northern Canada. FC-2s flown by Canadian bush pilots Duke Schiller and Romeo Vachon, the Canadian Transcontinental Airways Company's Chief Pilot, were also prominently used in the 1928 rescue of the crew of the aircraft ''Bremen'' at Greenly Island, in Blanc-Sablon, Quebec, near the border of Newfoundland and Labrador.
While the FC-2 proved to be useful in bush flying, operating on skis, floats and wheels, the RCAF utilized the type in both aerial photography and mapping as well as light transport roles. The adaptable design, converted to a later Model 51 standard, was even modified to serve as a trainer, fitted with bomb racks. Due to a RCAF requirement to standardize engines, the basic FC-2 design was re-engineered with a 215 hp Armstrong Siddeley Lynx radial engine as the FC-2L. In this form, the type flew with RCAF units, primarily in northern operations. A further version for the RCAF, known as the FC-2V, was also developed.