Five “New” Aircraft for Alberta Museums –
Four Biplanes and a Crane!

By John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary

Five aircraft recently placed in three Alberta museums are two Curtiss biplanes, two de Havilland biplanes and a Cessna Crane, all types that have had an important part in Canadian military and civil aviation. Those types have figured prominently in training pilots for two world wars.

At the new location of the Royal Alberta Museum, in the centre of downtown Edmonton, is a restored Canadian-built 1918 Curtiss JN-4 (Can). Known as a “Canuck,” it hangs suspended in the entrance of its new home. A notable feature that characterizes the Canuck is that it has ailerons on both wings. Its American counterpart, the JN-4D, has ailerons on only the upper wings.

01 Curtiss JN 4D

As visitors come into the museum, which opened on October 3, the Canuck is the first artifact they will see, “flying” above them in the entrance. To see more, click here. (Chalmers photo)

02 JN 4D at Wetaskiwin

The 100-year old aircraft is now suspended in its third location, transferred from the Reynolds-Alberta Museum at Wetaskiwin, Alberta, where it had been hanging for 20 years, as seen above. Wilfrid “Wop” May and his brother, Court, rented the aircraft for $25.00 per month from the City of Edmonton and flew it commercially as the Edmonton with May Airplanes from 1919-1924. Wop May was inducted as an original Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974.

The Canuck was acquired by the Reynolds family of Wetaskiwin 90 years ago in 1928. The aircraft was restored by three generations of the family, starting with the late Ted Reynolds; his late son, Stan, for whom the Museum is named; and Stan’s nephew, Byron Reynolds. Restoration was completed in the early 1980s and the biplane was then placed in the Edmonton Convention Centre in 1984, the 75th anniversary of powered flight in Canada. Byron Reynolds rightly states that, “This aircraft is truly a national treasure.” (Chalmers photo)

03 Canuck on ground

The aircraft has an important place in both Canadian and Alberta aviation history. It is one of only two Canadian-built JN-4 types still in Canada, the other being at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. To see more, click here.  One of the notable flights made by the aircraft occurred in June, 1919, when pilot George Gorman and engineer Pete Derbyshire were contracted by the Edmonton Journal newspaper to fly copies to Wetaskiwin, some 45 miles south of Edmonton. When high winds prevented landing to deliver the papers, they were dropped to the town’s fairground, in the first commercial flight in western Canada and the first delivery of newspapers by air! (Photo courtesy of Wop’s son, Denny May)

04 Baseball flight

On another occasion, pilot Wop May flew Edmonton mayor Joe Clarke in a low pass over the city’s Diamond Park baseball field to drop the first ball to open the 1919 baseball season, as seen above. The game was won by the Calgary Hustlers, defeating the Edmonton Veterans. Both Wop May and George Gorman had flown as pilots in the First World War. To see more, click here (City of Edmonton Archives, EA 10-3181).

05 Tiger Moth

A DH-82 Tiger Moth from the Reynolds-Alberta Museum is also flying overhead at the Royal Alberta Museum. It was built by de Havilland Canada in 1942 and used as a pilot trainer. After the war, it was struck off in 1945 and made available for sale by War Assets. Eventually, in 1984, the Tiger Moth was acquired by Stan Reynolds, C.M., restored and then flown by him. He served as an RCAF pilot during the Second World War, flying Beaufighters and Mosquitos. When he returned after the war at age 23, Stan began his massive collection of aircraft, vehicles and farm equipment that became the basis of the museum’s collection. He was inducted as a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009. To see more, click here. (Troy Nixon photo)

06 Curtiss Jenny

The latest addition to the Alberta Aviation Museum, a CAHS Museum Member, is another century-old aircraft. It is an American-built 1918 Curtiss JN-4D, commonly known as a “Jenny.” It was acquired by Jack Johnson in 1977 who spent 21 years restoring it to flying condition. The aircraft last flew in 2009 and at that time was the oldest flying aircraft in Canada. It is seen above, ready for flight at an Alberta air show in 2006. (Chalmers photo)

07 Jenny at AAM

Jack donated the Jenny, which arrived at its new home on September 27. The wings were removed for transporting the aircraft from Westlock, Alberta, to Edmonton. A new display is being prepared while it awaits completion with re-installation of its wings. New signage and extra Curtiss OX V-8 engines are part of the display. To see more, click here. (Chalmers photo)

08 Jenny airborne

In flight, with Jack Johnson at the controls, the Jenny is seen airborne in 2006. The biplane flew barely 24 hours after restoration before being donated to the Alberta Aviation Museum. Both the Canadian and American versions of the aircraft were powered by liquid-cooled Curtis V-8 engines (Chalmers photo)

09 Rapide 1

At the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, the latest aircraft to be put on display is a DH-89A Dragon Rapide, built in the U.K. by the de Havilland Aircraft Company in 1935. The biplane is a fabric-covered aircraft designed by de Havilland in 1933, primarily for short-haul flights for passengers or freight. In Canada, the Rapide saw service with Canadian Pacific Airlines and Quebec Airways. The DH-89A is a modified DH-89, equipped with a landing light in the nose, and the addition of flaps, which were not on a DH-89. (Chalmers photo)

10 Rapide 2

The de Havilland Rapide is powered by two de Havilland Gypsy Six inline six-cylinder air cooled engines and has a 48-foot wingspan. This aircraft was the fourth DH-89 built, and is the oldest surviving Rapide of 727 that were built. It began flying with Railway Air Services Ltd. of Croydon, England. Bearing the name, City of Bristol, it flew with a number of small U.K. airlines until 1961, when it was sold to a Canadian interest and flown in Canada under new registration, CF-PTK. (Chalmers photo)

11 Rapide 3

During the Second World War, Dragon Rapides flew with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. This aircraft was added to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum collection in 2001 and underwent a complete restoration by Historic Aviation Services Inc. of Wetaskiwin prior to being placed on display.

12 Crane

At the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, Alberta, which is also a CAHS Museum Member, a Cessna Crane has been added to the aircraft collection. The aircraft was built in 1942 and served with the American military in the Second World War. Two Jacobs seven-cylinder radial engines power the aircraft. It was acquired by Lloyd Drake of Lundbreck, Alberta, and restored in 2002 to flying condition by his son, Loren, who donated it to the museum. (Chalmers photo)

13 Crane on flatbed

On October 20, travelling on Highway 2 for 20 kilometers, the Crane was taken to the museum on a flatbed trailer from the airfield at High River, Alberta. Ben Schwartz, a museum volunteer and director, drove the rig which transported the aircraft. Its flying days are now over, but it will still be used in engine run-ups for events at the museum. Plans call for it to be painted in yellow livery of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, in which Cranes appeared during the war when the RCAF used Cranes as trainer aircraft for pilots and navigators in the BCATP. To see more click here. (CBC photo by Kate Adach, via the internet)

14 Crane airborne

In wartime training livery, a Cessna Crane is seen in flight as a multi-engine trainer in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This aircraft’s home is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, a CAHS Museum Member. To see more, click here. (Photo by Rick Radell)

15 Selfie

Visiting the museum in Nanton provided an opportunity to take a selfie with the Cessna Crane’s pilot! During the war, Nanton was surrounded by stations of the BCATP that flew Cranes – 100 at No. 3 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) in Calgary; 100 at No. 15 SFTS at Claresholm, Alberta; and 50 at Vulcan, Alberta, home to No. 2 Flying Instructor School and No. 19 SFTS, which was my father’s last posting as an RCAF navigation instructor during the war.

The ongoing restoration of aircraft by Canadian museums to put them on display for the public continues to add the preservation of our aviation heritage for all to enjoy and appreciate.