AUBRY GRATTON COLLECTION
No. 11930. Noorduyn Norseman Mk.VI (787 c/n 136) Royal Canadian Air Force
Photographed at RCAF North Bay, Ontario, source unknown

Noorduyn Norseman Mk.VI

02/28/2016. Remarks by Johan Visschedijk: "In late 1934 the Norseman design was begun by R.B.C. (Bob) Noorduyn and a handful of designers on the upper floor of the Canada Cement Building on Philips Square in Montreal, Quebec. Canadian aircraft operators and pilots were consulted on features desirable in a Canadian bush aircraft, and Noorduyn himself understood Canadian requirements from his work with Fokker and Bellanca in the United States. A wooden cockpit mock-up was made in the office, and the whole design was well advanced when the Curtiss-Reid factory was leased in the early spring of 1935 and the move to Cartierville made.

A small staff pushed on with the work, putting in long days and often seven-day weeks, so that the prototype could be tried on floats before the freeze-up. On November 12, 1935, the prototype (CF-AYO c/n 1), was taken to Pointe-aux-Trembles where it was assembled on floats in the old hangar of the Compagnie Aérienne Franco-Canadienne. On November 14, a cool overcast day, it was launched and first flown from the St. Lawrence River, by William John McDonough and E. L. Capreol. The aircraft handled well and the flight was successfully completed although an inexperienced boat-crew, hired to assist in beaching the machine, holed one of the floats.

The Norseman was conventional in layout for a bush aircraft, with a sizeable cabin and a loading door with a removable section to permit fuel drums to be rolled in. It was fitted with a 420 hp Wright R-975-E3 Whirlwind radial engine and could accommodate a pilot, and nine passengers on bench seats or six passengers in chairs. It introduced wing flaps for the first time in Canada, and an unusual feature was that the ailerons were arranged to droop 15° deg when the flaps were fully down at 40° while still giving lateral control. Other features introduced for the first time in a Canadian bush aircraft were cabin insulation, well-faired fuselage lines, and a high gloss finish, all serving to give it passenger and eye appeal. The wings were of wood but all other components were made of welded steel tubing and all were fabric covered.

Additional tests were made at Pointe aux Trembles until November 21 and then CF-AYO went to Ottawa for airworthiness tests as a seaplane. It returned to Montreal and was put on skis and painted in the yellow and black of Dominion Skyways before returning to Ottawa to finish its tests. It was delivered to Dominion Skyways in mid-January. After November 21 all test flying was done for Noorduyn by Capreol until the buildup of production in the war years required additional pilots.

The first production model was the Norseman Mk.II, and its prototype (CF-AZA c/n 2) was first flown on May 2, 1936, from Cartierville. It was almost identical to the Mk.I prototype but with loaded weight and empty weights increased, widened float track widened and raised height of the float chassis to improve water handling. The only recognition feature was the replacement of the Norseman Mk.I's circular rear cabin window by a rectangular one. However, the Wright-powered Norsemen were underpowered and performance suffered accordingly, so only three Norseman Mk.IIs were built and CF-AZA was almost immediately converted to Mk.III and then Mk.IV standards. The Wright-powered Norseman with the longest life was the Mk.I CF-AYO, which survived until destroyed in an accident on August 23, 1953, at Round Island Lake, Ontario, after seventeen years of service.

Work was started to re-engine the Norseman and two Pratt & Whitney Wasp-powered models were developed in 1936. The Norseman Mk.III prototype (CF-BAM c/n 5) was first flown on September 4, from Rivière des Prairies (also known as Back River). It was powered by the 420 hp Wasp SC but offered only a modest improvement over the Norseman Mk.II and was designed to permit companies to use existing stocks of Wasp SC engines as an economy measure. Only one was built originally but two Norseman Mk.IVs (CF-BAU c/n 6, CF-BAV c/n 7), were re-engined before delivery as Norseman Mk.IIIs at the request of the customers.

The Norseman really came into its own with the installation of the 550 hp S3H1 Wasp in the Norseman Mk.IV which gave it the power to work to its full capacity. The prototype Mk.IV (CF-BAU) was first flown on November 5, 1936, from Cartierville. It was bought by Canadian civil operators, and four were bought by the RCAF in 1938 who had two of them equipped for wireless training and designated Norseman Mk.IVWs. Further RCAF orders followed the outbreak of war but by the end of April 1941 the last eighteen Norsemen on order had been started, the RCAF was reviewing its spares supply, and it was planned to dismantle the jigs as soon as that batch of machines and outstanding spares orders had been completed.

In July 1941 Bernt Balchen, the well-known Norwegian pilot, was enlisted by the USAAF to establish a staging route across Greenland to permit the ferrying of aircraft to Europe from North America. Balchen requested six Norsemen to help with the job and they were diverted from an RCAF order for Norseman Mk.IVs and quickly modified to USAAF requirements and delivered as YC-64s in the last quarter of 1941.

After the USA entered the war, the USAAF placed the first of several orders for a version of the Norseman modified to its requirements, designated C-64A. The empty weight was increased by the interior equipment specified and two fuselage belly tanks were fitted, increasing its standard fuel capacity. In addition, a cabin fuel tank and a belly tank could be installed. The first Norsemen ordered were six UC-64Bs (serials 42-53520, 42-53521, 43-5105 to 43-5108), which were the Norseman Mk.IV modified to approximately C-64A standards, and then large orders for C-64As followed; six C-64As were delivered as seaplanes. The RCAF took delivery of twenty C-64As, designated Norseman Mk.VIs, seventeen were allocated to Canadian civil use and three were transferred by the USAF to the USN which designated the type JA-1.

In 1943 the USAAF was uncertain whether Noorduyn could deliver enough C-64As to suit its requirements and accordingly let a contract to the Aeronca Aircraft Corp, Middletown, Ohio, for six hundred C-64As; the order was cancelled before any were completed, but it was the first time that a Canadian-designed aircraft was proposed for licensed production.

An oddity is that R.B.C. Noorduyn assigned the designation Norseman Mk.VI to the C-64A model. Noorduyn was most patriotic and confident of an Allied victory in the war and wanted to reserve the Norseman Mk.V model to celebrate the occasion in recognition of Winston Churchill's V for Victory symbol. The Norseman V therefore became a civil version, based on the C-64A, retaining the increased loaded weight but civil furnishing replacing the military ones and the belly tanks now optional. The first Norseman Mk.V was delivered in June 1945 to the Ontario Provincial Air Service, and the last Norseman built was the Norseman Mk.V CF-LFR (c/n N29-55), which was first flown at Cartierville on December 17, 1959, by Philippe Larivière, 24 years and one month after the prototype was first flown.

The rights to the Norseman design were sold in the spring of 1946 to Canadian Car & Foundry which continued to make the Norseman Mk.V at Montreal. Also the company developed a new version, the Norseman Mk.VII, which appeared in the latter part of 1951. This was designed by R.J. Moffett and had all-metal wings and tailplane. The cabin was lengthened, the engine was moved forward, and the fuselage fairings were removed. The prototype, which was a modified Norseman Mk.V (CF-GOO c/n N29-49), was completed under the new c/n CCF-129-1 in autumn 1951. Registered CF-GOO-X it was subsequently flown at Montreal but never certificated and was destroyed in a hangar fire at Fort William, Ontario, in 1958.

Canadian Car & Foundry sold the Norseman rights on 22 May, 1953, to Noorduyn Norseman Aircraft Ltd, formed for the purpose. Three Norseman Mk.Vs were assembled by the new company, which has continued to supply Norseman spares, and two Norseman Mk.Vs were assembled by Curtiss-Reid Manufacturing Co. for Noorduyn Norseman Aircraft. Sales of the Norseman Mk.V were inevitably limited by the ready availability of surplus C-64s."

Created May 15, 2013