Proper usage of "Canso"

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Proper usage of "Canso"

Postby Rajay » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:01 pm

David,

I am hoping that you can educate me. I have never been clear on the proper usage of the name "Canso" - did it originally and properly apply only to PBV-1A and PB2B-1 and -2 series aircraft actually built in Canada (by Canadian Vickers and Boeing Canada respectively) regardless of which branch of the military or even for which country they served - or rather only to all aircraft of the type actually in Canadian military service (RCAF) regardless of actual manufacturer (who or where) and official model designation? Or did the term apply completely in some other way?

Being the way I am (can't help it) it bugs me when all survivors are painted with the same brush and labelled as "PBY" even if they were really built as a PBV-1A, OA-10A, or something else. (I haven't seen any pure flying boat PBY-x or PB2B series still around for example.) I noticed that all of the aircraft still registered in Canada for example are registered and officially identified as "Consolidated PBY-5A" aircraft even though something like 2/3rds of them have "CV" series serial numbers - presumably indicating that they are in fact Canadian Vickers-built model PBV-1A aircraft. I would have thought that Canada would be more sensitive to and proud of their own accomplishments instead of giving undue credit to Consolidated just for originating the design.

As I have written many times on WIX for example, per strict interpretation of US CAR (14 CFR 45.13a in particular) civilian aircraft registered in the US, even ex-military "warbirds", are supposed to be officially identified based not on the design originator, present or even past type certificate holder, etc. but rather solely on the basis of who actually built the particular aircraft in question and as what - and using the manufacturer's serial or construction number, not a "former" military serial number. Elsewhere in the regs, under Part 47 I believe, it makes it even more simple; the aircraft should be registered and identified per the data actually specified on its data tag - and in the case of the Canadian-registered "Catalinas" I'm betting that the 67% (or whatever the number really is) with "CV" serial numbers do not have a data tag identifying them as "Consolidated model PBY-5A" aircraft - but then of course I realize that Canada is not the US or under the jurisdiction of the US CFR.

Still I have a lot of the same kind of issues regarding Grumman Albatrosses in the US - none of which is officially identified based on its proper "G-" series Grumman construction number. And similarly, on the aforementioned basis, there is no such thing as a "Grumman" TBM Avenger or FM-2 Wildcat because they were not "built" by Grumman - and that was the whole point of the separate model designation by the Navy compared to the models TBF and F4F that were in fact actually built by Grumman.

Given all of that, I'd at least like to be able to use the term "Canso" properly!

All the best, Dave M.
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Re: Proper usage of "Canso"

Postby DavidLegg » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:56 am

I'll get back later today Rajay.
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Re: Proper usage of "Canso"

Postby DavidLegg » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:04 pm

Hi again Dave. I'll try and answer your questions without entering into either an essay or a rant! You probably saw I was lambasted on WIX recently on this subject by someone who possibly preferred colloquialism to accuracy. I know what you prefer!

So, to quash a few common myths first ...

All Canadian-built 'Catalinas' were Cansos - incorrect although, colloquially, many Canadians will refer to the type as a Canso regardless of pedigree (just as we Brits tend to call all T-6s 'Harvards', all C-47s 'Dakotas' etc)
All amphibious 'Catalinas' were Cansos - incorrect although this view seems to have been held by many, particularly in the wartime RAF, and it still surfaces regularly in print
There was a type known as the PBV-1A Canso - incorrect although often seen in print (see later)

So, here we go ...

When the RCAF first ordered the Consolidated Model 28 on contract CAN-78 dated 05Dec40 (but issued on 12Aug40) the name 'Catalina' had not been coined by the British although it was put in place at some point in that month i.e.: December 1940. The CAN-78 aircraft ordered for Canada were Model 28-5MC and Model 28-5AMC - the former (s/n 9701 - 9736) being 36 pure flying boats and the latter (s/n 9737 to 9750) being 14 amphibian flying boats, hence the 'A' in the designation. They were built in San Diego by Consolidated. CAN-78 also covered a further 55 aircraft (s/n 9751 to 9805) which were assembled by Boeing of Canada Ltd at Sea Island, Vancouver, some parts being manufactured by Consolidated and some by Boeing. These aircraft were equivalent to US Navy PBY-5A amphibians.

The first aircraft from CAN-78 started to arrive with squadrons in late-Summer 1941 although a number of the batch went to the RAF and some to the RAAF to 'repay' the loan of earlier RAF aircraft to the RCAF. These loaned aircraft remained with the RCAF.

On 22Dec41, Flt Lt RJ Brearley signed a 'Royal Canadian Air Force Minute Sheet' on behalf of the Air Officer in Chief, RCAF Overseas which read as follows (undrerlining as per original document): "1. The following signal has been received from Canada:- 'Discontinue name Catalina RCAF versions PBY, repeat PBY aeroplanes. Use new name CANSO for flying boat version and CANSO A for Amphibian version.[u] AFRO being promulgated to cover." 2. Would you please take the necessary step to ensure that all concerned are duly advised. 3. Copies of this minute are being sent to (there follows a list of recipients). This signal presumably followed on from an original order but it helps to set things in context.

The effect of the Minute was that, from that point, all RCAF 'Catalinas' were referred to as Canso or Canso A depending on landing gear configuration. The exceptions were the remaining aircraft originally borrowed from the RAF which remained known, at least officially, as Catalinas. The name 'Canso' (from the Strait of Canso that separates mainland Nova Scotia from Cape Breton Island - there is also a township called Canso nearby) was chosen in preference to several other possible names including 'Convoy' which would no doubt have caused lots of confusion in wartime messages! The other rejected names were based on townships all beginning with the letter 'C'.

Boeing of Canada Ltd did not produce any further aircraft for the RCAF but built PB2B-1 and PB2B-2 Catalinas which went to the US Navy, RAF, RAAF and RNZAF. Apart from pointing out that whilst they were built in Canada they were not Cansos, these are now outside the scope of this narrative. The original designations were US Navy ones but the RAF applied their own for the aircraft they received - e.g. Catalina IV and Catalina IVB

The focus now switches to Canadian Vickers Ltd (later Canadair) who built 'Catalinas' at their St Hubert plant and then the new plant at Cartierville, both in the Province of Quebec. The St Hubert aircraft were all for the RCAF. 30 aircraft (s/n 9806 to 9835) were Canso As. Cartierville built 109 aircraft for the RCAF and again these were Canso As (s/n 9836 to 9844 and 11001 to 11100). Canadian Vickers also built 230 Catalinas for the USA. They were originally ordered for the US Navy as PBV-1A Catalinas but all were delivered from new to the USAAF as OA-10A Catalinas instead. Apart from sharing the same production line, simultaneously for a while, there is no connection between the PBV-1A, OA-10A and Canso A designations. They cannot be mixed up so there is no such thing as a PBV-1A Canso A for example.

Yes, OK, this is turning into an essay but I hope that explains the origin and correct usage of the 'Canso' name.

Turning to your other points Dave ...

I think the colloquial use of 'PBY' or 'Catalina' post-war and up to the present day is unavoidable really, much as it may bug purists. I have to admit that we use 'PBY-5A Catalina' to describe our own aircraft even though it was originally built as a RCAF Canso A, at least in part because using the latter would have no resonance in Europe whereas the former has and we have to operate as a business getting airshow bookings etc. So, it is marketed as a Catalina.

The other, more official problem, is that many post-war commercially registered 'Catalinas' were formally registered by the registration authorities by designations different to the one under which the aircraft was built. This reflects the way the authorities recognise the type. So, our UK-based aircraft registered as G-PBYA appears as a PBY-5A Catalina in official records because that is what the CAA recognises. Others are registered as Model 28-5ACF because that recognises the commercial modification and many were registered in Canada as such.

As far as I am aware, Canadian Vickers did not use manufacturer's plates on their aircraft - I have certainly never seen one or a photo of one. Consolidated did of course, at least on San Diego aircraft. So, any plate that you see on a survivor, regardless of where it was originally built, is almost certainly a modern creation. Some will make no pretence of originality whilst I know of at least one (on N287) that is a facsimile of an original Consolidated plate.

When I have written reference work, I have tended to describe aircraft by the designation they were built under in order to be consistent so I would refer to our own aircraft as a 'former-RCAF Canso A'. That said, I am sure I have slipped into the 'PBY' or 'Catalina' habit in less formal articles etc. When I wrote a reference book many years ago, the publisher applied the title in part as "Consolidated PBY Catalina ...." which always grated with me as it did not accurately describe the book's contents.

Anyway, I hope that helps and is of some interest.

To answer the point you raised about surviving non-amphibians, there are two complete and restored examples extant (I'm ignoring wrecks) - one is a PBY-5 hanging from the roof of the US Navy museum at Pensacola (it 'flies' above a sectioned hull of a RAF Catalina I that stayed in the USA for wartime training) and the other is the PB2B-2 Catalina VH-ASA Frigate Bird II that currently hangs from the roof of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, NSW.

Cheers.
David Legg
Editor: The Catalina News, The Catalina Society
Author: Consolidated PBY Catalina - The Peacetime Record
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Re: Proper usage of "Canso"

Postby Rajay » Thu Feb 16, 2017 5:59 pm

Wow! OK. So, I guess I literally asked for that. Thank you sir, may I have another?

So, whereas I would be hard pressed to name an aircraft of US origin that did not have both a model designation and a common name (P-51D "Mustang" or F-106A "Delta Dart" for examples) apparently it was commonplace for Commonwealth aircraft to not necessarily have a separate model designation and instead have only a common name, such as "Spitfire" or "Hurricane", "Catalina" or "Canso" (Mk. whatever.) And further, if I am understanding you correctly, the use of model designations such as PBV-1A and OA-10A were used specifically only for the aircraft destined US military service. Right? That would make sense why they mirror the different designation standards for US Navy and USAF prior to 1962.

But on the other hand, the RCAF did sometimes use model designations, such as CSR-110 for the Grumman "Albatross" and CP-140 "Aurora" for their versions of the Lockheed P-3 "Orion" for examples.

Do you (or anyone else) know if there is any temporal correlation to the practice one way or the other - such as they used to often assign just a name and not a number but now (since when?) they always do both, or not?

Maybe not so much even still with the RAF; based on a cursory look around Google, Wikipedia, etc. it seems like it is still common practice in the UK itself not to assign separate model designations other than what I would call a "name" such as Harrier or Tornado (in conjunction with an alphanumeric role and mark designation such as GR4 and F3.) Although, that being said, they do seem more and more often to accept and adopt model designations already assigned for foreign (such as US-built) aircraft adopted by the RAF or RN, such as the C-130, C-17, F-35, etc.

I am also shocked to hear that aircraft were produced without a factory data tag; I thought that was universal practice. Learn something new everyday....

Silly me - with apologies to Emerson, I don't consider it "foolish" to expect a bit more consistency in something like a formal aircraft model designation system. But of course, that is my problem and the rest of the world doesn't give a #####!
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Re: Proper usage of "Canso"

Postby DavidLegg » Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:34 pm

Hi again Dave.

Regarding the Catalina designations such as PBY-5A, PB2B-2, OA-10A and the PBV-1A, yes they were specific to the part of the US Forces that used them and the decode of those designations makes interesting reading! Every letter and numeral means something as you will know from your interest in Grummans. I'm less comfortable with other, more modern types, even RAF ones, but what you say rings true I think. The RAF certainly seem to have used a mix of just names e.g.: Catalina I and names/designations such as C-130 Hercules C.1. But I'm getting into murky water here.

I do not know why Canadian Vickers did not use manufacturer plates on the Cansos As and OA-10As they built but I have never been any evidence for them. I'd actually like to be proved wrong but I know my colleague, the late Ragnar Ragnarsson, looked into this at length and never came up with anything.
David Legg
Editor: The Catalina News, The Catalina Society
Author: Consolidated PBY Catalina - The Peacetime Record
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