The Moose

Gallery Article by Dave Bailey, aka The Rat on Jan 1 2010

Silly Week 2010


After the abortive attempts to bring the Convair Tradewind into some sort of long term position with the U.S. Navy the aircraft were offered for sale, but few buyers were willing to take over what had been regarded as a plumberís nightmare. The airframe was sound and tough, but the Allison T40 engines were dangerously unreliable. The T38 on which the powerplant was based eventually became the reliable T56, but mating two of them to produce the T40 introduced problems which could not be resolved in time to prevent the Navy from abandoning what had started as a very ambitious project. The intended 5,500 horsepower output was never achieved, but the aircraft still performed well at the lower powers available.

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Canadair had shown an initial interest in the aircraft, and their engineering department concluded that it might be possible to replace the Allisons with the Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba developed for the Fairey Gannet. The 4,000 hp of the Double Mamba was more than sufficient to allow the airframe to meet almost all of its original design parameters, and after convincing the Canadian Government that it was a viable proposition the company acquired some funding toward the purchase of one airframe for the test installation and an option to purchase two more. A separate team was formed to attempt to resolve the problems with the Allison powerplant in case the Double Mamba idea did not work, but this eventually proved unnecessary.

After the expected fiddling to fit the new engines, successful ground tests and taxi trials indicated that the idea was eminently workable, and on May 19 1960 the aircraft left the water and performed a 45 minute flight. Over the next few weeks the trials proved the concept beyond question, and procurement of the two on option was finalised. Service with the Royal Canadian Navy commenced in 1961 and they went on to perform sterling service in the search and rescue, resupply, and evacuation roles.

As they neared the end of their military careers Canadair once again investigated further uses, and firebombing was an obvious choice. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador bought one example as a high-speed responder to attack outbreaks ahead of the arrival of the purpose built but slower CL-215 fleet. Its bulbous nose contours meant that it was immediately saddled with the nickname Moose, but other than that there was no joking about the prestige attached to flying it into action.

Dave Bailey

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Photos and text © by Dave Bailey