The Canso Centennial Celebration Tour

Canso Crew
Connecting veterans with a piece of RCAF history in a cross Canada tour for the PBY-5A Canso. Photo courtesy of the Fairview Aircraft Restoration Society - FARS.


By Robert Lawrence

Rumbling across Canada this June and July a Canadian built and operated PBY-5A Canso aircraft is making its way from Fairview, Alberta to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and then back over eastern Canada and the prairies in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the RCAF. It is to reconnect with the personnel who worked on or flew in this exact aircraft or ones like it and reveal the Canso and its history to Canadians. 

PBY-5A Canso C-FNJE, formerly known as RCAF 11094, was built in Quebec in 1943 and served with 162 squadron in Iceland during the war and played a vital role in Canada's history. It was first used as a submarine hunter and for search & rescue during the war, flying over the North Atlantic protecting the convoys between North American and Europe. It was also one of the first aircraft to be converted into a water bomber, after the War, helping to fight forest fires across Canada. This Canso is one of the few remaining airworthy examples of this type of aircraft in the world, and it now has a distinctive orange and green paint scheme that represents the provincial colours of the Province of Newfoundland who repainted it during its conversion to become part of their air-tanker fleet. But don’t let the colour change fool you, the Canso is still a warrior at heart.

Canso wreck
Forty miles east of Inuvik, NWT on the east shore of Sitidgi Lake where Canso C-FNJE was hauled out of the lake after sinking in about 90 feet of water. Photo courtesy of Arctic Photos.


In 2001, it experienced an unfortunate accident and sank in Sitidgi Lake, NWT as it was picking up water to fight wild-fires. It was floated to the surface, towed to shore and reusable parts salvaged before it was left abandoned on the shore.  In March of 2008 a group of farmers from Fairview Alberta drove up to Inuvik, after purchasing the aircraft, as is where is, and with the use of trucks, trailers, snowcats, snowmobiles, barges, cranes and a tremendous amount of generosity and help from the people of the NWT got the plane down to Fairview.  Then from 2009 to 2017, the aircraft was repaired and resorted to become a flying aircraft once again. 

It was a cross Canada effort as parts, donations and expertise came from across Canada, including serviceable low time engines and props from a sister plane on display at St. Anthony, Newfoundland and a wing section from Nova Scotia. Since its first flight as a restored aircraft in June 2017, its purpose has been to be a flying museum to be brought to Canadians and show them a part of their Canadian aviation history.   The Canadian Canso Tour began on June 18, 2024 as it departed Fairview and worked its way to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to be reconnected with its original roots as this was the original base for 162 squadron as well as the home of a former pilot of this exact aircraft. 

From there the aircraft has flown across Nova Scotia to PEI with stops in Charlottetown and Summerside.  As of June 27, the plane then stopped in Gatineau, Quebec, and headed to Trenton for the Quinte International Airshow on June 29th-30th.  From there it continued west to Muskoka for Canada Day, North Bay on July 3, and Thunder Bay for July 5-7 at the Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Museum.  On July 9 and 10, it will be in Winnipeg at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada and then Saskatoon from July 18-22.  It will then be homeward bound to Northwest Alberta to its homebase and the Grande Prairie Regional Airshow on July 27 and 28.

For the Canso crew out on tour, including COPA members Bev and Greg Wieben, it has been an amazing and heartwarming experience to meet the people who have a connection to our Canso as well as other ones.  The appreciation and welcoming the Canso and its crew have experienced from the communities they have visited has been overwhelming and what they had hoped for and more.  We’d encourage you to try and see the plane if its in your area and view its progress on the website and the Facebook page Fairview Aircraft Restoration Society – FARS.  Donations to help support it in its travels can be made on the website. 

Canso at the Quinte International Airshow at CFB Trenton. Photo Courtesy of the Fairview Aircraft Restoration Society FARS.
Canso at the Quinte International Airshow at CFB Trenton. Photo Courtesy of the Fairview Aircraft Restoration Society FARS.


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