July 26, 2019

Rare Bellanca Finds New Home Up North


Warren Wright had long wanted to acquire a Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker. As the founder of North-Wright Air, the Norman Wells, N.W.T. resident was well aware of the Pacemaker’s storied history as an Arctic and sub-Arctic workhorse that went back to the late 1920s and into the 1930s and beyond.

Known for their long range, good load-carrying capacity and flying struts, the Italian-designed, mostly American-built* Bellanca Pacemaker started out with the CH-200 model, powered by a 200-hp Wright J-5 engine. The CH-300 model was powered by the 300-hp J-6. Some later CH-300s were powered by 420-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasps, which led to a new model called the CH-400 Skyrocket.

The first opportunity Wright had to acquire a Pacemaker arose a few years ago, but Wright’s wife Carolyn suggested the time wasn’t right. Wright later found another one, a 1929 CH-300 Pacemaker through an Internet search and jumped at the opportunity this time.

“It was basically just an airframe, and the engine was all taken apart and a little bit corroded up here, and there was pieces missing,” Wright told the CBC during a recent interview.

The now restored aircraft, one of only two flying in the world, participated in this year’s Midnight Sun Fly-In held in Yellowknife from July 12 to 14. Prior to its departure for the fly-in from Norman Wells, COPA CEO Bernard Gervais met Wright and snapped a few photos of his Pacemaker.

Warren Wright at the controls of his newly-restored Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker.

Look for Bernard Gervais’ story of his northern adventure in an upcoming issue of COPA Flight.

* Six Bellanca Pacemakers were built in Montreal by Canadian Vickers. They were added to an initial order of 29 that were delivered to the RCAF, who used them for aerial photography.

Photos by B. Gervais