One of the questions asked buy many when Fairview’s FARS Canso is on display at air shows, “why is it called a Canso?” Many air show fans, especially those from outside Canada know this type of aircraft as a Catalina.
Of all the aircraft in the RCAF’s inventory during the Second World War the Catalina /Canso name and numbering has to be the most confusing.
The RCAF it appears have their own rules for names they assign to their planes. One example is the familiar yellow Harvard training plane that was used for training during WW II in the United States it is known as the Texan. Even some of the British aircraft acquired by the RCAF were re-named, the Blenheim, renamed the Bolingbrook in RCAF service. However some aircraft bought from Britain and the U.S. did retain their original manufacturer’s name, example being the Spitfire and Mustang.
In 1940 the RCAF ordered a number of Flying boats from U.S. manufacture Consolidated Aircraft. These were Model 28 flying boats. These type where to be used for patrol and rescue on both Canadian coasts. These where classified as Catalina PBY 5’s and where true flying boats being only able to land in the water. The RCAF found that using strait flying boats on the east coast was limited because of the winter months. Soon after the order was changed to an amphibian aircraft that could land on water as well as being land base. These types where then given the suffix A for amphibian. In the British Royal Air Force service they became PBY 5A’s named for Santa Catalina Island off of the California coast
On December of 1941 the RCAF air staff decided to rename their Catalina’s as they found that specifications for Canadian built aircraft differed from the RAF and U.S models. The name chosen for their A models was Canso, for the straits of Canso on the East Coast .Some other names considered were, Convoy, Chimo, Comox. However they also decided to keep the name Catalina for their flying boats. Some of these Catalina’s being flown by RCAF 413 and 422 squadrons in Ceylon and India during the war.
Canadian manufacturing of the Canso under licence started in late 1942 and early 1943 by Boeing in Vancouver and Vickers Aircraft outside of Montreal. The Boeing manufactured Canso A’s were given the type designation PB2B for Boeing and for Vickers PBV.
The number of Catalina and Canso’s taken on strength by the RCAF in WW II were 30 ex RAF Catalina flying boats and 218 Canso A amphibians. 55 of these built by Boeing and 218 by Vickers Canada.
The United States Navy also flew Catalina’s in the Pacific as night raiders, and they were referred to as Black Cats. The United States Army and Coast Guard used their Catalina’s mainly for search and rescue and nick named them Dumbo’s from the original Walt Disney cartoon Dumbo movie that came out during the war.
No matter what the name or type number come out to the Fairview Airport on June 16th Fathers Day and see Fairview Aircraft Restoration Societies Canso. C-FNJE aka 11094 is one of only four of the 218 built by Vickers and Boeing that are still flying and air worthy in Canada.