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Canadian Airways’ fabulous “Flying Boxcar” page 2

Story by Robert S. Grant

During Schneider’s test hop after assembly by Fairchild Aircraft Ltd., the landplane Flying Boxcar needed only 17 seconds in a light 25-mph wind to take off with a 7,490-pound disposable load. With a main cargo hold 21 feet in length, 5 feet, 3 inches wide and 6 feet, 2.75 inches high and having nine doors and hatches, the Canadian Airways Ju 52 was expected to increase earnings by flying more freight at lower rates. The tremendous range provided by 275-gallon fuel tanks would eliminate the need for costly fuel caches.

After newly licensed CF-ARM appeared over Montréal, a well-publicized winter delivery flight to Winnipeg followed. Sceptics worried about the freighter’s reaction to cold; sure enough, in hangarless Pembina, North Dakota, south of Winnipeg, the crew experienced their first brush with subzero weather when the BMW refused to start. “The result was a stiff, cold motor which would not fire until it had been filled with hot oil and hot water and had been warmed by the application of external heat,” reported the Winnipeg Free Press.

In spite of more troubles in the form of a broken tail wheel and engine fire, the Ju 52 eventually reached Winnipeg. Promoted as being able to carry payloads farther than any aircraft, CF-ARM’s size and capacity practically guaranteed that any contracts involving oversize, heavy loads would come to Canadian Airways. One assignment had been with the Hudson’s Bay Company to move 500,000 pounds of freight to trading posts in northern Ontario and Manitoba.

In January 1932, mechanics T. Gilmour and D.P. Glen installed two 16-foot wooden skis weighing nearly 1,200 pounds with fittings. Each was 3.25 feet wide. Plywood top covers almost immediately proved too fragile, so head office recommended replacement with metal. Spruce slats screwed into the tops of the skis provided additional strength. Later, pilots reported that the tail ski did not ride on top of the snow but “pushes along like a plough.”

Ground handling proved to be difficult. The poor inherent ski design made the Junkers nearly uncontrollable due to oversize runners on the bottoms. A half-inch deep, they created excessive drag and impeded turning. Pilot W.J. Buchanan also claimed that the ski pedestals were too far toward the rear of the ski. The effect, he reported, was to force the tip away from any obstacles they touched. He suggested moving the pedestal forward to place more weight at the tail end.

At one point, the Ju 52 became exceptionally sluggish and bogged down even in light snow in spite of full engine power. Mechanics discovered the problem–dural sheeting had separated from the bottoms. Ski manufacturer Canadian Vickers of Montreal advised installing less drag-resistant brass coverings.

For winter flights, a three-man crew normally carried 150 pounds of spares, a 30‑pound ladder, a 90-pound engine cover and two fire pots for preheating oil. Allowable gross weight listed at 16,755 pounds and empty weight totalled 9,724 pounds. One report claimed a potential payload of 6,300 pounds for a 230-mile flight. At 700 rpm, the BMW consumed 45 gallons per hour of gasoline and averaged an 88 mph cruise speed on skis. In average conditions, CF-ARM landed and stopped between 230 feet and 330 feet.

Nothing as large as the Junkers had ever been landed on ice, and Canadian Airways manager Victor M. Drury voiced his doubts. To assuage his fears, pilots Leigh Brintnell and G. “Tommy” Thompson pointed out that the Hudson’s Bay Mining & Smelting Company regularly ran heavier tractors on 12 inches of ice. In another case, Admiral Richard M. Byrd’s ski-equipped Ford Trimotor landed with a gross load of 13,000 pounds on northern Manitoba’s Reindeer Lake while testing for an Antarctic expedition.

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