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Canadian Airways’ fabulous “Flying Boxcar” page 4

Story by Robert S. Grant

“It was found that when the aircraft was flying about 103 miles per hour, the vibrations would be noticeable even if the engine was throttled to operate at 1,200 to 1,300 or 1,400 rpm,” Siers said. “This leads me to believe that the air flow on the propeller is probably the real cause of the vibration.”

In any case, no propeller changes were called for during the BMW’s service life. Vibration aside, pilots appreciated the carefully balanced ball bearing flight controls, slow takeoff and landing speeds (47 to 60 mph) and CF-ARM’s ability to work easily in confined areas. One onlooker remarked that the “machine appears to be fanning itself in.” Buchanan, in spite of troubles with what one company official called “this white elephant”, described the Flying Boxcar’s performance as “eminently satisfactory.”

A summary of the first seven months revealed numerous “awaiting repairs”, “gas system troubles” and other logbook notations pertaining to the BMW. By now, Canadian Airways admitted that the German powerplant was not the “sweet-running engine” that Siers had claimed. Since entering service, CF-ARM rarely flew more than a few hours without repairs. Crews constantly grumbled about how the “engine conked out on us.”

Realizing the Junkers had potential, CF-ARM’s mechanics worked tirelessly to keep it airborne. In the first year, the Flying Boxcar spent 297 days grounded, mostly during cold weather. Overseas operators found such downtime strange, considering that at least 250 licence-built Junkers types flew in Siberian Russia. Canadian Airways went so far as to ask a Polish airline for advice and discovered that most Ju 52s left the factory with the L88 engine. The BMW powerplant had been a Canadian Airways decision, not the manufacturer’s.

Management concluded it would be only a matter of time before more serious consequences occurred. So far, only the skills of experienced air crews kept CF-ARM from becoming a smoking wreck. If the Ju 52 could not be made profitable, it would have to go. Junkers’ initial asking price had been $77,000. Correspondence and discussions concerning a replacement engine began anew.

Pratt & Whitney declined to show interest in staking the well-earned reputation of its Wasp on a foreign-built airplane, said comptroller Wilfred Sigerson on August 2, 1932. He added that a supercharged Wright Cyclone suited high-speed fighters but not the Canadian cold. Contemporary diesel types would not only be “a gross experiment in the face of low air temperature”, but extra personnel would be required to supply heated fuel oil.

Richardson finally decided on the 825-horsepower Rolls Royce Buzzard III. Already established with the 12-cylinder Kestrel, Rolls Royce backed its products and arranged to send mechanical specialists to Canadian Airways. Best of all, the Buzzard, which arrived in Canada in early 1936 at a cost of $37,000, needed only minor modifications to the engine mounts.

On January 17, 1936, mechanics at Winnipeg ran the Buzzard for the first time. At maximum power, the propeller turned at 1,100 rpm–an increase of 350 rpm over the BMW. After a quick air test over the city, the Ju 52 went back to work. One report stated that the “Flying Boxcar really began life then.”

On one trip, Buchanan left Island Lake, Ontario, with a load of 10 prospectors, five canoes and freight. Mining companies appreciated CF-ARM’s ability to carry a complete gasoline-powered diamond drill unit with rods in one journey without having to knock down the machinery.

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