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Canadian classic – Fleet 80 Canuck page 4

report by neil macdougall • photography by doyle buehler

Swamped by competition from the new all-metal, side-by-side Cessna 120 and 140, the Luscombe Silvaire and the cheaper Aeronca Champion, Fleet ran into financial problems. Perhaps they should have bought Noury’s market survey as well as his design. Leavens Brothers of Toronto acquired the rights to the Canuck about 1947 and assembled another 26 aircraft, mostly from parts. At least some have 90-hp Continental C-90-12F engines. Toward the end, some new Canucks were reported to have sold for $1,600. The rights eventually went to Jeannine Dupuis and La Societé Air Canuck 80 Inc. of Montréal. I was unable to confirm the rumour that the Canuck rights are for sale.

In 1997, Robert McLarnon of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, located the jigs to the Canuck and considered building it. He calculated that materials, labour and taxes had increased 35-fold since 1946. Thus, a plane with the optional starter and skylight that sold for $3,869.25 plus $247.63 in taxes (sigh!) would retail for over $135,000. After finding lower labour and payroll taxes in the Caribbean, he surveyed flying schools but did not resume production.

Fleet and Leavens built 225 Canucks, mainly between 1945 and 1947. About 6,000 Aeronca Champions were sold during the same period. Cessna 120s and 140s also outsold the Canuck. Yet no Canadian light-plane matched the Canuck’s production total until recently, when Diamond Aircraft of London, Ontario, sold 400-odd Katanas.

Several Canadian flying schools, especially the Edmonton Flying Club and Central Airways in Toronto, operated them. Each had several. Now, Canucks are as rare in schools as de Havilland Tiger Moths. “We had a Canuck until recently,” Bruce MacRitchie of Welland Aero Centre, Welland, Ontario, says, “but it’s hard to find instructors who can fly tail-draggers. It’s a lovely aircraft, but only a few students wanted the challenge. Those who tamed it, loved it. We couldn’t keep it busy, but I’m sorry I sold it.”

Drake Andrews, chief flight instructor at Welland Aero Centre, says, “It’s a nice little airplane. It needs a light touch, or it will hop about, like a Cessna 140. You have to be careful in crosswinds. Performance is pedestrian, and it takes time to waddle around the circuit. The Canuck doesn’t carry a lot of weight; you have to be careful not to tart it up with new radios.”

Lloyd Keith Blackburn of Delta, British Columbia, thinks the Canuck is “a great airplane. Everyone wants to own one. I’ve had a lot of offers for mine–usually five or six a year. It’s slow, heavy, but solidly built.” His aircraft has a fibreglass cowling and a Cessna 140 exhaust, an approved modification by the Aero Club of British Columbia to increase cabin heat. The AME who designed that mod developed a tricycle gear, which was approved but apparently not built.

At Roberts Creek, British Columbia, on the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver, AME Dennis T. James is restoring the Canuck on which he took an aerobatic course and flew for ten years until 1985. “I keep thinking this is the year it will be finished. It’s overbuilt, but still quite light. I love the delicate undercamber on the lower fuselage. It looks like a wasp.”

Another active restorer is Morgan W. McLeod of Spruce Grove, Alberta. “It’s a great performer for its size and cost. It’s a bit underpowered, but people love it.” The Edmonton Flying Club has an STC for a 100-hp conversion, and he’s heard of a 118-hp Lycoming conversion being developed.

Robert B. Cameron of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, learned to fly in a Canuck in 1960-61, and bought one for sentimental reasons. “I wanted a fun machine that my son could learn how to fly. As a tail-dragger, it would sharpen his stick and rudder skills. It’s a great aircraft–tough, rugged and exceptionally roomy.”

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