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Ed P Zaruk

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USAF Slide on Ice and Snow ski tests
By Ed P Zaruk   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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During the winters of 1951 & 1952 the USAF sent a team of people and airplanes to Kenora, Ontario to test various skis on Ball Lake.

 United States Air force testing program -

Slide on Ice and Snow (S.O.I.A.S.)


Video- March 10, 1951 - View USAF video footage at Critical Past


The USAF was there both in 1951 and 1952.  (Possibly the second time to check out snow conditions closer to breakup.)

Northrop YC-125B Raider:   This was a three engine cargo aircraft with STOL capabilities.  Designed to carry five tons of cargo, or 36 passengers.  Powered by three 1200 hp Wright R-1820-99 Cyclone radial engines, it had reversible propellers.  The USAF ordered 23 of them, 10 designated as the 'B' model, were for search an rescue work.  On March 10, 1951, the Untied States Air force arrived in Kenora, Ontario with what was the largest ski equipped aircraft to land at Lakeside to date.  Accompanied by two Navions to carry out testing of various types and configurations of skis.


North American Aviation Navion:












North American's P-51 Mustang design greatly influenced this four place tricycle landing gear aircraft. Over 1,100 of them were built with a 185hp Continental engine between 1946 and 1947.  The design was sold to Ryan, (the fellow who put Lindberg's Spirit of Saint Louis together) and this company went on to build more than a thousand, many with Continental 205 and 260 hp engines, from 1948 to the early 50s.

 Kenora was chosen not only because of the different types of snow conditions in the frozen lakes and rivers north of town, but also because considerable information could be gained by observing the extensive operations by Canadian bush pilots in this area. Ontario Central Airlines provided services and facilities to the test group at its winter base at Lakeside.  

The test group took particular interest in the bush operations of both Parsons Airways and Ontario Central airlines.  Although the venerable old Fox Moth caught their eye, it was the Forestry's de Havillan Beaver that drew their attention as the Army and USAF were using them under the L-20 designation.

 OCA's Norseman came in for some serious investigation as this airplane had been used by the US Army Air Forces during World War Two and was known as the UC-64.  It was employed extensively for winter search and rescue missions in the Yukon.  Although the test group brought with them various ski designs, they showed particular interest in OCA's Elliot Brothers skis.  ( see my article at: ) 


Vultee L-13:










A US Military utility aircraft first flown in 1945.  It was a conventional high-wing tail wheel monoplane powered by 250 hp (187 kW) O-452-9 Franklin engine used for observation, liaison, and air ambulance duties. The L-13B was a conversion for cold weather operation, capable of operating from wheel, skis, or floats.


 The following year (1952) the USAF returned to Kenora, only this time according to Keith Parson, with a DC-3, the Navions and a Consolidated Vultee L-13.  By this time Barney was becoming a part owner of Ontario Central Airlines as well as still operating Ball Lake Transportation. It appears that this year Barney was the center piece of the operation and opened the lodge at Ball Lake for this test group.  The DC-3, Navions, and Vultee conducted ski tests on Ball and Maynard Lakes.  The pilot of the Vultee, Colonel Bill Elliott had a girlfriend in Red Lake.   It seems the this airplane was either stationed in Red Lake or used as a supply plane for the Ball Lake group.  Don't seem to have much on the DC-3 being at Lakeside in 1952.


Rescue of Fraser Jansen

 Fraser started out flying fish in a Fox Moth for George Green in January of 1952.  Later George bought a 1934 Cessna AirMaster powered by a 145-hp (108-kW) Warner Super Scarab (SS-50) 7 cylinder radial piston engine.  Toward the end of the season this engine which wasn't reliable at the best of times,  began giving trouble and Fraser told George it was going to pack up.  George told him to keep flying it, which he did until April 13th when it died and Fraser made an emergency landing in a swamp.

One of the USAF people with the SOIAS test group stationed at Red Lake was Colonel Bill Elliott.  When it was confirmed that Fraser was missing, he, and his girl friend climbed into the Air Force's Vultee L-13 and went looking for him.  They spotted him but were unable to land.  Later Barney Lamm and Phil Mostow flew out in OCA's Piper PA-12 to get him.  As they couldn't land in the swamp, they dropped a note telling Fraser to hike out to the nearest lake, which he did.  When he got there, Barney, true to his style, said, "What the hell?  You've been walking so slow we were afraid the ice might melt before you got here."  After that Fraser went to work for Barney at Ontario Central Airlines.  (See Fraser's story in the book, Ontario Central Airlines - The Kenora Years available from Haakon Publishing)  




 The scenes in this first video are at the OCA Kenora winter base in QK, (Lakeside).  The Norseman in this first video is CF-BTH. It was based in QK when I first arrived in July, 1950.  It died in Red Lake in 1951* while I was back in Regina finishing my Commercial licence. I think. I got back to QK in Dec 1951 on my way back from the "Horse Haul" to Thunder Bay. But you know about its ending more accurately than I do from your previous investigating.

The thumping around on the ski was done by Gord Hollinsworth, and it looks like Steve (last name evaporated), a pilot for OCA, married Fern Jackson who dispatched from our summer base in 1950, and left to go east to fly in PQ.  The local Lake scenery brings back fond views.

Fraser Jansen

*Ontario Central Airlines - The Kenora Years p. 40


I remember the YC-125, a big three engine airplane.  They would park it each night beside the boathouse just down from the fish hatchery.  Over night, the weight of the airplane would depress the ice and in the morning a definite one foot sag could be seen under it.  Many of the old-timers wondered why it never broke through the ice.

The second year they were there they had a DC-3, a couple Navions and a Vultee L-13.  I also remember them bringing in a Grumman Albatross with a single ski on the belly and one on each float.

Keith Parsons (Parsons Airways, Kenora)

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Reviewed by Ronald Hull 1/16/2014
Quite interesting. Will forward it to my flying buff friends and former Air Force pals.


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