March, 1953, Aircraft and Airport
Canada’s northernmost aircraft manufacturing plant is the Aircraft Division of Canadian Car & Foundry Co. Limited, located in the lakehead city of Fort William. This plant is now the only Canadian Car facility manufacturing aircraft; the old Aircraft Division at Montreal having been closed and the buildings sold to Canadair.
However, a certain amount of aeronautical activity is still carried on in Montreal, where the Point St. Charles manufactures propellers of Hamilton Standard design for use on Harvard’s, as well as undercarriages and other hydraulic units for use on the same aircraft.
At Fort William, the main effort is directed towards the manufacture of Harvard 4 aircraft and spares, the current production being to fill a USAF order for 263. An earlier order from the RCAF for approximately 200 aircraft has been completed. The spares work, which reaches a considerable volume, goes mainly to the RCAF, the USAF and—to a lesser extent—overseas.
Under the present schedule, Harvard production will continue until February, 1954. Recently, Canadian Car received a contract for the manufacture of Beech T-34 trainers for the USAF. Preliminary work is already underway on this contract, and first production is scheduled for April of next year.
The plant in which this activity is going on comprises a number of buildings, the largest of these being a three-bay main assembly building, the largest of these being of 216,000 square feet and a prefabricating building of 112,000 square feet. In all, the plant has a total available space, including office buildings, of 662,000 square feet. Besides these facilities, Canadian Car owns two hangars at the Municipal Airport, which is approximately 1½ miles by road from the main plant.
The plant is well supplied with modern metal working equipment, including a machine shop capable of producing both tooling and production machined parts. Other fabricating equipment includes a group of drop hammers, punch presses, spot welders, hydraulic presses, plus the sheet metal forming equipment such as brakes, shears, forming rolls, etc. The plant is also well equipped with metal-treating processes such as heat treating, cadmium plating, anodizing, etching, etc.
The plant in which the Aircraft Division is now located has a diversified history. Originally erected in 1917 for the purpose of manufacturing railroad cars and ships, it was shut down in 1925 for lack of work, remaining closed until 1937 when it was reopened for aircraft manufacturing on a limited scale. With the outbreak of World War II, an all-out aircraft production program was commenced and from 1937 until August, 1945, the plant produced 1,650 Hurricanes and 836 Curtiss Helldivers. The Helldiver contract was originally for 1,000 aircraft, but hostilities ceased before the order was completely filled. At the end of World War II, the plant was already in the process of converting to peacetime production of buses and trolley coaches, and it is still employed in the manufacture of these products alongside the aircraft project.
This article originally appeared in the March, 1953 edition of Aircraft and Airport magazine.