Saturday, 14 June 2014

Phase 2 - Individual Aircraft Profiles - 401

Labrador 401 in Red White and Blue Colours

CH-113 Labrador - Canadian H-46s for the Modeler 
– The Next Phase

And so begins the next phase of my blog, which as an avid modeler recently told me, while a very narrow focus the subject is none-the-less interesting. His observations and comments are in fact the reality for H-46, and variants aficionados and it just occurred to me that the focus might in some ways be getting even narrower while hopefully still having appeal to the less ardent H-46, KV-107 or Labrador/Voyageur fan.

The focus and intent of this phase of the blog will be to deal with individual airframes as they evolved from time of purchase to retirement. Essentially Labradors will be looked at individually while in red, white and blue livery wearing 400 series numbers. The second chapter will discuss Labradors still in red, white and blue, but renumbered with 300 series numbers. The third chapter will move into the era of yellow pre-SARCUP helicopters before finally moving on to the yellow SARCUP era.

Once discussions on Labradors are finished focus will shift to green “ARMY” Voyageurs wearing 400 series numbers, following which there will be some discussion of green Voyageurs with 300 series numbers. As Voyageurs were transferred to Air Force inventory to take up search and rescue duties, still wearing army green albeit with temporary SAR markings so too will the focus of the blog shift somewhat. As with the Labrador chapters, following transition from early liveries and numbering the blog topics will shift to pre-SARCUP yellow aircraft and finally the last chapter in this next phase will deal with SARCUP Voyageurs. That done, the blog will venture into the area of kits.

I must confess that I have used the words “discuss, discussed and discussion” somewhat gratuitously because in fact discussion will simply be statements on my observations of the above subjects based almost entirely on available pictures with a smattering of information about each airframe found on the Internet and in Patrick Martin’s books mixed in with my own personal recollections.

Like all CH-113 Labrador variants, 401 was a model 107-II-9 numbered 9301 at the time of construction. 401 Was TOS (taken on strength) by the Royal Canadian Air Force on September 24, 1963 as 10401 which was ferried to Canada as N6680D were it was received on 11 October 1963 at RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario, home to 102 (KU) Composite Unit.

In their book “Royal Canadian Air Force – Aircraft and Finish and Markings – 1947 to 1968”, Patrick Martin and John Griffin point out that 10401 is the only aircraft to be delivered with no white in the fuselage lighting stripe and as is obvious in the above photograph, fluorescent orange rotor pylons. Fluorescent orange markings were intended as an anti-collision measure. One of the interesting but obscure points Martin and Griffin make that most modelers may miss is that until May 22, 1964 all six rotor tips were yellow. After that date, the three aft rotor tips were painted red. In the photo above the roundels are co-located on the aft fuselage next to the last three serial numbers, which are clearly white in colour. On November 17, 1963, the roundels were relocated to the tanks. It was not until February 26, 1965 that the fluorescent orange was changed to red.

My observations include, over and above antennae located on the nose, underbelly and on the sync shaft tunnel are that there is a fuel dump tube located on the outside and back end of the tanks, something that when this blog was started I was unsure about. The aircraft above also has grey seals around the starboard emergency exit windows and therefore in all probability grey seals around the left side emergency exit and door.  Most notable, however is the lack of engine inlet screens. Even subtler than the foregoing observations is the demarcation of the fluorescent orange and white paint on the very front of the aft rotor pylon. It is difficult to say with any certainty whether or not the picture below is equipped with SARAH aft of the cockpit… if it does not have SARAH the picture would likely have been taken earlier than the picture above. Finally yet significantly is the lack of any fuel tank/sponson braces on the 401 in either the picture above or below.

While it may be hard to say which picture was taken first, it is my assertion that the above photo was taken earlier than the first, based only on the strength of it not having a SARAH antenna and that it lacks a Red Ensign on the aft pylon even though the second picture shows 401 with a better (read newer) paint job. Either way, note the crispness of the Royal Canadian Air Force titles compared with the picture preceding it, the location of the roundel and numbers in three locations (pylon, fuselage and nose). As for subtle points, note the narrow black exhaust strip and the nearness of the front edge of the black strip to the front of the exhaust and of course the even or consistent shape of the leading edge of the black exhaust strip. Again we can see that there are still no tank/sponson braces. In the above photo we can also see that the last three serials have been placed just below the pilot’s cockpit glass door.

The first thing one sees when looking at the above photo of 401 is the inclusion of the Central Experimentation and Proving Establishment (CEPE) crest on the tank. The CEPE bear crest is on both tanks. The side profile gives the modeler a decent look at the antenna placement as the aircraft enters RCAF service. You can also see the placement of the HF antenna starting just above the forward part of the lightning stripe and ending slightly higher up the side of the fuselage and a few inches aft of the engine inlet, which now have FOD (foreign object damage) screens installed to protect the engines from ice and ground debris when landing away from unprepared landing zones, common to the SAR role. Still looking at the rear of the aircraft, note that the opening in the aft pylon is trimmed in silver. The above picture gives a good view of the landing gear, which shows the nose gear wheel to be white or aluminium even though it was not until March 10, 1970 that official drawings were amended to include aluminium wheels and blue struts. The last few observations are that 401 has a SARAH antennae fitted aft of the cockpit greenhouse, the left side fuel dump is clearly visible on the fuel tank/sponson and finally as suggested above, the left side emergency window exit does indeed have a grey seal… however the emergency door exit does not. Different from the previous pictures is the addition of a single tank/sponson brace. The brace does not appear to have a fairing. While the second photo shows the last three serials on the nose, a chronologically accurate photo (the third in this series) shows the numbers off again.

No new info in the above picture, but a reaffirmation of some of earlier comments. The picture gives us a bit of a look at the left side pitot tube located just above and behind the pilot’s glass emergency door. Like the previous picture we can clearly see the three left side static discharge ports. In the previous picture we get a better indication of where the static discharge ports are in relation to the fluorescent orange “R” in RESCUE. Other than the location of the various antennae including SARAH, note the pattern of black exhaust on aft fuselage and for this particular aircraft the peeled paint in and around the forward rotor pylon. Again note the demarcation between the white area around the engine inlets and the fluorescent red paint on the aft rotor pylon. The still single tank brace does still not have a fairing and is barely discernible over the roundel even when the picture is enlarged. Once again, the last three serials are not in place on the nose and the aircraft has to this point retained the fuel dump tubes as installed by Boeing Vertol.

The cover picture for the January/February 1964 edition of Roundel magazine (the Royal Canadian Air Force magazine of the day) offers next to nothing new other than the CEPE official crest aft of the front Dutch door and ahead of the first cabin window. One other thing to note is that the front nose wheel appears to be blue, or at least it is not white or aluminium. It is possible that the left wheel has an aluminium rim whereas the right side wheel has a blue rim? There also appears to be no mirrors at this point.

A few things to note in the picture above, including the change from the Red Ensign to the Canadian flag…the Red Ensign is thought to have remained on some aircraft until 1965. Moving down from the flag we can see that the black exhaust strip covers a larger area, as the white area below the original exhaust strip is now also black. The engine inlet area is black, but I am confident this is a temporary maintenance related state. While the last three white serials remain on the aft fuselage. The roundel, which in this picture has a small maple leaf, is now located on the tank. As previously noted, the roundel was officially moved to the tanks 17 November 1963. It is clear now that the tanks have two sponson braces with fairings. The emergency door seals are blue and finally the door handles on the Dutch door and cockpit glass doors are red with a silver lock. It is difficult to say, but it appears, if you know where to look and at what to look at, the aircraft now has mirrors and that the mirrors are blue. The last three serials are once again on the forward portion of the fuselage.

Still wearing Royal Canadian Air Force titles, 401 has the small leaf on the tank mounted roundel… the last three white serials are on the aft fuselage just above one of the drain vent covers, which we have not previously in any of the presented pictures. The black exhaust area leading edge is straight and goes the full width from the bottom of the red aft rotor pylon to the lightning stripe and we can clearly see the two tank braces with fairings. We can also see in this photo that 401 has the new style dump tubes at the extreme aft end of the tanks/sponsons and that the helo has mirrors on the nose so the pilots can view them through the chin blisters. With the Dutch door open we get a peek into the cabin area at the black and yellow barber poled Swedish boom. Slightly ahead of the Dutch door is the SARAH antenna. Looking at the aft end of the airframe, we can see that 401 has the original tail without the APU. This the first photo that shows the white portion of the aft rotor pylon as being red instead of having the white at the front end.

Like the picture before it, the above photo has 401 still displaying Royal Canadian Air Force titles and the small maple leaf in the tank-mounted roundel. Unlike any of the previous photos, particularly the coloured ones red circles are clearly noticeable around the filler cap on the tanks and around the SAS static discharge ports on the nose. The nose mounted antennal can be seen as can the side mounted HF antenna above the lightning stripe and the SARAH antenna. You should also be able to see the third pitot tube mounted, in the white, above and slightly aft of the pilot’s cockpit glass. Blue mirrors and the two tank braces are also visible in the above picture. New is the black area at the front of the aft rotor pylon clamshell doors. The black exhaust area still has a straight leading edge. As we have come to expect at this stage of its brief service life, 401 has white last three serials on both the aft fuselage and the nose.  Also noticeable is that 401 still has the original Lab tail, engine inlet screens and new style dump tubes. The opening on the aft pylon behind the Canada flag does not have the silver edge and finally the emergency exit seals and wheels like the mirrors are all blue.

While a nice picture, I can see nothing new in the above picture.

The picture below is taken at Arnprior, Ontario, Boeing Vertol’s Canadian overhaul and repair facility. It is difficult to say when the picture was taken as the aircraft is still wearing Royal Canadian Air Force titles, which remained until approximately April 4, 1968. The picture also gives one a reasonable look at the nose-mounted antennae. Given all of the indicators it is likely 401 is at Arnprior for a scheduled overhaul and not for repairs because of damage. We do know that 401 incurred fire damage on 22nd of July 1969 and that it was likely repaired at Arnprior before being returned to service. It is almost a certainty the fire occurred after the picture below was taken as we have already indicated 401 is still wearing Royal Canadian Air Force titles when we know that titles changed to the Canadian Armed Forces asymmetrical titles in April of 1968, a year and a bit before the fire.

On April 4th of the 1968, the Royal Canadian Air Force titles were removed and replaced with Canadian Armed Forces titles. The asymmetrical titles had Canadian Armed Forces on the port side and the French version “Forces Armee Canadienne” on the starboard side. Later in 1968 a squadron crest was added to the left side of the fuselage, which will help us approximate the date of some photos.

  • March 10, 1970 Fluorescent  RESCUE/SAUVETAGE titles
  • May 5, 1970 Fluorescent RESCUE/RESCUE titles
  • August 4, 1971 last three serials changed back to white from black

On 22 July 1969 401 suffered a major fire. The aircraft was sent to Arnprior, repaired and eventually returned to service. Close attention to pictures taken after the above photo of repairs being made at Arnprior should show 401 with a APUless Voyageur tail or more accurately a former USMC tail. The Marine Corps removed tails from their early model H-46s as they were separating on hard landings during combat action in the Vietnam War. Their machines returned to service with beefed up tails while some of the discarded tails were used for repairs of damaged aircraft from at least Canada, but presumably for other countries as well.

For a few months in 1970 (May to November) the fluorescent RESCUE on the starboard side was replaced with SAUVETAGE before reverting to RESCUE. In August of 1971, and again, for a short time the last three serials were changed from white to black and then back to white. The photo of 401 shows the last three serials as black suggesting the photo was taken in mid to late 1971.

Other than the change to asymmetrical titles and black serials, the most notable thing to me is the inclusion of white “hash marks” around the emergency exits.

19 November 1971 (Have also seen this date as 1 Dec 71) CAF Renumbered to 11301.

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