BCATP aircraft – Stinson Model 105, Voyager

News Article / May 25, 2016

In 2016, the RCAF is commemorating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, one of the largest air training programs the world has ever seen. By the end of the Second World War, the BCATP had graduated 131,553 aircrew for the air forces of Canada, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand.

By Major Bill March

In 1940, the rapidly expanding British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) needed aircraft. Potential British sources had “dried up” due to the worsening strategic situation in Europe, and the Canadian aircraft industry was not able to meet the sudden demand. Therefore, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) turned to the United States and, despite American neutrality laws that forbade the selling of military equipment to belligerents, American aircraft companies were more than willing to sell their products. One such purchase was the Stinson Model 105 Voyager.

Also known as the HW-75, the Voyager was introduced in 1939 by the Stinson Aircraft Division Manufacturing Division, in Wayne, Michigan. Initially powered by a 90-horsepower Franklin engine, it was designed to compete in both light-commercial and private-ownership markets. Advertised as a three-seat aircraft, the third, a jump-seat, was located in the rear of the aircraft and was more suited to a small child than an adult. A welded steel-tube airframe was fabric-covered and the wings were primarily made of wood.

What made the aircraft stand out from its competitors was the inclusion of slotted flaps and leading-edge slots in the wings that gave the Voyager enhanced low-speed responsiveness and improved short take-off and landing performance. The Franklin engine gave it respectable performance with a cruise speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometres per hour); hence its designation as “Model 105”.

Between July and September 1940, the RCAF acquired 26 Voyagers for the princely sum of about $10,000 American dollars each, or almost $168,000, today. Purchased as commercial aircraft, each was assigned a Canadian civilian registration number and flown to Canada. Once on Canadian soil, the aircraft were transferred to the RCAF and assigned a military serial number. In this manner a Voyager aircraft with American registration NC21172 became a Canadian civil aircraft registered as CF-BSK before being taken on strength by the RCAF on 41 July 1940 with serial number 3465. And, according to American law, it was all strictly legal.

Within the RCAF, the Voyager was used for light-communication duties and wireless training. In the communication role, it was used at various stations to ferry senior officers around for official visits and as the “Station Hack” wherein aircrew in non-flying positions could take it up from time to time to stay proficient. As a training aircraft, it was employed by both No. 1 Wireless Training School, in Montreal, Quebec, and No. 3 Wireless Training School, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

With a service ceiling of just over 4,800 metres and an effective range of about 670 kilometres, it was a cheap, effective training aircraft. However, its one drawback was that it could only carry one instructor and one student at a time. As more and more wireless students made their way through the BCATP, the Voyagers were replaced with larger, more capable aircraft. Still, the Voyagers continued to be used by the RCAF until the end of the war, with the last of them being “struck off strength” in January 1946.

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