Tofino, BC

The Canso Crash of 1945

[Photo of Canso]
The Canso Crash of 1945 - Photo taken in 1991

What is it?

This aircraft is a Canso-A (PBY 5-A), built at the Canadian Vickers plant in Montreal, Quebec between Oct.'43-Jul.'44. It wears a serial number of 11007. Its present location is near the bottom of a hillside near the north boundary of Pacific Rim National Park, near Long Beach, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. It is very close to Radar Hill - the location is roughly 125 degrees 50 minutes West longitude and 49 degrees 5 minutes North latitude. It is about a 1/2 a Km. from the parking spot by the highway through the bush and swamp. The Canso probably belonged to #3 squadron of Western Air Command at Coal Harbour, or the seaplane base in Ucluelet. Cansos saw little to no action on maritime patrol on the West coast as the expected Japanese invasion never happened. It is understood that there were a few balloon bombs which were intercepted.

How did it get there?

The story goes that this A/C was sitting on the airfield at the nearby RCAF Tofino station, having returned from a patrol when V-J day came. in Aug.'45. During the celebrations, a mechanic got loaded, grabbed a bottle of whiskey and a nurse and hopped in the Canso. He gunned it down the runway and got airborne, and then it promptly ran out of fuel. The mechanic spent a frantic moment jettisoning the ordnance, then ran out of height and piled it into the hillside. There are a couple of craters leading up to the plane which were probably caused by jettisoning the depth charges or bombs. The one closest to it is about 50 meters away and about 6 meters across. It is not known if the pilot and passenger survived the impact, but the forward compartments are in bad shape so they could have been seriously injured. There is another report of a more or less complete Canso in the bush near Ucluelet but we have no other details at the moment.

What shape is it in?

Pretty bad up front, but the tail is in good shape. The aircraft hit the ground with its wheels down, judging from the damage to the gear. The initial impact crushed the forward part of the plane as far back as the Navigators compartment. The floor is still there, but the cockpit roof is totally gone. The Pratt & Whitney R-1830-82's are sitting on the ground, having been removed with a cutting torch. The tail sits high up off the forest floor. The interior has been stripped by area residents and visitors during the last 50 years and there is very little left. It is assumed that the military pulled the guns and radios out of the aircraft and left the rest to rot. Reports indicate that there was a lot of surplus equipment around in 1945 after the crash. It has been reported that visitors have found .303 ammunition, some of it live, dated 1943 around what remained of the front turret. The area around the plane is very thick with trees and undergrowth and it is difficult to back off enough to get a decent picture. People have taken axes to it and tipped logs onto it, and other assorted abuses. The photographer was standing beneath the starboard wing for this picture. Dimly visible at top center are the bomb/depth charge shackles. At far right is one of the radar antennas. The serial number can be dimly seen on the tail. This view looks downhill, to the south.

About the picture

Taken during the summer of 1991 by Paul Senior with a 35 mm camera. Photo scanned and manipulated by R Bartlett.

That may be how the story goes - but that story sounds like a plot for the next "Harrison Ford" movie. The actual details of this crash can be found in the following:

Click on the description text to view the photograph.
  1. Official Details of the Canso Crash of 1945 - 8 February 1945.
    Courtesy As Indicated.

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Updated: April 25, 2000