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The Great Air "Migration" of 1946

Excerpted from Intercept—But Don’t Shoot [1] by Renato Vesco.

Among the fragmentary news stories that reported the trans-fer by the Canadian government of the Turbo-Research Ltd. plants to the Hawker Siddeley Group there were several that referred to the imminence of other radical changes in the local aircraft industry, which because of war production needs had grown quite large, especially in the eastern part of the country, over the preceding five years.

Plans were laid for a sort of gigantic “migration” to the western area of the Dominion, with the formation of research, testing and production centers—centering on the urban area of Vancouver—for new types of planes and engines that would be “Canadian designed and Canadian built” and for the local production of “special fuels.” The whole thing was to be ac-complished in record time.

The greatest impulse toward this development, which was rapidly brought to a conclusion, came in the spring of 1946, when Professor B. S, Shenstone—described by the technical journals as a “Canadian scientist with a brilliant scientific background” and an expert in, among other things, problems dealing with the control of the boundary layer—was named general manager and technical assistant to vice-president W. N. Deisher of Avro-Canada. Previously he had been an assistant director in the Ministry of Aircraft Production’s office in charge of the development of projects relating to postwar air trans-port.7

But we had an authoritative indication of what was develop-ing in Canada in the fall of 1945, when a brilliant aeronautical future was openly being predicted in England for its overseas dominion. For example, The Aeroplane wrote: “The recent purchase [July 1] of the Victory Aircraft,Ltd., plant at Malton, Ontario, which is at present engaged in the production of the Lincoln bomber, by the Hawker-Siddeley Co., might mean that Canada will become the British Empire’s aircraft production centre within the next ten years.”8

At the beginning of 1946 the British group also took over the plants of Turbo-Research of Leavside and put them under the administration of its Gas Turbine Division in Malton. Turbo-Research was a government body created in 1944 on the model of the British Power Jets for the study of local problems of jet propulsion. It had an experimental station in Winnipeg.

Foreign aeronautical circles were considerably surprised by all this activity. True, the aeronautical industry was in a state of economic crisis. But the crisis certainly could not be overcome by selling a factory that promised to be highly productive and an experimental center that still had something new to contribute to jet propulsion, which, it should not be forgotten, was then taking its first steps.

It was thought that if the Canadian government had decided that it was a good idea to get rid of the factory and experimental center, perhaps that meant that Canada intended to concentrate its money and energies in some other direction.
When the UFOs appeared over Canada, the country’s first crisis in the aviation industry had been laboriously overcome.