The Fleet “Canuck” has a rich Canadian aviation heritage. In the mid-1940’s, Canadian aircraft designer J.O. (Bob) Noury created the Noury “Noranda” in his Stoney Creek, Ontario factory. The concept aircraft, CF-BYX-X, had wooden wing spars and ribs, was powered by a Continental A75 engine and had unique side-by-side seating.
In 1945 Noury sold CF-BYX-X and the complete design for the aircraft to the Fleet Aircraft Company Ltd. of Canada, located in Fort Erie, Ontario. Fleet was already an important part of the Canadian aero-industry, for they were the manufacturers of RCAF training aircraft such as the Fort, Finch, Fawn and Cornell.
Fleet made some changes to Noury’s original design including using metal spars and ribs for the basis of a fabric-covered wing. Minor changes were also made to the fin and rudder, but the fuselage construction of welded steel tubing with fabric covering remained the same. The engine was also upgraded to a Continental 85 H.P. engine. With the modifications and certification completed by early 1946, the Fleet “Canuck” Model 80 was born. The original prototype, CF-BYW-X, was now ready for production.
The target market for this two-seater aircraft was flying clubs, training facilities and private owners. In 1946, the factory price was $3,869.25 with an additional $247.63 in taxes. A single 3-person aircraft (CF-FAL-X), called the Model 81, was also developed but never made it to production.
Like other manufacturers (including Piper and Cessna) developing small aircraft for a post-WWII boom, Fleet over-estimated the market and ran into financial problems. At the time Fleet stopped manufacturing the Canuck in 1948, 200 were made. The remaining parts and airframes were sold to the Leavens Bros. of Toronto, who built and additional 25.
During the 1940’s to 1970’s, large training schools and flying clubs, including Central Airways (Toronto Island) and the Edmonton Flying Club, taught a complete generation of pilots on the Model 80. When talking to pilots today you will find that many of them fondly remember their initial training in a Canuck.
As of 2005, there are about 80 Fleet Canucks still active throughout Canada. Many are still flown on skis and floats; something they were originally designed for. Approximately 10 are in museums, with the original prototype CF-BYW-X kept at the Reynolds Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin – and is still flown regularly.
Each Canuck is unique and has a colourful background. For example, CF-DQM has an important place in Canuck history. A company in Quebec bought CF-DQM in the early-1990’s with the purpose of using it to develop a complete set of blueprints and to begin manufacturing Canucks once again. Unfortunately this never happened. During a four-year period, CF-DQM was totally rebuilt and restored. In addition, several enhancements were added including a Continental O-200A 100 H.P. engine, more modern instruments, electronics and radios, and lights for night flying. Since it’s re-certification in 1996, it has brought the joy of flying a Canadian heritage “taildragger” aircraft to many new owners and pilots. In 2007 CF-DQM was taken to New Zealand (in a shipping container) to be the first and only Canuck to fly in Australasia. It flew all over New Zealand exploring the fantastic countryside. In 2010 it returned to Canada, where it was sold and the new owner had it re-skinned and returned to the original Canuck colours.