Major and minor revisions: October 15-27, 2019
Airstrips in New Brunswick
Five airfields were constructed between September and December 1952. With Budworm City, this made six bases for operations in the spring of 1953.
Main fields: Nictau (farm buildings purchased with the field were renovated), Boston Brook, Budworm City (constructed in 1952)
Remote fields: Horne’s Gulch (a portable camp for 50 men built by Fraser Companies Ltd.), Rose Hill (a portable camp constructed by Bathurst Power and Paper Company Ltd.), Charlo (owned and operated by FPL).
Among the seven Chief Pilots were Abe Sellards at Nictau and Herb Henderson at Budworm City. Chief pilots co-ordinate and motivate the spray pilots. They fly radio-equipped Stinson monoplanes and do not spray themselves. Stearmans do not have radios.
Nictau Airstrip Gallery
Boston Brook Airstrip Gallery
Budworm City Airstrip
9 Stinson 108’s – 1 owned by FPL, the rest leased, for observation
– 47 Central Aviation, Yakima, Washington (labelled CENTRAL)
– 5 Farm-Air Company, West Sacramento, California
– 4 Marsh Aviation Co. Inc., Mesa, AZ
– 1 Medford Air Services, Medford, Oregon
– 2 Ueding Air Service, Vincennes, Indiana
– 2 Bradley Air Services, Carp, near Ottawa, Ontario (Russell L. Bradley)
– 4 Leavens Bros. Air Services, Essex (Toronto), Ontario
– 5 Skyway Air Services, Langley, British Columbia
– 7 Wheeler Airlines Ltd., St. Jovite, Quebec (prime contractor)
GALLERY: Helicopters 1953
This Royal Canadian Navy Sikorsky S-51 Helicopter stood by at the Chatham R.C.A.F. base during spraying operations in the event that rescue operations were needed.
Season: May 26th to June 30th, 1953
Operation Budworm – 1953: The 1952 program was deemed a success, so it was decided that a second battle would be undertaken in 1953. Meetings were held by officials of the New Brunswick government and representatives of the four major paper companies holding timber limits in the area. These were Bathurst Power and Paper Co. Ltd., Fraser Companies Ltd., Irving Pulp and Paper Co. and New Brunswick International Paper Co. These talks resulted shared funding and in the formation of a non-profit corporation, Forest Protection Limited, with Vernon Johnson of N.B.I.P. as President.
Insecticide and distribution: 1,100,000 gallons of Technical DDT dissolved in oil (Picco Hi-Solv #473), one pound to one U.S. gallon (or about 12.5% solution by weight) were purchased from Natural Products Limited, agents for Kolker Chemical Co. Limited of Newark, New Jersey. This was delivered in tank cars to the railhead at Dalhousie, N.B., December to March. Sixty percent of the DDT was drummed by FPL and the remainder was kept in bulk. At the three main fields, DDT was stored in 10,000-gallon tanks. At the three remote fields, tank storage for one day’s operations was provided and transfer was made from drums to storage during the spraying operations. “Almost 1,100,000 gallons of insecticide were sprayed over approximately 1,800,000 acres of forest, almost one-quarter of which received a second application.”
“The technique used this year … resulted in a great reduction in the cost of a single application.”
Contractors and subcontractors: Al Baxter of Central Aircraft was charged with providing “a fleet of fifty-five Stearman aircraft, and to sub-contract for another twenty from Canadian operators”, subject to approval from the Air Transport Board. However, Canadian operators objected, and, together with questions concerning Baxter’s financial dealings, in a compromise move, Tom Wheeler’s Wheeler Airlines Ltd. of St. Jovite, Quebec, was named prime contractor in place of Central, which would still supply 57 aircraft. Of the 57 Stearmans, only 22 were their own (out of 29 total aircraft), the rest were leased from Arizona, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, and Idaho. [Memorandum of visit with Central Aircraft, Yakima, Washington, March 31 – April 2, 1953. FPL files] Actually, the American Stearmans came from Arizona, California, Indiana and Oregon. Wheeler supplied seven Stearmans and also subcontracted two from Bradley and four from Leavans Bros.
The other supplier of Stearmans was Skyway Air Services of Langley, British Columbia, under the ownership of Art Seller. Skyway supplied five Stearmans (two had been recently purchased from Tony Steinbock of Klamath Falls Air Service, Klamath Falls, Oregon). All of the aircraft will have aluminum covered fuselage. Mr. Seller stated that he would like to fly all his aircraft from the same field under the director of Johnny Anderson who was his senior pilot in 1952. Mr. Seller intended to pay his pilots 10 cents per gallon sprayed and hoped that Wheeler would not pay at a higher rate. [Memorandum of visit, April 4 1953, with Mr. Art Seller of Skyway Air Services, Langley Prairie, B.C. FPL files]
The Stearmans had a range of 200 miles, and were flown by dead reckoning and without radios. They gathered first at Fort Wayne, Indiana, flew next to Watertown, New York, and then to Dorval Airport (Montreal) in Quebec.
Operations: Forest Protection Limited set up headquarters in Campbellton, in northern New Brunswick, under the leadership of Barney Flieger. The HQ was linked by radio to eight observation aircraft, six operational airstrips, one vehicle and ten fire towers in the spray area. None of the Stearman sprayers were equipped with radios.
“1953 would be the first crack at spraying for most of the eighteen Canadian pilots recruited.” Thus, a school for spray pilots was held for two weeks in April at the Wheeler facilities in St. Jovite.
In 1953, all Stearmans flew in pairs at a separation distance of 250 feet. Some 8,000 sorties were flown during the 35-day operation. All were equipped with 450 h.p. Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engines.
“The spraying fleet began to arrive at New Brunswick airfields about May 20th. Calibration of aircraft was carried out within a week, and all aircraft were checked and ready for spraying by May 27th. Spraying began at the earliest field on May 26th and was completed at the latest field on June 30th.”
First aid crews were present at each field, and a doctor was employed full time during the operations. Fifteen mechanics kept the fleet flying. A helicopter stood by at the Chatham R.C.A.F. base in the event that a rescue was necessary.
There were six aircraft incidents: 4 accidents and 2 aircraft washed out; no pilots were hurt. See “The Missing Pilots” below.
Pilots earned over $1500 for the three-week season; many would leave immediately for the next job spraying cotton fields of the southern U.S. Dusting in the United States is described by Bart Halter in “Reflections of a Duster Pilot” in the book Stearman: A Pictorial History, Jim Avis and Martin Bowman, 1997 (see Books below). The only direct reference to the budworm spray program is the image of Central #15 and #16, which has an extensive caption. (The writer mistakenly indicates that the spray program took place “just a few miles from Nova Scotia”, however, it is much nearer to Quebec, which just north of the spray area.)
Biological operations: “The Forest Biology Division [of the federal Department of Agriculture] was a full partner in all the planning that was done in advance of the spraying operations and worked very closely with Forest Protection Ltd. during the spraying period. Staff at the Fredericton Laboratory handled the biological control phase of the program, were almost the first ones in the field and … conducted their own program of study during and after the spraying period.” According to the Bodsworh article in Maclean’s Magazine, there were 27 biologists, including six on loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Studies of development, population trends and defoliation were made on the Upsalquitch, Charlo and Tobique watersheds under the direction of Frank E. Webb. There is no evidence of decline in the New Brunswick population, and the several infested areas approximately doubled in 1953 (Balch, Webb and Morris 1954).
The average distance between flight lines was doubled to 250 feet to give half the dosage per acre. This permitted more rapid coverage to check budworm feeding before the new foliage was destroyed.
Partial Cast of Characters
R.E. (Reg) Balch, Director of the Dominion Entomological Laboratory in Fredericton
Frank E. Webb, appointed from the Fredericton laboratory to take charge of the biological surveys, timing of application and assessment of results
Ken R. Elliott, seconded in 1952 and again in 1953 from the Sault Ste. Marie office of the Dept. of Agriculture to be the liaison officer for spray technology and deposit assessment. He conducted the calibration studies, which are detailed in the missing Calibration Report.
New Brunswick International Paper Company (N.B.I.P.):
Vernon E. Johnson, President of New Brunswick International Paper Company (N.B.I.P.)
Barney W. Flieger, N.B.I.P.’s Forest Advisor, director of Operation Budworm 1953, and a former professor of forest engineering at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton
B.A. (Bev) McDougall, assistant to Barney Flieger
Abe Sellards, Chief Pilot (a boyish 25-year-old from Arizona)
Bob Thompson, control tower
Ed Batchelor, Langley, B.C., a slight former R.A.F. pilot
Greg Quaadman, pilot from California
Harry Talbot, traffic control officer from Montreal
Herb Henderson, Chief Pilot, from Yakima, Washington
Ron Wells, pilot from B.C.
Sandy MacDonald, pilot from B.C.
Edwin J. “Mac” McGlothin, owner/operator of Farm-Air Company (California) [See “Mac” McGlothin below.]
After the season: “In the fall of 1953 the scientists recommended the spraying of a little over a million acres in New Brunswick the following spring, with the Miramichi region to the southeast the principal target. This called for the building of two new airstrips — at Renous and Sevogle”, further south than the northern Upsalquitch. The Renous airstrip was constructed by Ashley A. Colter’s Diamond Construction Company. At the time there was no road into this remote area of New Brunswick, so a 64 km road had to be built by FPL using heavy equipment.
Image collections from two Montreal photographers, and publications – Forest Protection Limited files
The Black Album, Part 1
▪ Dwight Dolan, Nictau, June 7-13, 1953. Images scanned from printed contact sheets containing image sizes of 35 mm, 2¼ inch square and 4 x 4½ inches and rolls of 35mm film. Album title and photo stamp below. Dolan worked from the Nictau and Boston Brook airstrips.
The Black Album, Part 2
▪ Richard Arless and Associates, Nictau, May 27 – June 2, 1953. Images scanned from 8 x 10 inch printed contact sheets containing images of sizes 3¾ x 4¾ and 2⅔ x 2¼ inches. One sheet was labelled Patapedia on the back, but that airstrip did not become active until 1954, so it is placed there. Album title and photo stamp below; the latter indicates that this is job #7140. Arless worked mostly from the Nictau airstrip.
▪ “Mac” McGlothin, Boston Brook airstrip. There are some colour images from Boston Brook airstrip by the pilot/owner of Farm-Air Company “Mac” McGlothin that are from 1953. His company is based in West Sacramento, California. More information below.
1953 spray program publications
▪ Dwight Dolan, Montreal, Quebec, for the article “Lutte contra un fléau de la fôret” [Fight against the scourge of the forest], La Patrie [The Homeland], August 16, 1953 [FPL files].
▪ Richard Arless Associates, Montreal, Quebec, for the article “The Worm That’s Wrecking Our Forests”, by Fred Bodsworth, MacLean’s Magazine, September 1, 1953.
▪ Another article, “Battle of the Budworm”, by Virginia Irwin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Missouri], August 16, 1953, also contains images, but the photographers are not credited, although they are possibly Arless and Dolan.
Stearman: A Pictorial History, Jim Avis and Martin Bowman, 1997, Motorbooks International, Chapter 4 (page 82-102), “Reflections of a Duster Pilot” [Bart Halter]. An image on page 88 shows #15 and #16 at a strip in New Brunswick, presumably 1953, but location not known. See below for image.
B.W. Flieger. 1953. Spruce Budworm Spraying Project in New Brunswick, 1953. Bi-monthly Progress Report, Vol 9, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1953), p. 1-2. Science Service – Forest Biology Division, Department of Agriculture. [Available as ]
R.E. Balch, F.E. Webb and R.F. Morris. 1954. Results of spraying against spruce budworm in New Brunswick. Bi-monthly Progress Report, Vol 10, No. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1954), p. 1-2. Science Service – Forest Biology Division, Department of Agriculture.
Elliott, K.R. 1953. Rate of flow calibration and spray dispersal tests for the 1953 forest spraying program in northern New Brunswick. Canada Department of Agriculture, Forest Bill. Division, Ottawa.
This calibration report by Ken Elliott, like the one from 1952, probably contains an official list of the spray aircraft. If anyone has or can point me to a copy of this article, please contact me!!!
“Battle of the Budworm”, by Virginia Irwin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Missouri], August 16, 1953
A page from “The Worm That’s Wrecking Our Forests”, by Fred Bodsworth, MacLean’s Magazine, September 1, 1953
Gallery: “Lutte contra un fléau de la fôret” [Fight against the scourge of the forest], La Patrie [The Homeland], August 16, 1953
Stearmans in New Brunswick – 1953: Tables and Galleries
The 77 Stearmans that worked in New Brunswick in 1953 are divided up into three categories:
1) Central – Table 1 – Galleries 1, 2, 3
2) Other US – Table 2 – Gallery 4
3) Canada – Table 3 – Gallery 5
There are significant gaps in the numbering scheme, which is a result of a lack of photos (e.g., #22 and #27). Larger gaps are probably the result of numbers not being assigned because a logical series has ended (e.g., Central aircraft numbers end at #57 and the Wheeler aircraft numbers start at #61). This becomes a common practice throughout the budworm spray projects over the years.
Table 1 – Central Aviation Stearmans in New Brunswick in 1953. All of these were labelled CENTRAL in large letters. Numbered 1 to 57 but not all numbers were used. [Revised]
- Two Central Stearmans changed numbers from 1952 to 1953, N1310N was #6 in 1952 and #26 in 1953 and N49292 was #17 in 1952 and #46 in 1953.
- Two different Central Stearmans have the same number in both years: N58680 was #15 in 1952 (confirmed) and N1308N was #15 in 1953, based on the Avis and Bowman image (not confirmed).
|Tail #||Reg’n.||Location||1953 Image||Comments|
|1||N4747N||?||Y||Present in 1952|
|2||N55258*||?||Y||*Invalid registration, present in 1952|
|3||N57173||?||Y||Present in 1952|
|4||N1194N||?||Y||Present in 1952|
|5||N68441||?||Y||Present in 1952|
|6||Nxxxxx||Nictau||Y||Has a “6” on the fuselage below the upper wing; no view of tail|
|7||N57315||Nictau||Y||Present in 1952|
|8||N1262N||?||N||Colour image from 1953? Present in 1952|
|9||N57049||N||Not present in 1952|
|10||N1054N||?||N||Aluminum colour, yellow tail, but year is not confirmed. Present in 1952.|
|11||N56464||N||Present in 1952|
|12||N1312N||N||Present in 1952|
|13||N5155N||?||Y?||Present only in 1953? Circular logo above N-number, angry cat below.|
|14||N4769V||N||Present in 1952|
|15||N1308N||?||Y||From Stearman: A Pictorial History: An image on page 88 shows #15 and #16 at a strip in New Brunswick. Neither present in 1952.|
|17||N49292||Nictau||Y||Present in 1952|
|18||N1723B||Budworm City, Nictau||Y||1953 only|
|20||N4811V||Nictau||Y||All dark, with white lettering, numbers; wings and stabilizers seem paler. This is the only Central Stearman that is completely dark.|
|21||N1731B||Nictau||Y||Became Baxter #13|
|22||Nxxxxx||N||Only in 1953?|
|23||N75521||Nictau||Y||N-number not distinguishable from images|
|24||N62834||Nictau||Y||Dark tail, pale sides|
|25||N62955||Nictau||Y||Dark tail, pale sides. Flew again in 1955 (1954 also?)|
|26||N1310N||Nictau||Y||Flew as #6 in 1952|
|28||N49377||Nictau||Y||Dark front, pale sides and rudder (yellow?), paler stabilizers and wings, with dark stripe above company name. Did not spray again in New Brunswick.|
|34||N68461||Budworm City, Nictau||Y||These are the only two Central Stearmans that I know of with an anterior black stripe on the side, except for #28 above that has a dark stripe above the company name.|
|35||N68455||Budworm City, Nictau||Y|
|37||N62630||Boston Brook||Y||Aluminum sides, hint of a pale yellow tail|
|41||N4787V||Boston Brook||Y||#41: Yellow sides and tail, tail with black leading edges. #44: All pale, tail with black leading edges. One black-and-white image shows Central #41 and #44 parked together. Both appear to have the same design features and pattern.|
|42||Nxxxxx||Y?||In image with #41 and #44.|
|45||Nxxxxx||Boston Brook||Y||Pictured flying together with #52|
|46||Nxxxxx||Nictau||N||No info. Placed here to fill in missing number.|
|47||N59727||Budworm City, Nictau||Y||Dark tail area, vertical stabilizer and rudder, but pale horizontal stabilizers. #47 and are similar, #49 similar to #47 and #48 but no visible marks on vertical stabilizer, #50: “CALI-?” on top left wing.|
|49||Nxxxxx||Budworm City, Nictau||Y|
|51||N59258||Nictau||Y||Black nose, pale. Will be Farm-Air #117 in 1957|
GALLERY 1: Central Stearmans in 1953 Part 1: All dark (#20) and dark-tails (#24, #25, #47, #48, #49?, #50)
GALLERY 2: Central Stearmans in 1953, Part 2 (up to #30): #6? (the Central mystery Stearman), #7, #8, #13, #15, #16, #18, #19, #21, #23, #26, #28, #30 (also #20, #24, #57)
GALLERY 3: Central Stearmans in 1953, Part 3 (up to #57): #34, #35, #36, #37, #41, #43, #44, #45, #46, #51, #52, #57 (also #7, #49?, #68)
Table 2 – Other U.S. Stearmans in New Brunswick in 1953. None of these flew in NB in 1952, but some flew throughout the 1950s.
- The presence of the single Medford Stearman N58065 #100 is included based on a Richard Arless image from 1953 and a possible MacGlothin colour image.
- The Farm-Air aircraft here are numbered #121 to #125, but in later years were numbered #1 to #5; their presence in 1953 is not confirmed.
|Tail #||Reg’n.||Location||1953 Image||Comments|
|68||N9955H||Boston Brook||Y||Ueding Flying Service, Vincennes, Indiana. Dark blue aluminum body and vertical stabilizer, pale yellow wings and horizontal stabilizers, no company logo. Vertical N no. on tail.|
|69||N54945||Boston Brook||Y||Ueding Flying Service. Also flew as Ueding #20 in 1958. Grey body and wings, orange/red tail assembly and wingtips|
|86||N68162||Nictau?||Y||Marsh Aviation Co. Inc., Mesa, AZ. White body.
|87||N56383||Nictau?||Y||Marsh Aviation. White body, MARSH in caps on sides.
|88||N53025||Nictau||N||Marsh Aviation. No info.
|89||N56805||Nictau||Y||Marsh Aviation. White body, MARSH in caps on sides.
|100||N58065||Nictau||Y||Medford Air Services, Medford, Oregon. Became Simsbury #102 in 1955, #96 in 1957, 1958, 1966. Aluminum body, no company logo, dark vertical stabilizer, scrapes on sides|
|121||N1065N||Boston Brook?||Y||Farm-Air Company, West Sacramento, Calif. All pale, with black leading edges on vertical stabilizer and wings, no company name on sides. Vertical N no. on tail. Also flew as Farm-Air #1 in 1955 and #121 in 1957, 1958.|
|122||N52068||Boston Brook?||N||Farm-Air Company. No info but probably coloured like others.|
|123||N53084||Boston Brook||Y||Farm-Air Company. Yellow, FARM-AIR on sides, black leading edges on vertical stabilizer and wings(?). Also flew as Farmer’s #3 in 1958.|
|125||N56938||Boston Brook?||Y||Farm-Air Company. All pale, large N-number on sides. N-number, large “125” on base of stabilizer. Also flew as Farm-Air #125 in 1955 and 1958.|
GALLERY 4: Other U.S. Stearmans, 1953: #68, #69, #100, #121, #123, #125
Table 3 – Some Canadian Stearmans in New Brunswick in 1953. Many of these worked the spray program up to and including 1958, with a few well into the 1960s and 1970s.
- Skyway Stearman CF-GAR was #22 in 1952 but is extrapolated to be #78 in 1953, in accordance with Skyway’s number scheme.
|Tail #||Reg’n.||Location||1953 Image||Comments|
|61||CF-EQS||Nictau||Y?||Wheeler Air Lines Ltd., St. Jovite, QU. Yellow?; black markings; WHEELER logo on side in black caps; black stripe along side.|
|62||CF-EQT||Nictau||N||Wheeler. Grey; black lettering, red wingtips; WHEELER logo on side in black caps; black stripe along side|
|63||CF-EQU||Nictau||N||Wheeler. No info.|
|64||CF-EQV||Nictau||Y?||Wheeler. Grey; black lettering, red wingtips; WHEELER logo on side in black caps; black stripe along side|
|65||CF-EQW||Nictau||Y?||Wheeler. Grey, red lettering and wingtips, “Wheeler” in red with cap W, rest lower case, red stripe on sides.|
|66||CF-EQX||Nictau||N||Wheeler. No info.|
|67||CF-EQY||Nictau||Y||Wheeler. Black markings; WHEELER logo on side in black caps, black stripe along side|
|73||CF-DQP||?||N, accid. card||Bradley Air Services Ltd. Carp, ON.|
|75||CF-FRY||?||N||Leavens Brothers Air Services Ltd., Essex, ON. Dark with white LEAVANS in caps on side.
|76||CF-FRW||?||N||Leavens. No info.
|77||CF-FRZ||?||N||Leavens. No info.|
|78||CF-GAR||?||N||Leavens. Flew in 1952 as #22. Dark with white horizontal stripes.|
|79||CF-DZT||?||N, accid. card||Bradley. 1953 only.|
|81||CF-DFC||?||N||Skyway Air Services Ltd., Langley, BC.|
|82||CF-DQL||?||N||Skyway. Flew in 1952.
|83||CF-FBU||?||N||Skyway. Flew in 1952.
|85||CF-FBV||?||Y||Skyway. Flew only in 1952 as #19 and in 1953 as #85.
GALLERY 5: Canadian Stearmans: #61, #67, #81, #85
Six incidents were reported: four accidents and two aircraft washed out. No pilots were injured.
“Mac” was “one of the first American pilots that flew the Stearman from the United States to New Brunswick. He retells the story:
“In 1953, I flew the first of many trips to N.B. in a Stearman. It had an open cockpit and turned out to be a great adventure. Most of us had previous experience in flying budworm control in the U.S.A., so the actual job was not that much of a change. We were all professional agricultural pilots. We had subcontracted with Central Aviation of Yakima, Washington, and supplied 4 airplanes for the project.” [Likely Farm-Air Company, West Sacramento, California] “The big event was flying 35 hours in an open cockpit from the West Coast to N.B. We were amazed at the remoteness and primitive conditions but soon found out, living in the bush was great…” [Seto, unpublished report to FPL]
The Missing Pilots
The first mishap of the season came on June 6. “A pair of pilots, flying out of Budworm City, failed to find their way back to the field on the last flight of the evening. The Stearmans had no radio communication.
“Tension rose at Budworm City … The other five airfields were alerted by radio to light up their fields with barrels of blazing oil. Budworm City chief pilot Herb Henderson, wearing cowboy boots and chewing on the but end of a dead cigar, climbed into a Stinson and circled high above the Budworm City field, with lights glowing, in the hope that he might be seen and act as a beacon for the lost pilots.
“One pilot, Ron Wells of Chilliwack, B.C., was lucky. As he circled in the dusk looking for a landmark, he was spotted from the ground by Alphonse Guimond, paymaster for Fraser Companies Limited at St. Quentin, who had the presence of mind to direct passing cars to illuminate his father’s pasture with their headlights. Wells landed in the pasture without mishap. His partner, Sandy MacDonald of Vancouver, was not so fortunate. Low on fuel, he made an approach to a field near Robinsonville in the dark, hit a fence, and flipped over, with damage to his aircraft but not to himself.
“There was great relief when the two missing pilots turned up safe and sound. Recalls Barney Flieger: “I was afraid both had been killed in a collision and I was hopscotching around when I found out they were okay.””