Nine nations had 11 branches that deployed 130 units employing a total of 2,493 Ventura aircraft that had been built by the Vega Aircraft Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed, in Burbank, California between July 1941 until May 1944.
In Canada we operated 286 Ventura's of all marks in 15 units of the RCAF plus one RAF OTU. That means more of this type were used by Canadians than Mitchells, Dakotas or even its stable-mate, the venerable Hudson.
Yet when questioned, even the most seasoned aircraft enthusiast will often give you a questioning look when asked to provide details of its service history and technical aspects.
This allocation to the zone of obscurity had noble beginnings in September of 1939 when Lockheed suggested to the British Purchasing Committee a military redesign of their popular Model 18. As the shortage of available aircraft eased over the next few years the only air force still seeing the viability of such a redesign was the RCAF. They made this known many times and eventually the prototype flew on July 31, 1941.
Deliveries began and the Ventura would eventually see operational service around the world in all theatres of the war. The final operational f lights would be done by the South African Air Force in 1960.
However, this robust aircraft was destined for revitalization in the post-war world.
With a boom in prosperity following the conflict, the business men of the period saw a real value at being able to move about the world to personally conduct transactions and bolster their private empires.
Naturally they wanted to travel in comfort and with speed and the surplus bombers that had been quickly converted for this purpose only just filled the void. What was mostly lacking was the comfort.
Enter Mr. D. Howard who, from humble beginnings on the ramp of the San Antonio airport, built some of the most famous business aircraft of the day from his self named company, Howard Aircraft.
Utilizing the speed and roominess of surplus Lockheed Venturas, which were readily available, Howard Aircraft created a line of products that fulfilled the needs of the businessmen with a personal touch. Each hand crafted to the customers needs, these aircraft would serve for many years as the hallmark of business travel with some still flying in this new millennium.
Most of these early aircraft came from Canada, some as direct purchase from the War Assets Administration. The majority came from the holdings of Spartan Aerial Surveys in Ottawa.
Spartan had recognized the advantages of the big Lockheed twin as an aerial photo platform. With the powerful R-2800 engines the crew could quickly climb to an optimum altitude of 20,000 feet and begin photo runs whenever the weather cleared enough for this work. Spartan bought many from the Canadian government who were reluctant to turn over all the information to them as the RCAF thought they might need this data later.
The Ventura Memorial Flights aircraft, CF-FAV, was one of the longest serving RCAF Ventura's.
Built in the Lockheed-Vega plant A-1 on May 6th 1943, serial number 5324 would be allocated to the RCAF as #2195 in June of that year.
All the aircraft on the line at that time were being procured by the U.S.Navy under contract Nao(s) 195 with Venturas being allocated to many of the worlds air forces.
In Canada, #34 OTU (RAF) at Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick operated the only Mk.I & II versions in the country at that time. From East Coast bases they we soon joined in the sky by GR.V (PV-1) Ventura's of RCAF Squadrons 113 (BR) Bomber Reconnaissance and 145 (BR).
On Canadas West Coast, Ventura's would grace 8 (BR), 115 (BR) and 149 (BR) Squadrons of the RCAF. Number 2195 served with 149 (BR) from its base at Pat Bay initially, then from Annette Island, Alaska and finally disbandment at Terrace, B.C.
Adjutant F/L Norm Adstedter would write in the squadron diary that bleak and rainy day in March 1944... "These magnificent Ventura's which have been the pride of the squadron, cared for by loving hands are now stripped of all offensive weapons and prepared for a long sleep...may it not be long before these beautiful birds hear the reveille of the trumpeter and once again be prepared for the fray, to face their rightful heritage."
How prophetic this would be for 2195. After a short period of storage in Vulcan, Alberta, it would be singled out as a candidate to serve the country once again.
Flown to the Avro Aircraft plant in Malton, Ontario, it was converted to a Bombing Gunnery Trainer and assigned to the #1Air Armament School (AAS) in Trenton.
Here it served as a gunnery trainer/aerial interdiction aircraft with RCAF Mustangs and the first Vampires in service until 1951 when it became available for disposal.
Spartan Aerial Surveys of Ottawa quickly bought the Ventura and placed it into service on photo contracts in Canadas Arctic. It was performing this duty when it came to rest on the Tundra north of Yellowknife on August 14th, 1953.
Here the aircraft sat, now registered CF-FAV, watching a endless parade of seasons for 34 years until I surveyed the site in 1987. History had not been kind and no information about the aircraft along with those that served on them all those years could be readily found.
Thus began the formation of the Ventura Memorial Flight Association, a group dedicated to the preserving of this history and the aircraft. The first order of business was to recover CF-FAV and it would be no small task.
As it had been sitting on Crown land all those years we went directly to the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, at that time the same as approaching the Premier of a Province.
However the Hon. John Parkers door was always open and he listened to our intentions with the aircraft. It took no time to win approval of the plan on behalf of the Government and the rescue wheels were set in motion.
Retired Lt.Gen Mark Dodd, then General Manager of NWT Air, approached Paddy ODonnell, Commanding Officer, Northern Region, for a helicopter to lift the Ventura from its home of so many years. A Chinook of 447 Tactical Helicopter Squadron was diverted on a southbound transit from Alert and a Tactical Air Movements team flown in from Calgary.
Rigging the Ventura for the lift was a challenge for the recovery crews but it made a good training exercise for all. Just before the Helicopter was to lift the old bomber, it malfunctioned and had to exit back to Yellowknife with the crew for repair.
The next day all was set as the web of the sling grew taut and the lifting capability of the twin rotors were put to the test.
Slowly the Ventura rose and with a final shaking of tundra from the bomb bay it rotated to face where it had come from in 1953 then swung around to where it was going in 1988 and never stopped pointing in that direction for the entire flight.
Ventura CF-FAV finally landed at the Yellowknife airport at 21:02 on June 18th, almost 35 years to the day it had started out.
Before the winter weather started, Paul Squires began the task of removing parts to lighten the airframe for the move farther south. Eventually the tail surfaces, wings, flaps and engines were crated and awaiting shipment via the NWT Air Hercules whereas the fuselage was rigged with a 5th wheel and towed down to the waterfront.
Here it was lifted onto an empty fuel barge and lashed to the deck. Out onto the half gale force winds of Great Slave Lake it was towed to Hay River and parked in the storage yards of NTCL.
Members of the Ventura Association now came North and retrieved the aircraft. Towing it at speeds of up to 70 mph, the group headed southbound to Edmonton and arrived there 3 days later.
It was October 1988 and the only Ventura was now safely stored having traveled by air, road and sea. Some time later a large double-wide, double-long former BCTAP hangar at Edmontons Downtown airport was negotiated from the City and this is where the Ventura sits now, safe from the elements and under long term restoration.