Monday, February 10, 2014

A-26 Tankers in Canada: Operators -- Air Spray (part 4 of 13)

Air Spray whose corporate offices are in Edmonton, Alberta was founded in 1967, see Air Spray's history page.  Air Spray's founder, Don Hamilton, started the company with one A-26 and a Cessna 310 (birddog) aircraft.  Air Spray acquired one A-26 that was converted for firefighting in 1970 and paired with a Cessna 310 Bird Dog aircraft. Air Spray eventually had 18 A-26 tankers flying them the A-26 into the 2000s. Air Spray finally retired all of their remaining A-26 tankers after the end of the 2004 fire season (see an article by Ruud Leeuw on his 2006 visit to Air Spray's maintenance hanger in Red Deer Alberta, scroll down a bit past some photos of a couple of Lockheed L188 Electras where he writes about Air Spray's A-26 Invaders). Before I go on, some of you will recall that the Douglas A-26 Invader went through a couple of changes in her designation, being designated the B-26 from 1948 through 1962, I write about the changes in her military designation here.

In the course of reading up on Air Spray, I came across a nice article from the November/December 2009 edition of Wings on Air Spray called Position Report: Vintage planes dousing flames (A position report on Air Spray) by Frederick K. Larkin. Wings is an aviation magazine focusing on Canadian aviation.  learned a little more about the history of Air Spray thanks to Larkin's article. That is, David Harrington started the company that was to become Air Spray in 1954, focusing on crop dusting before moving into aerial fire fighting in the early 1960s. If you are interested in this early period in Air Spray's history and find yourself in Edmonton, Alberta with some time on your hands, the Provincial Archives of Alberta Canada has what is known as a fond (documents) from Mary Harrington, David's wife. According to Larkin, the company Harrington founded became Air Spray Ltd. in 1967. Harrington acquired a Douglas B-26 in 1969 (recall that the B-26 was later redesignated the A-26). That is when Don Hamilton, who later became CEO of Air Spray entered the picture. Hamilton acquired a 50 percent interest in this B-26 that was converted to firefighting configuration in 1970. Sometime later, Hamilton acquired the remaining interest in Air Spray becoming the sole owner of Air Spray.

I had heard about the 2000 hanger fire at Air Spray's maintenance hangar In Red Deer as I was doing research for these articles. On October 16, 2000 a fire started in one of Air Spray's maintenance hangers in Red Deer when sparks from an electrical cord that was being unplugged ignited some fuel. The hanger went up in flames and six aircraft were destroyed, including four A-26 Invaders (For more information see a short description of this fire from the Aviation Safety Network.

In my next couple of articles I'll focus on three tankers, one from Conair (Tanker 28), and two from Air Spray (Tankers 31 and 36).

Updated on February 11, 2014: As sometimes happens when I write series like this people contact me with additional information which I do my best to incorporate into the series that I am working on. I'd like to thank one of my tanker pilot friends from Canada who sent me some more information about Air Spray last night, some of which I incorporated into this article, and another piece he sent me will be incorporated into an article later in this series. As sometimes happens when I write series like this people contact me with additional information which I do my best to incorporate into the series that I am working on.

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