North Star

This model commemorating the North Stars' service with 426 Squadron sits below the Squadron Standard, Dishforth Building, Trenton.

The Douglas C-54 North Star was always planned for No 426 Squadron when it was reformed after the Second World War. However, the aircraft were still being built and newly redesigned, the Canadiar version making its first flight at Cartierville Airport on 15 Jul 46, and required testing and modifications before entering service, so the Dakota was used as a stop gap measure.

Thunderbird fitters finally get their hands on something other than a radial engine.

The first North Stars delivered to the Thunderbirds was throughout the spring of 1948. A low wing monoplane with full cantilever wing and tail surfaces, semi-mono-coupe fuselage and fully retractable tricycle landing gear. It could be configured to carry up to fifty-five passengers, bulk cargo or medical patients on thirty-two litters. The freight load limit was 18970 pounds. Its four engines were 1760 horsepower, 12 cylinder, liquid cooled, V-type 620/622 Rolls-Royce Merlins, fitted with two stage, two speed superchargers and Hamilton Standard Hydromatic three bladed, quick feathering propellers. Its normal cruising speed was 230 mph, its service ceiling was 36000 feet, and its maximum range was 3060 miles. This range allowed NS17512, piloted by F/O J.A. Jolicoeur (recently posted from 426 Squadron) and a fourteen man crew from the Experimental and Proving Establishment at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, to make the first Canadian coast-to-coast flight, 14-15 Jan 49, 2785 miles in eight hours and thirty-two minutes. A year later, F/O G.W. Webb and his Thunderbird crew used the same aircraft to shave seven minutes off the record.


Heavy lift operations was the Thunderbirds' bread and butter throughout the 1950's and the first half of the 1960's, ending with the North Star retiring from service, 8 Dec 65. (Operations of note will be featured in the Memorabilia section of this site.) A ceremony was carried out in No 10 Hanger at RCAF Station Trenton where the guests of honour were NS17508 and NS17515, the later of which had been the last North Star to fly domestic and overseas missions. After the retirement ceremony it was flown to RCAF Station Rockcliffe to join the National Aeronautical Collection. With the end of this era came a demobbing of No 426 Squadron; it was reformed in May 71 as a training establishment, and operates today out of 8 Wing, Trenton.

F/S E. Grose teaching North Star weight and balance, Trenton, 1955.

North Star retirement ceremony, Air Commodore R.J. Lane, AOC Transport Command bids farewell.