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Bushplane unveils ‘incredible’ model of famous flying H-Boat

'We have been blessed': Last night's introduction of a quarter-scale model of the Curtiss HS-2L flying boat part of 100th anniversary celebrations of Ontario Provincial Air Service

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Ontario Provincial Air Service.

As part of celebrations, the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre officially introduced a quarter-scale model of the famous Curtiss HS-2L flying boat — known affectionately as the ‘H-Boat’ — to a group of aviation enthusiasts gathered at the Bushplane Museum last night.

The Curtiss HS-2L was a single-engined flying boat built for the United States Navy and used for anti-submarine patrols in the First World War.

“When the Americans were using H-Boats to protect the eastern seaboard of America they had bases from Panama all the way up to two bases in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia," said Pierre Verhelst, a retired aviation industry employee, historian and Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre founding member and volunteer.

"They were American-run naval bases where they had 12 H-Boats. When the Armistice got signed in 1918 they left town and left the 12 planes there. They turned them over to the Canadian government."

The Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS) used the H-Boats for forest fire surveillance, a small degree of fire suppression and aerial surveys of the province’s forests until they were declared obsolete in the early 1930s.

“I think the model is great," Verhelst said. "The detail is incredible."

The quarter-scale model, built by Jean-Philippe Morin of Quebec, took 2,200 hours to put together.

It was sold and delivered to the Bushplane Museum in May.

The intricately detailed model has a wingspan of 18 feet, 9 inches and measures 9 feet 7 inches in length and four feet in height and now hangs from the Bushplane Museum’s ceiling for visitors to view.

The Curtiss HS-2L was the forerunner of the modern bushplane.

The Ontario Provincial Air Service was the forerunner of today’s Aviation, Forest Fires and Emergency Services within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

“It’s my pleasure to officially welcome this new model of the Curtiss HS-2L flying boat,” said Jamie Hilsinger, Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre executive director.

“It wasn’t exactly the most comfortable or most luxurious plane but it did permit the early pilots, engineers and air crew of the Ontario Provincial Air Service to map northern Ontario from the air which eventually led to natural resource management and practices and aerial forest fire management.”

“I think it completes the story. We have been blessed with incredible aircraft,” Hilsinger told Douglasfosterbooks.

“The H-Boat is one piece that was missing. It was the first part of the Ontario Provincial Air Service story so I think this completes the whole OPAS 100th anniversary story. It’s not really a bushplane but it marked the start of the bushplane era.”

Interpretation of the new H-boat model is also featured in the Ontario Provincial Air Service 100th Anniversary Hangar Tour on the Bushplane Museum’s Smartphone App and is available in multiple languages.

Thursday’s model presentation is one of several events the Bushplane Museum has in store for OPAS 100th anniversary celebrations.

“We have a reunion celebration on September 18th and 19th. On the 20th there will be a VIP special event that we haven't been able to announce yet, so that’s kind of a teaser,” Hilsinger said.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of past employees. We have a volunteer who was a child on one of the OPAS bases, so on one of our days of programming for that event she’s going to have a ‘Kids of the Ontario Provincial Air Service’ booth where she’s going to be able to talk about her experiences. I think there are a lot of people interested. It’s a great piece of history for the province, for Canada. I think there’s a lot to learn and tonight’s a great example of how many great stories you can hear.”

Information on OPAS 100th anniversary events can be found here and on the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre’s website.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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