Big bird, little bird

My little radio controlled Labrador helicopters meets it’s full size cousin – or does it?

National Air Force Museum of Canada

The Boeing Vertol CH-113 Labrador was the Canadian version of the US CH-46 Sea Knight. It was a twin-engine, twin-rotor, helicopter used in search and rescue (SAR) operations from 1963 until 2004.

The Royal Canadian Air Force procured six CH-113 Labrador helicopters for the SAR role and the Canadian Army acquired 12 of the similar CH-113A Voyageur for the medium-lift transport role. The RCAF Labradors were delivered first with the first one entering service on 11 October 1963.

CH-113A Labrador

At the time of the Canadian Forces acquisition of the CH-147 Chinook in the mid-1970s, the existing Army Voyageur fleet was converted to Labrador specifications for use in the SAR role. The refurbished Voyageurs were then designated as CH-113A Labradors.

This resulted in a total of 15 Labradors in service. The Voyageur had smaller stub wing fuel tanks that were replaced by the large long range tanks during their conversion to the SAR role. After conversion, there were technical as well as minor physical differences between the CH-113 and the CH-113A. One of the more easily identifiable is that the CH-113A has two additional Plexiglas panels on its upper nose area.

Labrador Voyageur

The Labrador was fitted with a watertight hull for marine landings, a 5,000 kilogram cargo hook and an external rescue hoist mounted over the right front door. It featured an 1,110 kilometer flying range, emergency medical equipment and an 18 person passenger capacity.

 Boeing-Vertol Model 107-II-28 CH-113A

In 1981 the fleet commenced a mid-life upgrade carried out by Boeing Canada in Arnprior, Ontario. The refit scheme was known as the SAR-CUP (Search and Rescue Capability Upgrade Program) and included new instrumentation, a nose-mounted weather radar, tail-mounted auxiliary power unit, an improved high-speed rescue hoist mounted over the side door and front-mounted searchlights. A total of six CH-113s and five CH-113As were upgraded with the last delivered in 1984.

 Boeing-Vertol Model 107-II-28

By the 1990s the heavy use and hostile weather conditions of air-marine rescue were taking their toll on the Labrador fleet, resulting in increased maintenance costs and a replacement was required.

In 1998 a CH-113 from CFB Greenwood crashed on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula while returning from a SAR mission, resulting in the deaths of all crewmembers on board. 15 CH-149 Cormorant were ordered, with the first being delivered in 2003, and the last CH-113 was being retired in 2004.

RCAF Labrador search and rescue 

In October 2005 Columbia Helicopters of Portland, Oregon purchased eight of the retired CH-113 Labradors.

The last operational Boeing-Vertol Model 107-II-9 CH-113 Labrador, 11301, made it’s last flight on 27 July 2004 and is now on display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. CH-113A Labrador 11315, a Boeing-Vertol Model 107-II-28 renumbered from Canadian Army 10415, is at the National Air Force Museum of Canada.

If you look at my radio controlled helicopter closely, you can see that it is a model of a Voyageur that was converted into the Labrador SAR role. The windows and number are the indicators, so it’s rather fitting that it rested on another ex Voyageur.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5 (2 pilots, 1 flight engineer, 2 SAR Techs)
  • Capacity: 26 passengers
  • Length: 84 ft 4 in (25.70 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 52 ft (15.54 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 8.5 in (5.1 m)
  • Disc area: 4,245 ft2 (379 m2)
  • Empty weight: 11,251 lb (5,104 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 21,400 lb (9,706 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T58-GE-85 turboshaft, 1,350 shp (1,013 kW) each


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