Norseman N55555

Kirsten here again, this time introducing the 1943 Noorduyn Norseman.  This aircraft is front and center at the Museum and had quite an adventurous life, and a well deserved retirement here at the Pioneer Air Museum, if I do say so myself.  
The Norseman housed at the Pioneer Air Museum is a Model Noorduym Norseman UC-64AS, built in 1943 by Noorduyn Aircraft Ltd. of Canada.  These planes were introduced in 1935 and designed as a single engine bush plane; interchangeably fitted with wheels, skis, and floats for landing on a multitude of terrain types.  It had a high wing monoplane airframe to facilitate loading and unloading passengers and cargo.  During World War II, it caught the interest of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Army Air Force because of its abilities in rough and rugged Northern environments. 
The model plane at PAM would have been the kind flown for Lend Lease Program of WWII as a search and rescue or utility plane.  This particular aircraft flew for many airline companies, including Island Airways, Inc. (1946-1948) and Alaska Airlines (1956-1961).  In 1192, Doug Solberg of Juneau, AK gave the Norseman to the museum.  The plane had been refurbished in Washington State and flown up to Fairbanks, where it now sits center stage in the museum.  

2 responses to “Norseman N55555”

  1. Chris Brethwaite Avatar
    Chris Brethwaite

    My dad William Brethwaite owned Norseman N55555 in 1967. He bought it to start an air freight business called Sky Parcel Express operating out of the Albuquerque Sunport. Unfortunately, there was some issue with his business partner, and the business was short lived. I was 12 years old at the time, and though I never got to fly in it with my Dad, I remember sitting in the pilot seat on a number of occasions. My dad passed away in 1976. He would be very pleased to know that his Norseman is now in an aviation museum. Thanks to everybody who played a role in giving it such a great home! One of these days I hope to get up to Fairbanks to see it. I know it’ll bring back some fond memories.

  2. Ben A Olson Avatar
    Ben A Olson

    Hi there, Kristen
    I was researching some entries in my log books and notes. I was looking into N55555 (Triple Nickel 55) and it’s current location. I was Director of Maintenance and part owner of Sky Services Co. at Auburn Airport Auburn, WA (between Tacoma and Seattle). We did the “partial” restoration to flying/working condition for Mr. Doug Solberg of “Triple Nickle 55” as it was nick named throughout it’s history up north (floats. wheels and skis). It was a fun and interesting project. It was ferried to us but was in very poor condition. We performed a lot of work to include some fabric recovering and renovation, wings fuselage, tubing repairs and engine replacement. I, in fact, painted it myself as it is today. We also were doing an engine replacement on a DeHavilland Otter at the time and I made a deal to use the Norseman engine core as a trade in for it’s new engine and use the Otter engine on the Norseman. The only problem was the Otter engine is a geared P&W R-1340 and the Norseman engine is a non-geared R-1340, in addition to the change from a 2-blade propeller to a 3 blade propeller. I discussed this with the Seattle FAA and made arrangements for a “FAA Field Approval” for the changes following flight testing and evaluation. I had never flown a Norseman but had quit a bit of time in other vintage aircraft including many of hours of tailwheel time. I discussed this with Mr. O.W. Tosch and Mr. Bud Rude both of whom I had worked for previously, and they had flown this same plane in long past careers up north. They informed me about some of the “good, bad and the ugly”. So off I go… the FAA was not at all interested in going along. This plane is very heavily built (over built) and known as “built out of sewer pipe”. On my first take off I noticed it was not climbing very well and proceeded to try out different angles of attack and quickly found it climbs similar to a Beaver and Otter, “flat angel of attack”. In short I could not imagine these guys flying these in the bush going into the places they did. I would not consider some of these planes “short field” planes at all by current practices. Again, in talking to the old guys I was to learn that “you fixed up and flew anything you could get your hands on and feed your family that followed you to the north”. I have come to realize that I have have been gifted and honored to meet taught by many of these people during my time working for OW Tosch (the self proclaimed SOB). Thanks to you, your organization and Doug Solberg for preserving this aircraft .
    Ben O.
    Gig Harbor

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