Bristol Freighter, CF-WAE

  • bristol-freighter-640x250
    Just a Little On the Ugly Side

    The 170 MK 31 Freighter was designed and built in England in the mid 1940s as a military transport. The first flight of the prototype took place on December 2, 1945. Bristol built 214 of them and supplied to the RCAF, RAAF and RNZAF, as well as various civil operators throughout the world, including Trans-Canada Air Lines.

    The cockpit is located above the cargo area, and is entered by means of a ladder on the right side of the cargo compartment. The crew usually consisted of pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and load master. The large unobstructed cargo area, with front-opening clamshell doors, was designed to carry large, heavy loads. Numerous tie-down rings on the floor were used to secure the cargo.

    The Bristol Freighter was always considered to be just a little on the ugly side.


    In the latter part of the 50s, three Bristol Freighters were operated as cargo carriers by Trans-Canada Air Lines (now Air Canada). On one cargo flight to La Guardia, NY, the aircraft was approaching and the Tower Controller used the standard phrase, “Confirm wheels down and locked.” The aircraft Captain replied, “Wheels down and welded!”

    The Tower Controller then said to the Captain: “Where did you get that aircraft? Did you make it?”


    CF-WAE was built in 1955 for the RCAF. It carried F86 Sabre Fighter Jets and Helicopters from bases in France and Germany to overhaul facilities in the U.K. It was purchased in 1967 by Wardair to carry freight around northern Canada, mainly to the DEW Line of Radar Stations. It was sold to Norcanair in Saskatchewan where it operated until 1983. Norcanair then flew it to Winnipeg and donated it to the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.

3 Responses and Counting...

  • J. Mooney 06.25.2011

    RE: Bristol Freighter CF-WAE (Airforce designation, either 9699 or 9700). I was an airman in the RCAF stationed with 137 Flt. at 30AMB Langar, England and worked on all five of these a/c, from 1957 to 1960, including the one in your museum. When 137 Flt. was disbanded, there were only four a/c left, which were then sold to Max Ward of Ward Air in 1967.

    I was delighted to be able to trace their history after their retirement from the RCAF. J. Mooney

  • Pat Rogoski

    When I used to volunteer at the museum from about ’88-’93-ish, I used to clean WAE. I’d go on top with a broom and carefully push of the dust. I know she hasn’t been cleaned since. A company in B.C. wanted it badly, but being an artifact, it couldn’t be sold. There was also a lot of talk about scrapping it, because it’s not pretty, it’s chipped up, has no place in Winnipeg etc. Glad it hasn’t been, yet.

  • Karen

    Hello, Pat: Thanks for your comment you left on our website regarding the Bristol Freighter in our collection. Your concern that the aircraft haven’t been cleaned recently really caught our attention! We wanted to let you know the aircraft in our collection are cleaned on a regular basis; as recently as a few months ago–in the Spring–all the aircraft got a good cleaning. We also are glad CF-WAE is in our collection; it’s a classic workhorse with many stories to tell!

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