The Model 204A, the second factory-built 204, was completed as a specially appointed personal air-taxi to the special order of William "Bill" E. Boeing, fitted with dual controls and a number of deluxe features and equipment. Later, under the ownership of Percy Barnes, it flew mail on a privately-owned Seattle-Victoria airmail service similar to that flown by the original B-1.
The first type to be produced by the newly formed Boeing Aircraft of Canada Ltd. was a slightly modified version of the Seattle-designed Boeing 204, the last of a family of single-engined pusher flying-boats developed by the Boeing Airplane Co. Five of their predecessors (B-1D/B-1E) had been imported by Western Canada Airways Ltd and used primarily for fishery patrols along the British Columbia coast. Almost certainly this influenced taking the decision to build the type in Canada.
Manufacturing started in the summer of 1929 with jigs and tools imported from the parent company. Some changes were incorporated and the Canadian version was designated Model C-204 to indicate the difference. It was also named Thunderbird and became the first Boeing type to be named. The changes were:
1. The wing was given 5 deg incidence, having had none.
2. The upper wing trailing edge was cut back to the rear spar over the engine, removing approximately 13 sq.ft (1.21 sq.m) of wing area.
3. The steel-wire trailing edge was replaced by a wooden member.
4. The horizontal stabilizer incidence adjustment was altered.
Changes 1 and 2 provide the only distinguishing features between the US and Canadian-built aircraft, the vertical position of the wing on the rear cabin window being a readily discerned indicator of wing incidence while the wing cutaway is obvious from many angles. The lack of incidence on the US-built flying-boats gave them a nose-up attitude in level flight. While this did not help the cruising speed or visibility, pilots on fishery patrols liked this feature as under the frequent foggy conditions the machines could be flown very low and while in level flight the hulls were in an alighting attitude, consequently, when an obstruction suddenly loomed up, the throttle could be smartly closed and the flying-boat was very promptly on the water.
The C-204's construction was the same as the US-built machines and quite conventional. The hull was double planked in mahogany over an oak frame. The wing was fabric covered over a wooden structure but was unusual in that the upper wing was made in two unequal sections which were joined well outboard of the aircraft centerline on the port side. The fixed tail surfaces had wooden structures while the movable surfaces were made of welded steel-tubing and all were fabric covered. The enclosed cabin was entered through the top and provided accommodation for six.
The prototype (c/n 1, CF-ALA) was first flown on March 30, 1930, by E. J. A. "Paddy" Burke from the RCAF Jericho Beach Air Station at Vancouver.
An additional three aircraft were completed (c/n 2, CF-ALB to c/n 4, CF-ALD) but they did not sell; one reason, of course, was the business depression following the 1929 stock market crash and the other that the day of the flying-boat was over, especially in Canada where in most areas they were inoperable due to frozen waters for about five months each year. They were leased from time to time and three were eventually sold, almost certainly at bargain prices. They all worked in British Columbia, with probably the very occasional trip to neighboring Alaska. CF-ALC had a Townend ring fitted in the mid-1930s and became the last survivor, being scrapped in 1939 following the discovery of a cracked wing spar."
03/19/2005. Remarks by Ross Mahon: "My father, Bryan Mahon, worked on these aircraft as a teenager in what is now downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The person standing on the wing had two functions:
1. Turning the crank to start the engine.
2. Walking from left wing to right wing as directed by the pilot to help steer the airplane. It had no water rudder and was
turned by 'dragging' a wing tip float in the water, which was accomplished by the wing walker walking out on the wing
in the desired turning direction."