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    Encyclopedia Arctica 9: Transportation and Communications

    The Expansion of Aviation into Arctic and Sub-Arctic Canada

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_IX-0311                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transportation and Communications

    [J. A. Wilson]


    Introduction 1
    Early Trial Flights 2
    First Flights in Mackenzie Basin – 1921 2
    Arctic Reconnaissance – 1922 2
    Pioneer Commercial Flying 3
    Air Surveys 4
    Air Mail Contracts 4
    Steady Progress in Northern Expansion 4
    The Hudson Straits Expedition - 1927-1928 5
    Consolidation of Services 6
    Aerodrome Construction in Arctic and Sub-Arctic 6
    The North West Stagin Route 7
    Construction During the War 7
    The Canol Project 7
    The Trans-Atlantic Ferry Route 7
    The "Crimson" Route 8
    Exercise 8
    Summary 8
    Bibliography 10

    001      |      Vol_IX-0312                                                                                                                  







            [ ?] Should we cut out all headings?

            Canadians responsible for the development of Northern

    Canada had watched with increasing interest the constant and rapid

    growth in efficiency of the Air Services during the first World

    War. The greatest handicap to their work in the past had been lack

    of adequate transportation. There were no roads or railways north

    of the railway belt. There the historic means of transportation,

    canoe in summer and snowshoe and dog-team in winter, still reigned

    supreme. Men of vision saw in the aeroplane an answer to their

    problems; given an aircraft with a reliable engine capable of

    carrying a pay-load of a few hundred pounds, in addition to its

    crew, and fuel for a few hundred miles, their problem was solved.

    High speed was not essential but rugged construction and simplicity

    of operation were essential.

            At the time of the Armistice in November 1918 there

    were no flying facilities in Canada except the two seaplane stations

    at Dartmouth and Sydney, Nova Scotia, built in 1918 for anti–

    submarine patrols off the Atlantic Coast and a few aerodromes built

    by the Royal Flying Corps in Ontario for the flying training of the

    hundreds of young Canadians who had volunteered for the Air Services

    during the war. Aircraft were not lacking as the United Kingdom

    after the Armistice had made a generous donation to Canada of more

    than 100 planes of various types and much miscellaneous equipment

    and spare parts. In addition, the U.S. Naval Air Service, who had

    manned the seaplane bases on the Atlantic Coast, on their withdrawal

    had left the stations more or less intact and with their full

    complement of H.S.2L flying boats and equipment. These were found

    to be invaluable and were used in the post war civil flying operations

    for many years till they were gradually replaced by more efficient

    types. Fortunately, Northern Canada abounds in lakes and rivers

    which provide everywhere ready-made landing places for seaplanes and

    flying boats in summer; their frozen surfaces made ready-made

    aerodromes for aircraft on skis in winter. These factors made the

    construction of airports throughout the North, economically impossible

    in the pioneer stages, unnecessary. The only drawback to the use of

    floats in summer and skis in winter were the annual periods of

    "freeze-up" and "break-up" in autumn and spring when neither were

    usable. This handicap was willingly accepted in the early years

    before traffic was well established and it applied equally to all

    forms of transportation. Canada was fortunate also in having at its

    disposal hundreds of pilots and mechanics who had served their

    apprenticeship during the war and who asked for nothing better than

    to continue their careers in aviation.

            A rapid survey during the winter of 1918-1919 of

    possibilities for the development of flying in Northern Canada showed

    that enthusiastic co-operation would be forthcoming from the Forest

    and Survey Services, mining interests and all those engaged in Northern

    development. The Air Board Act, providing for the establishment of

    air services, civil and military, and for the regulation of civil

    aviation in Canada, was passed in June 1919. The stage was then set

    for the orderly development of aviation throughout the Dominion.

    002      |      Vol_IX-0313                                                                                                                  



            The first experimental trials of flying over the

    Northern forested regions were made from Grande Mere, Quebec,

    in August and September 1919 under the auspices of the Dominion

    Government which lent three H.S.2L flying boats, used during the

    war for anti-submarine patrols off the Atlantic Coast. The

    Provincial Government of Quebec made a substantial grant towards

    the expenses of the experimental flights and the Laurentide Pulp

    and Paper Company undertook responsibility for the organization

    of the base facilities, the forest observers and other personnel.

    Stuart Graham, now Superintendent of Air Regulations, Department

    of Transport, was the pilot. The success of these experimental

    flights lead to the establishment in 1920, with the co-operation

    of the Forest and Survey Services, Dominion and Provincial, of

    air bases at Vancouver, B.C., High River, Alberta, and Roberval,

    P.Q., for further trials of forest fire patrols, survey work

    and transportation in the more inaccessible parts of the country

    adjacent to these bases. In 1921 the Province of Ontario assisted

    in the establishment of a base at Sioux Lookout in Northern

    Ontario for similar work and three further bases were established

    in Manitoba for work in the forested areas surrounding Lakes

    Winnipeg and Winnipegosis. These experimental flights served not

    only as practical full scale demonstrations for the Forest and

    Survey Services but also showed the possibilities of using aircraft

    for the opening up of the remoter parts of Northern Canada. They

    were necessary as the first steps towards the longer range

    operations which followed and which were not confined to summer

    work on floats but all year round operations on skis as well.

    These were already beginning.



            In the fall of 1921 the Imperial Oil Company brought

    in the first producing well in the now well in the now well known Norman Wells field.

    Water transportation had ceased and it was urgently necessary to

    provide some means of transportation between the new find, 1200 miles

    from the railway and only a short distance south of the Arctic Circle,

    and civilization. Junkers all-metal seaplanes were purchased and

    operations were started from the railhead in the Peace River country.

    In spite of innumerable difficulties with equipment, unknown and

    unforeseen hazards, blizzards and low temperatures, after many

    delays two of the aircraft made the trip and returned safely to

    civilization. Fullerton Gorman, and May and Fullerton were the pilots. This

    pioneer effort showed the impossibility of conducting regular air

    services without adequate ground facilities, refuelling caches, spare

    parts and marked runways on the ice.



            In the spring of 1922 the Canadian Government, recognizing

    the need for effective occupation and development of the Arctic

    Archipelago if they hoped to maintain their sovereignty over it,

    decided to establish police posts in the far north as bases for the

    further development of the country. The North West Territories

    Branch of the Department of the Interior were placed in charge of the

    project. Recognizing the importance of aerial observation in preliminary

    exploration work and mapping, and the possibilities of intercommunication

    by air between any posts established, they asked for the co-operation of

    003      |      Vol_IX-0314                                                                                                                  
    the Air Board in the project. Before actual flying operations were

    undertaken, it was decided as a first step to make a reconnaissance

    of the climatic and physical conditions to be met with in these

    areas of which little was known. This task was given to Squadron

    Leader R. A. Logan who was specially well qualified for this work.

    Before the war he had worked as a Dominion Land Surveyor in Northern

    Canada and was familiar with Arctic conditions. He had also made

    special studies of navigation, meteorology and radio.

            Olive: We have logan’s report? If so, let’s

    consider running it verbatim, as its

    first official Gov’t rep [ ?] feasibility if

    [ ?]

    We will

    not need

    to pay

    for this

            The expedition was carried in the government steamer

    "Arctic", a veteran in Arctic exploration under Captain J. E. Bernier.

    The expedition left Quebec on July 18th and returned safely on

    October 2nd after visiting Baffin, Bylot, North Devon and Ellesmere

    Islands and establishing three posts in the far north. Logan

    presented a comprehensive report dealing with aviation in the Arctic

    generally, the uses of aircraft in the far north, the most suitable

    types for use there and the ground facilities necessary. Questions

    of transportation, fuel, food, clothing and other supplies were fully

    covered. Much valuable information was obtained on ice and climatic

    conditions in the districts visited. He recommended that should

    the Government decide to proceed with a programme of further development

    a small party consisting of two pilots and two mechanics with two

    small specially equipped aircraft should accompany the next expedition;

    establish an air base; conduct flying operations at all seasons of the

    year and keep meteorological and other pertinent records. A comprehensive

    knowledge of the actual conditions to be encountered could thus be

    obtained so that operations on a larger scale might be inaugurated in

    subsequent years should conditions be found suitable for flying during

    a considerable proportion of the year as was confidently anticipated.

            Unfortunately a change in the direction and policy in aviation

    following on the absorption of the Air Board's work by the Department

    of National Defence in 1923 prevented any further work on these lines

    for twenty years when, under pressure of war, the expansion of aviation

    in the far north became necessary once more.



            The pioneer demonstrations of the Dominion Government

    outlined above were now beginning to bear fruit and commercial companies

    had been formed to undertake forest fire patrols, air surveys and

    photography, the transportation of men and supplies from the railroad

    to serve mining camps and prospectors working all through Northern

    Canada. Aircraft soon penetrated into the interior of North Eastern

    Quebec and Labrador as far as the Hamilton River, in Northern Ontario

    as far as James Bay, from Lake Winnipeg north to the Churchill River

    and Lac La Ronge, from Edmonton into the Peace River district and

    down the MacKenzie River. Gradually a chain of bases and refueling

    depots were built up all through the north to serve the new traffic.

            By 1927 new types of aircraft based on northern experience

    came on the market. Cabin, high wing, aircraft with aircooled radial

    engines were particularly suitable for northern operations. They were

    adaptable for either float or ski undercarriage. Fairchild and Fokker

    types came into common use supplemented by the rugged all-metal Junkers

    low wing seaplane, and Bellanca and Stinson single engined aircraft

    followed later by smaller cabin types such as the Waco and Beechcraft.

    By 1928 air services were available all through Northern Canada. Weather

    and radio services were steadily improving and companies were establishing

    their own facilities to supplement those of the Government where necessary.

    004      |      Vol_IX-0315                                                                                                                  



            Another factor of great importance was the mapping

    programme of Federal authorities. In this the Air Force and the

    survey services of the Department of the Interior and the

    Geographical Section of the General Staff co-operated, the Air Force

    doing the flying and photography while the Survey Services supplied

    the ground control, plotted the information from the pictures and

    produced the finished maps. Each year from 1921 saw an increasing

    programme of photographic surveys undertaken. The resultant maps

    facilitated air navigation and were invaluable not only to the

    pilots but to the geologist, the prospector and the forester.

    The early survey programmes in the far north were concentrated on

    the production of reliable maps of the most travelled water routes

    and of the areas most promising for mining development. So

    successful was this programme and so essential the photographs and

    maps to the work of northern development that within a decade no

    geologist or prospector would examine any area without first having

    photos and maps of the terrain.



            The Federal authorities also supported the new infant

    industry by letting contracts for the regular and frequent carriage

    of mails by air from the railway to the mining camps now being

    established all through the north and to the older police and trading

    posts which hitherto had been dependent on slow and infrequent mails

    carried at great cost by water or dog-team, thus assuring a regular

    and assured revenue to the pioneer companies.

            ? The story of this expansion from meager beginnings is

    the tale of strenuous work by pilots and mechanics struggling with

    determination against odds which would have daunted the hardiest

    spirits. Their enthusiasm knew no bounds. Their belief in aviation

    and its progress was the gospel which buoyed them up through blizzards

    and strandings. Inconceivable hardships were met with a smile so long

    as flights were completed successfully.



            Progress in the aviation and mining industries went

    hand in hand in Northern Canada during the 1920's and 1930's. As

    experience was gained of the difficult operating conditions and as

    more efficient aircraft became available, the range of the prospector

    and mining operator increased with the growing reliability of the

    services, heavier pay-loads and longer ranges. From bases at

    Roberval and Seven Islands H. S. Quigley and F. V. "Turk" Robinson

    explored the country to the north of the shore of the Gulf of

    St. Lawrence back into the valley of the Hamilton River and into the

    regions of the great new iron ore finds of the Labrador, D. S. Bondurant

    finally penetrating as far as Fort Chimo on the south shore of Ungava

    Bay. Kenneth Saunders, pioneer photographic pilot in Canada, opened

    up the country north of Lake St. John as far as Lakes Chibougamau

    and Mistassini in North Eastern Quebec. J. Scott Williams, Roy Maxwell

    and H. A. "Doc" Oakes pioneered regular air routes into Rouyn in 1924

    and in 1925 the new Red Lake mining camp was discovered and immediately

    became the centre of much flying activity based at Hudson and Sioux

    Lookout on the railway in which J. V. Elliott, Oakes and Rob Starratt

    played a leading part. In 1926 a winter expedition penetrated into

    James Bay as far as Richmond Gulf under Doc Oakes and T. M. "Pat" Reid.

    005      |      Vol_IX-0316                                                                                                                  
    1927 saw Oakes freighting drilling equipment into the site of the

    new harbour at Churchill in an emergency. Far to the west similar

    operations were beginning in Northern British Columbia. Scott

    Williams spent the summer of 1925 based on Lower Post on the Liard

    River serving a prospecting party working in that then remote

    area as far north as Frances Lake. G. A. Thompson was similarly

    employed in the Cassiar district from a base at Hazelton, B.C.

    In 1926 "Cy" Caldwell, who had been with Williams on the Liard the

    previous year, took his Vickers Viking into the Slave Lake district

    on mining exploration thus reviving activity in the MacKenzie Basin

    dormant since 1922. Similarly in North Manitoba and Saskatchewan

    prospecting was active and air transport services found a new

    opportunity in the opening up of the Flin Flon area.

            The mining community in Canada was now fully awake

    to the advantages of air transport and willing to finance operations

    by the purchase of better aircraft with longer range and greater

    pay-load. Northern Aerial Minerals Exploration, Dominion Skyways,

    the Nipissing Company and Cyril Knight led major air prospecting

    ventures into the North West Territories including the Barren Lands Arctic Prairies

    and Hudson Bay Coasts in 1928 and 1930. The Consolidated Mining

    and Smelting Company maintained a fleet of aircraft to support their

    prospecting parties in the North. By 1928 it could be confidently

    stated that no spot on the mainland of Canada was inaccessible.

    Aircraft had penetrated into the remotest districts of the Yukon,

    Northern British Columbia and the barren grounds of beyond the treeline in the North West

    Territories as far as the Boothia Peninsula and the shores of Hudson

    Bay. In addition to the pioneer pilots mentioned above those most

    active in opening up this vast hinterland, virtually inaccessible

    till the advent of aviation, were Leigh Brintnell, W. R. May, "Punch"

    Dickins, Jack McDonough, Bill Spence, Pat Reid, Bill Sutton,

    Grant McConachie, Walter Gilbert, Mat Berry and many others.



            Following the decision of the Canadian Government to

    complete the Hudson Bay Railway and the terminal on the Bay, it was

    decided in January 1927 to send an expedition to Hudson Straits

    "to obtain accurate information on ice conditions in the Straits

    and study requirements necessary to insure safe navigation". The

    co-operation of the R.C.A.F. was asked and it was decided to establish

    three air bases in the Straits, one near each of the Straits and one

    half way between these points, and to maintain, as far as weather

    conditions would permit, daily patrols from each to observe ice conditions

    over a period of sixteen months. It was decided to equip each base

    with two Fokker Universal aircraft, each fitted with ski, float and

    wheel undercarriages, a 30’ motor Launch, a Fordson tractor, seven

    buildings including hangars and a radio station, and all stores and

    equipment necessary for the maintenance of the base for the period of

    occupation. Squadron Leader (now Air Vice-Marshal) T. A. Laurence

    was given command of the expedition.

            On July 17th the necessary gear having been assembled

    and stowed on the freighter "Larch", amounting to 2,585 tons of general

    cargo and 2,700 tons of coal for use by the freighter and her escort

    the "Lady Stanley", one of the smaller Government icebreakers, the two

    vessels left Halifax. The 39 members of the expedition were carried on

    the "Lady Stanley" and the construction crews on the "Larch". A "Moth"

    seaplane for reconnaissance purposes was carried on the "Lady Stanley".

    006      |      Vol_IX-0317                                                                                                                  
    The three bases were successfully established during the summer

    at Port Burwell, Wakeham Bay and Nottingham Island. Flying was

    started at all three bases by the middle of October when the first

    signs of ice appeared. Radio communications were efficient,

    contact being maintained at all times with planes in the air, the

    other bases and through relay stations with Headquarters in Ottawa

    and the "Met" office in Toronto.

            The expedition was successful and a vast amount of

    information was gathered from the logs of the ships engaged and

    the bases established on the movement of the ice in the Straits,

    the incidence of fog and poor visibility due to snow, the opening

    and closing of navigation and the aids to navigation which would

    be required for safe navigation. Air Patrols were found possible

    throughout the year with only occasional interruptions from weather.

    The expedition returned to Quebec in November 1928 and a full report

    was subsequently published by the Department of Marine giving full

    details of the work.



            Active mining at Eldorado, the radium find on Great

    Bear Lake and the Gold Camp at Yellowknife made new openings for

    regular air services. The heyday of the pioneer pilot flying his

    own ship gradually passed with the consolidation of services and

    companies into larger commercial units doing away with cutthroat

    competition and ensuring better service through stronger finances

    and better aircraft. In 1937 Trans-Canada began their operations on

    the trans-Continental route leaving the northern services to continue

    their work as feeders. By 1941 these gradually were absorbed into

    Canadian Pacific Air Lines who now control which, following World War II, controlled most of the regular

    scheduled routes outside of the trans-Canada airway and its main

    connections to points in the United States. Many independent operators

    continue their work throughout the North on a charter basis.


    Olive: Should we standardize on air drome? Like airplane AERODROME CONSTRUCTION IN ARCTIC AND SUB-ARCTIC

            With the growth of population in the northern mining

    camps the demand for more efficient air services became insistent.

    [ ?] On the main traffic routes to the far north the length of the "freeze-up"

    and "break-up" periods was serious. On the shorter runs where there

    was little difference in latitude these periods were short but as the

    length of the air routes increased the stoppage of all flights from

    this cause became intolerable. Ice disappeared at Edmonton early in

    April but Bear Lake was still ice bound in July. The increase in

    traffic called for more regular, efficient and less interrupted service.

            In 1937-38 Canadian Airways advocated a chain of landing

    strips from McMurray to the Arctic Coast along the MacKenzie Mack River and

    Yukon Southern Airways had made surveys on their air mail route from

    Grande Prairie to Whitehorse with strips at Fort St. John, Fort Nelson,

    Watson Lake and Whitehorse where Pan American Airways, who had been

    granted landing rights on their route between Juneau and Fairbanks,

    Alaska, had already graded a strip with the assistance of the Territorial

    Government of the Yukon and the Department of Transport to accommodate the

    twin-engined transports. Similar work had also been done at Burwash

    Landing, at Dawson, at Mayo Landing, and at several other points on the

    train between Whitehorse and Dawson by the Territorial Government.

    Yukon Southern Airways had cleared and graded strips at Fort St. John

    and Fort Nelson while Canadian Airways had made some progress on the

    clearing and grading of a strip at McMurray on the Mac k enzie River Route.

    Progress was slow, however, owing to the lack of funds and difficulty of

    moving heavy grading equipment into these remote districts.

    007      |      Vol_IX-0318                                                                                                                  



            In 1939 the Department of Transport, recognizing the

    future importance of the air route to Alaska from the commercial

    and strategic points of view, obtained authority and funds for a

    complete airway survey of the route from Edmonton to Whitehorse via

    the valleys of the Peace, Liard and Yukon Rivers. It was the

    ? logical route to Alaska and the Orient and careful surveys had been

    made of all the alternative routes during the preceding four years.

    ? It lay east of the Rocky Mountains, passed over relatively easy

    terrain and was climatically preferable to any other route, having

    a moderate snowfall and freedom from fog at all seasons.



            Preoccupation with the construction of aerodromes for

    the Empire Flying Training Plan during the first two years of the

    war diverted attention from Northern development but with the entry

    of the United States into the conflict in December 1941 the need

    for action again became most urgent. Fortunately the Joint U.S. –

    Canadian Defence Board appointed in 1940 had given early attention

    to the need for better communication with Alaska and had urged the

    immediate construction of the North West Staging Route from Edmonton

    to Fairbanks on the plans of the Department of Transport. By

    strenuous efforts the main fields on this route at Grande Prairie,

    Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake and Whitehorse were completed

    under contracts let by that Department by September 1st, 1941, and

    a steady flow of reinforcements to the U.S. Air Forces in Alaska was

    comparatively simple. During the next three years the route was

    greatly enlarged, new intermediate fields and radio ranges were added

    and the difficulties of transport solved by the completion of the

    Alaska Highway which gave access to all aerodromes. The construction

    and early completion of the highway was made possible by the existence

    of the airway.



            The decision to exploit to the full the Normal Walls

    oil field caused a similar revolution on the Mac k River air route.

    The demands of the traffic were far beyond the capacity of the

    seaplanes previously used with such great advantage and the

    construction of a chain of full scale air bases was rapidly undertaken

    by the U.S. Forces with the approval and assistance of the Canadian

    Government. [ At the conclusion the word traffic moved ?] Nowadays traffic moves into Normal Wells and Yellowknife

    in D.C.3s and from there is distributed by seaplane to outlying points.



            On the Atlantic Coast similar action was being taken to

    improve the communications by air across the Atlantic. The Department

    of Transport was authorized to construct new bases at Montreal, Mont

    Joli, the Saguenay and Seven Islands, Quebec; Moncton and Sydney, Nova

    Scotia; Tor Bay, Newfoundland; and Goose Bay, Labrador, while Gander

    airport was greatly enlarged. The United States Government were also

    authorized to build airports for their own Services at Mingan, P.Q.,

    Stevenville and Argentia, Newfoundland. These new bases added greatly

    to the efficiency and safety of the trans-Atlantic ferry system and

    the anti-submarine patrols off the Atlantic and Gulf of St. Lawrence

    Coasts. In addition they served the important purpose of providing

    staging aerodromes for the service of the aerodromes built in

    Greenland and Iceland by the U.S. Forces.

    008      |      Vol_IX-0319                                                                                                                  



            Later in the war the United States Government was

    given authority to construct with its own forces a further chain of

    bases in Northern Canada known as the "Crimson" route, a staging

    route to provide the shortest route from Los Angeles, California, to

    Northern European points by short hops. At the time the proposal was

    put forward the Canadian Government could not see its way to divert

    men and supplies for this purpose from other projects more essential

    then in hand. It considered that the prospect of opening, before

    the close of the war, an efficient trans-Atlantic staging route

    through the Arctic Islands was remote, but willingly gave authority

    to the U.S. Forces to construct bases at Churchill, Manitoba,

    Southampton Island and Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island and Chimo, Quebec,

    as they pressed the matter. In the final settlement of the war

    accounts between the two Governments Canada paid the United States

    $76,000,000. for the work done on the "Crimson" route and resumed

    control of all bases in Canadian territory. Though never used as a

    staging route these bases have been invaluable in the post war period

    as stepping stones for further development in the far North, as

    meteorological stations, as bases for the air survey of the Arctic

    Islands now in hand , and as staging bases to aerodromes at still more

    remote meteorological and scientific stations now being established

    to give efficient coverage all through the Arctic Archipelago and to

    similar joint U.S. and Danish bases in Northern Greenland. the first L l anding

    strips have already been to be built were at Baker Lake, Eureka Sound, and

    Cornwallis Island ; and it is now proposed this being part of a plan to build a strip near all

    meteorological stations established in Arctic Canada, there thus bringing to completion

    the ideas originally put forward in 1922 when the Air Board sent

    R. A. Logan to make a reconnaissance for this purpose.



            During Exercise "Musk-Ox", a joint exercise by the

    Canadian Army and the R.C.A.F. to test the possibilities of moving

    men and motorized transport in the Canadian Arctic during the winter

    and spring of 1945, the moving force was supplied by air during its

    entire journey of 3000 miles from bases at Churchill, Yellowknife and

    Norman Wells. Landings were made by "Dakota" aircraft at many of these

    new bases and on the sea ice at various points on the route. On one

    occasion 81/2 tons of supplies were dropped by parachute at Perry River

    on the Arctic Coast in an hour by six Dakotas, four from Churchill

    and two from Yellowknife. During the last two winters numerous mercy

    flights to evacuate sick or injured persons have been made possible

    by the use of the new bases and the construction and supply of

    the remotest meteorological stations have been greatly facilitated.



            The above brief account shows the gradual expansion

    from small beginnings of flying in Northern Canada. Progress has been

    steady throughout the years. The foresters and surveyors were the

    leaders in 1919 followed quickly by the prospector and mining operator.

    Aviation and mining went hand in hand during the 1920's and 1930's.

    With the increase in efficiency of the flying services the range of

    prospecting and mining penetrated ever further into the North. The

    war brought a revolution in methods and saw the aerodrome system

    extended into the far North. Today it is possible to travel to the

    Arctic Coast of Canada, to the Arctic Archipelago and to Alaska with

    009      |      Vol_IX-0320                                                                                                                  
    equal safety and comfort in the same types of twin and four-engined

    planes; with equally efficient radio aids to navigation and

    meteorological services, and comparable ground facilities to those

    in common use between Toronto and Montreal or New York and Chicago.

    Journeys which previous to the advent of the aeroplane took months

    and even years of arduous travel are now accomplished with ease and

    comfort in a few hours. The isolation and solitude of the Arctic

    are a thing of the past! With regular air mails, radio and supplies

    of fresh provisions, life in the Arctic has assumed an entirely

    different complexion. The effect on the change on the native

    inhabitants is the subject of anxious concern in all interested in

    the North. Steps must be taken to ensure to them the benefits these

    changes have brought so that their lives and welfare are protected

    and that they also may benefit by the advances which science has

    brought to the Arctic.

    010      |      Vol_IX-0321                                                                                                                  


    The Annual Reports on Civil Aviation 1919-30 –

    The King's Printer, Ottawa, Canada.

    The Report of the Hudson Straits Expedition 1927-28 –

    The King's Printer, Ottawa, Canada.

    "Aviation in Canada" by J. A. Wilson –

    The Journal of the Engineering Institute of

    Canada, March 1937.

    "Air Transportation in Canada" by J. A. Wilson –

    The Journal of the Engineering Institute of

    Canada, May 1943.

    "Gentlemen Adventurers of the Air" by J. A. Wilson –

    National Geographical Journal, November 1929.

    "North West Passage by Air" by J. A. Wilson –

    Canadian Geographical Journal, March 1943.

    Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    001      |      Vol_IX-0322                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transportation and Communications

    [P. T. Cole]


            Canadian Pacific's first connection with flying dates back to 1918 when the

    passing of the Canadian Air Board Act gave the railway company the right to own

    and operate aircraft within and without Canada.

            It was not until 1930, however, that the Canadian Pacific became actively

    associated with air development, when in that year, it subscribed jointly with

    the Canadian National in a stock inve s tment in Canadian Airways. In 1937, dis–

    cussions were held with the government regarding a proposed jointly owned trans–

    continental air route, but the Canadian Pacific declined to participate when the

    government's offer indicated that the privately owned railway company would have

    to subscribe one-half the capital but would receive only one-third voting power.

            The actual development of Canadian Pacific Air Lines, with its widespread

    north-south domestic routes which today total over 10,000 miles, commenced in 1939.

    It was then that the late Sir Edward Beatty, president of the Canadian Pacific

    Railway, delegated L. B. Unwin, vice-president of finance for the C.P.R., to

    make a survey of the nation's privately owned air companies. As a result of these

    findings, the Canadian Pacific pursued a progressive policy of purchasing these

    lines resulting in the formation in 1942 of the present railway-controlled air

    lines organization.

            Altogether, 10 independent "bush" lines were taken over by the Canadian

    Pacific. They were: Canadian Airways, Winnipeg; Yukon Southern Air Transport,

    Vancouver and Edmonton; Quebec Airways, Montreal; Dominion Skyways, The Pas,

    002      |      Vol_IX-0323                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    Manitoba; Prairie Airways, Moose Jaw; Ginger Coote Airways, Vancouver; Wings

    Limited, Winnipeg; Starratt Airways, Hudson, Ontario, and Mackenzie Air Service,


            Canadian Pacific Air Lines and the component companies from which it was

    formed have taken no small part in the development of northern Canada and have

    materially aided the progress of the country and the welfare of its people.

    Transportation and communication, practically unknown before, have been estab–

    lished for most of the sparsely inhabited regions in northern Canada, prospect–

    ing and the discovery of new mining fields, including radium and uranium and

    development of rich but out of the way mining fields was made possible.

            Some of the high lights of the development of Canadian Pacific Air Lines'

    operations, which today are contributing so greatly to the welfare and progress

    of Canada, were the pioneering of the inside route to Alaska, the choosing of

    sites for a chain of airports on this route, the consequent development of these

    airports, the part taken by the company in the building of the Alaska Highway

    joining the airports, the part taken by the company in the tremendous Canol

    project, which entailed the building of airports between Edmonton and Norman Wells,

    and the building of a road and pipeline between Norman Wells and Whitehorse. These

    were gigantic projects all, but in addition to them, Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    has played an outstanding part in the development of the natural resources of

    Canada from Labrador to Alaska.

            C. P. A.'s northern routes now extend from Vancouver and Edmonton to the

    northern terminals of Fairbanks, Alaska, Dawson and Whitehorse in the Yukon, and

    Aklavik and Coppermine on the Arctic Sea; from Winnipeg to The Pas, Flin Flon,

    and Churchill, Manitoba; and from Montreal to Seven Islands, Havre St. Pierre, and

    Blanc Sablon on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Knob Lake in Labrador, and to Val d'Or

    003      |      Vol_IX-0324                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    and Rouyn-Noranda in the northern Quebec mining territory. C.P.A.'s service to

    Knob Lake has now been succeeded by an air service owned by The Labrador Mining

    and Exploration Company.

            Uranium and its particular properties were most essential to the development

    of the atom bomb. The Eldorado Mine on Great Bear Lake, a regularly serviced

    point on Canadian Pacific Air Lines' routes 1,100 miles north of Edmonton, up

    until recently was the only known source of uranium. Prior to World War II, and

    during the war, Canadian Pacific planes, or planes of composite companies, first

    transported the original discoverers of this property. Just prior to the war

    and during it many of the concentrates were flown to Edmonton and shipped by rail

    to eastern Canada for further processing. During the war this remote but impor–

    tant mining settlement was served on a scheduled basis by C.P.A.

            Early in 1947, Canadian Pacific Air Lines began operations to Knob Lake in

    Labrador, 350 air miles north of the Gulf of St. Lawrence village of Seven Islands,

    to develop the huge iron deposits discovered in that area. A contract was signed

    with [ ?] The Labrador Mining and Exploration Company, a subsidiary of the Hollinger

    Gold Mines, to fly in hundreds of tons of equipment to the "New Mesabi."

            When the C.P.A. first contracted to fly in this equipment, heavy and continuous

    snow storms held up operations for some weeks. Then it was found that a packed snow

    runway of the type usually used by aircraft equipped with wheels in the winter

    was unsafe when the temperature was above 15 degrees. To overcome this, a snow–

    blower was flown in and a runway cleared on the lake surface to within an inch of the

    ice. Then, three C.P.A. DC-3's, assisted by two other transports chartered by the

    company, began to race against the spring breakup. Flying 1,600 to 2,000 miles

    a day, the planes carried five tractors, two one-ton trucks, a roadscraper, and a

    jeep, along with diamond drills and other mining equipment, oil, gasoline, dynamite,

    and food supplies for [ ?] the 150 men flown in to work on the project that

    004      |      Vol_IX-0325                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    summer. More than 400 tons of supplies were flown in that winter.

            In the late '20's and early '30's, composite companies of Canadian Pacific

    Air Lines were struggling with inferior equipment of the single engine type,

    on floats in the summer and skis in winter, to develop scheduled services to the

    rich mining and fur areas of Yellowknife, the Lower Mackenzie River, northern

    British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska. These services were originating in

    Edmonton to a great degree and to a lesser extent from Vancouver. In 1937, a

    regular air mail service was established between Edmonton and the Yukon to supple–

    ment the regular air mail service between Edmonton and Mackenzie River points.

    In 1938, the service was joined by a connection at Fort St. John, in the Peace

    River country, by a service from Vancouver.

            The importance of this route as an inside passage to Alaska and the Orient

    was easily recognized, and in 1938 and 1939 the airstrips at Fort Nelson and

    Watson Lake were surveyed and work commenced by the company. These airports

    were by no means [ ?] adequate but served the purpose. In 1940 the Canadian Gov–

    ernment recognized the importance of this route and immediately commenced extensive work

    which ultimately gave this northwest route to the Orient some of the first class

    airports that we have today. Then on December 7, 1941, came Pearl Harbor.

            The uncertainty of adequate shipping facilities in the North Pacific to ser–

    vice Alaska became apparent, and in the spring of 1942, thousands upon thousands of

    men and trainload after trainload of materials were forwarded through Edmonton to

    the end of steel at Dawson Creek for the purpose of constructing an all-weather

    highway, 1,500 miles long, to Alaska. Canadian Pacific Air Lines, their officers

    and employees, were the only people who had any intimate knowledge of this route.

    Surveys had to be made and Canadian Pacific pilots did the flying. Parties had

    to be placed out on remote lakes and rivers and flown into unmapped territory.

    005      |      Vol_IX-0326                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    Tons of material and men had to be flown in to Alaska and to points between

    Edmonton and Alaska and this work was done almost entirely by C.P.A. Later on,

    as the airports were enlarged and paved, navigation facilities had to be installed,

    more men and materials had to be taken in, [ ?] fuel had to be flown in —

    all this work, in conjunction with the United States and the Royal Canadian Air

    Force, to a great extent was handled by Canadian Pacific aircraft.

            As mentioned before, the safety of the sea lanes in the North Pacific area

    was questionable. It was useless to establish a chain of airports in order to

    ferry the latest bombers and fighters to the American continent's last stronghold

    if, on their arrival, they would have no fuel due to the inability of oil tankers

    to reach Alaska because of enemy action.

            The oil fields of Norman Wells, 1,400 miles north of Edmonton on the broad

    Mackenzie River, had been producing oil for consumption in the Arctic [ ?] for

    years. It was decided to build a pipeline from Norman Wells to Whitehorse, a

    distance of over 600 miles, most of which was unmapped and over 500 miles of which

    was mountainous, and to construct a refinery at Whitehorse in order that the

    needs of Alaska could be taken care of. In order to make the job a little more

    interesting, it was decided to build an all-weather highway paralleling the

    pipeline. Needless to say, the refinery at Whitehorse did produce gasoline and

    the job was completed.

            Canadian Pacific Air Lines was not long in recognizing the advantages of

    airports where large, wheel-equipped aircraft could be used to improve the service

    in the North and with this in mind, in the early spring of 1942, a survey was

    commenced. Company officers and employees looked over Fort McMurray, the terminus

    of the railway; Fort Smith the capital of the Northwest Territories; Fort Resolution

    and Yellowknife. Work was commenced at Fort McMurray and Fort Smith immediately

    the snow disappeared and by the middle of the summer both these fields were in use.

    006      |      Vol_IX-0327                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    The same problems of accommodation, hangars, shops, communications, and training

    again confronted the company and again the problems were solved in a similar

    manner to those on the route to Alaska, with one exception — no highway para–

    lleled the route to Norman Wells, but merely a network of rivers and lakes, navi–

    gable approximately five months of the year. As a result, Canadian Pacific Air

    Lines, which was by this time taxed almost to the limit in the movement of men

    and supplies to the Canol project, was required to carry much of its own company

    material as well; company material essential to carry on the business of supplying

    adequate services to these important war projects.

            Every type of equipment, from hospital supplies to "Mickey Mouse" movies was

    flown by Canadian Pacific Air Lines to points between Edmonton and the oil fields

    at Norman Wells. Again the Canadian Government and the U. S. Army Engineers

    realized the importance of airports, and the original strips surveyed and constructed

    by the company were improved to handle the large bombers and the transports.

            Canadian Pacific Air Lines, since its consolidation of various air operators,

    has endeavored to develop the North country tributary to its routes by (1) reduc–

    tion in passenger and cargo rates and (2) improvements in equipment and frequency

    of service. Throughout Canada the rates to the public have been consistently

    lowered despite, approximately, [ ?] a 60 percent increase in operating costs

    between 1941 and the present time. Numerous examples could be quoted [ ?] but

    only a few will be mentioned to illustrate the many decreases [ ?] put into effect.

            In 1942 the passenger fare between Edmonton and Yellowknife was $110.00; by

    1948 this figure had been reduced to $80.00 or approximately a 27% decrease. At

    the same time, the goods rate per 100 pounds was $50. in 1942 and this had been re–

    duced to $14.97 in 1948 or a reduction of approximately 74%. Similar percentage

    reductions were effected throughout the Northwest Territories between 1942 and 1948.

    007      |      Vol_IX-0328                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    These reductions were in an area in which Canadian Pacific Air Lines is theonly

    scheduled air transportation medium and where ground transport is very slow and


            During the winter of 1948-49, in order to assist the standard of living of the

    people of the Yukon, special winter goods rates of 15 cents per pound, Vancouver

    to Whitehorse, and 17 cents per pound Fort St. John to Dawson City were instituted.

    Such very low rates are a distinct advantage to the people of the north country,

    enabling them to have fresh perishable goods within a few short hours.

            Equipment used on various routes of Canadian Pacific Air Lines has been

    constantly improved in the past six years. A substantial standardization in

    equipment during this period has also been [ ?] achieved. In 1942, after and

    during the consolidation of the companies, equipment consisted of everything

    from single-engine Beechcraft to twin-engine Barkley-Grows and Boeing 247's. The

    aircraft were operated to a limited extent on wheels, but operations mainly were

    conducted with floats in summer and skis during the winter.

            By 1948 the multiplicity of equipment had been reduced to a few standard

    types such as Lockheed Lodestars and Douglas DC-3's [ ?] on the scheduled

    routes, and Norsemen, Barkley Grows, Beechcraft, and Rapids in the smaller out–

    lying operations. These types by 1949 had been mainly reduced to Lockheed

    Lodestars and DC-3's for scheduled main line operations and single-engine Norse–

    man aircraft for bush operations.

            Schedule frequencies during the 1942-48 period had been augmented and improved

    throughout C.P.A. operations. The Vancouver and Edmonton route to the Yukon,

    which was operated three times a week in early 1942, was in 1948 operating on

    a daily-excet-Sunday basis with 28-passenger DC-3's. Similarly, schedules between

    Edmonton and Yellowknife increased from three times per week in early 1942 to

    six times per week in 1948, and numerous second sections were in operation over

    this route.

    008      |      Vol_IX-0329                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

            It was during this period that the improvements took place in the company's

    operations through the provision of landing fields permitting all-year-round

    operation of aircraft on wheels. This was most noticeable in the Northwest

    Territories at such points as Fort McMurray, Fort Smith, Yellowknife, Hay River,

    and down the Mackenzie River to Norman Wells. A similar development took place

    through the interior of British Columbia to Fort St. John and on to Whitehorse

    and Dawson City. Immediately all-year-round wheel operations were feasible,

    Canadian Pacific Air Lines put into operation larger, faster, and more economical

    aircraft to provide better and faster communication for the people of the north

    country and to overcome the long break-up and freeze-up periods when flying had

    to be suspended.

            In 1946 and early 1947, with the advent of small operators to perform the

    charter and small off-line services, Canadian Pacific Air Lines presented to the

    Air Transport Board a proposal to withdraw from bush operations with small air–

    craft where these could be economically performed in the interests of the public

    by the smaller individual operators. This changed Canadian Pacific operations

    throughout most of Canada to a wheeled airline service. Some charter operations

    were retained at Yellowknife and on the north shore of the St. Lawrence where

    no other operator was yet available to perform the service required.

            During 1947, as the company withdrew from bush operations, new airline routes

    were added, such as Winnipeg-Flin Flon on June 1, 1947; Vancouver-Prince Rupert

    on June 15, 1947; Vancouver-Calgary on September 22, 1947; Montreal-Rouyn-Noranda,

    May 16, 1949; and Winnipeg-Churchill, June 7, 1949.

            In general, the aim of Canadian Pacific Air Lines has been to establish regular

    airline services to all communities in its route pattern and to leave to those

    operators capable of doing so the provision of service to small off-line points

    009      |      Vol_IX-0330                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Cole: Canadian Pacific Air Lines

    where float and ski operations are required. This policy has made it possible to

    develop the equipment and service frequency of mainline routes coincident with

    decreases in passenger fares and goods rates throughout the country.

            Spreading its wings into the field of international aviation, Canadian

    Pacific Air Lines, operating more than 10,000 miles of domestic lines, has added

    nearly 15,000 route miles to its services with scheduled flights to Australia

    and the Orient. From Vancouver's International Airport, C.P.A. operates fort–

    nightly trips to Australia via San Francisco, Honolulu, Canton Island, and Fiji

    with Canadair-4's taking off from the field every second Wednesday, while

    each Monday there are flights north via the Great Circle to Tokyo and Hong

    kong with fueling stops at Anchorage, Alaska, and Shemya in the Aleutian Islands.


    P. T. Cole

    Northern Canadian “Bush" Flying

    001      |      Vol_IX-0331                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transportation and Communication

    (Richard Finnie)


            The key that opened the doors of Northern Canada to mining and industrial

    development was the airplane. Prior to its introduction, practically the whole

    of the northerly third of the Cominion was difficult of access except areas

    adjacent to the sea or along navigable rivers. Gold and a little silver and

    lead were produced in the Yukon Territory during and after the rush of 1897-98,

    but apart from a limited amount of whaling in arctic waters, the only other

    business across the whole of Northern Canada was the fur trade, carried on much

    as it had been since the first posts of the Hudson's Bay Company had been estab–

    lished in the 17th century.

            As early as 1915 far-sighted authorities envisaged the possibility that

    aircraft might one day speed the exploration of the Canadian Subarctic, but it

    was not until the end of World War I that serious consideration was given to it.

    It remained for a number of young Canadians who had been military aviators to

    make the practical tests. In a pair of low-winged monoplanes on skis, two of

    them took off for the Mackenzie River in the spring of 1921 with a party of geo–

    logists bound for Norman Wells, where an oil well had just been brought in. That

    was the first aerial journey into Northern Canada.

            In March the two pilots, G. W. Gorman and E. G. Fullerton, had established

    a base at Peace River for their Junkers ships, which belonged to Imperial Oil

    Limited. They got as far as Fort Simpson without difficulty, but there Gorman's

    skis and propeller were damaged when the plane broke through the ice. Repairs

    002      |      Vol_IX-0332                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    were made, both ships returned to Peace River, and that summer Fullerton suc–

    cessfully flew T. A. Link, chief of the geological party, as far as Fort Norman.

    This time a pontoon sprang a leak and the plane settled in shallow water. It

    was salvaged, reconditioned at Norman Wells, 52 miles downstream, and finally

    was flown back to Peace River.

            When or where the terms "bush flying" and "bush pilots" were first used

    is obscure, but their meaning is well understood. Any flight of a ski or float

    plane off the beaten track in the North, whether over wooded country or across

    tundra, became known as a bush flight, especially if in connection with pros–

    pecting or other business; and though the Mackenzie River was a well traveled

    artery no airplanes had ever flown above it before, so Gorman and Fullerton

    qualified for the distinction of being the first northern bush pilots; charter

    members of an illustrious guild.

            At the same time, airplanes were coming into use in the bushlands of North–

    ern Ontario, where they were used first for forest inventory surveys and then

    for forest fire detection as well; and in 1924 the Ontario government created

    its own air service, recruiting pilots who were soon to become famous in the

    Subarctic: H. A. (Doc) Oakes, Leigh Brintnell, G. A. (Tommy) Thompson, C. A.

    (Duke) Schiller, and others. Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Air Force had start–

    ed serial surveys in northern Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Mapping by ground

    surveys had been approaching a practical limit and great northern spaces were

    still blank. By means of oblique aerial photographs mapping was extended with

    a completeness of detail hitherto impossible. All these activities proved that

    aircraft could play an important part in transportation and exploration across

    the outlying districts of Canada, as well as for forestry patrols and surveys.

            Between 1924 and 1926 a Vickers Viking amphibian flying boat, built in

    003      |      Vol_IX-0333                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    England, set a remarkable series of Subarctic bush-flying records. In August

    1924, piloted by R. S. Granby, the Viking flew to Moose Factory and Attawapis–

    kat on the west coast of James Bay on a treaty-paying mission among the Indians.

    The following year the machine was obtained by an American mining syndicate for

    exploration in Northern British Columbia. With the late J. Scott Williams as

    pilot and the late C. S. Caldwell as co-pilot, it was flown from Prince Rupert

    via Wrangell, Alaska, to Telegraph Creek, B. C., and thence to Dease Lake, where

    a base was established. Parties of prospectors were set down in remote areas,

    picked up and moved to other locations, all through the summer — the first em–

    ployment of a procedure in Northern Canada that was later to become standard

    among prospectors, leading to rich mineral discoveries. Many trips were made

    by the Viking to the Upper Liard River, and the longest was up the Dease and

    Frances rivers to Frances Lake. The fliers crossed and recrossed the route of

    the future Alaska Highway and the site of a great airport at Watson Lake, but

    in those days it was all little-known wilderness. There were no mishaps and

    after six weeks and a total of 95 flying hours for the plane the party was re–

    layed back to the coast.

            The next summer the Viking was bought from her original owners, Laurentide

    Air Service Limited, by a mining syndicate for mineral exploration southeast of

    Great Slave Lake, in the Mackenzie District of the Northwest Territories. This

    time her pilot was C. S. Caldwell, with I. Vachon as engineer. The plane was

    assembled at Lac LaBiche, 127 miles north of Edmonton, and flown to FortChipewyan,

    Athabaska Lake, where it was based. A number of flights were made into the Barren

    Lands as far north and west as the Arctic and Hudson Bay watershed. The expedi–

    tion, which was wholly successful as far as flying was concerned, lasted from

    mid-June until the latter part of August.

    004      |      Vol_IX-0334                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

            In 1930 two Vickers Vedette flying boats of the Royal Canadian Air Force,

    piloted by Group Captain Frederick J. Mawdesley and Wing Commander Harry Winny,

    flew down the Mackenzie River to its delta, and to Great Bear Lake and Corona–

    tion Gulf, covering some 12,000 miles in making the first serial oblique mapping

    photographs of the Western Canadian Arctic and Subarctic. Thenceforward the

    RCAF undertook a long-range program of Aerial mapping which has since paid for

    itself many times over in resultant mineral discoveries.

            In 1928 the mining industry was booming, with capital abundant and adven–

    turous, and aerial mineral exploration was launched. J. E. (Jack) Hammell and

    Colonel C. D. H. MacAlpine, both of Toronto, organized two separate and competi–

    tive expeditions under the syndicate names of Northern Aerial Mineral Exploration

    Limited and Dominion Explorers, respectively. Each expedition had its own vessel

    to bring men and supplies to the west coast of Hudson Bay, while airplanes were

    flown to the main bases. The Barren Lands west of the Bay were to be examined.

    Geologists were to spot favorabl formations from the air, and then parties of

    prospectors would be set down to cover them on foot.

            Guy H. Blanchet, a veteran northern mining engineer who represented the

    Department of the Interior with Dominion Explorers, afterwards reported that,

    though there were accidents and machines were damaged or lost, there were no

    casualties dueing a total of between fifty and a hundred thousand miles of

    subarctic flying.

            He told of some of the new problems that beset the fliers. One was the

    compass, for the Dominion Explorers main base was at Baker Lake, within 600

    miles of the Magnetic Pole. Navigation had to be carried on by the sun or land–

    marks, or, on occasions, by the direction of the wind as shown on lake waves.

    One flight from Baker Lake, aimed at Wager Bay, some 200 miles northeasterly on

    005      |      Vol_IX-0335                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    Hudson Bay, was thrown off course by clouds and ended up on the Arctic Coast.

    Solar compasses were subsequently used.

            Winter navigation over the Barrens was endangered by wind-driven snow,

    atarting as a flowing tide, then lifting higher and higher into the air until

    all landmarks were obliterated, making landing difficult on unknown terrain.

    Further hazards were the small, hard, wave-like drifts or Gastrugi , forming in

    the direction of the prevailing winds, they strained the undercarriage and every

    now and then threw a plane onto a wing and wrecked it. Then there were the

    hazards of hidden boulders on the snow-covered land, and rough or rafted ice

    on the sea and lakes.

            Air freighting around the Red Lake mining district of Northern Ontario

    had been flourishing since 1926, and by 1928 commercial aviation was an establish–

    ed institution, with several companies formed and extending their activities

    from coast to coast. In August C. H. (Punch) Dickins of Western Canada Airways,

    carrying a group of prospectors, made the first flight across the Barrens from

    Baker Lake to Lake Athabaska.

            On March 6, 1929, the first airplane crossed the Arctic Circle along the

    Mackenzie River, flown by Dickins, and on the first of July he put his Fokker

    monoplane down at Aklavik, in the Mackenzie Delta. Such flights were like the

    first olives out of a bottle. Other arctic and subarctic records were broken

    that year in quick succession: Snowdrift and Fort Reliance, east end of Great Slave

    Lake, April 2; Fort Rae, North Arm of Great Slave Lake, April 10; Great Bear Lake,

    July 29. It was Dickins who did most of this pioneering. Soon sharing honors

    with him were A. M. (Matt) Berry, Walter Gilbert, W. R. (Wop) May, Con Farrel,

    Leigh Brintnell, T. M. (Pat) Reid, Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, H. A. (Doc) Oakes,

    Stanley MacMillan, the late William Spence, the late C. A. (Duke) Schiller, the

    006      |      Vol_IX-0336                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    late A. D. Cruickshank, and a number of others, not to mention their engineers

    whose ingenuity was extraordinary in maintaining the airworthiness of machines

    in all kinds of weather. Nearly all World War I veterans, several of these

    pilots won the McKee Trophy, an annual award for outstanding contributions to

    the cause of Canadian aviation.

            While Dickins was breaking records during the summer of 1929, Leigh Brint–

    nell was also doing some pioneering. In August, taking off from Winnipeg, Mani–

    toba, with a prospector named Gilbert LaBine, he hopped to The Pas, thence to

    Fort McMurray and down the Mackenzie River to Fort Norman and up the Great Bear

    River to Great Bear Lake, where about fifteen local reconnaissance flights were

    made. (It was the following spring that LaBine staked his Eldorado claims at

    the site of the world's richest known source of uranium.) Brintnell proceeded

    from Great Bear Lake to Aklavik, where he picked up a government party headed

    by O.S. Finnie, Director of the Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch, and in

    sir and a half hours completed a trail-blazing flight across the Mackenzie-Yukon

    divide via the Bell, Porcupine and Yukon rivers to Dawson City. He then flew

    south over Whitehorse and along the coast to Prince Rupert, and overland back to


            Another noteworthy series of pioneer flights was made in September, by J. D.

    Vance (later killed on Great Bear Lake) and T. M. (Pat) Reid, from Hudson Bay to

    Edmonton via Coronomation Gulf, Great Bear Lake and the Mackenzie River.

            That autumn the government awarded a Mackenzie District mail contract to

    Commercial Airways, a company later absorbed kby Canadian Airways Limited; and

    ever since that time all mail to the Arctic has been carried at no extra charge.

            When Sir Hohn Franklin;s two ships and 105 men were swallowed up in the polar

    geastnesses in the middle of the last century, the scores of expeditions that went

    007      |      Vol_IX-0337                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    out to search for them contributed vastly to knowledge of the Arctic. Analo–

    gously, in the autumn of 1929 when Colonel MacAlpine of Dominion Explorers took

    off from Baker Lake with several companions in a Fokker and vanished not far

    from the scene of the Franklin tragedy, the ensuing fine-combing of the Barren

    Lands by airplanes, climaxed by the party's return, produced a wealth of topo–

    graphical information as well as subpolar flying experience. It also directed

    attention to the mineral resources of the Far North and the feasibility of their

    development through aerial exploration and transportation.

            By the time Colonel MacAlpine and his companions, found safe at Cambridge

    Bay, Victoria Island, had been flown south, the search and rescue operations

    had extended from Winnipeg to Churchill, Chesterfield Inlet, the Arctic Coast,

    and Victoria Island, Great Slave Lake, Lake Athabaska, The Pas, and across much

    of the intermediate country.

            A year later an airplane was chartered by the Department of the Interior

    to map the Arctic Coast between Coronation Gulf and Boothia Peninsula and to

    circumnavigate King William Island, the prime object being investigation of re–

    ports of the existence of relics of the Franklin tragedy. A veteran arctic ex–

    plorer, the late Major L. T. Burwash, headed the party, with Walter Gilbert as

    pilot, Stanley Knight as engineer, and the writer as photographer and assistant.

    The flight was the first ever made to the area of the North Magnetic Pole. It

    virtually brought to a close the era of major aerial exploration in Northern

    Canada — with the exception of the more northerly arctic islands — and left

    only short gaps to be filled.

            The airplane in which the Magnetic Pole flight was made had a history com–

    parable to that of the Vickers Viking which preceded it into the Northwest Ter–

    ritories. It was a Fokker monoplane with a 425 horsepower Pratt and Whitney

    008      |      Vol_IX-0338                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    Wasp engine, owned by Western Canada Airways. Its last mission had been with

    the MacAlpine party, when it was abandoned on the Arctic Coast and left exposed

    to the elements for nearly a year before being hastily reconditioned. In the

    previous two years it had made the first flight across the Barrens from Hudson

    Bay westward, had carried the first airmail in Canada west of Winnipeg, and

    had been used by Leigh Brintnell on his 9,000-mile itinerary from Winnipeg to

    Great Bear Lake, Aklavik, Dawson and Prince Rupert.

            The airplanes that did the first bush flying in the Arctic and Subarctic

    were single-engined Fokkers, Fairchilds, Junkers, and Bellancas. Not until a

    few years later were other types introduced, including the popular Norseman.

            In 1931 and 1932 the silver and pitchblende discoveries made previously by

    Gilbert LaBine and others precipitated aerial stampedes to Great Bear Lake.

    Canadian Airways and other companies were transporting men and supplies in a

    dozen or more planes as against the two that had ventured there in 1929.

            In 1932 Leigh Brintnell left Canadian Airways and formed his own company,

    Mackenzie Air Service Limited. Until this time none of the arctic planes was

    equipped with radio, nor did any of them regularly depend on weather reports

    from the government wireless stations scattered along the Mackenzie and on the

    Arctic Coast (a transmitting and receiving set especially provided for the Mag–

    netic Pole flight was jettisoned to reduce weight); yet in all of the first ten

    years of northern flying, while a few planes were cracked up and several pilots

    were killed, no passengers were ever injured. Those were the days when it was

    said that a bush pilot flew "by the seat of his pants."

            Leigh Brintnell's was one of the first commercial companies to equip all

    their planes with two-way voice and code transmitters and receivers, and the

    Royal Canadian Corps of Signals' ground stations responded with voice transmitters.

    Thereafter 15-minute schedules were kept on charter flights as well as on all

    009      |      Vol_IX-0339                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    regular runs.

            By 1933, while flying was still regarded as adventurous by many people

    in a more sourtherly clime, the airplane had already become a commonplace

    factor in the life of the Arctic, along with boat and dog teams. It was quick–

    ly adopted not only by prospectors but by trappers, traders, the Royal Canadian

    Mounted Police, doctors, missionaries and scientists. In those days and after–

    ward, when most of the basic exploratory flying had been done, prosaic routine

    was occasionally interrupted by spectacular "mercy flights." Here a trapper

    had fractured a leg,somewhere else a lonely prospector had become "bushed,"

    out on the Arctic Coast somebody was lost or starving; and on each occasion a

    plane would be sent to the rescue.

            Just as bush flying had led to the discovery of the radium mine and other

    properties on Great Bear Lake, so did it lead to the rise of Yellowknife, on

    the North Arm of Great Slave Lake, in the vicinity of which thousands of claims

    were staked between 1935 and 1938, when the first gold brick was poured there.

    In the intervening years and afterward countless prospectors scoured the wilder–

    ness between Great Bear Lake, using airplanes to move from

    one location to another. Some of the planes were chartered; some belonged to

    mining syndicates. One company had five of its own planes to keep prospectors

    in the field from June until September. The technique of bush flying here attain–

    ed a high degree of efficiency. When veins rich enough to warrant development

    were found, men, machinery and miscellaneous supplies were flown to the sites.

            While the R. C. M. P. continued to travel by boat and dog team on routine

    northern patrols, airplanes proved of great value to them in emergencies. The

    first arctic man hunt in which flying figured was that of "the mad trapper of

    Rat River," in 1932. After shooting two constables, one of whom died instantly,

    010      |      Vol_IX-0340                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    the trapper, Albert Johnson, fled into the wilderness. A chartered plane

    piloted by W. R. May moved supplies and members of a posse, helped track down

    the killer, and rushed a wounded man to the nearest hospital. Eventually, in

    1939, the R. C. M. P. acquired a plane of its own for northern inspection trips.

            From the earliest days of northern flying, bush planes carried prodigious

    quantities of miscellaneous freight as well as passengers — everything from

    live chickens and cattle to lumber, dynamite and heavy mining machinery. Radium

    and silver concentrates were dispatched from Great Bear Lake by plane as well

    as by boat, and many bales of white fox pelts were annually flown from the Arc–

    tic Coast. Before World War II more freight was carried by air in Canada than

    in any other country (possibly exdepting the Soviet Union) and most of it went

    to and from the North.

            As pilots and engineers gained cold-weather experience they made many changes

    and adjustments to render their machines more efficient. They redesigned their

    engine installations to permit of a greater reception of hot air and equipped

    them with extra cowlings to maintain normal operation at low temperatures. Profit–

    ing by such devices and by the severe practical tests being made, Canadian man–

    ufacturers began turning out planes especially constructed for northern bush

    flying. Along with the aircraft companies were several firms specializing in the

    construction of floats and skis. For instance, the airplane skis produced by

    Elliott Brothers of Sioux Lookout, Ontario, became known wherever skis were used

    These men were originally boat and tobaggan builders, but with the development

    of the mining industry at their very door they began to study the requirements

    for winter landing gear and became specialists in the field.

            Aiding the pilots and engineers and manufacturers, the Air Research Committee

    of the National Research Council carried on laboratory and practical experiments

    011      |      Vol_IX-0341                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    to improve flying under all conditions. Among the problems studied were winter

    operation of airplane engines with special reference to starting, lubricating,

    cooling; the effect of low temperatures on lubricating oils and on the strength

    of materials such as spruce, plywood, streamline wire and rubber shock cord;

    aerodynamic investigations on tapered wings, wind tunnel wall interference, and

    stability of flying boats. But bush pilots discovered for themselves solutions

    to many minor but perplexing problems. They found, for example, that if their

    skis dragged on a snow furface under certain conditions and prevented taking off,

    all they had to do was soak gunny sacks in kerosene and let the skis pass over


            Arctic pilots became accustomed to all sorts of extraordinary phenomena,

    such as temperature inversions. In winter a plane may take off when the tem–

    perature on the ground is far below zero, yet at an altitude of a thousand or

    fifteen hundred feet encounter air so warm that hear frost accumulated in the

    cabin melts and drenches the passengers.

            Arctic air engineers must be familiar with ski construction; maintenance,

    repair and rigging of pontoons and anticorrosion preparation of planes for float

    work; preparation and maintenance of engines for cold-weather operation, and

    an infinite variety of knowledge for the most part obtainable only by experience.

    The engineers, and the pilots, too, must be able to service their own planes for

    long periods when away from bases. Besides the filling of gas tanks and the

    checking of oil, servicing in winter may entail blocking up the skis to keep them

    from freezing to the snow or ice, draining the oil and removing the battery and

    storing both in a warm place, putting on the nose hangar (a canvas cover), anchor–

    ing the plane by means of ropes tied to gasoline drums or passed through holes

    chopped in the sea, lake or river ice, and pumping gasoline into the tanks by

    012      |      Vol_IX-0342                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    hands; and standing by in the morning for an hour or two with a fire extinguish–

    er handy while the motor is being heated up by a plumber's blowtorch, often with

    the temperature 40 or 50 degrees below zero.

            Virtually all bush flying has always been "contact , " , i.e., by reference

    to landmarks as well as compass. This usually limits flying to daylight hours

    and reasonably clear weather. Though night flying by bush pilots is contrary

    to air regulations, it has often been practiced in emergencies. In midwinter

    in the higher latitudes the sun remains above the horizon for only a few hours

    (north of the Arctic Circle not at all), and if there is any mist it gives less

    light than the moon. Therefore, on clear nights, when the moon is full, contact

    flying is actually safer than in the daytime, according to oldtime pilots.

            Aside from the ingenuity of the bush pilot in his principal work of flying,

    he must always be prepared to care for himself and passengers in the event of

    a forced landing. He must be cook, hunter, and all-round woodsman. Standard

    emergency equipment always includes concentrated food rations and at least one

    large-caliber rifle. On bush flights, however, there is seldom a group of pas–

    sengers that does not include at least one veteran prospector or trapper to

    lighten the pilot's responsibility.

            Bush flying in the Yukon had its inception in 1927, when the late A. D.

    (Andy) Cruickshank established a charter service out of Whitehorse. A year later

    the late Livingstone Wernecke of the Treadwell Yukon Corporation (mining) ac–

    quired a Fairchild plane for exploration and transportation in the Mayo area

    In 1933 George Simmons, the son of an old Yukoner, formed Northern Airways at

    Carcross in partnership with Everett Wasson, who had been flying for Wernecke

    Their first plane was Wernecke's Fairchild, which they bought. They got a local

    mail contract and did charter flying for sportsmen, trappers and others. In 1935

    013      |      Vol_IX-0343                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    Wasson sold out his interest to his partner and went to work for the newly

    formed aviation branch of the British Yukon Navigation Company (White Pass &

    Yukon Railway), which was short lived. Northern Airways prospered, however,

    employing some of the best bush pilots in the country: Robert Randall, George

    Dalziel, Pat Callison, Jimmy Symes, Herman Peterson, and the late Les Cook.

            In 1934 a young bush pilot named Grant McConachie, who had been flying

    frozen fish from Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan lakes to railroad sidings,

    and Ted Field, a fellow pilot, made a charter trip in two Fokkers from Edmonton

    to the Yukon via Prince George, Dease Lake, Teslin and Carcross. The next year

    a more northerly route was tested by A. D. McLean, then superintendent of air–

    ways for the Department of Transport, in a Fairchild 71 seaplane flown by Punch

    Dickins. They flew to Whitehorse via Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, and Lower Post.

    In 1937 McConachie obtained financial backing from A. J. Nesbitt of Montreal

    and started an airline over this latter route. Soon the Dominion Post Office

    gave him a contract to fly mail once a week to and from the Yukon — on pontoons

    in summer, skis in winter. This was a bush operation that led to a revolution

    in northern Canadian flying.

            Planes equipped with skis or floats are at a disadvantage between seasons,

    when the ice is forming or when it is breaking up, occasioning a suspension of

    service of from six to eight weeks. Moreover, ski and pontoon undercarriages,

    being heavy, allow for a proportionately smaller pay load than that carried by

    a wheel-mounted plane. McConachie, a shrewd business man as well as an expert

    pilot, began hacking out airfields. Soon the Department of Transport took the

    work in hand and that was the genesis of the Alaska Highway route.

            Starting in 1927 as Western Canada Airways with the backing of the late

    James A. Richardson, the largest privately owned air carrier in the Dominion

    014      |      Vol_IX-0344                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    was now Canadian Airways Limited, which had taken that name in 1930 after ab–

    sorbing a number of competitors. In 1942 the Canadian Pacific Railway Company

    which had been a substantial stockholder, bought it out, along with Leigh Brint–

    nell's Mackenzie Air Service and Grant McConachie's Yukon Southern, and formed

    Canadian Pacific Air Lines. Whereas the government-owned Trans-Canada Air Lines

    maintained a regular cross-country run, Canadian Pacific Air Lines now monopol–

    ized virtually all of the northerly routes. The only remaining independent

    operator in the North was George Simmons at Carcross.

            AlthoughCPA put its pilots into uniform and even had stewardesses on some

    of its lines, the era of bush flying was not yet over. The requirements of the

    Alaska Highway and the Canol Project created an intensive demand for pilots and

    planes of the old school. Reconnaissance for road location along the Alaska

    Highway route was made with planes on skis and floats, which also carried relief

    supplies and freight to isolated construction crews. When the U.S. Army Air

    Transport Command flew the Alaska Highway route, and when Army pilots ferried

    fighters and light bombers over it to the Soviet Union, there were inevitable

    crackups. Experienced bush pilots comprised a Search and Rescue group within

    the Alaskan Wing of the ATC, and to them many a transport or ferry pilot owes his life.

            The first exploratory flight across the Mackenzie-Yukon divide from Norman

    Wells to Whitehorse to determine an oil pipeline route in 1942 was essentially

    a bush-plane operation; and many similar flights were subsequently made. These

    called for experienced mountain pilots. George Dalziel, at that time employed

    by CPA, was assigned the task of carrying road locators and supplies among the

    8000-foot peaks of the Mackenzie Mountains from the east side, while the staff

    of Northern Airways flew from the west side. Some of the planes they used were

    015      |      Vol_IX-0345                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comm. Finnie: Northern Canadian "Bush" Flying

    Fokkers, Bellancas and Fairchilds of 1928 vintage, but there was never a fatal

    accident among them. Concurrently, airfields were needed in the Mackenzie Dis–

    trict so that big transport planes could shuttle men and supplies back and forth

    at all seasons, and it was one of the pioneer bush pilots, A. M. (Matt) Berry,

    who marked them out and helped supervise their construction.

            Prior to the was there were no airfields in the Northwest Territories and

    only a scattered few in the Yukon; by the end of the war there were more than a

    score of major airports and numerous intermediate strips. There was an airfield

    on Baffin Island, and other islands in the Arctic Archipelago would eventually

    have similar installations. The increasing use of wheel planes followed radio

    beams from airfield to airfield on regular schedules will render northern flying

    more and more commonplace. However, Northern Canada is abundantly endowed with

    natural landing fields — its myriad lakes and rivers — and as long as out-of–

    the-way areas are to be bisited by prospectors and scientists, as long as lost

    parties have to be searched for and rescued, and as long as sportsmen and sight–

    seers want to visit wilderness spots, there will be a need for bush pilots.


    Richard Finnie

    Canada's Northern Airports and Flying Routes

    001      |      Vol_IX-0346                                                                                                                  
    [ ?] EA-Transportation and Communication

    (Richard Finnie)


            The pioneers of commercial air transportation in northern Canada were bush

    pilots, many of them World War I Air Force veterans, who started making forestry

    patrols in Northern Ontario in 1922 and carried prospectors to outlying areas

    in succeeding years. They found that conditions were favorable for flying al–

    most everywhere in the North, where they could set their ski- and float-planes

    down on a myriad lakes and rivers; they quickly grasped the possibilities for

    mineral exploration, passenger traffic and freighting far from existing roads

    and railways; and they communicated their enthusiasm to such men as James A.

    Richardson, Winnipeg grain merchant, who in 1927 backed the first flying com–

    pany to probe into the Far North. Within two years the whole of continental

    Canada had been crisscrossed by government, commercial and private aircraft,

    and regular mail and express runs from Edmonton to the Arctic had been inaugurated.

            In Alaska, where commercial aviation had its inception in 1923 at Fairbanks,

    about 75 airfields dotted the country by 1930. Except on the coast, where pon–

    toons were used, planes were equipped with wheels in summer and skis in winter.

    In northern Canada, where there were so many lakes and rivers, flying was on a

    ski and pontoon basis from the start; and not until the late 1920's was there a

    single airfield in the Yukon, while the Northwest Territories had none until 1942.

            This does not imply, however, that Canada was backward in northern aviation.

    It was simply that until large freight-carrying, wheel-mounted aircraft came into

    general use prior to World War II, float and ski planes were adequate for all

    002      |      Vol_IX-0347                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    northern operations. In Alaska there was already a white population of nearly

    30,000 engaged in various industries when commercial aviation started there,

    while in northern Canada there were only about 4,000 whites, and the chief business

    was the fur trade. It was the airplane that led to large-scale mining develop–

    ment in the Northwestern Territories (gold mining had been carried on in the

    Yukon since the 1890's), and it was not until the beginning of World War II that

    it had increased to a point where airports were needed to accommodate large

    wheel-equipped transports flying on uninterrupted schedules.

            Commercial aviation following established routes on regular schedules in

    northern Canada grew, of course, out of bush flying, which is essentially charter

    work off the beaten track. Apart from minor operations a year or two earlier

    in the Yukon, it began in 1929 with the awarding of a government contract to

    Commercial Airways to carry mail at regular intervals down the Mackenzie River

    to Aklavik, in the Delta, and to Coppermine on Coronation Gulf. The next year

    Commercial Airways was absorbed by Western Canada Airways, whose name was changed

    to Canadian Airways Limited. When the Eldorado pitchblende and silver mine was

    opened up at the east end of Great Bear Lake in 1931, and when in 1937 the gold–

    mining community of Yellowknife was established 300 miles to the south, on Great

    Slave Lake, mail, express, and passenger runs were made at regular intervals to

    serve them. Canadian Airways, with operations extending from coast to coast,

    had only one serious competitor in the North, Mackenzie Air Service Limited.

            It was in the North that air freighting first assumed large proportions.

    Where roads were lacking and boats could operate no longer than five months in

    the year, nearly all white residents, but particularly mining men, welcomed the

    air carrier for all freight, large or small, that was needed in a hurry. Thirty–

    seven million pounds were delivered in 1937, but during the war, for which figures

    are lacking, many times that total were taken to points in northern Canada by

    003      |      Vol_IX-0348                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    civilian and military transport planes for use on construction projects. Be–

    tween 1927 and 1941 Canadian Airways alone carried 80 million pounds of cargo,

    eight million pounds of air mail, and 250,000 passengers.

            Aviation in the Yukon remained largely on a charter-service and private

    basis until 1937, when a government mail contract was given to Yukon Southern

    Air Transport for a route between Edmonton, Alberta, and Whitehorse with an ex–

    tension to Dawson, via Grande Prairie, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, and Watson

    Lake. This company began operations with airplanes on floats and skis, but

    switched to wheels as soon as one or two intermediate landing strips had been

    cleared. The Department of Transport, whose officials had flown and favored

    the route in 1935, selected permanent airport sites in 1939 and work on them

    was begun the following year. This became known as the Northwest Staging Route,

    and it determined the course of the Alaska Highway.

            In 1941-42 the Canadian Pacific Railway bought out Canadian Airways, along

    with Yukon Southern, Mackenzie Air Service, and other smaller airlines, com–

    bining them into Canadian Pacific Air Lines. Among the top officials, approx–

    imately, were C. H. (Punch) Dickins, one of the pioneer northern pilots and the

    first to have flown across the Barren Lands from Hudson Bay to Lake Athabaska,

    in 1928; and G. W. G. McConachie, the founder of Yukon Southern, who later became

    president of C.P.A.

            The Department of Transport had meanwhile been pressing the construction

    of the Northwest Staging Route, which was given priority after the outbreak of

    war. In December 1940 funds were released for the project and contracts were

    let, but it was not until February 1941 that final authorization was given for

    action. A work train of cabooses and tractors with bulldozers at once set out

    from Dawson Creek, pioneering a winter road where there had been only a trail

    and delivering over 200 tons of freight to the airport site at Fort Nelson 300

    004      |      Vol_IX-0349                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    miles northwestward. During the two preceding winters Yukon Southern had

    cleared a landing strip, and with equipment already there gangs of workmen flown

    in prior to the arrival of the tractor train began lengthening the existing run–

    way while surveyors staked others. Grading was done as soon as the frost came

    out of the ground, and gravel pits were opened up. Asphalt, extra fuel and

    supplies were shipped in from Waterways, Alberta, via the Mackenzie and Liard

    rivers. By September 1st one runway was being used by Canadian and American aircraft.

            The next key airport was developed at Watson Lake, 340 miles northwest by

    land from Fort Nelson. This site had been roughly cleared by Yukon Southern

    in 1937. All equipment that could not be flown was shipped from Vancouver to

    Wrangell, Alaska, in the spring of 1941, and thence moved by power boat and

    barge up the Stikine River to Telegraph Creek, British Columbia, portaged over

    a 75-mile road (which had to be improved for the purpose) to Dease Lake, where

    prefabricated boats were assembled. On these the equipment went on its way

    through Dease Lake and down the Dease River 200 miles to Lower Post on the Liard.

    From here a 26-mile access road was built to the airport site, making a total

    haul of over 400 miles from Wrangell. The first truckloads of freight were de–

    livered before mid-July, and further consignments followed all through the summer.

    One runway was ready for use by September 2, when the first wheel landing was

    made on it.

            For more than a decade there had been a modest landing field at Whitehorse,

    on a bench above the town. It had been pioneered and gradually improved by the

    Yukon Territorial Government, the British Yukon Navigation Company and Pan Ameri–

    can Airways. (The latter had been running between Seattle and Fairbanks via Jun–

    eau and Whitehorse since 1940, and since 1935 there had been service between

    Juneau, Whitehorse and Fairbanks by Pacific Airways, an Alaskan operator absorbed

    005      |      Vol_IX-0350                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    by Pan American.) Being at the end of a 110-mile rail line from Skagway, the

    Whitehorse field presented no transportation problem for its conversion into

    a major airport. It was regarded, surfaced with asphalt, lengthened and widen–

    ed, and was ready to be tied in with Watson Lake and Fort Nelson by the beginning

    of September.

            Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Canada was able to offer the United States

    the use of a ready-made airway, with good airports and radio ranges, from Edmon–

    ton to the Alaskan Boundary. U. S. aircraft had, however, been quietly flying

    the route for months. Further development of the main airports and the construc–

    tion of intermediate emergency strips now became a joint effort. The U.S. War

    Department's decision to build the Alaska Highway along this route was made in

    February 1942. Meanwhile, the Canadian Department of Transport intensified its

    efforts to enlarge the airports, augment navigation facilities, refuelling sys–

    tems, and power and water supplies, besides preparing additional accommodations

    for Royal Canadian Air Force personnel. By the end of February another 1500

    tons of freight had been hauled over the winter road to Fort Nelson, and that

    spring and summer the Stikine-Dease water route to Watson Lake was used again

    for freighting, thus facilitating the holing through of the Alaska Highway as

    a tote road as far as Whitehorse in October.

            Just as the airway aided the construction of the road, so did the road aid

    the consolidation and expansion of the airway. By the time the Alaska Highway

    had been turned into an all-weather gravel-surfaced artery to Fairbanks in Octo–

    ber 1943, there were five major airports along the Canadian section: Grande

    Prairie, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, and Whitehorse. There were

    also eight U.S. constructed flight strips: Dawson Creek, Sikanni chief River,

    Prophet River, Liard River, Pine Lake, Squanga Lake, Pon Lake, and Burwash Land-

    006      |      Vol_IX-0351                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    ing; and five Canadian-constructed strips: Beatton River, Smith River, Teslin,

    Aishihik, and Snag.

            Over the route there was a constant stream of U.S. and Canadian civilian

    and military air traffic, including thousands of lend-lease fighters and light

    bombers being ferried to the Soviet Union.

            The advent of the Northwest Staging Route has been considered by some

    authorities to be more far-reaching in its effects than the road it parallels,

    not only providing fast transportation to Northwestern Canada and interior

    Alaska but opening up a short route to Asia for express traffic between the

    two continents.

            The Northwest Staging Route, though suddenly brought to fruition under

    stress of war, was the result of five years of careful planning and testing;

    and its possibilities had been indicated long before that by Post and Gatty

    and other long-distance fliers who roughly followed it from Fairbanks to Edmon–

    ton. The Mackenzie Valley airfield chain originated under different circum–


            Until the summer of 1942 there were no airfields in the Mackenzie District,

    although Canadian Pacific Airlines was planning a wheel operation between Edmon–

    ton and the gold-mining town of Yellowknife, 700 miles northward, and had begun

    clearing a strip at Waterways, the end of steel 300 miles beyond Edmonton. At

    the end of May the U.S. War Department's Canol Project began. The object was

    to help fuel the Alaska Highway and its airway by stepping up production at the

    Norman Wells oil field on the lower Mackenzie River and piping the crude to a

    refinery to be erected at Whitehorse, 580 miles overland. At the outset it was

    the expectation of the Corps of Engineers, under whose direction the project

    was to be constructed, that all necessary freight could be sent down the river

    007      |      Vol_IX-0352                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    by power boat and barge; but it soon became evident that existing local facil–

    ities plus those being brought in by the Army would be inadequate to handle an

    initial freight consignment of 50,000 tons that summer.

            As northern consultant to the Canol constructors, the writer began urging

    that a series of airfields be built between Edmonton and Norman Wells via Water–

    ways and Fort Smith. This was on June 2, 1942, Colonel Theodore Wyman, Jr.,

    who was the contracting officer, was soon convinced that the fields would be

    necessary and a supplemental agreement was entered into with the constructors.

    In concert with Corps of Engineer officers, sites were picked out by A. M. Berry,

    a veteran bush pilot who had been supervising the clearing and grading of the

    Waterways field. By August, bulldozers, graders, prefabricated housing and all

    incidental supplies were being delivered to Embarras Portage (near the Athabaska

    Delta), Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Hay River, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson,

    Fort Wrigley, Norman Wells and, later, Canol Camp on the opposite side of the

    Mackenzie. On September 30 the first landing by an airplane on wheels was made

    at Norman Wells. The other fields were built concurrently. Uninterrupted year–

    round air transportation was thus established before freeze-up, when neither

    floats nor skis could be used, and the following summer grading and gravel sur–

    facing of the fields were completed, together with radio facilities. The run–

    ways were each a mile in length and 500 feet wide. In addition, an existing

    field at Peace River was enlarged and emergency strips were cleared at Motis,

    Indian Cabins, and Upper Hay Post along the Grimshaw Road to Great Slave Lake,

    where they tied in with the Mackenzie fields.

            Although the Mackenzie Valley airfields were built solely to expedite the

    movement of freight and personnel for the Canol Project, they automatically open–

    ed up an alternative low-altitude air route to Alaska and Asia. In view of that

    008      |      Vol_IX-0353                                                                                                                  
    EA-Trans. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    fact, in 1943 the Canadian Department of Transport proceeded to survey airfield

    sites beyond Norman Wells — at Fort Good Hope, Arctic Red River, Fort McPherson,

    and Old Crow — which would connect with Alaskan fields. Wartime need for them

    did not arise, however, so their construction was held in abeyance. On the pipe–

    line route between Norman Wells and Whitehorse an emergency field was cleared

    near Sheldon Lake, the halfway point, providing a safety factor for wheel-equipped

    aircraft making the direct run between the two centers.

            The United States government was reimbursed by the Canadian government for

    all expenditures on the Mackenzie Valley fields as well as on the Northwest Stag–

    ing Route; and Commercial Aircraft used them after the war for regular service

    between Edmonton and Norman Wells. Canadian government airports were constructed

    at Yellowknife and at Great Bear Lake, near Port Radium, rounding out the network.

    Thus all population centers in the Mackenzie District, with the single exception

    of Aklavik, in the Delta, were given uninterrupted year-round airplane service.

    Only the small outposts were still dependent on bush planes.

            Oddly, the one center without an airfield was that where the first wheel

    landing had been made. It was in 1935 that Harold Gillam, one of the best of

    the Alaskan bush pilots, flew from Fairbanks to Aklavik to pick up charter pas–

    sengers. His plane was on wheels and he effected a successful landing on a rough

    clearing back of the settlement.

            The history of aviation in the Eastern Arctic goes back to 1922, albeit in

    a somewhat negative way. That summer the Department of the Interior, through

    its Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch, dispatched its final annual expedi–

    tion to establish and reprovision posts of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, see

    to the welfare of the Eskimos, and uphold Canadian sovereignty. (Previous govern–

    ment expeditions had been carried out at irregular intervals.) Transportation

    was provided by the C. G. S. Arctic , and among the officials on board was Major

    009      |      Vol_IX-0354                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    Robert A. Logan, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who had instructions to in–

    vestigate conditions affecting aircraft operations in the northern part of the

    Northwest Territories. Besides being a qualified aviator he was a Dominion

    Lands Surveyor, and had taken a course in meteorology with particular reference

    to aviation. An airplane was to have been carried on the ship for trial flights

    in the Arctic, but this plan was abandoned for lack of funds.

            An R. C. M. P. post was established at Craig Harbor on Jones Sound, Elles–

    more Island, latitude 76° 10’ E., longitude 81° 20’ W., in a low, flat valley

    two and a half miles from the foot of a receding glacier. Here Logan laid out

    an airstrip. From Craig Harbor the vessel proceeded to Dundas Harbor, Devon

    Island, where Logan examined the terrain from the aviation standpoint. Later,

    at Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, he located ample space for a large airfield a few

    miles west of the settlement, and several short runways just south of it; all

    were surveyed and staked. He recommended that an experimental air station be

    set up and maintained for a year at some central point such as Pond Inlet, with

    two machines, pilots and mechanics.

            His recommendation did not bear fruit for several years. Meanwhile, the

    first flights over any of the Canadian Arctic Islands were made by R. E. Byrd,

    who in the summer of 1925 was based at Etah, North Greenland, with an expedi–

    tion headed by Donald B. MacMillan. Byrd made several non-stop reconnaissance

    flights over Ellesmere Island. In 1927 the Department of Marine and Fisheries

    outfitted an expedition to Hudson Strait in cooperation with the Royal Canadian

    Air Force, and for 16 months several Fokkers operating on skis or floats flew

    over the Strait, the northeastern corner of Hudson Bay and the southern coast

    of Baffin Island observing ice conditions.

            It was the exigencies of World War II that finally led to the construction

    010      |      Vol_IX-0355                                                                                                                  
    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    of the first airfields in the Eastern Canadian Arctic and the creation of

    operable trans-oceanic flying routes across Hudson Bay, Davis Strait and the

    North Atlantic via Greenland and Iceland. In June 1941 Elliott Roosevelt, then

    a captain in the U.S. Army Air Forces, was sent to Ottawa to meet with Canadian

    authorities and formulate preliminary plans before flying into the Eastern Arctic him

    himself on a reconnaissance mission. He was given the assistance of R. A. Logan,

    who now had the rank of Wing Commander as Director of Intelligence, Royal Can–

    adian Air Force; and Dr. Diamond Jenness, the anthropologist, who was serving

    as Logan's deputy. The object was to map out a series of fields that could be

    used both as bases for submarine patrols and as servicing stops for the ferry–

    ing of fighter planes to the British Isles. On the strength of available data

    locations at Fort Churchill, Southampton Island, Ungava Bay, and Frobisher Bay

    were suggested; and these were eventually decided upon with local modifications.

            In September, following Roosevelt's reconnaissance mission, a ship-borne

    expedition outfitted in New York proceeded via Halifax and Port Burwell to Un–

    gava Bay and Frobisher Bay with Army personnel, tractors and bulldozers, radio

    equipment and prefabricated housing. Three stations were set up, known by the

    code names of Crystal 1, 2 and 3. Crystal 1 was at Fort 1 was at Fort Chimo, Ungava Bay;

    Crystal 2 was at the head of Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island; and Crystal 3 was

    at Padloping Island, just off Cumberland Peninsula, Baffin Island, a short dis–

    tance north of the Arctic Circle. Winter landing strips were cleared at each

    station, and the following summer permanent construction was undertaken by civil–

    ian contractors at Fort Chimo, while the Padloping location was abandoned. At

    the same time work was begun at Fort Churchill, the Hudson Bay rail terminal,

    and at Coral Harbor, Southampton Island. These three fields were in service by

    the fall of 1942, the Frobisher Bay base being built the following year. Cir-

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    EA-Trans. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    cumstances did not necessitate a great deal of traffic at any of them for the

    balance of the war. Goose Bay airport, Labrador, had meanwhile mushroomed into

    one of the world's biggest and busiest airports, sharing with Newfoundland bases

    the bulk of military air traffic along the North Atlantic route to and from the

    United Kingdom.

            The fields at Churchill, Coral Harbor, Fort Chimo and Frebisher Bay com–

    prised the Northeast Staging Route (code name: Crimson). Coral Harbor had but

    one runway, 6,000 by 200 feet, while the other three stations had two runways

    apiece, of standard dimensions of from 150 to 200 feet in width and up to 6,000

    feet in length. They were constructed entirely by the U.S. Army and American

    civilian contractors, but the Canadian government reimbursed the United States

    government for them. After the war, U.S. Army Air Force personnel continued to

    operate the Fort Chimo and Frebisher Bay fields, and at the latter further es–

    tensions were eventually made by Corps of Engineers troops. Coral Harbor was

    placed in caretaker status under the supervision of the Canadian Department of

    Transport. The Fort Churchill base had Canadian meteorological service from

    the outset. The control and maintenance of the field were taken over from the

    U.S. Army by the Department of Transport, a responsibility later transferred to

    the Department of National Defense. A small postwar supplement to this string

    of airfields was an emergency landing strip bulldozed out on a gravel bench at

    Baker Lake for the use of aircraft supplying Exercise Musk Oxk.

            The construction of the Goose Bay airport, a purely Canadian undertaking,

    was considered a triumph under northern wilderness conditions. Location, in–

    spection, surveying and final construction were all carried out within a year.

    The location was made by Eric Fry, a Department of Mines and Resources surveyor,

    in August 1941. Supplies and equipment began moving to the site by ship in

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    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    September, and before the navigation season had closed in November, 17,000 tons

    of freight had been delivered, and docks and storage sheds had been built. In

    November, one month after work began, three winter runways were completed and

    an additional runway was prepared to accommodate heavy bombers and transports

    during the spring thaw. Operations were carried on the clock around, the job

    being floodlighted at night. Through the winter heavy rollers developed a well–

    compacted snow surface on the runways, which were then kept clear by plows and


            The extra runway was covered with brush, and snow was allowed to drift

    over it as double protection against frost until the early spring. The brush

    and snow were then swept away and the surface was graveled. In this way the

    delays common to northern airports during periods of thaw were avoided, and the

    spare runway continued in use while the permanent runways were being completed.

            As soon as the frost was out of the ground, paving of the permanent run–

    ways was undertaken. This involved the placing of 623,000 square yards of con–

    crete, the equivalent of over 53 miles of standard-width roadway. Record runs

    of as many as 13,000 square yards or 11,500 lineal feet of ten-foot strip were

    completed in single 12-hour shifts. The equipment operators were held back

    only by the amount of cement that could be delivered to the job site in a given


            The contractor (McNamara Construction Co., Toronto) employed 2,500 men at

    the peak, and brought in by ship more than 100,000 tons of freight all told,

    including road-building machinery, saw mills, stone-crushers, cement mixers

    and forms for casting drainage pipes, power plants, water-works and sewerage

    systems, and material for machine shops, storage depots, hangars, mess halls

    and dwellings. The saw mills produced six million board feet of lumber from

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    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    native timber, and dockage for several freighters at a time was constructed,

    with harbor rail lines.

            Before the winter of 1942-43 set in the airport was finished according to

    the original specifications, and was a self-contained community with all nec–

    essary facilities. Thereafter it was used and operated jointly by the United

    States Army Air Forces and the Royal Canadian Air Force until war's end. Sub–

    sequently its operation reverted exclusively to the R.C.A.F.

            Whereas prior to World War II the only airfields in Canada north of the

    thickly settled areas were a few rudimentary ones in the Yukon and along the

    fledgling airway from Edmonton to Whitehorse, by the close of 1943 there were

    more than two score of them, some of major proportions, others having the status

    of emergency or intermediate flight strips, but nearly all capable of accommo–

    dating large transport planes.

            After the war, with military traffic in the air largely replaced by civil–

    ian traffic, most of those airfields continued in use as stepping stones for

    commercial planes on regularly scheduled runs, connecting all population centers

    in Canada and other countries. With meteorological stations on a number of the

    Arctic Islands as well as on the mainland, commercial flying throughout the

    Dominion - - clear to the North Pole - - will become as safe as anywhere else, its

    scope limited only by the pace of domestic industrial expansion and the growth

    of intercontinental trade.

            Canadian Pacific Air Lines soon after its formation was operating eighty

    planes on 12,000 miles of north-south scheduled routes. In its first year (1942)

    it carried ten million pounds of air cargo, 60,000 passengers and 1,750,000 pounds

    of airmail, and covered more than five million air miles. The routes it flies

    are all links in the global air chain pioneered by such men as Wilkins, Post,

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    EA-Transp. & Comn. Finnie: Canada's Northern Airports

    and Lindbergh.

            While extraordinarily accelerated by the pressure of war, the building

    of Canada's northern airfields and the development of its air routes stem from

    the pioneering of the bush pilots and the airborne explorers of the 1920's and



    Richard Finnie

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