Saskatchewan Aviation Chronology 1920-29

May, 1920 -- Travelling by train, federal air regulators made their first foray out of Ottawa. Their first stop was in Regina, where Roland Groome became Canada’s first licensed commercial pilot, Robert McCombie its first licensed air engineer and their crude airport the first licensed "air harbor" in the Dominion. Their Curtiss JN-4 (Can) Canuck was thus the first registered aircraft in Canada, G-CAAA. Sadly, the Aerial Service Company later failed.

1920 -- July 25 -- Stan McClelland’s Saskatoon airfield is used by four DH-4B biplanes of the U.S. Army Air Service en route from New York City to Nome, Alaska. They returned via Saskatoon on Oct. 10, 1920. (See
History of Canadian Airports, page 209.)

1921, Oct. 7 -- A man identified as L. Reece was killed while attempting to change from one plane to another in flight over Regina. Reece was using a rope ladder to climb from one Canuck (a Canadian-built Curtiss Jenny flown by pioneering local aviator Roland Groome to another (flown by a man from Yorkton named Wallace).

Reece was partway up when he lost his grip and fell to his death somewhere on the Legislative grounds in south Regina. A subsequent inquiry cleared both pilots, but, as a 1997 aviation history calendar noted, "regulations (were) introduced to prevent further occurrence."'

1922 -- The first evidence of flying in the Estevan area. Also, in 1924, E.A. Alton of Winnipeg attempted an informal airmail flight from Estevan to Winnipeg in a Standard J-1 biplane; he reportedly had to land near Bienfait with engine trouble.

1926 -- Economic depression savaged the Saskatchewan aviation industry, with not a single flight made in the province that year -- save for a tragic one that saw a pilot fall to his death from his Curtiss JN-4 (Can) near Shaunavon on June 30.

1927, May/June --
With help from his old friend, pilot Jack Wight, airman Roland Groome began another business venture, the grandly named Universal Air Industries at the "Lakeview Aerodrome". on the site of what is now Regina’s Golden Mile shopping centre. Newspaper reports also circulated about the formation of a local flying club.

For their firm, Groome and Wight bought JN-4 (G-CAAL) from Western Aeroplane Company in Moose Jaw, where it had been sitting in a defunct flax mill. They brought it to Regina, rebuilt it, and also brought a Swallow aircraft from Wichita in 1927. The aircraft were used for barnstorming and flying local charters.

1927 -- with help from the federal government, the City of Saskatoon (like Regina) began planning a new airport for airmail services -- one link in a national chain of flying clubs that the federal government was encouraging in order to have the capability to train large numbers of new aviators. In May 1928, a site in the area of the present Saskatoon airport was chosen. This land was formally acquired in July 1928 and licensed for aviation use (by day) on June 1, 1929. It became the home of the Saskatoon Aero Club (later the Saskatoon Flying Club). By the end of 1929, this club was the second-largest in the country. (See: History of Canadian Airports, page 209-210.)

1927 -- the City of North Battleford sought federal government help in building an airport. This facility officially opened in 1930. A private charter firm, Cherry Red Airlines and Commercial Airways Ltd. operated from it in the 1930s.

1928, March 28 -- Winnipeg-based Western Canada Airways applied to the Post Office for a contract to carry airmail between Winnipeg and Calgary (via Regina) with an the option of extending this to other Prairie cities. WCA’s owner, James Richardson, also sought a monopoly on airmail flying in the area, a four-year contract and an assurance that the federal government would provide weather advisory services and lighted navigation beacons along the route. (See Double Cross: The Inside story of James A. Richardson and Canadian Airways, Page 43)

1928, summer -- The City of Regina started building a hangar and gasoline storage facilities on the site of the city's present airport on the southwestern edge of the city. A second, larger hangar was begun the next year and the old Lakeview airfield closed in 1930. Encouraged by a federal government policy under which Ottawa would give two training aircraft to each new flying club, clubs are formed by mid-summer 1928 in Regina, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon, plus Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria, and many centres in eastern Canada.
At Regina’s club, Roger "Cap" Delhaye became the manager and Roland Groome was the chief flying instructor. Both were veterans of the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War.

A series of crated de Havilland Moths was sent from deHavilland’s Toronto plant to the RCAF station at High River, Alberta, for assembly and test flying. Flying club members from Saskatoon and then Moose Jaw were dispatched to pick up their aircraft. Those destined for Regina were shipped, disassembled, in a boxcar, then trucked to Universal Air Industries Lakeview field and reassembled. (Regina's aircraft, for the record, were DH-60X Moths G-CAKP and G-CAKT, all operating briefly from the Universal Air Industries hangar. The Regina Flying Club also operated a Stinson SM-2AA in which Canada's first airborne wedding was held over the Queen City on May 24, 1929.)

1928, September 13 -- Frustrated by delays in receiving a federal airmail contract, Western Canada Airways announced it would begin scheduled passenger and freight service over the Winnipeg-Regina-Calgary route, offering to carry mail "at nominal cost in order to demonstrate its feasibility to the Post Office and the public." Post Office approval for an experimental airmail project for the Dec. 10-29, 1928 period was given on Nov. 22, 1928.

Despite the apparent success of this experiment, the Post Office delayed giving an airmail contract to WCA. See Double Cross, page 45-47 and Wing Walkers -- A History of Canadian Airlines International, page 41. The latter book interprets the delay as the Post Office’s concern that putting passengers aboard an aircraft carrying airmail meant "the pilot might be unwilling to take necessary risks if passengers were aboard".

1928, August 7 --
two D.H. Moth planes, loaned by the federal government to the Moose Jaw Flying Club, carried 169 letters to Stevenson Flying Field at Winnipeg. Capt. Howard Ingram, as pilot, was accompanied by Charles Banting, air engineer. Leaving Moose Jaw at noon, they made one refueling stop at Elkhorn, Manitoba.

1928, December
-- Despite fog, low cloud and blizzards, Winnipeg-based Western Canada Airways began test flights over a network of prairie airmail routes. A secondary step was lighting the airways with intermittent beacons so as to make them safe for night operation. Indeed, from mid-1928, Canadian installation crews began construction of a long string of intermediate landing fields, with lighting, for night flying in western Canada. They began west of Winnipeg, with the last location just east of Calgary. An air inspector with the Department of National Defence, George Wakeman, plus others, were seconded to the project, helping to pick sites for the intermediate aerodromes and supervising construction of the lighting towers at these sites. There was to be 30 miles between the aerodromes.

In Saskatchewan, intermediate aerodromes were at Moosomin, Whitewood, Broadview, Wolseley, Indian Head, Regina (revolving searchlight), Moose Jaw (revolving searchlight), Mortlach, Valjean, Herbert, Swift Current, Webb, Piapot and Cummins. See "Pioneer Airways Lighting in Western Canada", by Ray Crone, The Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal, Summer 1997, pages 44-53.

1929 -- Prince Albert got its first commercial aviation company, the Cherry Red Line Limited, owned and operated by Norman Cherry and H. Holroyde. Cherry, a Saskatchewanian who had worked in the U.S., returned to Canada with a two-seat Pheasant biplane and later added a Buhl Airsedan. The focus of their charter business was Consolidated Smelters, which had opened a facility at Rottenstone Lake in northern Saskatchewan. Although this mining traffic did not materialize, the firm carried the first airmail into Prince Albert. The company printed its own postage stamps and distributed them to agents in the north. A ten-cent stamp would carry one ounce into Prince Albert. These stamps are now rare and were trading at a premium among collectors 75 years later.

With the onset of the Depression, the firm encountered hard times and had failed by 1932. The Pheasant biplane survived and is on display in the Moose Jaw branch of the Western Development Museum. See Prince Albert Daily Herald, August 28, 1966, Pages A-26/28 as well as http://www.ftlcomm.com/ensign/planes/cherry/cherry.html>

1929, June 25 --
After considerable lobbying, Winnipeg-based Western Canada Airways received (via telegram) news that it had received a four-year federal airmail contract for a route linking the cities of Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary. The company ordered two new types of aircraft to handle the mail and create passenger-carrying capabilities that it hoped would encourage more people to fly.

Three four-passenger single-engine biplanes known as Model 40B-4s were delivered by the Boeing company at Vancouver in December 1929. From the Canadian subsidiary of Fokker Airplanes, six single-engine high-wing eight-passenger monoplanes were ordered, too. Known as Fokker F. XIVs, they began arriving in Winnipeg in mid-October 1929.

This air mail contract was confirmed in writing on Oct. 18, 1929. Under it, WCA was to provide service between Winnipeg and Calgary via Regina, Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat, and also between Winnipeg and Edmonton via Regina, Saskatoon and North Battleford. (See Double Cross, Page 48.)

Before winter weather began in late November 1929, the installation crews for the airways lighting located and surveyed 21 intermediate aerodromes and installed 80 beacons. See Double Cross and Wing Walkers.

1929 Sept. 30
-- Two Saskatoon women, Nellie Carson and Grayce Hutchinson passed the tests for their private pilots’ licences, thus becoming the first women pilots in the province of Saskatchewan (See "Nellie Carson: a daring young woman in her flying machine", by Ruth Millar, Saskatchewan History, Spring 1999, pages 42-43.)
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