Saskatchewan Aviation Chronology 1930-39

1930 July 5 -- the official opening of Moose Jaw’s airport, located on the site of what’s now the federal Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) compound in The Band City's west end. It was the site of a gala flying meet with everything from balloon-bursting to aerobatics, with around 16 aircraft appearing -- a remarkably large number for such a young industry.

1930 September 15 -- official opening of the new Regina airport, timed to coincide with the arrival of the aircraft of the Ford Reliability Air Tour, an endurance test of aircraft flying a huge circuit around North America and gaining contest points, from a starting point at Detroit. This odd cavalcade (which included a Sikorsky S-38 flying boat, a early Cessna monoplane and several sleek Lockheed Vega high-wing monoplanes) arrived from Brandon in one of the "black blizzards" sadly typical of the 1930s. Parked on the ground, these aircraft stretched for a half-mile.

1930-1 -- With Angus Campbell, Richmond Mayson (a Royal Flying Corps veteran who had become one of the Saskatoon Flying Club’s most prominent members) formed M&C Aviation, initially based in Saskatoon and later in Prince Albert. Its first aircraft was a Stinson (CF-AFF) known as "Lady Wildfire", as it had come from a Saskatoon firm called Wildfire Coal. Initially, barnstormers, Mayson and Campbell spent the 1930s doing northern bush flying, first from the town of Big River and then from a permanent base at Prince Albert. By 1934, this firm had three aircraft and enough business that Mayson had to quit flying and take over the administrative duties.

Besides charter flights into the north, the firm carried out two scheduled flights from Prince Albert. One went to Lac La Ronge and Stanley, and the other to Ile a la Crosse and Buffalo Narrows. This firm also operated a training base and overhaul facility at Prince Albert during the Second World War. (
See  Prince Albert
Daily Herald, August 28, 1966, Pages A-26/28).

1931, January 2 -- Fokker F. XIV (CF-AIG) of Western Canada Airways was damaged beyond repair after making a forced landing in dense fog near Pilot Butte.

1931 -- the Regina airport played host to the first Trans-Canada Air Pageant, a traveling airshow, complete with five RCAF Siskin fighters supported by an air force Ford Trimotor loaded with spares and maintenance gear -- the "Herc" of its day. It also included Saro Cloud flying boat and a DH Puss Moth. As the air pageant rested at Regina, there appeared autogiro CF-ARO, which had flown from Minneapolis via Winnipeg that day.

An odd sidelight: a special trophy for flying club proficiency was awarded that year to the young Regina Flying Club. The competition was never held again, so the modest trophy still sits, almost 60 years later, in a club display case.

1931, June 8 -- Nellie Carson of Saskatoon set a record for altitude gained by a woman -- in the neighborhood of 16,000 feet, at which height she "damned near froze to death it was so cold," according to aviation historian Ray Crone. (See "Nellie Carson: a daring young woman in her flying machine", by Ruth Millar, Saskatchewan History
, Spring 1999, pages 42-43.)

1931 -- Following the federal government’s transfer of jurisdiction over natural resources to the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Ottawa transferred five Vickers Vedette aircraft (CF-SAA to ’E) for $1 each to the Saskatchewan government. When the federal government/RCAF still had control of the Vedettes, they operated from Ladder Lake near Big River, plus Cormorant Lake and Norway House, Man., on survey, general utility and photographic duties.

All of these Vedettes eventually were withdrawn from service. CF-SAE, for example, was damaged beyond repair at Stoney Lake in May 1936, in one of the first instances in Canada of a pilot having to use his parachute when an aircraft caught fire. Sadly, the mechanic was killed in the crash, which occurred in the Big River district.

The Moose Jaw branch of the Western Development Museum has the fuselage of a Vickers Vedette, reportedly CF-SAE.

1932, January --Prime Minister R. B. Bennett announced that the federal government had decided to cancel the Post Office’s Prairie airmail contracts, effective at the end of February.

1932 -- the City of Regina paved the runways at its municipal airport, giving it the only asphalt runways between Montreal and Vancouver.

1933 -- Brooks Airways was formed by R.D. Brooks, president of a Prince Albert ground transportation firm. It put three planes into operation, mostly on forestry patrols in the summer and carrying government supplies in the winter. The company suffered a tragic loss on June 21, when its Buhl Airsedan crashed, killing veteran pilot B.W. "Bill" Broatch (a veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War and a man with an estimated 6,000 flying hours, many of them in northern operations), mechanic T.D. Forsyth and pilot-mechanic Hiram Brooks, son of company president R.D. Brooks. Witnesss said the aircraft appeared to dive into 10 feet f water from an altitude of 3,000 feet while on a test flight after major maintenance. The company closed less than two years later. See Prince Albert Daily Herald, August 28, 1966, Pages A-26/28

1933, July 25 -- coincident with the World Grain Show in Regina, there arrived in Regina the sleek low-wing Northrop Gamma flown by Frank Hawks, who had come nonstop from New York -- then returned in one hop to see his friends, British aviators Jim and Amy Mollison, who had been injured in an attempt to cross the Atlantic.

1934, mid-July -- The Regina airport played host to ten Martin B-10 bombers of the U.S. Army Air Corps on their way from the eastern U.S. to Alaska to "show the flag".

1935 - Effective June 1, the Department of National Defence authorized the creation of No. 20 (Bomber) Squadron (Auxiliary) at Regina. It began training in April 1937 with four DH Moth aircraft. It was renumbered as No. 120 Squadron in November 1937 and was called out on voluntary full-time duty after the outbreak of war in September 1939.

1935 -- Canadian Airways opened a base at Prince Albert in competition with M&C Airways. It remained in the local picture until bought out by Canadian Pacific Airlines in 1939. See Prince Albert Daily Herald, Aug. 28, 1966, Pages A-26/28

1935, summer -- The directors of the Moose Jaw Flying Club decided this would be a propitious time to set up a small airline specializing in charter and passenger flying. Hiring member Dick Ryan as manager, the firm (called Prairie Airways) initiated operated a DH Puss Moth and a high-wing Cessna monoplane of unspecified type.

1935, Sept. 20 -- the Regina Flying Club manager and chief flying instructor, Roland Groome, and a student aviator, Arnold Sym, were killed when their Avro Avian CF-CDX crashed on Regina's outskirts. An investigation showed that one of the aileron control rods had become detached.

1935 -- M&C Aviation moved from Saskatoon to a new base at Prince Albert, where it acquired a Fairchild registered CF-ARA, basing it on the bank of the North Saskatchewan River near what is now downtown Prince Albert. Competing with the new local base of Canadian Airways Ltd., it pursued fire-suppression work and freighting for mines. (For more on CAL’ operations in Prince Albert, see Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport, page 199.) After Canadian Airways was purchased by Canadian Pacific Airlines, CPA briefly had two planes stationed in Prince Albert and added a third in the busy season, but remained only a short time. It pulled out again, leaving all the business to M and C. See Prince Albert Daily Herald, August 28, 1966, Pages A-26/28

1936 -- Regina businessman George Speers founded the first air ambulance company in Western Canada. His firm, Speers Airways, began with two aircraft and was an outgrowth of his funeral home business. One of his pilots was Charlie Skinner, who became a distinguished test pilot for Canadian Car & Foundry during the Second World War, testing hundreds of Helldivers and Hurricanes. Others were Steve Albulet, who became a senior pilot for Trans-Canada Airlines, and Harold Batty, who went on to become chief flying instructor of the Regina Flying Club, then a senior officer in the wartime British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. (Source: Our Heritage 1894-1989, published by the Saskatchewan Funeral Services Association, and Ken Liddell’s column on Skinner in The Leader-Post, Thursday, July 10, 1947. See also the website

1936, May 27 -- Vickers Vedette CF-SAE of the Saskatchewan government’s provincial air service crashed northwest of Big River. Contemporary newspaper reports indicate the aircraft was one of two returning from Sled River to the nearby base on Ladder Lake when it was caught in weather that flung it out of control, throwing from the aircraft firefighter Philip Clement of Big River. Although he was wearing a parachute, he was not able to use it and died. The pilot, George C. Upson, became the first person in Saskatchewan to save his life through the use of a parachute, landing safely in a 60-foot spruce tree, from which he was rescued.

 The crash of the Vedette is reported to have started a forest fire that took several days to control. The forward section of the Vedette’s fuselage was recovered decades later and, after spending about 10 years in the Natural Resources Museum at Buckland (north of Prince Albert), was transferred in 2003 to the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon. See the following Leader-Post articles: "Fire-fighter Missing in Air Mishap -- Pilot Upson of Provincial Service Bails Out and Lands Safely, (Thursday,May 28, 1936); "Plane Crash Starts Forest Fire (May 29, 1936), "Fire ranger found dead after crash" (May 30, 1936), and "Man Did Not Use Parachute in Plane Crash" (June 2).

1937 -- development of an airport at Swift Current began. It was to be one of the emergency landing fields built every 100 miles for the new trans-Canada airway.

1937, June 23 --  In the midst of a hot spell that set records standing 60 years later, the Canadian Flying Clubs Association undertook a tri-city Saskatchewan tour following its annual convention in Regina. Eighteen aircraft carrying association members from across Canada landed safely at Moose Jaw’s municipal airport on Caribou Street West in spite of a dust storm, and were met by the mayor, board of trade members and officials of the local flying club. The 18 visiting aircraft, joined by planes from the Moose Jaw Flying Club, were scheduled to leave for Saskatoon that afternoon. Instead, most of the aircraft was grounded by strong winds and zero visibility. Of the five that managed to take off, one was forced down at Kenaston, the others at Davidson, Hanley and Vonda, respectively. Only a Cessna belonging to the Moose Jaw Flying Club made it all the way to Saskatoon because the pilot had flown the route many times before. See The Moose Jaw Times-Herald, August 6, 1999

1937, Sept 27 --  Joyce Bond became the first Western Canadian woman to use a parachute when she jumped from a Regina Flying Club aircraft flown by club instructor Jack Hames at 2,500 feet over the city. Bond was a member of the first local class of parachutists since 1934, when five club members, including CFI Roland Groome, parachuted over the city. See "Half-mile jump for Regina girl", The Leader-Post, Sept. 27, 1937, page 1. To learn more about Joyce, click here:

1937, December -- Moose Jaw’s Prairie Airways formally applied to the federal government for a licence to operate a route that went Regina-Moose Jaw-Saskatoon-Prince Albert-North Battleford, then returned. De Havilland Rapides initially were considered, but eventually two Beech 18Ds were ordered from the factory. This service began Aug. 2, 1938. (See From Boxkite To Boardroom by Richard W. Ryan.)

1938 -- R. Harold Batty was appointed chief flying instructor (CFI) of the Regina Flying Club, succeeding Jack Hames, who joined Canadian Airways at Edmonton. Batty, born in Balcarres and raised at Lang before graduating from Regina College, thus became the club’s third CFI. He received his first flying instruction in 1928 from Jeff Home-Hay, who by 1938 was flying from Flin Flon. (See Canadian Aviation Magazine, April 1938.)

1938,  Nov. 17 -- A Trans-Canada Airlines Lockheed 14 CF-TCL crashed near the Regina airport just before midnight, killing the two pilots. No passengers were aboard. See And I Shall Fly by Z. Lewis Leigh and "Planes in Flames Before Crash, Say Farm Workers", The Leader-Post, Saturday, Nov. 19, 1938.

This was the first fatal accident in TCA’s history.

1939, February
--  Trans
-Canada Airlines began intensive training for the launch of its cross-country passenger flights. Among its stewardesses were two with Regina roots: former nurses Helen Kilby MacAdam Harding, daughter of former Anglican Archbishop M.M. Harding (she was born and attended school in Regina), and Lucille Garner, daughter of Col. and Mrs. A.C. Garner, Regina. Garner was TCA’s chief stewardess, the first Canadian air hostess and in charge of training at Winnipeg. She died in 1999. (See "Regina Girls on Air Lines", The Leader-Post, February 25, 1939; Philip Smith’s book, It Seems Like Only Yesterday -- Air Canada: The First 50 Years, Pages 78-79, and "On The Wings of a Nightingale", Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal, Vol. 24, No. 1 [Spring, 1986] Page 23.

1939 --  September-October. When war broke out, 120 (Auxiliary) Squadron at Regina was mobilized, half its personnel going to the west coast, where the unit went onto anti-submarine and patrol work, while the other half went east, dispersing to other units.