Saskatchewan Aviation Chronology 1950-59

1950, November: the RCAF announced it would open a flying training school at the Saskatoon airport. (See: History of Canadian Airports by Tom McGrath, page 210.)

1952, Jan. 1: The RCAF’s 1 Advanced Flying School opened at RCAF Station Saskatoon with B-25 Mitchells. The first pilots arrived Feb. 4 and the first Beech C-45 Expeditors on April 16. See Best In The West historical addendum

 August -- The RCAF announced that No. 2 Flying Training School, then at Gimli, Man., would move to the reactivated station at Moose Jaw in 1953. This move, dubbed "Operation Gimjaw", was accomplished in May, 1953. See Best In The West, pages 85-86. 2 FTS aircraft carried the code letters "XS".

 

1954, April 8 -- 6,000 feet over Moose Jaw, an RCAF Harvard from Moose Jaw's 2 FTS, flown by an RAF trainee pilot, collided in mid-air with a Trans-Canada Airlines North Star flying from Winnipeg to Calgary. The total death toll was 37: 31 passengers, the TCA crew of four, the Harvard's pilot and a woman in a house destroyed by falling wreckage.

A subsequent inquiry concluded, in the absence of other evidence, that the Harvard’s pilot, acting P/O Thomas Andrew Thorrat likely had been studying his map or filling out his logbook when he rammed the airliner. See Best In The West, pages 108-111. This semi-official history complained about "sensational" press reporting, but conceded Jan. 6, 1955 saw a "near-miss" between another Harvard and TCA North Star. Newspaper accounts of the 1954 crash noted a complaint by the head of the TCA pilots' union concerning RCAF aviators "buzzing" airliners. One result of the 1954 collision and the near-miss was the Department of Transport’s decision to move the "airway" along which airliners traveled well north of Moose Jaw, while RCAF training was focused south of the city.

Aug. 12, 1954 - A B-25 Mitchell from Saskatoon's 406 (Auxiliary) Squadron crashed during a night-time hailstorm near Simpson, roughly halfway between Regina and Saskatoon. All three crewmen aboard the bomber were killed: pilot S/L Neville Barson, co-pilot F/L Frank Klassen and radio operator F/O Victor Loewen. So fierce was the late evening hailstorm that many crops in the area were wiped out; there was speculation that the aircraft was hit by lightning. The downed Mitchell, which had been flying from Regina to Saskatoon, left a crater 20 feet deep. (Source: "Three RCAF officers die in bomber crash", The Leader-Post, Aug. 13, 1954.) All three officer left wives and children; Barson was an Australian who had trained during the Second World War at Saskatoon, married and returned there after the war.

January 6, 1955 -- A Saskatchewan Government Airways Avro Anson crashed and burned while landing at Buffalo Narrows, killing eight people, including pilot Stuart Millar and five children. It was the first fatal accident in the Crown corporation’s eight years of existence. A subsequent coroner’s inquest returned an "open verdict", though SGA personnel testified the most probable cause was a bird strike on the windshield, blinding the pilot and causing him to instinctively pull up when the aircraft was already at stalling speed. (Sources: "Eight die in SGA crash," The Leader-Post, Jan. 6, 1955 and "SGA crash jury returns open verdict", Leader-Post, March 12, 1955.)

1955 -- Floyd Glass, former general manager of Saskatchewan Government Airways, set up his own firm, Athabaska Airways -- which was still operating robustly 45 years later.

 

1955 -- a new airport terminal building was built and opened in Saskatoon. In the same year, the City of Saskatoon declined a federal invitation to take over operation of the airport. In the same year, though, Regina accepted a similar offer.

 1955 - Sept. 5. - At a Labour Day gathering at the Estevan Airport, 32 people decided to create a Saskatchewan chapter of the National Flying Farmers. The officers elected were Abe Berdy of Estevan (president), Art Smalley of Windthorst (1st VP), Mrs. Ana Cederholm of Oxbow (2nd VP), Jim Sheridan of Rosetown (3rd VP) and Stan Slotsve of Torquay (secretary).

The idea had came about in an unusual way: Kenneth Butler, a senor official of the National Flying Farmers in the U.S., had used his light aircraft to take a fishing trip in northern Saskatchewan in July 1955. While stopping for fuel at Estevan on his return, he struck up a conversation with local aviators and "planted" the idea of forming a chapter, noting an Alberta group of Flying Farmers had been started the previous February. Source: The Sky Is The Limit -- A 25-Year History of the Saskatchewan Flying Farmers, page 6. The U.S.-based National Flying Farmers changed its name to International Flying Farmers in 1961.

1956 Jan. 23 -- Saskatoon’s 1 AFS takes on the instrument flying training role. See Best In The West historical addendum

 

1957 -- Canadian Pacific Airlines swapped routes with upstart Pacific Western Airlines. In return for giving CPA its Kitimat-Terrace run, PWA received CPA’s DEW Line resupply operations, plus its Edmonton-Lloydminster-North Battleford-Prince Albert-Saskatoon-Moose Jaw-Regina service, using a DC-3. See Peter Pigott’s book Wing Walkers: A History of Canadian Airlines International, Page 205.

 

1957, April 6 -- Dr. E.A. McCusker, Liberal candidate for Regina in the upcoming federal election and also a pioneer member of the municipal air board (which oversaw the Regina airport) announced that work would start soon on a new $800,000 terminal building at the airport. The work would be undertaken in three stages, tenders being called for foundations and footings in May, for steel work in June and for the superstructure in August. The building was to be constructed as a winter project in an attempt to provide off-season employment for construction workers. Source: The Leader-Post, Monday, April 8, 1957 page 3

 

1957, October --  Canadian Pacific Airlines, having handed over its money-losing Edmonton-Regina route to Pacific Western Airlines under a package of route and service rationalizations, applied to return to Saskatchewan’s two largest cities via a package of new transcontinental services using DC-6Bs. Although other routes were granted, these Saskatchewan ones were not. (See page Wing Walkers, Pages 210-217 and Wings Over The West, Page 137-138)

 

1958, December 8 -- B-25 Mitchell  trainers retired from Saskatoon's 1 AFS. See Best In The West historical addendum

 

1959, July 1 -- The RCAF's Central Flying School moved from Trenton to Saskatoon, joining 1 AFS and 406 Squadron there.

Meanwhile, the service's Flying Instructor School headquarters moved  from Saskatoon to RCAF Station Moose Jaw. See Best In The West, page 119 and, especially, its historical addendum.

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