Canada had supplied a large number of pilots to the British air services in the First World War. In fact, by 1918 Canadians made up almost 25 per cent of the pilots in Britain's Royal Flying Corps. When these young pilots returned home to Canada after the war, many bought war surplus aircraft for pleasure, for barnstorming, or for other business ventures.
Some of these aviation entrepreneurs were attracted to Canada's northland. Prospectors and mineral exploration companies were venturing into the northern frontier. The difficulties of travelling through bush and muskeg that faced the prospectors gave aviation entrepreneurs an incentive to provide a better service to the mining industry. Aeroplane manufacturing companies like Canadian Vickers Limited, Fairchild of Canada, and Curtiss-Reid Aircraft were already replacing worn-out war surplus aircraft with new models to suit the needs of bush flying.
In 1926, Winnipeg grain broker James A. Richardson teamed up with pilot Jack Clarke, using Clarke's flying boat to serve the mining industry in Manitoba and Ontario. The partnership of Richardson's financial strength and Clarke's aviation expertise ended when Clarke went on to other ventures. Although his first venture into aviation was short-lived, it gave Richardson the conviction that he was working with a sound business idea and provided him with the legal skeleton of a company on which to build.
Richardson next joined with Harold "Doc" Oaks. Oaks had prospected for gold and started his own small air operation in northern Ontario. He realized that an air service for northern Canada was essential for the region's development. He and Richardson formed Western Canada Airways (WCA), the predecessor of Canadian Airways Limited, Canadian Pacific Air Lines, and eventually today's Canadian International Airlines.
Early in 1928, WCA opened a base in The Pas, Manitoba, an excellent jumping-off' point for operations in northern Saskatchewan. WCA stationery had a route map on the back showing the first destinations in Saskatchewan as Prince Albert, Lac La Ronge, and Rabbit River, now Wapus River, on the southwest side of Reindeer Lake.
WCA's interest in northern Saskatchewan was the development of the copper strike at Rottenstone Lake, north of Lac La Ronge. From the very beginning, WCA was oriented toward supporting the mining industry. The Rottenstone find brought almost as much fame to WCA as it did to the discovering prospector, Dick Hall. Also, the strike established Prince Albert as a major centre of northern aviation.
Richardson did more than put up the money for his airplanes: he added a great deal of prestige and had several high-level business connections. In early 1928, he was not only president of James Richardson and Sons Ltd., but a director of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Bank of Commerce, and International Nickel Company. As well, he was a member of the Canadian Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Richardson attracted enough aviation talent to ensure that his operation did well. The company expanded into British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan and started to fly the mail and establish a flying school. However, the mining industry needed a specialized service that could meet the transportation needs of exploration head-on.
Staking Rush at Rottenstone Lake
Dick Hall was the member of the provincial legislature for the northern constituency of Cumberland. He was also a prospector along with his brother Gordon. Early in the summer of 1928, Hall heard northern people speaking of Rottenstone Lake, so-called because of a flaky rock outcropping on its north shore. Hall had a hunch this might be a promising mineral deposit.
Maps of the area were not yet released, so he and his brother had guides take them to the lake. As they approached by canoe, they saw a large, crumbling mound of what he believed was copper ore. They immediately staked four claims. Returning south, the Halls found their assay samples were rich in copper, nickel, zinc, and platinum.
Their mining associate, R. G. Whitmore of Regina, joined them at Lac La Ronge, flying in on a Western Canada Airways aeroplane from The Pas. He arrived to learn that word had leaked out about the find, and a staking party from a major exploration company had departed three days earlier from Lac La Ronge heading for Rotten stone by canoe. The company planned to stake around the Hall brothers' claims, which would mean whoever bought the Hall claims would have to deal with them also.
To overtake them, Hall turned to Roy Brown, an experienced Western Canada Airways bush pilot who had assisted in the search for the MacAlpine expedition in the Arctic. Brown agreed to fly them even though maps were unavailable and the Halls had only a rough-drawn route from their canoe trip.
Hall's notes proved to be almost useless - everything looked different from the air. At dusk, they were forced to return to Lac La Ronge. The next day at dawn they tried again. As the pilot swung back and forth, at high altitudes and then at tree-top level, the Halls began to recognize familiar landmarks. Suddenly in the distance, they spotted the copper mound - and below them the other staking party!
As soon as they taxied up to the shore, the Halls and Whitmore grabbed their axes and headed for the claim site. Brown returned to Lac La Ronge for more men. A crew was soon busy cutting posts and laying outlines ahead of the other party of claim stakers. The aeroplane had saved the day for the Hall brothers!
Consolidated Mining and Smelting picked up the option on the Rottenstone Lake find at the end of the summer. Since the assays looked promising, they wanted to get to work before winter. Western Canada Airways was chartered to move in a camp before freeze-up. The Prince Albert Daily Herald wrote:
With the advent of wintry weather, air services were resumed. Sixteen men, including two mining engineers and a crew for the operation of a diamond drill, were flown in. to the property from Montreal Lake. With them. went a complete camp, supplies of gas, oil, and food. The movement of this large body was completed early in December, 1928.
This is not the first case where a body of men have been put down in the wilderness and supplied by air, but it is claimed to be the largest operation of its kind ever attempted in Canada.
However, the Rottenstone deposit was a disappointment. The ore body was not big enough to support the cost of development in 1929. But the experience was profitable for Western Canada Airways and encouraged Consolidated Mining and Smelting to start its own flight operations.
Airplanes and men had to be available for the mining industry without having to get back to deliver the mail. To address this need, Northern Aerial Mineral Exploration Limited (N.A.M.E.) was established. Besides offering a charter service, N.A.M.E. made it clear to investors that it had broad ambitions. It wanted a hand in "exploring for, prospecting, developing, operating and disposing of other natural resources, including Oil, Pulp and Timber Lands and Hydro-Electric Power, in the explored and unexplored Northern portions of the Dominion of Canada and elsewhere."
De Havilland Dragonfly CF-AYF, owned by Consolidated Mining and Smelting,
makes a stop in front of M&C Aviation Company hangar
in Saskatoon in 1932.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
One of Consolidated Mining and Smelting's Hornet Moths
at Prince Albert in the early 1940s.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
N.A.M.E.'s board of directors were powerful men. They were all presidents, partners, or directors of other companies involved in natural resource development. But they were not the only men to link up aviation and exploration. Prospectors Airways, Yukon Airways and Exploration Company, Consolidated Mining and Smelting, and Dominion Explorers were emerging as mining service companies as well. Consolidated Mining and Dominion Explorers soon became active in northern Saskatchewan.
In the summer of 1928, N.A.M.E. flew prominent mining and aviation men on an exploration "first flight." The party, including N.A.M.E.'s pilot "Punch" Dickins, air engineer Bill Nadin, Dominion Explorers founder and president Colonel C.H.D. MacAlpine, and Richard Pierce of The Northern Miner, flew through northern Manitoba to Chesterfield Inlet and Baker Lake, Northwest Territories. Then they turned south to Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan, and flew a shoreline tour of Lake Athabasca as far as Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. They returned over Reindeer Lake to Winnipeg. The route from Baker Lake to Lake Athabasca had never been seen from the air before. Bleak and uninviting, Pierce described it like a prospector's paradise because the land was devoid of trees.
Whatever their impressions, they at least were beginning to have some idea of what was in Saskatchewan's north. During the summer of 1.928, Dominion Explorers explored the west coast of Hudson Bay and the lands westward as far as Lake Athabasca. That same year, Dominion Explorers' prospectors found copper-nickel sulphide northwest of Stony Rapids on Axis Lake. The find was not very rich, but it was the beginning of exploration in the far north of the province.
Dominion Explorers had been scouting the Lac La Ronge area with a six-seat Fairchild monoplane since the end of February. In March, the company searched for a suitable site for a base for their exploration operations. Dominion Explorers chose Lac La Ronge as its flight base instead of Prince Albert. The air facilities at Lac La Ronge were in a cove on the north end of an island across from the present townsite of La Rouge. Old-timers still refer to it as Dominion Island, although it is now called Kitsaki Island.
Search and Rescue of Mike Finland
A pilot with Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company who encountered the perils of northern aviation was pilot and mining engineer Mike Finland. The Prince Albert Daily Herald of September 20, 1930, reported:
Somewhere along the trackless air route between Prince Albert and Lac La Ronge, "Mike" Finland, Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company Geologist, may be seeking his way to civilization from the remains of a wrecked plane.
According to a radio-telegraph message sent from Lac La Ronge, Finland and a guide had left in a Curtiss Robin airplanes from his Moose Point base at the north end of Lac La Ronge on September 16, destined for Prince Albert. He never arrived. However, not everyone believed in the message. Every prospector knew secrecy was essential when following hot leads or staking new claims.
A week after Finland's departure from Lac La Ronge, he was officially declared lost. Two RCAF aircraft joined a Consolidated airplanes in the search for the little Curtiss Robin. Eleven days into the search, an RCAF Vickers Vancouver brought extra wireless operators into the north to help handle communications. By now three airplanes from Consolidated, two RCAF, and one WCA aircraft were searching the forest north of Stanley Mission.
Soon Dominion Explorers entered the search. Two of their airplanes took interpreters around to northern communities to talk to anyone who might have seen or heard Finland's airplanes pass over. Next, the searchers turned their airplanes toward the Reindeer Lake area. The Consolidated company had found a rich mineral deposit in that area, and it was possible that Finland may have headed there.
On September 28, 12 days after Finland's disappearance, the search was over. An RCAF Vedette, G-CYZM, with pilot Jack Ready, mechanic Jonas Jones, and J. "Pat" O'Neill, spotted a smoke signal. It was sent up by Finland's guide, Malcolm Roberts. However, Finland was not with Roberts. After the food ran out, a hungry Finland drew a pencilled map, gave it to the equally hungry Roberts and sent him toward the Reindeer River. Between mouthfuls of welcome food brought by the aircrew, Roberts told their story.
They had landed at a small lake about 60 kilometres southeast of Reindeer Lake after running low on fuel. Finland, he said, should still be there.
Searchers soon found the airplanes and camp - but no Finland. Signal shots were fired but none were returned.
Back in the air, the RCAF began searching for any sign of the pilot. They found him wandering in the bush about 12 kilometres from the camp, trying to walk to Reindeer Lake. Since the RCAF airplanes could not land in the bush, Finland had to hike the 12 kilometres back to his camp.
Finland later reported he had flown out to Reindeer Lake to meet two prospectors who were digging in an area east of the lake. On his return trip, he ran into bad weather and ran low on fuel. Mike Finland's adventure became Saskatchewan's largest search and rescue, thanks to the development of northern aviation.
Each aviation company chose a location as a base for their summer flying. In March of 1929, WCA advertised its Fokker airplanes in the Daily Herald that announced "air service to Rottenstone & Lac La Ronge mining areas from airbase now established at Prince Albert." As well, WCA chose Emma Lake as its base to service three mineral exploration companies: Manitoba Basins, Flynn Syndicate, and Ventures Ltd.
Meanwhile, Consolidated Mining and Smelting chose Waskesiu Lake as its summer base to support their mining operations between Lac La Ronge and Rottenstone. To prepare for their summer flying, the company brought a Fairchild airplanes to Prince Albert by rail in May 1929. The company also assembled two Gypsy Moths at the river docks. Its finished aircraft received inspections from the Dominion Inspector of Civil Aviation and were certified airworthy.
Consolidated's pilots were a mix of professional pilots together with prospectors who happened to be licenced pilots. Ben Harrop, Consolidated's head pilot, was hired solely to fly and so were Eric Gunner, Carl Gill, and Ken Dewar. Bill Jewett and Bill Deane, on the other hand, were graduate mining engineers from the University of Alberta who had pilot's licences; they flew the Gypsy Moths. Jewett was an experienced pilot from the First World War. Harold G. "Mike" Finland had graduated from the University of Washington as a mining engineer and had taken up flying as a sideline. He, too, flew a Consolidated airplanes on exploration trips. Jim Fox and Dave Bishop were the air engineers who kept the propellers turning. Within a year of the start of Consolidated's aviation division, they were operating across Canada with a fleet of three Fairchilds, a Fokker, three Moths, and three Curtiss Robins.
Consolidated Mining and Smelting's Dragonfly at Prince Albert airport in the 1940s.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
Cherry Red Airlines' first airplane, a Pheasant H-10, surrounded by interested
onlookers during a barnstorming visit to Landis, Saskatchewan in May 1929.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
It was inevitable that other operators would try to get part of the northern flight business. One of these was Commercial Airways of Regina, which was making flights with a de Havilland Moth from Prince Albert to as far as Lac La Ronge. Another competitor in the northern aviation industry was Cherry Red Airlines. Cherry Red flew north from a base on Christopher Lake. With the RCAF operating out of Ladder Lake and Lac La Ronge, the skies over north-central Saskatchewan were becoming busy.
Norman Cherry, founder of Cherry Red Airlines, was raised on a farm at Debden, near Prince Albert. In 1921, he headed south to Chicago, where he ran a garage during the winter. Two years later, he moved to Florida to work in building construction. Finally, he sold his interest in the Debden farm and settled in Culver City, California, where he built sets at movie studios.
In those days, the world's imagination was captured by airplanes, and Hollywood was turning out many flying movies. Los Angeles was an aviation centre in its own right. It is no wonder that Cherry became interested in aviation.
Cherry Red Airlines' Pheasant G-CASR undergoing repairs on the river at Prince Albert
during the winter of 1929-30. This airplane is now on display at the
Western Development Museum at Moose Jaw.
Photograph Courtesy of Ray Crone.
In May 1928, Norman Cherry bought a small red and silver biplane from the Pheasant Aircraft Company in Memphis, Missouri, for $2,800. It was fabric-covered, had wire-spoked wheels, and had a wingspan of 10 metres. The glycol-cooled "V-block" Curtiss OX-5 engine pulled it along at a cruising speed of 135 kilometres per hour. In California, Cherry hired a pilot, Alva Malone, to fly the craft back to Prince Albert, and the two of them landed at Prince Albert west of town between St. Mary's Church and the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. The newspaper report of the day reported that they made the trip from Memphis to Prince Albert in 15 hours flying time.
Cherry said he was back just to visit his parents and renew old acquaintances, but he ended up staying. Soon, he and Malone were barnstorming around the province under the name of Cherry Air Service. Barnstormers were a busy bunch during the decade after the First World War. They would come to towns and fairs, swoop low over wide-eyed youngsters, chase a few chickens and horses, and land on the nearest flat field. For a modest fee, the intrepid could get a thrilling airplanes ride.
Cherry soon realized there were opportunities other than barnstorming. Prospectors were heading for the newly discovered mineral belt between Lac La Ronge and Rottenstone Lake, and they were looking for any means of transport that could get them there. Cherry's Pheasant was, however, a wheeled airplanes and there were few airports in the north. His northern operations were limited to winter flights with ice runways. Furthermore, the Pheasant carried little fuel, so it could go only as far as Lac La Ronge before it had to turn back to Prince Albert. Besides, it was built for only one passenger, although it could carry two if necessary.
Cherry saw the opportunity for flying prospectors north and began putting together some ideas to transform his air service into an airline. He approached H. Holroyde, a Prince Albert businessman and wartime pilot, about starting the airline. In late 1928, a company was formed under the name of Cherry Red Airlines.
Cherry went on a shopping trip, first to Cincinnati, Ohio, intending to buy an airplanes called an International... When he got there, he discovered the company had gone out of business. A big air show was being held in New York City, so he travelled out there and bought a six-place Buhl. Standard Airsedan biplane right on the spot. The airplanes was serial number 41, built in 1929. Holroyde went to New York to join him.
In early March 1929, Cherry and Malone, along with Holroyde, flew the Buhl to Michigan to clear customs into Canada. They wanted to fly north as soon as possible and receive some of the business generated by the companies and prospectors headed to Lac La Ronge and Rottenstone. Paperwork delayed them. at the border. Holroyde later commented, "Red tape ... held us up for about three weeks which was costly as Consolidated Mining and Smelting had taken an option on the Rottenstone property and had started drilling. They were paying $700 a trip and two trips could be made each day. Western Canada Airways sent in a plane and got the business." The delay was probably because Cherry's Buhl CF-AAY was the first of its kind imported into Canada.
There were to be more delays. Alva Malone, flying the Buhl up from Winnipeg, ran low on fuel and landed near Kelvington, Saskatchewan. After refuelling, he started out again. On the take-off roll, he hit a rock hidden under the snow and damaged the landing gear. Although the damage was minor, they had to wait for parts to come from the factory, and the Buhl did not arrive in Prince Albert until the morning of April 11, 1929.
Cherry Red Airlines did not dawdle! By noon the airplanes was already on its way to Lac La Ronge and Rottenstone with prospectors Andy Olson and Albert Trembley. The only break Cherry Red had was that Consolidated Mining and Smelting attempted to organize their own air operation, and it took them a while to get started. This delay gave Cherry Red some much-needed business.
The Buhl six-seat biplane had a 300-horsepower engine and cruised at 185 kilometres per hour. The upper wingspan was 12 metres and the lower was 8 metres. Each wing had a 230-litre fuel tank. The cockpit had generous windows and even a periscope that let the pilot look back over the top of the airplanes. The Buhl had comfort as well as utility. The upholstered seats, flush-mounted dome lights, heaters, window shades, and ashtrays were hardly what one would expect of a 1929 bush airplanes. Nonetheless, the Buhl Airsedan quickly became the workhorse of Cherry Red Airlines.
After the break-up, the Buhl went on floats and was again freighting to Lac La Ronge and Rottenstone. Cherry used Christopher Lake as a summer base and went to points as far away as Hudson Bay and Great Bear Lake.
Consolidated Mining and Smelting had a horse at one of its drill sites. Feed ran out just as the ice went out. Norman Cherry later wrote:
Rather than do away with the animal, the company had us fly in 7 bales of hay and 3 bags of oats for $500.00, our freight being 50 cents per pound (about $1.10 per kilogram). This caused the men to complain that the horse was getting better treatment than they were, so we were asked to fly in 500 pounds (about 230 kilograms) of potatoes for the men.
Holroyde added that when Consolidated Mining and Smelting's head office got the bill, they wrote the local manager and told him to shoot the horse because it was costing the company more than "Papyrus," the racehorse that won the English Derby that year.
One of Cherry Red Airline's stamps used for their
airmail service into Northern Saskatchewan.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
Cherry Red certainly did a great deal of flying that spring and summer. On July 17, 1929, it advertised in the Prince Albert Daily Herald, boasting about the Buhl: "Over Ten Days in the Air." This represented 240 flying hours, or approximately 80 hours per month over their 3 months of operation - good utilization for a working bush airplanes any time
Most companies looked for a little extra revenue, and Cherry Red found it by carrying the mail. Since the Canadian postal service had not yet issued airmail stamps, Cherry had 25,000 company stamps printed in Ottawa. To send mail north, people could buy a Cherry Red Airlines airmail stamp at the post office. The rate was 10 cents per ounce (about 28 grams). Cherry Red Airlines picked up the mail and, after cancelling the Cherry Red Airlines stamps, delivered it. Today these stamps are collectors' items.
That fall, Alva Malone loaded Rev. G.N. Fisher, Fisher's wife, and their two children into the red Buhl and left Christopher Lake bound for Lac La Ronge. They never made it. By Monday one Western Canada Airways airplanes and four RCAF airplanes were combing the flight path Malone was assumed to have taken. Snow and bad weather hampered their search. Any information was radioed to Emma Lake or Waskesiu.
Rumours and misinformation were everywhere. Lac La Ronge wired Cherry that the airplanes had already landed at Lac La Ronge and had left. Another report said they had been forced down on Montreal Lake. Each report proved false.
As the hours passed Consolidated Mining and Smelting added their Fairchild airplanes, flown by Ben Harrop, to the expanding search. Then, three days later, they were found. The newspaper reported:
After the crash, the party walked over to the Montreal River. Pilot Malone was picked up on Tuesday by Flying Officer Moore of the forestry service [Saskatchewan Air Patrol] and taken into Lac La Ronge. The missionary party, however, refused to fly any further and proceeded into their post by canoe. The cause of the forced landing was engine failure, the main bearing having burnt out. Being above a stretch of country between Montreal Lake and Lac La Ronge where little water is available for landing purposes, the pilot had no other alternative but to bring the machine down on a small slough. That no lives were lost, or persons injured, speaks volumes for the pilot that he was able to negotiate this landing. The country over which he was flying is considered hazardous for planes equipped for water landing.
Tony Olde, was part of the crew who went in and salvaged the airplanes's engine. Olde himself had been rescued by Norman Cherry and the Buhl earlier that year. He had been working as a teamster for Brooks Construction and Transportation Company, horse freighting into Rottenstone Lake. Between Lac La Ronge and Rottenstone he broke his leg. Olde recalled, "My horse, he kicked me! By golly, the leg swelled up; they had to cut the socks off me. The worst of the thing was to sleep outside, there are no bunkhouses from La Ronge to Rottenstone Lake."
There was no turning back for a merely broken leg, so Olde had just had to bump along. Two or three days passed. Then, over the horizon came Norman Cherry and the Buhl. He spotted the northbound freighters down on the lake and landed nearby. Thanks to Cherry Red Airlines, Tony Olde avoided five more agonizing days on the trail.
In many ways the Buhl accident was the beginning of the end of Cherry Red Airlines. Within days of the Buhl airplanes crash, the New York Stock Market also crashed, taking the Buhl Aircraft Company of Michigan and Cherry Red Airlines down with it. Cherry himself best explained the last days of Cherry Red Airlines:
Because of the stock market break and the sudden stop in all mining prospecting, we decided not to repair or replace the plane. Also, we had taken a great loss in accounts owing to us due to so many stock companies going broke. Our last l airmail was] carried by arrangements with another airplanes after ours was damaged. The Pheasant plane was sold early in 1930 to a training school which was formed in North Battleford.
The Saskatoon Daily Phoenix reported that the Pheasant was purchased by Marcus Cadwell of North Battleford in December 1931. It was rebuilt years later and is now on display at the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw.
Cherry Red Airlines passed into history in 1931, after less than two busy years. Cherry Red, though, did something for aviation in northern Saskatchewan that should not go unnoticed. Until this time the aircraft crossing northern Saskatchewan were either funded by the federal government or by big business. Norman Cherry proved that with a few ideas, hard work, and an extra dose of good luck, a small, private airplanes company could be successfully operated in the north.
By May and June of 1929, the skies of north-central Saskatchewan were getting busier. Western Canada Airways, however, departed the northern scene by the end of summer. Its owners were concentrating on southern routes, looking forward to the establishment of prairie airmail service the next year. Besides, Rottenstone and other mines were not developed: there was not enough ore and the costs of transporting it out were high.
Fish from the north being unloaded from Brooks Airways' Buhl Airsedan, CF-AOL, into a
T. Eaton Company truck at Saskatoon airport in 1931.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
One company that stood to lose by WCA's departure was Brooks Construction and Transportation Company. The company had been freighting by horse team into northern Saskatchewan for over ten years. The owner of the company was R.D. Brooks, a friend of prospector Dick Hall. Brooks established a freight route from Prince Albert to Reindeer Lake, 600 kilometres north, with stables every 25 kilometres - a good day's journey. Brooks hired northern people along his freight routes to cut hay with scythes and dry and store it in the stables for Brooks' horses on their northern haul.
Brooks freighted into mine sites and hauled fuel and supplies for the RCAF. Horse freighting teams from Brooks' company had been the first to reach Rottenstone. They had to break new trail all the way north from Lac La Ronge, taking advantage of the lakes, rivers and frozen muskegs wherever possible. The story of pushing through to Rottenstone is an epic in itself, driving men and horses to their limits.
Although R.D. Brooks was in the heavy freighting business, he knew other, lighter goods needed to be shipped north. His horse freighting sleighs could only operate in the north during the winter. The airplanes could fly year-round except during freeze-up and break-up.
Brooks began edging into the air freighting business by forwarding cargo through Western Canada Airways and Cherry Red Airlines. When WCA cut its service to northern Saskatchewan, only Cherry Red remained to air freight north from Prince Albert. When Cherry's Buhl crashed south of Lac La Ronge, Brooks took a gamble. In 1930, he bought a Buhl Standard Airsedan, serial number 47, and registered it in Canada as CF-AOZ.
Brooks established several companies, each to handle a different aspect of his business. One was Brooks Fish Company. Brooks ran a string off fishing camps in the north. His freighters would bring frozen fish south on the return legs of the freighting runs.
Brooks also had the idea of hauling fresh fish out by air. He began air freighting during Christmas 1930 and concluded his first season of winter operations in March 1931. During these 80 days of flying, more than 54 tonnes of freight was lifted into northern Saskatchewan. The airplanes also went over to Brooks' base in Tashota, Ontario, and ferried another 36 tonnes. Brooks' pilot, Bill Broatch, was a busy man. The cargo load of the Buhl was 450 kilograms, so this 90 tonne represents at least 200 trips - cargo north, fish south. Fresh fish caught in the morning on Lac La Ronge was in Prince Albert and Saskatoon markets that afternoon.
Manitoba-born Bill Broatch was already a legend in Canadian aviation. He had served in the First World War with the Royal Navy Air Service and had been shot down several times, but survived with mere scratches and bruises. Besides exploring Labrador, northern Quebec, and the Coppermine River basin in the Northwest Territories, Broatch had taken part in several searches across northern Canada for missing persons. One of those searches was for the MacAlpine expedition in 1929. It was the most elaborate air search ever undertaken in North America. The missing aerial expedition, led by Dominion Explorers' president Colonel MacAlpine to explore the uncharted Arctic, was eventually rescued by Inuit people. With 11 years flying experience in northern Canada, Broach was regarded, according to the Daily Herald, as the best seaplane pilot in Canada.
On one fish-freighting trip, the cargo saved Bill Broatch and John Pool, a local Prince Albert aircraft engineer, from being stranded at a small lake. Fish are good passengers. They do not complain about being late or the cabin being too cold, and they do not get airsick. If there is an emergency landing, the crew always has plenty to eat. Broatch and Pool found another use for fish. Pool wrote about it many years later:
Went north Feb. 11th, 1931, with Brooks Airways Pilot Bill Broatch to do some mechanical work. On our return trip with a load of fish, we were forced down in a lake south of Montreal Lake due to weather. We encountered slush ice and the result was when the weather cleared we couldn't take off due to ice on the skis. The solution was arrived at through desperation and fuel running low. We made a track in front of each ski and placed most of our fish in it - it worked. We got off - didn't go back for the fish - arrived at Prince Albert short of most of the payload of fish.
Had it not been for the transfer of the control of natural resources to Saskatchewan in 1930, Brooks may have simply dabbled in aviation. The transfer of lands meant Saskatchewan had to pay for its own forest fire patrol and suppression and had to ask for bids from the private sector.
Western Canada Airways had won the forestry contract the first year but, by May 1931, Brooks Airways, with just one airplanes, had struck a blow to mighty WCA and captured the Saskatchewan air patrol. contract. Brooks' price was $70,000, beating WCA's price of $82,500 and the federal price for the RCAF of $112,000.
One of Brook's Airways Stinson Juniors CF-ARK at Emma Lake in 1933.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
Now, Brooks had a contract that put him in a good financial position to purchase airplanes. As long as he fulfilled the terms of the forest patrol contract, the aircraft was at his disposal for other flights. This was his key to the future.
In March 1931, Ken Brooks, manager of the Brooks Fish Company, announced that four new airplanes, two Buhl aircraft and two smaller Stinson Juniors, would be purchased. He planned to have the new aircraft, in addition to the fish freighting Buhl, based at Waskesiu Lake by April for provincial forest air patrol work. The aircraft would fly the forest rangers and men to the fire look-out stations before the ice left the lakes. As the fire danger increased, the Brooks aircraft would begin their fire patrols.
It was not until the end of June, however, that Brooks Airways reached full strength, with its four new airplanes and four experienced pilots: Bill Broatch, Bob Reynolds, Geoff Home-Hay, and Archie J. Turnbull. Home-Hay, from Saskatoon, had flown in the First World War. His airplanes was shot down, and he had spent the rest of the war in a prison camp. Archie Turnbull of Regina had worked for Western Canada Airways and would later start his own air operation at Flin Flon. Besides the pilots, Brooks also employed two mechanics and fourteen other men.
Brooks' first year in the aviation business had been very successful. His airplanes had hauled over 90 tonnes of freight, had made mercy flights, passenger flights, publicity flights, and record flights. The company had maintained an air patrol over 155,000 square kilometres of Saskatchewan forest. There were no accidents or mishaps.
Brooks continued to find new uses for his aircraft. The 1931-32 fur season was getting underway, and the early furs were stretched and ready for buying. Traders across the north were travelling to fur posts by dog team to pick up the catch.
Del Simons was a Saskatchewan fur trader. His main post was at Sturgeon Landing close to the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border between Flin Flon and The Pas. Simons ran a string of five posts, as far north as the Manitoba-Northwest Territories border. In December, Simons, like his competitors, would leave his headquarters and head north on a fur-buying trip. He would begin with two dog teams and often end up with four more teams to get his heavy load of furs south. After the tiring trip, Simons would appear at the Winnipeg fur market along with all the other traders.
Simons reasoned that if he travelled by air he could save five weeks of dog team travel and arrive at Winnipeg rested and with a better catch of good fur. It sounded exciting, but Simons was taking a chance, too. In his favour were reports of an expected high catch of good quality furs. Against him was the cost of chartering the airplanes for the trip. He could only bring out 450 kilograms of fur, and if the quality was poor, he stood to lose. Simons decided to take the risk.
On December 23, two weeks before he had to be on the floor of the Winnipeg fur market, Simons and Bill Broatch departed Prince Albert on a northern buying trip covering 3,200 kilometres. After Lac La Ronge, they headed north to Rabbit River on Reindeer Lake and then to Lac du Brochet, present-day Brochet, Manitoba, at the north end of the lake. From there they continued farther north into Dene and Inuit territory, to Windy Lake in the Northwest Territories.
The gamble paid off. At 3:30 p.m., Saturday, January 2, 1932, Broatch and Simons landed at Stevenson Field in Winnipeg. On board were hundreds of prime mink, weasel, silver fox, white fox, and wolf pelts. Not only were the pelts fresher and newer than those of other traders, but they had not been roughed up by a long trip south by dog sled. Simons' arrival caused a stir, not only on the market floor but in newspapers as well. The flight was front-page news across North America. Broatch returned to Prince Albert with newspapers that headlined his trip through the "unknown dangers of the barrens, adverse weather, and treacherous snowdrifts."
Two Buhl CA-6J Standard Airsedans, CF-AGQ and CF-AOZ, Owned by Brooks Airways
at the dock at Emma Lake in August 1932. In the following year CF-AGQ,
Nearest the camera, was involved in a tragic Crash at Emma Lake.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
Brooks Airways continued to draw headlines that spring and summer. Universal. and United Air Services had delivered mail into the north. after Cherry Red. Now Brooks Airways was going to haul it. On June 7, 1932, the company inaugurated monthly airmail service to Lac La Ronge. For several years, the people of Montreal Lake had been coming south to Waskesiu to pick up the northern mail. From Montreal Lake, it was freighted by canoe or team to Lac La Ronge. When a letter left Prince Albert the writer could not expect a reply for three weeks. The new system could bring an answer back in two days because the northern mail airplanes would overnight at their farthest destination and retrace their path back to the city.
The big day of the mail flight finally arrived. Five hundred kilograms of mail waited for Bob C. Randall and Bill Broatch at the Emma Lake base. Randall, in the Stinson, and Broatch, flying the Buhl, would soon discover that there was more to the first-day service than just flying.
The mail bags contained 40,000 letters and cards. Almost as much came back the next day. It was not that the handful of people at Lac La Ronge were prolific letter writers. Instead, stamp collectors from as far away as France and Switzerland had heard about the initial flight. They sent return postcards and letters, all seeking a postmark from the inaugural flight. The pilots themselves spent over four hours autographing the envelopes, as did the Lac La Ronge and Prince Albert postmasters and the district postmaster from Saskatoon.
In 1933, Brooks brought home his third contract for aerial fire patrol. This good news was clouded by the announcement that the provincial government was preparing to purchase patrol aircraft of its own. The company was also awarded a four-year contract to carry airmail between Big River and Ile a la Crosse, with intermediate stops at Green Lake and Beauval.
On June 21, Brooks' Buhl CF-AQG had just been rebuilt, and Bill Broatch prepared to make the return-to-service test flight. Watching from the dock was Broatch's fiancee, Helen Foley, along with manager Ken Brooks, pilots Bill Windrum and Bob Randall, mechanics Hiram Brooks and Tom Forsythe, and other Brooks staff.
Hiram and Tom had spent many hours rebuilding the airplanes and were eager to go along on the test flight. Ken Brooks reminded everyone that it was against air regulations to ride along on a test flight. The young air engineers knew the rules, but they had rebuilt the Buhl and were confident about the plane's safety. After the engine was running, they dashed to the plane and jumped in.
Broatch made a perfect take-off and flew overhead for half an hour, drawing the admiring attention of residents and vacationers at Emma Lake. The Buhl had passed its test, and now it was time to have fun.
Back at altitude, Broatch put the big float plane into a spin, and then into a roll, considered by airmen of the day to be a severe test for the Buhl. The airplanes came out of the roll and went into another spin. Those who saw the shiny Buhl during its last seconds of the flight said it made a spiral "that covered an area of a quarter of a mile (about 400 metres), then. the big ship approached the ground at a clip estimated at 125 miles (about 200 kilometres) an hour."
Onlookers, reported the Daily Herald, stated that "the pilot seemed to have almost regained control, then there was a sickening lurch and the plane swooped over the trees brushing the tops of those on the shoreline and nose-dived into about 10 feet (3 metres) of water some 50 yards (46 metres) from shore." A resounding crash could be heard for kilometres around.
The crash killed Bill Broatch age 42; Hiram Brooks, son of R.D., age 25; and mechanic Tom Forsythe, age 27. The Buhl was a twisted heap of wood and metal.
There were still a few adventures remaining for the company, but it was never the same again. People who knew R.D. Brooks said the accident took his heart out of the aviation business.
The following year, Brooks was down to two airplanes, a Buhl and a Fairchild. Business was good, but other things were happening in northern Saskatchewan. Even though the Depression continued, there were signs of growth and coming prosperity. One of those signs was the revitalization of the mining industry.
Northern Saskatchewan's prospecting and metallic mineral development had come to a close in 1930. Only a few die-hard prospectors remained in the north. But in August 1934, Tom Box and Gus Nyman discovered gold on the northern shores of Lake Athabasca at a place that would eventually be called Goldfields. They staked 17 claims. When the ore samples were assayed, they not only had gold but nickel, copper, molybdenum, lead, and silver. Consolidated Mining and Smelting quickly bought the claims.
Word about the find leaked out. Claims were staked to the east by J.E. Day and Associates, then to the southeast by the Vick group, and all over by the residents of Fort Chipewyan. Despite all the flying to be done, Brooks was in no position to handle the Saskatchewan-based flying with only two airplanes. It was a good time to sell.
Four companies were interested. Canadian Airways Ltd., formerly WCA, was prepared to take over the small competitor that had taken away their forestry contracts. Mackenzie Air Services of Edmonton wanted to buy because it could make an Edmonton-Prince Albert-Goldfields triangle. Arrow Airways of The Pas, Manitoba, was interested and made a bid. Then there was Wings Ltd. from Winnipeg.
Wings won the contest. They were formed in July 1934 by air mailmen who had all worked for Canadian Airways and had years of aviation experience. The company operated three Wacos, a Junkers, a Fairchild, and a Fokker - all proven bush airplanes. In Manitoba, they set up radio stations to support their operations. In only a few months, Wings had flown away with an impressive record of flying in western Ontario and Manitoba.
Unloading cans of fish fingerlings from Saskatchewan Natural Resources Vickers Vedette
CF-SAC, for seeding into a northern lake in 1934.
Photograph courtesy of Lefty McLeod, Ray Crone Collection.
Wings' real interest was in the mining flights. Jack Moar, Wings' pilot and secretary-treasurer, said, "Interest in mining men and prospectors is being focused on northern Saskatchewan. Prince Albert is ideally situated to serve this area in which renewed interest is being taken, and that is why we are entering this field."
Brooks Airways eventually passed out of northern Saskatchewan aviation on May 14, 1935. Bill Windrum, an experienced pilot who had flown with the Royal Naval Flying Service in the First World War and taught flying after the war, was kept on as the flying manager for Wings at the Prince Albert base. Brooks leased the Buhl and the Fairchild to the new owners, who flew them east for work in Manitoba. In their place came the speedy and sporty Waco, the first of many Wacos to travel the north.
The provincial government, meanwhile, was increasingly involved in northern aviation. As the Depression wore on, the government had to look at further ways of trimming its budget. Nothing escaped the eye of the finance office, including northern forest protection.
The provincial government had provided a sizeable budget for fire fighting in 1931, assuming a continuation, of the previous high fire hazard years. But the next two summers were low fire hazard years. The province's $70,000 contract to Brooks had guaranteed a minimum price even if fire patrols were not flown. That had been good for Brooks but very expensive for the province. The province began to consider buying its own aircraft to supplement a smaller fire patrol contract with commercial operators.
In August 1932, Mr Barnett, the deputy minister of the Department of Natural Resources, began confidential correspondence with the resource ministers of Ontario and Manitoba about airborne fire protection. He was particularly interested in Manitoba. In the spring of 1932, that province had received a gift of Vedette aircraft from the federal Department of National Defence for fire patrol use.
Saskatchewan negotiated with the federal government and, when the federal-provincial deal was completed, Premier Anderson. announced in. March 1933 that the province had acquired five Vedette flying boats, two "Lynx" engines, and numerous spare parts for the aircraft and engines. The province's cost was one dollar plus any costs of transferring the airplanes to Saskatchewan. The pilots would be non-permanent officers of the RCAF who were Saskatchewan residents or who had operated the Vedettes in northern Saskatchewan and were no longer on full-time RCAF duty.
These airplanes needed a new home. Ladder Lake had been built and equipped to handle Vedettes. There were offices, living quarters, workshops, storage buildings and sheds, radio facilities, fuel tanks, a water system, a slipway - and even a pigeon loft. The only building it lacked was a hangar.
In June 1933, Barnett sent a telegram. to the Department of National Defence asking for the use of Ladder Lake in return for land at Dundurn to establish a military base. The defence minister liked the proposal as there was a pressing need to develop Camp Dundurn, south of Saskatoon. On June 22, 1933, he responded favourably to Premier Anderson. Negotiations could begin if the province agreed to three conditions regarding Ladder Lake. First, the base would be a public air harbour, although they could charge appropriate fees to commercial aircraft. Second, the facilities would be available at all times to the Department of National. Defence free of charge. Last, the agreement would be for the exchange of works and buildings; all other equipment, including the electric light plant, would be removed for use elsewhere unless the province wanted to buy it from the Dominion government.
Of the five Vedettes given to Saskatchewan, only two were in flying condition. It was anticipated that the other three airplanes would be reconditioned and operational by the fall.
There was, however, an immediate need for the aircraft: the northern forests had returned to tinder-dry conditions. Since Brooks Airways' Buhl CF-AQG had crashed and been destroyed at Emma Lake, Saskatchewan had only Vedettes at their disposal. The firefighters needed a larger plane for fire detection and transportation of fire crews and equipment. Before the crash of Brooks' Buhl and the hazardous fire season, it seemed there was no rush. for the additional Vedettes. Now Premier Anderson was getting worried and negotiated for two serviceable airplanes from Lac du Bonnet. The province got its two aircraft. The Saskatchewan Air Patrol planes were registered as CF-SAA, CF-SAB, CF-SAC, CF-SAD, and CF-SAE. (From 1929 to 1973 the "CF" was used by Canada to register its aircraft, after which "C" was used. The "SA" stood for Saskatchewan.)
It had been three years since the Vedettes worked above the forests of northern Saskatchewan. Two experienced fliers, Morley "Nick" Carter and G.C. Upson, were the first pilots. Both had seen action in France during the First World War, Carter flying with the Royal Air Force and Upson with the Royal Flying Corps. After the war, both had flown many aerial photography surveys across northern Canada. Another pilot, Bob Eddy, joined soon after. Phil Green worked as the air engineer.
During that fire season, the actual fire spotting patrols were maintained by Brooks Airways while the Vedettes delivered men and equipment to the fire scene. It was not the best arrangement because the small Vedettes could not carry many men or much equipment.
The next summer, 1934, all five Vedettes were operational and were again designated for transporting firefighters. But most of the forest fire crews were being transported by only two of the Vedettes. The majority of the government flying was devoted to other activities: transportation, mining activity (the Geological Survey of Canada mapping of the Precambrian Shield), fur and game, mercy flights, radio work, forest inspection, test flights, and ferrying of aircraft. The biggest share of the flying was in support of a trout fish planting program. Increasingly, the Vedette flying boats were ferrying resource personnel around the north. The provincial government was finding plenty of work for its own air force.
The fire danger increased during the summer. The Vedettes began to spend more and more time flying in support of the firefighters. Fire spotting was done either concurrently with other government flying or by fire towers. As the fire season worsened in September and into October, the Vedettes were placed on full fire patrol. Now the patrolling of northern Saskatchewan's forests had come full circle, from government flown patrols to contracted services and back to government patrol. The only difference was that now Saskatchewan could also use the airplanes for other resource needs.
By the spring of 1936, the question of contracting out forest patrolling was again an issue. Three or four companies had submitted bids and the government was considering the offers.
The problem was the 12-year-old Vedettes were wearing out and becoming obsolete. New aircraft would have to be purchased by the province but would cost nearly $50,000 each, which was too much for the 1936 economy.
Then, on May 27, 1936, disaster struck. As Nick Carter was returning from fire suppression work, he noticed that the other Vedette, piloted by G.C. Upson, was in difficulty. Within moments Upson's airplanes made a dive and disappeared from Carter's view. Upson managed to bail out of the Vedette and landed unharmed. His passenger Phil Clement, a firefighter from Big River, was not so fortunate. After three days of battling forest fires set off by the airplanes crash, Clement's body was found with an unopened parachute on his back, amid the smouldering ruins. The crash was a shock to the province. It was more proof that the Vedettes needed to be retired. The government flying operation, with only two pilots, continued through mid-summer, but things were not going well. Several other incidents occurred that could have been as fatal as the Upson crash.
Department of Natural Resources Vickers Vedette crew members in a lighthearted mood at
Ladder Lake. From left air engineer Phil Green, Pilot G.C. Upson, and pilot Nick Carter.
Photograph courtesy of Guilda Brownfield, Ray Crone Collection.
L.C. Paterson, Director of Lands, wrote to his District Superintendent in Prince Albert saying that they would continue until the department could make definite arrangements with the commercial companies. He added, however, that commercial airplanes might need to be hired at prevailing rates if the department could not do an adequate job.
Air engineer Phil Green resigned shortly after the accident that killed Philip Clement and went to work in Saskatoon. Carter, then Upson, went to work for Canadian Airways in early August. The resignations, coupled with the obsolescence of the aircraft, prompted the department to suspend operations.
There was not much left at Ladder Lake when the province shut it down: four worn-out Vickers Vedette flying boats, six Aero Wright J5 engines, a folding canoe, two parachutes, two 22,700-litre gas tanks, and various parts and hand tools. Dick Mayson, co-owner of Mayson and Campbell Aviation (M&C), offered to buy five aircraft engines and related supplies and tools for $1,650. E.C. Coursier, the Prince Albert District Superintendent, re-commended that the province accepts the offer.
The province did not want the Vedettes; only three were airworthy. A fourth Vedette had been dismantled for spare parts and the fifth had crashed. The summer of 1934 had certainly proved the advantage and value off maintaining a government air fleet. But the cost of replacement airplanes plus the equipment and salaries of personnel would keep the province out of the airplanes business. Along with a request to sell the Vedettes, the province asked the Dominion government to take back control of Ladder Lake. The province would divide the flying as equally as possible between M&C and Canadian Airways. M&C would be allotted the eastern portion of the province and Canadian Airways the western.
M&C Aviation was a rising star in northern aviation. Richmond "Dick" Mayson came from England after serving as a Flying Officer with the Royal Air Force during the First World War. He became manager of the Saskatoon Flying Club and one of its instructors. He and one of his students, Angus Campbell, formed Mayson and Campbell Aviation Company in May 1930, with a Waco 10 aircraft, CF-AFJ.
The two pilots began by barnstorming at country fairs across Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. The company was operating on a shoe-string budget, so Mayson and Campbell often slept outside under the wings of the airplanes after a day of barnstorming. The 1930 Canada Yearbook's Report on Civil Aviation credits M&C as having flown 329 hours, covering 37,000 kilometres, and carrying 1,500 passengers.
Richard Mayson (left) and Angus Campbell
formed M&C Aviation Company in Saskatoon in 1930.
Photograph courtesy of Ray Crone.
In 1931, M&C took over United Air Services of Saskatoon, and with that company came one of Saskatchewan's most famous airplanes, a Stinson Detroiter, registered as CF-AFF and christened "Lady Wildfire."
By January 1932, the people of Prince Albert knew Angus Campbell and Lady Wildfire well enough that his name and the airplanes received no introduction in the local newspaper. And they made banner headlines when Angus Campbell made an emergency flight to bring 21-year-old Olga Wasley into Saskatoon for prompt medical attention that saved her life. When she had failed to appear at school in the morning, the young school teacher's students had discovered her at home, suffering from shotgun wounds after an attack by a rejected admirer. Campbell had just returned from a trip to Stanley Mission, but he was able to pick up Olga Wasley at Blaine Lake and deliver her to Saskatoon for medical attention just as night fell.
For two years R.D. Brooks had been flying fresh fish out of the north from his string of fish camps. Campbell and Lady Wildfire brought out M&C's first load in 1932. Through the years M&C transported a great deal of fish south, not only to Prince Albert but also to The Pas from the east side of Saskatchewan. They flew other freighting contracts from The Pas and flew as far north as Wollaston Lake.
On August 15, 1932, M&C began providing the first privately owned commercial airline service in Saskatchewan with daily flights from Saskatoon to Regina and Moose Jaw and back. Mayson called it "an experiment." Passengers paid $12.00 to ride the "experiment" from Saskatoon to Regina. Moose Jaw to Regina cost $2.50. But, with few customers, within a few weeks, the company was flying at a loss. To encourage customers, M&C reduced the fares to $7.50 between Saskatoon and Regina or Moose Jaw and $1.50 between Moose Jaw and Regina.
The company may not have been making profits with these daily flights in the south, but it was making a name for itself in other areas. Dick Mayson managed the young company from the headquarters in Saskatoon, where the company had maintenance shops and other equipment. Carl Yule instructed flying and flew charter work from M&C's base in The Pas. Yule came to M&C along with the purchase of Northern Airways of Edmonton in October 1933. The company soon became involved in. the North Battleford aviation business. Carl. Yule was sent there as a pilot to fly the Waco aircraft and offer flying instruction. Future pilots paid $12 an hour with the instructor and $10 an hour for solo flying.
As well, M&C was finding a more secure place in northern aviation. M&C operated from two bases in the north. Emma Lake was home base for the two Fairchild airplanes. Ladder Lake, at Big River, was managed by Campbell's father, T.A.S. Campbell. Brooks Airways was freighting out of Prince Albert, so Big River was the next logical departure point. It served the northwest side to such destinations as Green Lake, Ile a La Crosse, Portage La Loche, and beyond. For M&C's northern flying, Angus Campbell was joined by Cec McNeal. McNeal, from a farm near Kerrobert, had also begun his flying career as a barnstormer.
Besides northern freighting, the company ran, two weekly scheduled flights into the north. Each Wednesday an M&C airplanes headed for Montreal Lake, Lac La Ronge, and Stanley Mission. On Saturdays M&C flew to Big River, Dore Lake, Beauval, Ile a la Crosse, and Pine River. At this time, M&C was the oldest established operator of scheduled airline service in Canada. Other companies offering scheduled services in Canada were Trans-Canada Air Lines, Canadian Pacific Air Lines, and Maritime Central.
In the spring of 1935, Prince Albert was the place to be for anyone in the aviation business. In April, Canadian Airways, formerly Western Canada Airways, announced it was setting up a base in Prince Albert. The next month, Wings established a base there when it purchased Brooks' operation. And in June, M&C opened a Prince Albert office to establish a more permanent presence.
M&C's new office was located in the Avenue Hotel on Central Avenue. The Avenue Hotel was an ideal. centre for the aviation business in the city. It was across the street from. city hall and only a few blocks from the waterfront where they had docks and nose hangars for their aircraft. Mayson's only hesitation about moving the entire M&C operation to Prince Albert was the waterfront. "If Prince Albert has a suitable airport with a good landing field," he said, "we should not hesitate in transferring our shops and equipment from Saskatoon here."
The city had been trying to establish an airport at Prince Albert for several years. The river was generally unsuitable for the airplanes. During the summer months, it was full of debris. There were shallow spots and shifting sandbars. In the winter the river ice was rough, and the operators had a long list of landing gear accidents. Without a good airfield, Prince Albert could not be considered for southern air mail and passenger service. The board of trade welcomed Mayson's influence to help establish an airport in the city.
By 1935, Prince Albert had become the hub of northern Saskatchewan. aviation. By their daring, skill, and hard work, entrepreneurs and pilots had gone beyond the limits of earlier aviation pioneers. They flew to a growing number of places and came in contact with an increasing number of northern people. One of northern aviation's frontiers was geographical; the region was a real challenge to fliers. The other frontier lay in finding novel. and profitable uses for aircraft. The industry was well poised to enter its "golden age."