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Canadian Airways

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Title: Canadian Airways  
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Canadian Airways

Canadian Airways Limited
Founded 1930
Ceased operations 1942
Fleet size See Aircraft below
Destinations See Destinations below
Headquarters Sioux Lookout, Ontario and later, Hudson,Ontario
Key people James Armstrong Richardson
Fairchild 71C (CF-AKT) in Canadian Airways livery at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba


James Armstrong Richardson established Western Canada Airways in 1926 which was later to become Canadian Airways Limited.

Over time, Richardson obtained 51 Aircraft and an assortment of top bush pilots and military pilots, all of which provided various services, particularly cargo transport, to Northwestern Canada. Whether it was financing operations, hiring and selecting personnel or selecting the best equipment for operations in Canada's tricky climate, he took a very hands on approach to running the WCA. He was also in constant contact with people throughout the aviation industry at the time, to learn and adapt efficiently. Something that made him so successful in the grain trade earlier in his career.[1]

In 1927, he was made a Director of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Something that would inevitably influence later events involving his venture.[1]

By 1929 he had taken WCA to the #2 spot behind Imperial Airways Limited in the British Empire.[1]

In order to expand WCA at the national level, Richardson convened a syndicate, which led to the formation of the Aviation Corporation of Canada in July 1929. The purpose of this formation was to help in the acquisition of eastern Canadian aviation companies to facilitate the planned expansion. This was done with Sir Henry Worth Thornton, representing the Canadian National Railways and Sir Edward Wentworth Beatty, of the Canadian Pacific Railways.[1]

In 1930, Canadian Airways Limited was established after the acquisition of several aviation companies, including the previously mentioned Aviation Corporation of Canada. Richardson's goal was realized. Richardson became the President and General Manager.

Richardson's advanced logistical knowledge, business sense, vision and technological innovation, allowed him to piece together a vision for Canadian Air Services heading into the future.

Air Mail was the backbone of aviation at the time as it underpinned regular services and helped cover costs. Richardson was particularly worried about Canadian Sovereignty. The budding challenges of International competition and eastern and western Canada's strategic interests weighed on his mind as well. Political nonsense of varying degrees and the great depression in particular began to take a toll through the very early 1930's

In 1932, Government mail contracts were cancelled and a host of new restrictions were introduced by the Federal Government. Peter Thomas Coolican (acting Deputy Postmaster General) and General Andrew George Latta McNaughton (Army Chief of Staff/Head of Civil Aviation) were two such individuals. Neither had much understanding of the financial and operational aspects of commercial aviation and they understandably frustrated Richardson endlessly. Their short sighted actions would serve to gradually undermine Canadian Airways.

By 1936, control of civil aviation was transferred from the Department of National Defense to the newly established Department of Transport. The department operated under Minister Clarence Decatur Howe.

Around this time, Richardson's earlier fears were on the verge of being realized as American aviation companies were beginning to work towards establishing passenger routes within Canada. The Department of Transport was considering developing a national air transport system to help protect Canada's budding Airline industry. Howe led Richardson to believe that his Canadian Airways would be the chosen airline for the task. He repeated this intention routinely.

Using Richardson's Canadian Airways business plan and key personnel from the Airline, Howe formed a Government run entity known as Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) in 1937 instead.

Richardson was deeply saddened by the betrayal and the way the events had unfolded. The personal assurances of Government support for Canadian Airways weren't acted upon and Howe's will to see the Government rise to prominence in the field left Richardson and others out in the cold. Unfortunately, Richardson's decency and lack of will to protest publicly left Canadian Airways vulnerable.

After this, Richardson's health began to decline. He suffered from spells of sickness and exhaustion which were attributed by his Doctors at the time to Stress. He died suddenly on June 26, 1939.

At some point in 1939, Canadian Pacific Railway Limited, led by Sir Edward Wentworth Beatty began to implement a plan to purchase ten bush airlines from around Canada to form a new airline. Whether or not this was decided in collaboration with Richardson is not known for certain. This Airline would eventually become Canadian Pacific Airlines, which was a subsidiary of CPR once Government approval was obtained to amalgamate the ten airlines.

The companies were Ginger Coote Airways (Vancouver), Yukon Southern Air Transport (Vancouver/Edmonton), Canadian Airways (Winnipeg), Wings LTD (Winnipeg), Prairie Airways (Moose Jaw), Mackenzie Air Services (Edmonton), Arrow Airways (The Pas), Starratt Airways (Hudson), Quebec Airways (Montreal), Dominion Skyways (Montreal).[2]

Beatty created Canadian Pacific Airlines as a response to the TCA in 1942.



Junkers W.34 preserved in Canadian Airways markings on floats at the Canada Aviation Museum at Rockcliffe near Ottawa
Replica Ju 52/1m CF-ARM at the Western Canada Aviation Museum.

Aircraft operated by Canadian Airways included:


Destinations served included:


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Molson, 1974, p.97, 98, 114
  4. ^ Molson, 1974, p.105
  5. ^ Molson, 1974, pp.97, 104, 106
  6. ^ Molson, 1974, pp.99-100, 107-109, 114
  7. ^ Molson, 1974, p.115
  8. ^ Molson, 1974, p.117
  9. ^ [1]Junkers Ju-52 - Scramble]
  10. ^ Molson, 1974, p.114
  11. ^ Canadian Airways history
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Molson, 1974, p.103
  14. ^ Alberta Heritage
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Time Table Images 1936
  16. ^ a b c d e Time Table Images 1936
  • Molson, K.M. (1974). Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport. Altona, Manitoba: D.W. Friesen & Sons.  

Further reading

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