From 72 to 27,000 Employees

Vancouver International Airport (YVR/CYVR), Ri...
Vancouver International Airport (YVR/CYVR), Richmond, British Columbia, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Occasionally a politician emerges who likes to get things done and is ready to bulldoze his measures through the House of Commons, if necessary.  The Right Honourable C. D. Howe, Member of Parliament for Port Arthur, Ontario, was such a man.

One of Howe’s greatest achievements was the creation of Air Canada, originally called Trans-Canada Airlines.  Parliament passed the act establishing it in April 1937.  When the airline was organized it was designed to serve major communities spread across more than 4,000 miles of mountain, forest, and prairie.  The more appropriate name Air Canada was adopted in 1964.

Trans-Canada Airlines inaugurated its first commercial flight on September 1, 1937, between Vancouver and Seattle.  It had only two 10-passenger Lockheed aircraft and a Stearman bi-plane, acquired when it bought out Canadian Airway Company on the Pacific Coast.

Airports and navigational aids were more advanced in Western Canada; so headquarters were established at Winnipeg.  By October 17, 1938, after extensive training of pilots and ground crews, T.C.A. was ready to carry mail and freight between Montreal and Vancouver.  Passenger service was inaugurated on April 1, 1939.  The journey from Montreal to Vancouver took eighteen hours.

The original pilots still with the company include George Lothian, Herbert Seagrim, J. L. Root, W. E. Barnes, J. A. Jones, L. K. Lewis, J. A. Wright and M. B. Barclay.  They used to use a number of tricks to gain enough altitude to fly over the Rockies.  Pilots flying from Lethbridge to Vancouver would turn east rather than west to catch the air current which flowed over the mountains and hit the ground.  The pilots would ride the rising air to gain altitude!  Passengers had to wear oxygen masks when flying over the mountains and occasionally on other routes when it became necessary to fly at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet to escape bad weather.

Since 1937 Air Canada has grown from 72 employees and three aircrafts to an international carrier employing 27,000 men and women, with a fleet of 192 aircrafts (2013).  Air Canada flies to 21 domestic destinations and 81 international destinations in 33 countries.

For more information on Air Canada, I suggest visiting Wikipedia, and the CBC Digital Archives, as well as the Wayback Machine Archives for another good article from CBC.


  1. Enjoyed the story of how the early planes had to catch the wind the correct way over the Rockies, and passengers even had to wear oxygen masks at higher altitudes. You find interesting stuff!


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