2020: 100 Years of Yukon Aviation
Yukon aviation is a personal experience.
Small companies, sole proprietors, unique characters.
This common trait connects all aspects of Yukon aviation.
inclusive of who – passengers, pilots, investors, flight attendants, photographers
inclusive of what – technology, cargo, size of enterprise
inclusive of when – any year, any time of day, any season
inclusive of where – on the Yukon land and in the Yukon sky
inclusive of why – grocery delivery, residential school, love stories, mineral exploration, adventure, rescue
Yukon Aviation: It’s Personal
Prepared by Kanina Holmes, Tanda Creative
With Bob Cameron, Janna Swales, David Neufeld
The capacity to transport passengers and to haul freight by air – fast and far — changed the world as most of us have come to know, see and experience it. Every country and every region has its own version of aviation history, its heroes, its mishaps, its milestones.
The first aviation milestone for the Yukon took place on Aug. 16, 1920 when four De Havilland DH-4 biplanes appeared, first as mere dots on the horizon, above Whitehorse. The Black Wolf Squadron, part of a U.S. military initiative to prove the viability of long-distance air travel, touched down on its outbound journey from Mineola, New York to Nome, Alaska.
In what was perhaps a harbinger of the trials and tribulations of flight to and over the territory, one of those De Havillands ripped a tire upon landing. And, in equal measure, a foreshadowing of the persistence and adaptation of those aviation pioneers, the White Pass & Yukon Route shop crew coiled rope around the tire and stitched it up for the squadron’s flight to Dawson the very next day.
A journalist, dispatched to cover this epic flight in Dawson, then the Yukon’s capital, described the experience:
“The deep hum, almost before we could realize it, was standing directly above our heads.
And then, the great dragonfly as if in joyous exaltation of having caused so much excitement
among the earthbound mortals, gracefully circled about as if to show its wonderful capabilities
and mastery of the air.”
“You can imagine that people wouldn’t have seen aircraft before. What an odd and marvelous day,” says Janna Swales, executive director of the Yukon Transportation Museum, speaking about the flight anniversary on a Whitehorse radio station.
“Before this, says Swales, “the sky was the domain of the ravens and the mosquitoes.”
With August, 2020 marking the 100th anniversary of the first flight to the Yukon, and in the midst of a global pandemic that has brought most air travel to a screeching halt, it’s an apt time to take stock, to look back and peer, uncertainly, forward.
The last century features a cast of characters – intrepid investors, brave, quirky and determined bush pilots, unusual and unique aircraft, and a growing cadre of passengers who have come to depend on reliable, safe and affordable winged transportation to take them to communities and into the backcountry – lakeside cabins, mines and traplines – throughout a vast territory that is the same size as the entire country of France.
“Certainly in the early days, the benefit [of flight] could be seen in a place like the Yukon with its widespread wilderness, and with very few travel routes other than the rivers,” explains pilot, aviation historian and author of Yukon Wings, Bob Cameron. The benefit was very tantalizing. It was huge.”
In his introduction to his book and its hefty 354-pages spanning the first flight to the early 2000s, Cameron writes: “This is the true story of the human drama, the grit and the determination, the gutsiness and the passion, the triumph and the tragedy, that ultimately forged reliable scheduled and charter air service to, from and within the Yukon.”
As with all narratives, there are multiple perspectives to take into account. The notion of expanding horizons
is a central concept when considering 100 years of flight. On an obvious level, aviation opened up the Yukon
economy, promoting a freer flow of people and goods, an urge first sparked by the frenzy of the 1898 Klondike Rush
two decades earlier. Air travel offered new access to the Yukon for business people, for tourists, and culture.
Expanding horizons also suggests a shift in the way the Yukon was seen, both physically and conceptually,
positively, negatively and nuanced. The story of Yukon aviation entwines the economic, political and social history
of the territory. It is also a story of the change that accompanies advances in technology.
“What were the consequences in the North? They were damn serious in a way,” says social historian, David Neufeld.
“Part of it is glorious stories. The other part is the larger, national creation of the North through aerial photographs,” says Neufeld. “Without those photographs there would have been a minuscule percentage of mines,” says Neufeld. An aerial view also shifted the concept of isolation and plugged the Yukon into a political and economic relationship with Canada that loomed large and long.“The creation of aerial photographs transferred knowledge from the Yukon to Ottawa and that’s really significant because the decisions were made over there.”
For the Yukon’s First Nations communities, flight brought continued change and new visitors to their traditional lands, a flow that began with the introduction of riverboats bringing prospectors and the logistical support crews that accompanied them. Archival images suggest that two First Nations men were among the first air charter passengers, hiring a pilot to take them quickly and efficiently to their traplines where they made an important part of their livelihoods.
Besides opening up much of northern Canada to economic expansion, flight also provided a mode of transportation to move Indigenous children from their home communities to residential schools or to adoptive homes in Canada’s south, dark chapters of our country’s history that are still being reckoned with in the wake of the 2015 final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Launching and running an airline is not for the faint of heart. From the beginning of Yukon aviation, the financial risks were high and the margins razor thin. Understanding the history and current reality of Yukon aviation means acknowledging the legacy of corporate price wars and the constant tension between free market forces and the role of government intervention to help balance costs and benefits to the industry and the passengers it serves.
As Bob Cameron says, “granted, competition is a cornerstone of our free-enterprise economy, but in the fragile aviation industry, particularly in the North, it creates a major challenge to viability.”
In addition to the contributions of charter companies such as Alkan, Alpine, Tintina and Trans North, Air North* – originally launched as a small charter service and flight school in 1977 – rapidly opened up the skies for Yukon residents and visitors. Route expansion began with its Douglas DC-3s and DC-4s followed by Hawker Siddeley 748 turboprops. A strategic investment in the airline by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in 2000, using its land claim settlement funds, helped usher in economic sustainability, employment and a transportation lifeline for Old Crow, north of the Arctic Circle and the Yukon’s only fly-in community. The Air North-Vuntut Gwitchin partnerships also introduced new possibilities with the purchase of Boeing 737 passenger jets.
*(click link for interview with Joe Sparling and Janna Swales with Doug Tremblay on CHON FM)
The founding of Air North, Yukon’s Airline, “started the first ever affordable air service for modern Yukoners and all of the cultural, sport, education and business growth that occurred because affordable transportation was delivered here so we could grow this part of the North,” says Debra Ryan, Manager, Strategic Planning and Alliances, at Air North.
The history of aviation in the territory, was wrought on a myriad of adversities, from economic conundrums, to climatic, demographic and environmental difficulties, all combining to challenge the establishment of safe and reliable air transport in the Yukon. You might ask, why would anyone persevere in such a risky business?
“People who get involved with flying, back then and now, are usually smitten with meeting the challenges and savouring their successes. It is not the lure of big money – wages and profits were usually slim to none, especially in the early days. They usually found a love for flying, and an attraction to the adventure of operating aircraft in a variety of roles. It becomes a bit addictive,” says Cameron.
“You could expand this point and this story well beyond the borders of the Yukon with Grant McConachie [founder of United Air Transport, Yukon Southern Air Transport, and later CEO of Canadian Pacific Airways] being an example on a national scale, of a pilot/entrepreneur, who was on shoe-string finances for decades, but history shows that he never considered giving up on his dream of an international airline.” says Cameron. This Yukon connection is proudly displayed both in the naming of the main highway into Vancouver International Airport as Grant McConachie Way and with the World’s Largest Windvane, Canadian Pacific CF-CPY marking the entry to Whitehorse International Airport.
“He (Grant McConachie) relished the possibilities. He could see that if he could survive financially and make it grow, it would be a great thing and I’m sure that was the thinking of other pioneer airline founders, like Clyde Wann [Yukon Airways] and later George Simmons [Northern Airways].”
To understand and appreciate northern aviation also means acknowledging the role of geography and climate, especially cold winters, in shaping the conditions and constraints within which pilots laboured. Or, in the words of Cameron, conditions “necessitating the risky, laborious, asphyxiating, job of pre-heating of engines and oil with an open flame under a canvas tarp, when the luxury of a warm hangar was nonexistent.” In extreme cold, the prevailing edict is that it takes “twice as long to get half as much done,” says Cameron. The preparations to make a single flight in the depths of winter were very daunting indeed.”
Aviation often attracted people seeking both employment and adventure. Sustaining experienced and skilled personnel in the North has also been a challenge. “For every one of those who choose to stay in the North, many others use their time in the northern aviation industry as a ‘stepping stone’ to more lucrative and comfortable jobs, such as the major airlines,” says Cameron.
At a time when many travellers take flight for granted, the abrupt reduction in air travel that began in March of 2020, may also prompt some profound questioning of the way we move around the world.
“Is this seamless web of connection always good?” asks historian, David Neufeld.
“Speaking as a passenger or as a freighter and setting aside all the other important things that elevation gives you, from air photos to geology stuff, but setting it just to moving from A to B or moving stuff from A to B, that’s the part that is the crux of climate change. Is this all such a good thing? And now, we’ve got a pandemic in there,” says Neufeld.
“We look at and appreciate and exercise the advantages of this thing, but are there other things we should be thinking of — in the long term, like climate change, or short term – like pandemic. Is this a free marvel or does it come with all kinds of complications?”
For her part, Deb Ryan of Air North says, “I don’t think we’re going to take anything for granted for a while.”
As we take the time to look back and mark 100 years of Yukon flight, replete with accomplishment,
adaptation and struggle, it’s impossible to ignore that 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, also
brings the greatest turbulence, the highest level of uncertainty that airlines and air services both in the
Yukon, and around the world, have ever faced since they took to the skies. What will you do on this
remarkable anniversary year to support the continued story of Yukon aviation?
The image shown above is one of those four first Dehavillands over the Whitehorse landing strip, cut specifically for this arrival and departure. The airstrip spot was well chosen apparently, this is the location of the Whitehorse International Airport today. Visit this page or contact us for more information.
A 100-year Timeline
1920 – first flight
June 18: Capt. H. T. Douglas of the U. S. Air Force and Capt. H. A. LeRoyer of the Canadian Air Board arrived in Whitehorse to talk over a proposed international aeroplane flight from Mineola New York to Nome Alaska.
July 15: Four U.S. Army De Havilland DH-4 bi-planes led by Captain St. Clair Street officially departed from Mineola, New York, on their 14,400 km round trip to Nome, Alaska and back to New York.
August 16: The four U.S. Army De Havillands, the first aircraft to appear in Yukon skies, arrived in Whitehorse, after making refueling stops at Erie, Pa.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Winona, Minn.; Saskatoon, Sask.; Edmonton, Alberta; Jasper House, Alta.; Prince George, B.C.; Hazelton, B.C.; and Wrangell, Alaska.
October 20: The entire group returned to New York after flying a total of 14,400 kilometres (9,000 miles) in 112 hours, an incredible feat in 1920!
May: The Yukon Airways and Exploration Co. Ltd. was incorporated with a capital of $50,000 and head office at Whitehorse. James F. Finnegan of Wernecke Camp was President and Clyde G. Wann of Keno was Secretary-Treasurer. They inaugurated their air service with the purchase of a new Ryan Brougham monoplane built by the Ryan Airplane Company in San Diego, California.The plane was christened Queen of the Yukon.
November: The Queen of the Yukon flew the first air mail out of Whitehorse, piloted by Andy Cruickshank, with his new bride Esme on board as helper. The load of mail was to be flown to Mayo and Dawson, which had no airfield. As they winged low over Dawson, Mrs. Cruickshank thrust the mail bag out of the cabin window, and the machine flew on to Mayo to finish the day’s work.
May 5: After only seven months in service, including two forced landings and less than a dozen revenue flights logged, pilot Tommy Stephens encountered a gusty crosswind while attempting to land in Whitehorse, and crashed the Queen of the Yukon into the company agent’s Model T-Ford truck, ending her short-lived, pioneering career.
October: Yukon Airways & Exploration Co. Ltd. placed an order for a second Ryan Brougham, and were told delivery will take a year due to a long list of back orders. (Charles Lindberg’s epic flight across the Atlantic in May 1927 in a modified version of the Ryan Brougham had triggered a flood of orders.)
In order to continue to serve their burgeoning market, the Company took delivery of an open-cockpit biplane, an Alexander Eaglerock christened Northern Light, which was ferried from Denver, Colorado to Whitehorse by their new pilot, John Melville (Pat) Patterson.
October: The Treadwell-Yukon Mining Co. Ltd. (forerunner to United Keno Hill Mines) purchased a brand new Fairchild FC-2W2 (G-CARM) and very successfully operated the Yukon’s first “corporate aircraft” from bases at Whitehorse and Mayo.
August: Yukon Airways took delivery of The Queen of the Yukon II, a Ryan B-5 Brougham, which arrived in the Yukon on floats, piloted by Pat Patterson. A second pilot, Percy Nelson, was hired to fly the Eaglerock.
November 2: An engine failure after takeoff at Mayo, and an attempt to turn back to the landing strip, caused the Queen of the Yukon II to plunge into the ice-covered Stewart River, killing pilot Pat Patterson, making him the first aviation fatality in the Yukon. Patterson was only 22 years old. The tragic loss of the Queen of the Yukon II left the Company reeling, with only the open-cockpoit Eaglerock left in service.
November 29: The Alexander Eaglerock Northern Light departed Whitehorse for Mayo with pilot Percy Nelson and passenger Clyde Wann on board. Four miles south of Carmacks, the engine quit and the aircraft crashed on the shore of Coalmine Lake. Both men survived, but the aircraft was destroyed.
An order was placed for a Queen of the Yukon III, but financing failed, and Yukon Airways was out of business.
One of the most famous bush pilots was Grant McConnachie, who started Yukon Southern Air Transport in the 1930s.
Carcross fur trader and mail contractor George Simmons established Northern Airways Ltd. (NAL) with the lease of a 6-passenger Fairchild 71, and commenced year-round mail, passenger and freight service to Atlin and other points throughout northern B.C. and the southern Yukon.
June: Eyeing the success of Norther Airways in Carcross, the giant White Pass & Yukon Route transportation company joined the aviation “game” with the purchase of a 4-place Loening-Keystone amphibian dubbed the Duck, followed by the purchase of a 12-place Ford Trimotor, both based in Skagway.
October: Having proven the viability of an air service based in Carcross, Northern Airways returned the leased Fairchild (but retained pilot Bob Randall) and purchased their own aircraft, a 7-passenger Fokker Super Universal, CF-AAM.
Everett Wasson, pilot of the Treadwell Yukon Fairchild, left TY and joined George Simmons in Northern Airways. He brought with him the Treadwell-Yukon Fairchild G-CARM, doubling the NAL fleet to two aircraft. In March the two aircraft made history by making the first landings in the Canadian St. Elias icefields, while supporting the National Geographic Washburn Expedition.
April: Pacific Alaska Airways inaugurated the Yukon’s first international scheduled air service, connecting Whitehorse and Dawson with Fairbanks and Juneau, with further connections to Seattle, using modern, twin-engined Lockheed 10A Electras. The arrival of these aiurcraft also marked the first use of radio in the Yukon skies.
July 7: Grant McConachie of Edmonton-based United Air Transport landed his float-equipped Ford Trimotor on the Yukon River at Dawson City, and announced the inauguration of one-day scheduled air service from the Klondike to Edmonton, a mind-boggling concept to oldtimers who had taken months to trek to the Klondike!
January 16: United Air Transport changed its name to Yukon Southern Air Transport (YSAT) and continued to expand service between Vancouver, Edmonton and the Yukon.
Yukon Southern Air Transport up-graded their Yukon service with the purchase of three twin-engined Barkley-Grow aircraft, suitably christened Yukon Queen, Yukon King and Yukon Prince.
Yukon Southern Air Transport further up-graded their Yukon passenger service by placing on the route two 18-passenger Lockheed Lodestars, the world’s fastest, most modern airliners.
After a series of setbacks, including three tragic crashes, the British Yukon Navigation Company sold its entire air division to McConachie’s Yukon Southern Air Transport. With the addition of several other airlines across the country, the Canadian Pacific Railway formed the whole conglomeration into Canadian Pacific Airlines, later known as CP Air, with Grant McConachie as President.
With the United States entering World War II, the U.S. Army began construction of the Northwest Staging Route through Alberta and the Yukon, building the Alcan Highway (Alaska Highway), modern airports along the route, and a state-of-the-art air navigation system. Up-graded airports included Watson Lake, Teslin, Whitehorse, Aishihik, Burwash and Snag.
At the Douglas Aircraft factory in Santa Monica, California, Douglas serial number 4665 was constructed to join the WW II theater in India and Burma. It would later become a commercial airliner as CF-CPY with Canadian Pacific Airlines, and finally, the iconic weathervane at the Whitehorse Erik Nielsen International Airport.
George H. Milne, a former Canadian Pacific Airlines pilot, established the Yukon’s first flying school, with a brand new Canadian-built Fleet Canuck trainer. A year later, with the addition of a Stinson Voyager, he expanded his services to include charter flying, and changed the name from Whitehorse Flying School to Whitehorse Flying Service. At that time he was joined by Canadian Pacific Airlines aircraft maintenance engineer, Gordon Cameron.
At the same time another group of Yukoners, Bud Harbottle, Norm Hartnell and Clyde Wann re-started Yukon Airways Ltd. with a Republic Seabee and a Piper Super Cruiser. After watching each other struggle financially, the two companies amalgamated under the name Whitehorse Flying Service(WFS).
Veteran Northern Airways pilot Pat Callison left Carcross and moved his family to Dawson City where he established the first local air service there, Callison’s Flying Service.
Kenting Aviation of Toronto were awarded a five-year contract to carry out a Topographical Survey of the northern Yukon. They sent up a Bell 47D (CF-FJA) to do that summer’s survey – the first helicopter to work in the Yukon. Over the next four years Kenting sent the latest Bell and Hiller helicopters to the Yukon each summer to continue the Topo Survey. In 1971 local pilots discovered one of those vintage machines, a 1950 Hiller 360, damaged and abandoned 64 miles south of Old Crow. It is now on display in the Yukon Transportation Museum.
In January a U.S. Army Douglas C-54 transport plane with 44 people on board, southbound from Anchorage to Texas, reported over Snag, Yukon, never to be heard from again. Several search planes were lost in the massive air search, but the four-engined transport was never found.
George (Dal) Dalziel, the “Flying Trapper”, a veteran northern bush pilot, moved his family to Watson Lake, bought three Custom Wacos, and started B.C.-Yukon Air Service.
Herman Peterson, veteran bush pilot for Northern Airways in Carcross, moved to Atlin, and with his wife Doris, established Peterson’s Flying Service. With a name change to Coast Range Airways in the early 1960’s, they operated through to 1967, when they sold out to a brand new Yukon company, Trans North Turbo Air.
Whitehorse Flying Service brought the first De Havilland Beaver to the Yukon, with its break-through short take-off and landing capabilities, instantly revolutionizing accessibility to small lakes with fixed-wing bushplanes.
On October 2 tragedy struck Whitehorse Flying Service when George Milne crashed into Fox Mountain, killing all four onboard. Meanwhile, Pacific Western Airlines had been pestering WFS to sell out to them.
Whitehorse Flying Service sold out to Vancouver-based Pacific Western Airlines (PWA), giving them the toe-hold they were seeking in the Yukon. PWA took the remaining two modern aircraft of WFS to Vancouver for paint, and sent up the oldest bush plane in Canada, a 1931 German Junkers 34, CF-ATF, now on display in the National Aeronautical Collection in Ottawa. The pilot was Ron Connelly and he was accompanied by his pilot wife, Dawn, who took over the running of the flight school.
By the nid 1950’s Canadian Pacific Airlines had introduced the Convair 240, followed soon by the Douglas DC-6B, on the Yukon routes from Outside, bringing the comfort of pressurized air travel to Yukoners.
Around the same time, the pioneering Pacific Alaska Airways service, which had previously been taken over by Pan American Airways, had advanced to double-decker Boeing Stratocruiser service from Whitehorse to Juneau and on down to Seattle – the ultimate in air travel luxury!
Ron and Dawn Connelly moved to Dawson City and bought out Callison’s Flying Service, renaming it Connelly-Dawson Airways. They operated Beavers and Cessna 180’s in support of oil exploration in the Peel River country. They purchased the DC-3 CF-CPY and put it on skis to continue serving the Peel Plateau. Dawn Connelly became Dawn Bartsch, and with her husband Gordon they become the main flight crew of CPY. The company morphed into Great Northern Airways, moved to Whitehorse, and established scheduled services to Mayo, Dawson, Clinton Creek, Old Crow and Inuvik.
As an ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot Licence) rated pilot flying scheduled routes with CPY, Dawn Bartsch became the first woman in Canada licenced to do so.
Pat Callison, after selling his fixed-wing air service to the Connellys, purchased two brand new Bell 47G-2 helicopters and established Klondike Helicopters Ltd. (KHL), the first home-grown helicopter company in the Yukon. Its headquarters were in Dawson and its hangar was located downtown where the Eldorado Hotel sits today. Over the next eight years the company grew to a fleet of four Bell 47G-2’s and four Hiller 12E’s, before selling out to Kenting Helicopters in Calgary.
In November CF-CPY made the first landing of a large aircraft at Old Crow, landing on a gravel bar on the Porcupine River. Prior to that noted arrival, Old Crow had been served only by single-engine aircraft on charters. Pilots of the historic DC-3 flight were Dawn and Gordon Bartsch.
February 4: A massive air search was triggered when American pilot Ralph Flores and passenger Helen Klaben, disappeared in a vintage Howard DGA 15 aircraft, en route from Whitehorse to Fort Nelson. After two weeks of -40C temperatures, the search was abandoned with the assumption that they could no longer be alive.
March 24: Charles “Chuck” Hamilton, a 33-year old bush pilot from Watson Lake spotted their SOS in the snow approximately 80 miles south of Watson Lake. Rescued the next day, the couple had survived a horrific crash, injuries, starvation, and 7 weeks of severe winter temperatures. The story went around the world, and culminated in a Hollywood movie titled “Hey, I’m Alive”, Helen’s first words when she was rescued.
On July 8 Canadian Pacific Airline’s Flight 21 from Vancouver to Whitehorse, with scheduled stops in Fort St. John, Fort Nelson and Watson Lake, B.C., crashed near 100 Mile House as a result of a bomb planted onboard. All 52 passengers and crew were killed, with the investigation concluding that the perpetrator died on board as well.
Ron Connelly (having left Great Northern Airways), along with partners Al Kapty, Chuck Hankins and Gordon Davis, teamed up to form Trans North Turbo Air, with the intention of operating helicopters throughout the territory, Klondike Helicopters’ new owners having moved the company out of the Yukon. Impatiently awaiting the granting of an operating licence from Ottawa, they seized the opportunity to buy the Petersons’ Coast Range Airways which included a helicopter, and thus opened for business with eight aircraft: three Bell 47’s of their own, one Bell 47 and three fixed wing from Coast Range. In the fall of 1967 TNTA sold the Coast Range fixed-wing to Great Northern Airways, so they could focus on helicopters only.
Canadian Pacific Airlines commenced jet service to Whitehorse, replacing their Douglas DC-6B’s with Boeing 737’s.
CP Air was created by the renaming of Canadian Pacific Airlines. The parent company – Canadian Pacific Limited – had decided to align the airline’s name to that of it’s other subsidiaries – CP Hotels, CP Rail, etc.
In December Great Northern Airways went into receivership. The assets and licences were taken over by Calgary-based International JetAir. Their only interest being in the licences for large aircraft, they parted out the smaller aircraft and lower weight-group licences: Trans North Turbo Air puchased the bush aircraft and small twins, and Edmonton-based Northward Airlines purchased the DC-3’s (including CF-CPY), and the associated sched routes.
Construction completed of the Old Crow airport.
1977 – Air North is founded
In 1977, Joseph T. Sparling and Tom Wood founded Air North Charter and Training by buying out a small charter company for $50,000. Flying a single Cessna 172, Air North was originally founded to serve charter flights to mining operations as well as offer flight training, but expanded to commercial flight as well. By adopting a strategy of slow and steady growth, it still serves as the territory’s primary airline today.
Barry Watson, and Win and Joe Muff, form Alkan Air, a charter air and air ambulance named in honour of the famous Alaska Highway or Al-Can Highway which skirts the City of Whitehorse.
Northward Airlines went into receivership, leaving the north sched routes without service. Trans North purchased two DC-3’s and took over the north sched routes (Dawson, Mayo, Old Crow and Inuvik).
Air North fleet expands its fleet with a pair of Douglas DC3s and begins offering passenger and cargo flights as well as charters. It builds a 9,600-square foot hangar, representing the company’s first major investment non-aircraft infrastructure
Trans North divests itself of all commercial fixed-wing operations, and continues with helicopter service. Air North assumed the north scheds, and Alkan Air took over the medi-vac service on a contract basis.
CP Air was acquired by Pacific Western and the two companies began operations as Canadian Airlines International (CAI).
2000 – Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation invests in Air North
The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, located in Old Crow, forges an agreement to strategically invest in Air North, buying Tom Wood’s shares amounting to 49 percent of the company. The agreement, which came out of a series of conversations former Vuntut Gwitchin Chief, Joe Linklater, was designed to provide a consistent flow of passengers and freight to the Yukon’s only fly-in community.
After financial difficulties, the struggling Canadian Airlines International was acquired by Air Canada.
Air North offers shares for purchase by Yukoners. The 636 shares are snapped up in just three days, selling at $7,500 each and raising $4.77 million of local equity financing. The share offering was part of the Yukon Small Business Investment Tax Credit program, which is designed to encourage Yukon investors to invest their money in the territory. After the share sale, almost one in 10 Yukoners had a direct equity stake in the airline.
Air North purchases a Boeing 737-500, a 30-metre long aircraft with a wingspan nearly as wide. It weighs 50,000 kilograms, fully loaded. At its top speed, it can travel one kilometre in four seconds
February – Air North marks four decades of steady, measured growth. The airline now operates a fleet of five jets: four Boeing 737-500s and one 737-400. On the turboprop side, Air North flies two ATR 42-300s and two Hawker Siddeley HS 748 aircraft. It has approximately 350 employees, including about 20 pilots, making it one of the territory’s largest private employers.
From its Whitehorse headquarters, Air North jets provide scheduled passenger service to Vancouver, Kelowna, and Victoria in BC, Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta, Yellowknife, NWT., and Ottawa, Ont. The airline’s turboprops fly to northern Yukon communities including Dawson City, Mayo and Old Crow, as well as Inuvik, N.W.T.
What an Anniversary Year: 2020 – 100 years
Joe Sparling founder and president of Air North says the airline is looking to upgrade its fleet with the newest generation of jets to make flying more efficient, aiming to reduce fuel consumption per passenger by approximately 50 percent within three years. In a letter to company shareholders, Sparling called upgrading the fleet a “major undertaking, possibly the biggest in our 43-year history.”
March and April
COVID-19 epidemic major reductions in flights to the North, across Canada and around the world as authorities scramble to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus disease which first started appearing in China in late 2019.