Canadian Airways

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Canadian Airways Limited
Ceased operations1942
Fleet sizeSee Aircraft below
DestinationsSee Destinations below
HeadquartersSioux Lookout, Ontario and later, Hudson, Ontario
Key peopleJames Armstrong Richardson
Fairchild 71C (CF-AKT) in Canadian Airways livery at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Canadian Airways Limited was a Canadian regional passenger and freight air service based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It traced its history back to the founding of its precursor, Western Canada Airways (WCA), by James Richardson in 1926, and was fully established in 1930 following WCA's acquisition of a number of smaller regional competitors. At its peak, Canadian Airways had a total of 51 aircraft of various types that provided both regular scheduled service between settlements as well as charter service to bush locations. Canadian Airways was absorbed into the fledgling Canadian Pacific Airlines in 1942, following Richardson's death three years earlier.


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 activities of varying degrees and the great depression in particular began to take a toll through the very early 1930s.

In 1932, the government mail contracts were cancelled and a host of new restrictions were introduced by the federal government. These actions would serve to gradually undermine Canadian Airways.

By 1936, control of civil aviation was transferred from the Department of National Defence to the newly established Department of Transport, 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.[2]

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 were not 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).[3]

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. ^ Shirley Render, Double Cross: The Inside Story of James A. Richardson and Canadian Airways, Douglas and McINtyre, 1999, ISBN 1-55054-722-4, pages 193,200,204,206
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-10-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Molson, 1974, p.97, 98, 114
  5. ^ Molson, 1974, p.105
  6. ^ Molson, 1974, pp.97, 104, 106
  7. ^ Molson, 1974, pp.99-100, 107-109, 114
  8. ^ Molson, 1974, p.115
  9. ^ Molson, 1974, p.117
  10. ^ Junkers Ju-52 - Scramble Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Molson, 1974, p.114
  13. ^ Canadian Airways history
  14. ^ Canada Aviation Museum (n.d.). "Stearman 4EM Senior Speedmail". Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
  15. ^ Molson, 1974, p.103
  16. ^ Alberta Heritage
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Time Table Images 1936
  18. ^ a b c d e Time Table Images 1936
  • Molson, K.M. (1974). Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport. Altona, Manitoba: D.W. Friesen & Sons. ISBN 0-91921239-5.

Further reading[edit]