Canadian Pacific Air Lines
1987(merged with Nordair and Pacific Western Airlines to form Canadian Airlines)
|Hubs||Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal|
|Headquarters||Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, British Columbia|
Grant McConachie GM 1941-47, President 1947-65
Canadian Pacific Air Lines was a Canadian airline that operated from 1942 to 1987. It operated under the name CP Air from 1968 to 1986. Headquartered at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia, it served Canadian and international routes until it was purchased by Pacific Western Airlines and absorbed into Canadian Airlines which branded itself as Canadian Airlines International.
In the early 1940s, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company purchased ten bush airlines in a short time span, finishing with the purchase of Canadian Airways in 1942, to form Canadian Pacific Air Lines. Early management were largely bush flying pioneers, including president Grant McConachie, superintendent Punch Dickins, and Wop May, who would become a repair depot manager in Calgary.
In 1968, Canadian Pacific Air Lines was rebranded as CP Air. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company (renamed Canadian Pacific Limited in 1971) had decided to align the airline's name and logo design to that of its other subsidiaries, including CP Hotels, CP Ships, and CP Transport (CP Rail was spun off from the parent company later).
Battle with TCA
CP Air battled with the government-owned Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA, later Air Canada) for international and transcontinental routes for much of its history. Despite early attempts to merge into one national carrier, CP Air continued to operate routes based on its previous bush flying heritage.
The federal government established limits on domestic market share and, through international agreements, limits on which countries CP Air could fly to. This barred CP Air from the traditional routes such as London and Paris and limited their access to major Canadian routes such as Vancouver-Toronto and Toronto-New York. CP was forced to develop other overseas routes.
The development of the great circle or polar route to the Far East from CP Air's Vancouver base would become one of the cornerstones of the airline. Grant McConachie managed to secure flights to Amsterdam, Australia, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, which helped the airline's revenue grow from $3 million in 1942 to $61 million by 1964. Flights to Sydney and to Hong Kong via Tokyo started in 1949, with Canadairs; Douglas DC-4s took over in 1952 and DC-6Bs in 1953. Flights to Lima started in 1953 (extended to Buenos Aires in 1956) and to Amsterdam in 1955. In August 1956 three Douglas DC-6Bs a week left Vancouver for Amsterdam, two for Tokyo and Hong Kong, one Auckland, one Sydney, and one Buenos Aires.
Several of the key routes in the early days were as follows:
- Flights 1 & 2, flying Hong Kong – Tokyo – Vancouver – Edmonton – Winnipeg – Toronto – Montreal
- Flight 301/302, flying Sydney – Nadi – Honolulu – Vancouver – Edmonton, and non-stop via the Polar route to Amsterdam. Other flights to Europe included Lisbon, Milan, Rome, and Athens.
- Flights 401/402, flying Vancouver, Mexico City, Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires
- Flights 501/502, Mexico City – Toronto – Santa Maria (Azores) – Lisbon – Madrid
Other routes duplicated parts of the above, but from the 1959 Intercontinental Timetable these appear to be the main routes, and show the inventiveness that Canadian Pacific Airlines needed to employ and how they developed other overseas routes for Canada. The airline was flying DC-4s and DC-6Bs internationally in the 1950s, introducing turboprop Bristol Britannia aircraft in 1958. Douglas DC-8 jetliners began to replace them from 1961, but the Britannias continued on routes that were unsuitable for the new jets well into the 1960s – for example on the route to New Zealand until Whenuapai closed to civil traffic in November 1965. Service to New Zealand resumed in 1985 along with non-stop flights from Vancouver to Hong Kong, and in 1986 CP Air became the first North American airline with a non-stop flight between North America and Mainland China with a weekly flight to Shanghai. Flights to Beijing, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo were added in 1987.
Although Canadian Pacific was not allowed scheduled routes to certain European countries, they were permitted to serve countries which Trans Canada Airlines/Air Canada did not choose to serve, so they developed schedules from 1960 onwards to Netherlands (Amsterdam), Italy (Milan and Rome), Greece (Athens), and later some other points. Amsterdam was their principal European destination for these services, with direct flights to both Eastern and Western Canada, and connections were emphasized onwards to other countries. They also developed extensive charter flights (operated mainly in summertime) beginning in the mid-1960s and through the 1970s and 1980s to Britain, France, Germany and other European points which permitted them some access to these markets. Unusually for charter flights, they were listed in detail in their system timetables to show the full reach of the airline.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, many of the routes CP Air had pioneered such as Vancouver–Tokyo were now very lucrative and the previous distribution of routes was considered unfair. In 1979, the federal government eliminated the fixed market share of transcontinental flights for Air Canada (the successor to TCA). While this was a condition that was pressed by CP Air for a long time, it now scrambled to upgrade its fleet to expand on newly available routes such as new nonstop service from Vancouver to Hong Kong and Shanghai to go along with adding more flights to its then current routes like Amsterdam, Rome, Tokyo and Sydney to prepare for increased competition from Air Canada in its traditional territory. This required massive fleet renewal and an associated debt of $1 billion.
This debt load, the increased competition, and the economic downturn in Asia would all work against CP Air's future.
Rebranding and sale
Having been renamed CP Air in 1968 with a new orange livery, the airline in 1986 reverted to its original name, Canadian Pacific Air Lines, with a new navy blue colour scheme and logo. This occurred shortly after the airline had taken over operations of Eastern Provincial Airways.
This new incarnation, however, was short-lived. Less than a year later, in 1987, Canadian Pacific Air Lines was sold, along with Quebec's Nordair, to Calgary-based Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) for $300 million. PWA assumed the airline's debt of $600 million. In April 1987, PWA announced that the new name of the merged airline would be Canadian Airlines International. In 2000, Canadian Airlines was taken over by and merged into Air Canada.
- Bellanca 66-76 Aircruiser 
- Boeing 707-138B (leased ca 1968)
- Boeing 727-117 (1969–1974) (included Combi aircraft capable of mixed passenger/freight operations)
- Boeing 727-217 (1975–1984)
- Boeing 737-217/284 (1968–1987)
- Boeing 737-3D1 (1983-1987)
- Boeing 747-1D1 (1973–1984)
- Boeing 747-211B(1978–1984)
- Boeing 767-217ER Ordered, later cancelled.
- Bristol Britannia 
- Convair CV 240 (used on Northern Canadian routes) 
- Curtiss Wright C-46F Commando
- Canadair CL-4 North Star C-4-1 
- de Havilland D.H.89A Dragon Rapide 
- de Havilland Comet
- de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter 
- Douglas C-54A-10-DC
- Douglas DC-3 
- Douglas DC-4
- Douglas DC-6  (included DC-6B model)
- Douglas DC-8-40 (1961–1980)
- Douglas DC-8-50 (1965–1966)
- Douglas DC-8-63 (1968–1983) (stretched Super DC-8 model)
- Douglas DC-10-30 (1977–1987)
- Lockheed 18 C-60A Lodestar 
List is incomplete and uses data primarily from the Boeing Sales Database .
Accidents and incidents
There were 12 major incidents aboard CP Air aircraft with a total of 234 fatalities.
- September 9, 1949: A Douglas DC-3 exploded in mid-flight en route from Quebec City to Baie-Comeau as the result of an onboard bomb, killing all 23 on board. See Albert Guay affair.
- December 22, 1950: (CP004) Douglas DC-3 struck a mountain in the Okanagan of British Columbia while on landing approach. 2 of 18 passengers/crew killed.
- July 21, 1951 – A Douglas DC-4 departed Vancouver, British Columbia for Anchorage, Alaska but disappeared en route without a trace. Eventually, all 37 on board would be declared legally dead.
- March 3, 1953: De Havilland DH-106 Comet crashed on takeoff from Karachi, Pakistan. All 11 passengers/crew were killed.
- August 29, 1956: (CP307) Douglas DC-6B crashed when it missed the landing due to pilot error near Cold Bay, Alaska. 15 of 22 passengers/crew killed.
- July 22, 1962: (CP301) Bristol Britannia 314 crashed in Honolulu, Hawaii. 27 of 40 passengers/crew were killed.
- July 8, 1965: Flight 21 (CP21) Douglas DC-6B crashed near Dog Creek, British Columbia when a bomb blew its tail section away. All 52 passengers/crew were killed.
- March 4, 1966: Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 402 (CP402) McDonnell Douglas DC-8-43 crashed on landing in Tokyo, Japan at Tokyo's Haneda Airport due to poor visibility. 64 of 72 passengers/crew were killed.
- February 7, 1968: (CP322) Boeing 707-138B leased from Standard Airways (of Seattle) crashed into aircraft and buildings at Vancouver while attempting to land in low visibility after a flight from Honolulu; 60 crew and passengers survived, but one flight attendant died, as did one person on the ground.
- June 23, 1985 a piece of luggage that had come from CP Air 3 exploded as it was being transferred to Air India Flight 301; the explosion killed two baggage handlers (Hideo Asano and Hideharu Koda) in Narita and injured four other people. The same kind of bomb was transferred on to Air India Flight 182 killing all passengers. The bomb exploded just south west of Cork, Ireland.
Some other incidents involving CP aircraft:
- November 1974: a Boeing 737 was hijacked in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. No fatalities occurred in this incident.
- May 1953: a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina crash landed at Prince Rupert, British Columbia with 2 fatalities
- February 1950: a Canadair C4 overran the runway at Tokyo-Haneda Airport and plunged into Tokyo Bay. All the passengers and crew were rescued.
- January 29, 1971: Trans Australia Airlines oldest Boeing 727-100 VH-TJA was operating flight TN592 from Sydney to Perth. Cleared for departure on Runway 16 at Sydney, the underside of VH-TJA hit the top of the fin of CP Air DC-8-63 (CF-CPQ) which had failed to clear the active runway after landing. The top half of the DC-8 fin was broken off, and the B727-76 landed safely with a gashed lower fuselage. There were no injuries or fatalities.
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