Carl Frederick Burke

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Carl Frederick Burke
Born (1913-02-10)10 February 1913
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Died September 1, 1976(1976-09-01) (aged 63)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation Founder of Maritime Central Airways

Carl Frederick Burke (February 10, 1913 – September 1, 1976) was a Canadian aviator.

Early years[edit]

Born at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on February 10, 1913, the son of Frederick and Agnes Kirkwood (Fraser) Burke. His mother died from the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919 when Carl was age 6, and in later life he would ensure that the Kirkwood name would be memorialized in both a street name in Charlottetown as well in a modern motor lodge he opened. Carl Frederick Burke started flying lessons at Saint John, New Brunswick in 1936, subsequently earning a commercial license and, in 1939, qualifying for an air engineer's certificate. In 1939, he became a pilot for Canadian Airways Limited (CAL) at Moncton, New Brunswick, during which he was involved in the air rescue of a pilot in Musgrove Harbor, Newfoundland, flying a ski-equipped de Havilland Dragon Rapide, and also recovered the bodies of Sir Frederick Banting, navigator William Bird and William Snailman. The plane was not a Dragon Rapide. The Banting Family has a picture of the bodies of Banting Snailham and Bird in Musgrave Harbour. The ski plane they were using was a high wing single radial engine in the nose.

He joined the Royal Air Force Ferry Command (RAFFC) after CAL was purchased by Canadian Pacific Air Services. In 1941, along with Josiah Anderson, he received a license to operate a scheduled commercial air service between Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Moncton and Saint John, New Brunswick. Following the death of Anderson, Burke opened his business, Maritime Central Airways, alone.

Maritime Central Airways[edit]

Maritime Central Airways (MCA) went into operation on December 7, 1941, with a fleet consisting of a leased Boeing 247D and two purchased aircraft: Barkley-Grow T8P-1 and a Fairchild 24. At its launch, Burke was its primary pilot. He became a Member of the Order of the British Empire after his January 28, 1943 rescue of crew and equipment from a downed Avro Anson, which required that he land five times on an ice floe near Prince Edward Island. MCA had expanded by the end of World War II, but post-war recession required that Burke find supplementary income to keep his business aloft. Among other enterprises, MCA undertook the maintenance of Douglas DC-3 aircraft at RCAF Station Summerside, Prince Edward Island. In 1951, the company received a major contract with the Pinetree Project, a chain of military radar stations, that led to the airlifting of over 10,000 tons of equipment and over 100,000 passengers to the eastern Arctic over a span of three years. MCA also received a contract, in 1954, to assist in the eastern section of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) constructed by agreement of Canada and the United States.

These contracts required MCA to expand. In 1953, it acquired two small Quebec company, Boreal Airways and Mont Laurier Aviation, which had become wholly owned subsidiaries by 1956, shortly after which they were merged into Nordair Ltd. In 1960, Burke's enterprise grew further with the purchase of Wheeler Airlines Ltd. His company then had an air route structure that stretched from St. John's, Newfoundland to Windsor, Ontario and north beyond the Arctic Circle, though there was a gap between Montreal and Moncton. It expanded internationally thereafter, before being divided in 1963. MCA was sold to Eastern Provincial Airways, though Nordair remained independent until a major share was sold to J. Tooley of Montreal in 1967.

Burke died at Boston, Massachusetts on September 1, 1976.

Honours and legacy[edit]


  • Oswald, Mary, They Led the Way, Wetaskiwin: Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame, 1999. ISBN 0-9684843-0-1

External links[edit]