Section Two

Air transport began to mature in the 1920s and the 1930s with the development of formal airports with the necessary runways, buildings and services.

A Curtiss flying boat used
at the Jericho Beach Station
in Vancouver in 1920.
E-00269
For example, the Jericho Beach Station in Vancouver, was established by the Department of National Defense, in part, as a base for the float planes that conducted aerial surveys of British Columbia in the 1920s.

At the same time more and more companies were formed to fly passengers, mail, and even freight. The government used airplanes not only for military purposes, but also to carry out aerial surveys for mapping and mineral exploration.

B.C. Airlines airplane at the
airport in Victoria, 1920s
D-09781
Gypsy Moth airplanes lined up
for the opening of the
Vancouver Airport in 1931
Detail of G-00319


The rapidly expanding air transport system in Canada and British Columbia was of great benefit to people in all parts of the province.

The first airmail flight by
Yukon Southern Air Transport
leaving Kamloops for
Prince George and Fort St. John,
November 1, 1939.
A-09625
Even previously isolated communities and camps with no road access could be reached by airplanes that landed in fields or nearby lakes and other waterways. The pilots who flew in and out of these wilderness areas were called "bush pilots", a term still used today.

Most of the bush pilots remained working for small companies, but some developed their businesses into major airlines.

Yukon Southern Air Transport plane
at Fort St. John in the 1940s
D-00893
The most famous of these bush pilots was Grant McConnachie, who started Yukon Southern Air Transport in the 1930s.

In 1942 the Canadian Pacific Railway company bought his airline. Under McConnachie's continued leadership, and with its headquarters in Vancouver, the company, re-named Canadian Pacific Airlines (or CP Air), became one of the major airlines in the country. Now merged with other airlines, it is known today as Canadian Airlines.

Trans Canada Airlines
(now called Air Canada)
plane at Victoria Airport, 1946
Detail of I-26678
Airplanes and buildings at
the Vancouver Airport, 1946
Detail of I-27880


The Second World War saw great developments in air transport throughout Canada. New airports were constructed, or older ones were expanded, and new technology improved aircraft. After the war, air transport opened up British Columbia to the world as never before. Vancouver International Airport in particular grew to be the major entry for flights from the Pacific Rim.

Unloading a TCA plane,
Victoria Airport, 1950
i-26682
Opening of the new airport
Kelowna, 1960
I-27395

 

Within the province air traffic increased each year, jet planes were introduced, and new airports were built. There are few communities today that do not have an airport, or some kind of air service.