February 23, 1909
Canada takes fiight: With men on skates to steady
the Silver Dart’s wings, J. A. D. McCurdy pilots the biplane
for 0.8 kilo-metres over the ice-covered surface of Baddeck Bay,
N.S., completing the first flight in Canada by a powered heavier-than-air
machine. The plane was developed by Aerial Experiment Association
members Alexander Graham Bell, F. W. Baldwin, Glenn Curtiss and
McCurdy. Two years later, they are granted United States Patent
No. 1,011,106 for their “flying machine.”
May 24, 1912
Might as well jump: Wearing bright red tights and
a leather helmet, Charles Saunders makes the first parachute
jump from an airplane in Canada, over Vancouver, beating out
bat-suited Cecil MacKenzie for the honours.
July 23, 1913
Night sky: With his biplane fitted with electric lights
on the wings and his landing area outlined with small blazes,
H. W. Blakeley makes the first night flight in Canada at the
Dominion Livestock Show and Fair at Brandon, Man.
July 31, 1913
Alys McKey Bryant becomes the first woman pilot to fly in Canada,
over Vancouver, in a Curtiss-type pusher biplane.
August 6, 1913
The first fatal airplane accident in Canada occurs when John
M. Bryant, Alys’ husband, is killed in the crash of his plane
October 8, 1913
June 27, 1914
The first commercial cargo flight in Canada delivers copies of
the Montreal Daily Mail to Ottawa. Unfortunately, the
aircraft crashes on the return takeoff.
But did he spill his lunch? Lincoln Beachey completes
the first loop-the-loop and inverted flying in Canada during
an exhibition at Maisonneuve Park in Montréal.
August 4, 1914
The First World War thrusts the fledgling aviation technology
into prominence. Canada has neither pilots nor aircraft in its
armed forces, but about 22,000 Canadians bravely fly with British
squadrons, in planes like the SPAD VII.
January 4, 1917
E. R. Grange of No. 8 (Naval) Squadron is credited with downing
his fifth enemy aircraft, becoming Canada’s first "ace."
June 24, 1918
Airways go postal: Carrying 120 letters in envelopes
specially postmarked for the journey, Capt. Brian A. Peck makes
the first airmail flight in Canada, from Montréal to Toronto,
piloting a Curtiss JN-4. Canada would wait until 1924 to establish
regular airmail, when Laurentide Air Service introduces delivery
between Haileybury, Ont., and the goldfields around Rouyn, Que.
Stuart Graham pilots the first bush flight, in a Curtiss HS-2L.
One tree, two trees, three trees... The first aerial-survey
business sets up shop, conducting a timber count in Labrador.
The 5 pilots and 30 crew of the Owens Expedition took some 13,000
aerial photographs, kick-starting the region’s pulp and paper
June 14, 1919
Better than frequent-flyer miles: British aviators Capt.
John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Brown take off from a field near St.
John’s, Nfld., in their Vickers Vimy, landing 16 hours and 12
minutes later in Ireland and winning the £10,000 London
Daily Mail prize for the first aviators to fly nonstop across
August 7, 1919
Ernest Hoy is the first to fly over the Canadian Rockies, in
a Curtiss JN-4, travelling from Vancouver to Calgary. Unable
to climb above 7,000 feet, he has to fly between mountain peaks,
with vicious updrafts and downdrafts pulling at his plane and
only 150 feet between him and the craggy peaks of Crawford Pass.
On his return flight, he cartwheels shortly after takeoff and,
badly shaken, never flies again.
April 1, 1924
Designation of "Royal" Canadian Air Force is granted
by King George V.
November 3, 1924
Your ticket please, sir! An unidentified man becomes the first
aerial stowaway in Canada, sneaking onto a Curtiss HS-2L flying
from Rouyn to Angliers, Que.
June 8, 1927
Hope their luggage made it: Newlyweds Dr. and Mrs.
James Nesbitt are flown from Toronto to Hamilton, the first known
Canadian honeymoon trip by air.
June 29, 1927
Flight Lieutenant G. E. Brooks, flying in an Avro 504K conducts
the first flight test of Wallace Turnbull’s variable-pitch propeller,
a major Canadian innovation in aviation technology.
March 13, 1928
Eileen Vollick of Hamilton receives private pilot’s Certificate
No. 77, the first for a Canadian woman.
T. M. “Pat” Reid and a group of pilots and engineers
lead the first aerial search and rescue in the High Arctic.
August 25, 1928
The crash of a B.C. Airways Ford Trimotor in Puget Sound, Wash.,
during bad weather kills seven people and is called Canada’s
first major air disaster.
April 10, 1937
With two 10-passenger airplanes and a mail plane, Trans-Canada
Air Lines (TCA) takes flight. Early on, TCA (later to become
Air Canada) is labeled by its critics an “arrogant monopoly.”
Flying a Lockheed Electra, J. H. Tudhope and J. D. Hunter complete
the first dawn-to-dusk trans-Canada flight, between Montréal
and Vancouver, in 17 hours and 35 minutes.
July 1, 1938
Coffee, tea or.. Serving small boxed lunches and cups
of coffee and lemonade, Lucille Garner and Pat Eccleston are
TCA’s first flight attendants, paving the way for these stewardesses
of the 1960s. At first, only single women under 26 are selected,
and until 1957, the airline only hires nurses, to ensure frightened
and finicky passengers of medical care in flight.
The Findlays of Ottawa become the first family to travel across
the country on an airline. Mrs. Findlay describes the airplane
as noisy and flimsy. “From time to time, we would hit an
air pocket, and whoosh our hearts were in our mouths.”
During the Second World War, nearly 250,000 men and women serve
in air force blue around the world and at home.
First schools open under the British Commonwealth Air Training
Plan. They train some 131,500 aircrew in planes like this Harvard,
safely away from battle zones, transforming Canada into what
U.S. President Roosevelt later terms “the aerodome of democracy.”
Pilots, navigators and camera operators returning from the war
participate in a decade-long aerial survey, updating topographic
maps of remote regions. Aerial surveying is used in highway,
railway, hydro and pipeline projects and forest inventories.
April 15, 1947
TCA begins using the Canadair North Star, the first Canadian-built
airliner, on its Montréal to London route. The plane,
which logged 311 million kilometres for the airline, offers Canadians
long-distance air travel, flying to such exotic locations as
the Bahamas, Jamaica, Tampa, Paris and Düsseldorf.
De Havilland Canada designs the first STOL (short-takeoff-and-landing)
bush plane, the Beaver.
The first Canadian passenger jet (second in the world after the
British), the Avro Canada Jetliner, is flown. Despite its advanced
design, it never saw production and was later sold for scrap.
With a continuing post-war interest in aviation, the first National
Air Show (now the Canadian International, is held in Toronto.
It is billed as the largest in the country and attracts 750,000
spectators each year.
The glory and glamour of the RCAF spurs Canadians’ romance with
air travel. A booming economy makes tickets more affordable,
and airlines such as Canadian Pacific bring us the world, launching
flights to Australia, Japan and South America.
December 18, 1952
Breaking Mach 1 in a dive, Jan Zurakowski becomes the first pilot
to fly a Canadian plane faster than the speed of sound, in an
Avro Canada CF-100 jet fighter. The ensuing thunderclap rattles
windows in nearby Malton, Ont.
Production of the supersonic Avro Arrow begins. Despite its sleek
design and Mach 2 speeds, the Arrow project crashes and burns
before it can really take off. In 1959, the federal government
scraps the project and all the prototypes.
Used to locate downed aircraft, the crash-position indicator
is devised by Harry Stevinson and David Makow at the National
Research Council in Ottawa.
Canadair Challenger business jet takes off. It goes on to log
more than a million hours of fiying time and launch Canada
as a leading manufacturer of business and regional aircraft.
June 23, 1985
A terrorist bomb explodes aboard Air India Flight 182 from Toronto.
It crashes into the North Atlantic off the coast of Ireland,
killing all 329 on board. Airport security is subsequently tightened
across the country. The crash becomes the subject of the longest
criminal investigation in Canadian history.
Fresh air: Following the 1971 introduction of no-smoking sections
on its aircraft, Air Canada is the first North American airline
to offer smoke-free flights. In 1991, it bans smoking on all
During the Gulf War, Canadians fiy some 2,700 missions in
fighters like these CF-18s,
including the first bombing offensives by Canadian forces since
the Second World War.
Air Canada thwarts takeover efforts by Onex Corporation.
January 4, 2000
A numbered company, owned in part by Air Canada, scoops up 82
percent of Canadian Airline’s shares. When the merger is complete,
Air Canada will be the country’s only national airline.