TRANS-CANADA AIR LINES
AN ADDRESS BY MR. PHILIP G. JOHNSON
Chairman: The President, J. P. Pratt, Esq., K.C.
Thursday, October 27, 1938.
THE PRESIDENT: Your Worship, Gentlemen of the Empire Club: Today it is possible to post a letter in Great Britain and have it transported entirely by air to Cape Town, South Africa. Similarly, a service is in effect between Great Britain and Australia, via India and Singapore. Now what of this part of the British Empire? Today the Trans-Canada Air Lines carries express between Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. It carries mail between the same cities. It carries passengers between Vancouver and Winnipeg, and just as soon as the transatlantic portion of the service is established it will be possible to carry air mail from Great Britain to Vancouver. Thus, the British Empire will be entirely connected by air service.
The formation of the Trans-Canada Air Lines and the installation of the service naturally falls upon those who are experienced. We hear the roar of a plane. We admire the courage and skill of the young man who is piloting the plane, but there are others charged with great responsibility because the young pilot had to be carefully trained and just as carefully selected. These men must be men of experience. The man who has had charge of the formation of the Trans-Canada Air Service is our guest-speaker today. Mr. Philip G. Johnson is the Vice-President of the TransCanada Air Lines and has had a long association with flying, starting in the year 1917. In 1933, he rose to be president of the outstanding and leading flying service of the United States. In Canada he is the Vice-President of our Trans-Canada Air Lines. He is a man in whom I feel sure we can have the greatest confidence and we look forward to a very splendid achievement under his tutelage. I have much pleasure in calling on Mr. Philip G. Johnson, VicePresident of the Trans-Canada Air Lines.
Mr. PHILIP G. JOHNSON: Mr. Chairman, Your Worship, Honoured Guests, Members of the Empire Club: In discussing this address with Mr. Pratt in Ottawa the other day, he laid down three rules. One that I should not engage in any oratory. Secondly, I should be non technical; and thirdly, that I should consume a certain number of minutes. Well, the first one is easy, because I couldn't do it in any event, and I will try to live up to the other two requirements.
Flying in Canada is not particularly new or novel, and I would like to disabuse your minds of the thought that those of us in Trans-Canada are pioneering. The pioneering has all been done for us in the decade that preceded the formation of the TransCanada Air Lines. As far as history is concerned, the first mechanical flight achieved in Canada occurred in February of 1909 when Mr. McCurdy flew an aeroplane of his own design and construction in Nova Scotia. He made one or two flights, and that ended the development for the time being. The history of aviation in Canada from that early beginning until the world war was practically the same as in any other part of the globe. Nothing very much happened. Then the world war came along and the aeroplane saw its first real beginning as an entity out of which some use could be made. Unfortunately, it became a weapon of destruction, and during the war we saw the formation of the first aerial defences.
The war being over, we had a number of pilots and a lot of military aircraft, not only in Europe, but also on this side of the water, and not very much to do with them. As a result early beginnings were made in the use of aircraft for commercial purposes. I doubt very much whether aircraft were used more extensively in any other part of the world than in Canada in the early 20's. All of the equipment, of course, was military and had to be rebuilt to suit the particular purpose for which the early pioneers decided to use it. One of the first uses was an extensive mapping programme throughout the Dominion and I think I am correct in stating that the mapping of the Dominion of Canada has proceeded, or did proceed during that time, to a greater extent than any other place in the world. The maps, of course, you are all familiar with, and if you desire to see the difference between the Dominion before 1920 and after 1920, just compare the maps. It was all camera work, and the camera doesn't lie.
Also, exploratory flights began into the North Country, tending toward the development of our mineral wealth. I believe I am safe in saying that the aeroplane has done more for the development of the so-called North Country in Canada, than any other single agency. I am speaking now of those areas as yet untouched by surface transportation.
To illustrate how far, or to what extent the aeroplane has been used in Canada, I can quote some statistics here for the year 1936, and I am told that 1937 will not vary much from the figures that I will give you. All machinery supplies and people going into the North Country are transferred by air. In 1936, some 26,000,000 pounds of freight were carried by aircraft into the North Country here in Canada. The loads consisted of everything from oxen to mining machinery, and this movement is still going on today.
To give you comparison with loads carried elsewhere, all the domestic air lines within the United States in the same period carried but 7,000,000 pounds. In other words, we carried approximately four times as much freight by air here in Canada as was carried by all of the domestic lines in the United States in the period under review.
The first use of the aeroplane as a carrier of mail in Canada began in the prairie sections in 1928. Early in 1928 regular scheduled flights were carried out between Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, and Edmonton. After a beginning was made, they later introduced the carrying of passengers and were well on the way to the organization of a Trans-Canada schedule air transport service. Unfortunately, the operation died an untimely death, for in 1930, I believe, the contracts for carrying the mails were cancelled for reasons of economy and from that day until 1938 no regular Trans-Canada air mail service was in existence. This left the Dominion the only large country of any importance in the entire world which did not have a regular, scheduled air service connecting its main points of distribution.
In the meantime, the North Country operators had developed and continued to operate as they are operating today. In April of 1937 the Trans-Canada Act became a law and under its terms Trans-Canada Air Lines was formed. I am not going to burden you with all the details of the law. I am simply going to point out what is required under the Act. The Act prescribes the corporate setup, the method of selecting Directors, the capitalization, and so on and so forth. It also prescribes a method of selection of routes, a control of schedules, and provides for a method of payment for the carrying of mails. The period between April of 1937 and July of the same year was taken up with the corporate proceedings incident to the formation of the corporation. As of July 1st, 1937, Trans-Canada existed purely as a corporate entity, with a Board of Directors. It had made no effort to begin operations or plans for their operations, although it is true that five aircraft had been tentatively ordered. On July 1st the actual organization began and the first step was to make a study of the problem ahead of us. This was done by an aerial survey over the route to be flown, namely, from Vancouver over the Rockies and on East to Toronto and Montreal and then to the Maritimes, terminating finally in Moncton.
This survey had for its purpose four things. One was to determine what airway facilities were available, how far construction had been undertaken at the major terminals, or major points of distribution, and what had to be done in order to meet one of the requirements of the Act, which required Trans-Canada Air Lines to operate a service comparable to those existing in other parts of North America.
The second point was to plan a communication system by radio across Canada and to select the sites for the location of these stations.
Thirdly we had to determine what the personnel problem would be, and from what source we could draw pilots, mechanics, and other employees.
Finally, we had to select a place where we could set up a training school.
The airway facilities started to come into being in Canada about 1928, when the Department of National Defence planned a system of landing fields for an airway across Canada. The plans were originally made, of course, to accommodate the aeroplanes of that day. This development proceeded on through until 1936, at which time the task was turned over to the Department of Transport, together with general control over civil aviation operations in Canada.
We went into all of these things quite thoroughly, landing in all of the fields, checking up on facilities as they existed, and trying to make a mental note and study of what would be required to carry on a service such as the law or Act prescribed. We found in a general way that nearly all of the western communities, that is from Winnipeg west, had provided quite comprehensive facilities, which probably grew out of the fact that they had had a preliminary- service in 1928. We also found that the development of the airports for terminal purposes had been much more far-sighted than we had formerly been accustomed to in the United States, where our terminal facilities were carried to conclusions with no particular thought to the future. As a result, many of the terminal airports in the States will have to be rebuilt or relocated because they are not capable of expansion to take care of the larger aeroplanes now coming into general use. In Canada, however, those responsible for the planning did a good job because in nearly every instance--I don't know of any specific exceptions--the fields were so planned that they could be expanded to provide landing facilities that could adequately take care of such aircraft as might reasonably be expected to be used. That means, roughly speaking, an area about a mile square, with unobstructed approaches. I am not saying that all of them have been developed to that point but they are capable of expansion when the need arises, without losing the investment that has been placed in them.
We also found that the intermediate or so-called emergency fields were adequate for the smaller type of aircraft, but hardly adequate for the larger and faster aircraft which are designated for use on Trans-Canada, and which we would of necessity have to use in order to compete with other transcontinental lines in North America.
We proceeded on to Montreal and then made recommendations to our superiors, the Board of Directors. We suggested that a system be set up that would divide the country into two general divisions, the dividing line being at Winnipeg, which is approximately the geographical centre of the line. This would provide for the operation of a Western Division and an Eastern Division. We submitted a recommendation to the Directors to serve on the Department of Transport, who are charged with the development of the intermediate fields, that Trans-Canada would require fully usable fields at one hundred mile intervals, lighted for night flying, equipped with radio ranges, and other facilities necessary for safe navigation of aircraft under the present technique of flying.
We further set up an organization by which pilots could be trained in the technique of flying proposed, and in the particular aircraft which had been purchased, or were under order, none of which had been available in Canada prior to that time.
With that beginning we began accepting employees about October 1st of 1937, and wound up the last of that month with forty-one employees. The number has been gradually built up until now in Trans-Canada we have some 300 full time employees, including pilots, mechanics, dispatchers, radio operators, office help and so on and so forth.
The pilot training was our chief concern because in order to adequately operate a transcontinental line it would be necessary to engage almost entirely in instrument flying. Flying in Canada, in so far as the north country operations are concerned, does not require that type of flying in its entirety. Contact flying serves their purpose, but where a line is engaged on a scheduled daily operation a-cross the country, instrument 'flying must be engaged in. Therefore we set up the training school in Winnipeg and engaged our first pilots. Uniformly, we selected pilots of Canadian birth and of the forty pilots we now have on our payroll, all except three of them come from operators here in Canada. We have been given extreme co-operation by the other commercial operators in the release of their personnel to Trans-Canada in order that we could build a nucleus of our organization. Two of the men were Canadians who had found employment with Imperial Airways in England, and who were desirous of coming back to Canada to live. One man we picked up in the United States, who was a Canadian citizen and who had been flying for one of the air lines down there.
We divided the flying force into two sections. The first step was to give them a thorough understanding of the craft they were to fly. That was more or less a class-room job and it took three to four weeks. In other words, we required all of our pilots to have a thorough knowledge of the mechanism of the aircraft. From there they went into instrument flying, night flying and radio range flying, and so on, and so forth, and finally checked out on both types of aeroplane we were using.
The best evidence that I can give you gentlemen as to the type of pilot that Trans-Canada has today is that of all the applicants that have been given employment, we have only had to dispense with three men as failing to meet requirements we set up. I think that speaks very highly for the type of pilot available here in Canada. The type of equipment narrowed itself down to that which we could buy and of which we could obtain delivery at an early date. As a matter of fact the first aircraft were ordered in April of 1937. They were not delivered until November and December of that year, and it is only within the last thirty days that we have received the final aircraft of the fifteen with which we are starting out. The aircraft selected was of the Lockheed type, which is extensively used throughout the United States, and also on the British Airways and is the same type of aircraft as recently ordered by Great Britain for military use. It is also the same type of aircraft as used recently by Howard Hughes in his flight around the world.
The aircraft are equipped with all the latest usable devices to aid in navigation. These include the usual complement of instruments, centrifugal meters, bank and turn indicators, and the automatic pilot by which it is possible to guide an aeroplane on a given course without the aid of the pilot, other than to adjust the instrument, which amounts to something like tuning in your radio. All of the aircraft, of course, are equipped for radio reception, as we navigate entirely by following what we term the "beam." Now, the beam station is a radio device by which directive radio rays can be sent out, and the Department of Transport has installed these stations at about one hundred mile intervals across Canada. As long as a pilot stays on his course he receives one type of signal. The minute he turns to left or to right, another signal is given to him and until he gets back on his course he receives a signal,--an "A" signal, or an "N" signal, as the case might be. When he is on the course he receives a monotone. This type of flying has been very highly developed in the United States. Because of the distances involved and because of the similarity between the terrain here in Canada and the United States, we have adopted that type of navigation, rather than the triangulation system, or as it is generally known in the trade the D. F. system. However, we later expect to experiment with a combination of the two systems.
All this has meant a tremendous amount of work. All the stations had to be selected. Because a radio station has been located, it doesn't necessarily mean it is going to work. A lot of things hinder operation. For example, in Western Canada, our transmission is very good. We get east of Winnipeg and it becomes very poor. That springs from the fact that the resistance of conductivity to the ground is about three times as great in the west as in the east. This cuts down the effective range of the signal in the latter case. Then, too, the type of aircraft that is being used requires that we have paved runways. These paved runways must be contact lighted for night flying. This also involves considerable work.
However, taking everything into consideration, there exist in Canada today some twenty-four radio ranges which are in constant operation and which Trans-Canada is using day and night, seven days a week. Four more are under construction. We have 15 major aircraft usable for this type of operation, most of which have been imported in the last twelve months. Although airport construction has dated from 1928, the fields have been improved and enlarged, lighted and so forth, within the last twelve month period. Fourteen intermediate fields, fully equipped to handle aircraft up to a gross weight of around 25,000 pounds, have also been developed. They are fully lighted and can be used at any time during the day or night when weather conditions permit flying to be carried on.
I want also to correct a misapprehension that you may have in your minds as to how often we can fly. There are certain types of weather and certain conditions of weather in which it is impossible to fly, and we are not attempting that. We can fly "blind" as long as we stay in the air. When we start to come down "blind" we get into trouble. Despite press reports and magazine articles, we haven't yet arrived at that point. Our schedules run to some 6,200 miles a day and we have flown, since October of last year, just under 2,000,000 milers, having operated on a basis of about ninety per cent completion. In other words we have completed ninety percent of the mileages that we have set out to fly.
Other things that we had to provide were hangar facilities and shop facilities. They did not exist in all locations. They could not be rented. Hence, we had to design and build our own. We have two completed hangars at the present time; one with shop facilities for the complete overhaul of engines and aircraft at Winnipeg, and one at Lethbridge. We are also constructing a hangar at your Malton airport. In the design of a standard hangar we tried to eliminate the mistake that had been made elsewhere, and anticipate the size of aircraft that might be used five or six years from now. The mistake made in the United States was that the hangars were built just big enough for the aircraft then being used, and when the larger ones came along the existing hangars had to be scrapped and new ones constructed. The hangars we have designed and built are of an entirely different type. At the present time they are big enough to house the equipment we are using, but it is also possible to expand them so they can handle aircraft up to a size of about 200 feet in span, without losing any essential part of the building. The hangars being constructed here in Canada are unique as compared with any other hangars we know of in the world today. In other words, we are trying to provide for the future, but we are trying to do it on a progressive basis so that we will not have to make too large a capital expenditure at the inception.
The actual flying of the route, of course, had to wait until facilities were completed, the radio ranges, beacon lights and fields. We also had to await the time when we were sufficiently satisfied with our pilots to turn them loose on aircraft for cross country purposes. I might say in passing that each aircraft we are using on a transcontinental route today represents an investment of about $130,000.
In March of 1938 we began a systematic scheduled service from Winnipeg to Vancouver. This was the final stage of the pilots' training. It began first as a daylight operation, leaving Winnipeg in the morning and arriving at Vancouver in the late afternoon and vice versa. About April 1st, we turned that into a night operation and since April 1st it has been flying daily during the hours of darkness. On September 1st we initiated a schedule into Montreal. As yet that is a daylight operation, but within the next ninety to a hundred and twenty days it will swing into an all-night operation. The reason for the night operation is quite obvious in that our first job is to carry the mail. Consequently, we must have schedules that give the best mail advantage. It is going to be possible to leave Montreal at nine o'clock in the evening, leave here about an hour and a half later, and deliver that mail into Vancouver about noon the next day. It is going to be possible to leave Vancouver at seven o'clock in the evening and have the mail in Toronto or in Montreal for the first afternoon delivery, the next day, using the present aircraft and flying at an average speed of about 180 miles an hour, including all stops.
One of the major problems in the conduct of an air transportation system is a thorough knowledge of the weather; not only the spot weather along the airways, but what to expect in two hours, three hours, or twelve hours from now. That is a function of the Meteorological Department of the Department of Transport. Its headquarters are here in Toronto and it is under the general direction of Dr. Patterson. Dr. Patterson has gone a long way in developing a very thorough meteorological service. We will have forecasting centres at Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Kapuskasing, Toronto, and Montreal, and eventually in Moncton. These forecasting centres will be connected by radio and by teletype to points along the line and to points in the United States, so that a continuous interchange of weather information can be maintained. They will also be connected by short wave radio with observing stations at points in the country north of the air line, so that adequate forecasts can be made. The system is now in operation west of Winnipeg and is gradually being put into shape from Winnipeg east. I can say without fear of contradiction that within the next 24 months the Meteorological Service here in Canada, designed initially for air transport, will not have to take a back seat to any other similar service. Without adequate weather coverage it would be impossible to carry on any kind of a regular air operation.
Now, you have heard quite a lot, I imagine, and it has been my experience in discussions with people throughout Canada, that they all seem to think it is a land of ice and snow, a lot of cold weather, and impossible mountain conditions. As a matter of fact we do not fear any terrain or any weather conditions that we have so far encountered. We don't believe the situation here is any worse than it is elsewhere. As a matter of fact in many respects the Trans-Canada route is easier to fly than the routes in the United States. In the first place our mountain areas are relatively short. The distance across the Rocky Mountains is only 486 miles. That compares with some 1,200 miles of mountain flying immediately south of us. When we leave Vancouver we climb to an altitude of 11,000 feet and at that altitude we are 2,500 feet higher than any range we have to cross before we strike the prairies at Lethbridge. In the emergency fields in the mountains, not one exceeds 4,000 feet above sea level. As you may know, the height of a field above sea level determines the ease or the difficulty in landing or taking off. The higher above sea level, the more difficult the landing or takeoff because the air is less dense. Comparable lines in the States have regularly used fields as high as 7,000 feet above sea level. Once we cross the Rockies for a distance of 486 miles, we are in a plains country with the highest elevation about 3,200 feet. We go across plains country until we get about a hundred miles east of Winnipeg. Then we are in country with which you are probably as familiar as I am, a rolling, rocky country with innumerable lakes-I would say millions of them -and very sparsely populated areas. That obtains until we get down to approximately a few miles north of North Bay and then we are in country similar to that in our immediate vicinity.
From the standpoint of terrain we don't anticipate any difficulty. As far as weather is concerned, the colder the weather the less difficulty we will have in flying. We get better engine performance. There is a little more difficulty in starting, perhaps, but as far as flying is concerned, it offers no particular hazard. It eliminates completely one of the big bugaboos of present day flying, that of ice. The colder it is the less moisture there is in the air and consequently the less chance for formation of ice. We are not yet thoroughly familiar with what weather conditions we are going to get into, and we anticipate some ice difficulties, particularly just before the winter sets in and during the spring thaw, but I don't think our difficulties will be any more severe than have been met with and conquered in other parts of the world.
I could go on indefinitely, talking about this, that and the other thing, but I would like to close by saying that the task of putting a transcontinental air line across Canada is really a three-party proposition. First of all, the company that is charged with the operation and the organization of the actual flying. Secondly, the Government, that is represented by the Post Office Department and the Department of Transport. The Post Office furnishes our payload, and the Department of Transport the ground facilities necessary to carry on the work. The third partner is the public. No matter how well the first two partners co-operate, or how well we do our job, the company cannot be a success, or the service a success, unless the public uses it, and uses it intelligently. We are not yet ready to act as your servant, because we have followed the procedure of making haste slowly. We desire to leave no stone unturned to build a foundation by which we can take our place as a scheduled air transport service that is as safe and as well operated as any other in the world. By intelligent use of the air service for your mail, for your express and for your passengers--I mean to use it when it serves an economic purpose, not just because of a fad that passes from day to day--I am sure our air service will serve an economic need in Canada and that through such use, Trans-Canada Air Lines, which is your company, will succeed.
I thank you. (Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: Your Worship and Gentlemen: What a simple thing it is to operate an airway! I am sure that listening to Mr. Johnson has given us an entirely different idea of what is going on across our country. He speaks of the millions of lakes in Northern Ontario which none but his pilots have seen. He tells us of all the background in connection with the preparation for the operation of a plane to carry your letter and mine. I think you will agree with me that the administration of Trans--Canada Air Lines, when it is in the hands of a man who says he is making haste slowly, and that safety is the first consideration, cannot be in better hands, and on your behalf I extend a very
cordial "Thank you" to Mr. Johnson.
The meeting is adjourned. (Applause)