Canadian Pacific Airlines

Canadian Pacific Airlines

Infobox Airline
airline=Canadian Pacific Airlines
headquarters=Vancouver International Airport
key_people=Donald J. Carty CEO 1985-1987
hubs=Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal
focus_cities=Amsterdam, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Lima

Canadian Pacific Airlines, also called CP Air, was a Canadian airline that operated from 1942 to 1987. Based at Vancouver International Airport, it served Canadian and international routes until it was purchased and absorbed into Canadian Airlines.


In the early 1940s, Canadian Pacific purchased ten bush airlines in a short time span, finishing with the purchase of Western Canadian Airlines in 1942, to form Canadian Pacific Airlines. While CP had a conservative railroad heritage, this collection of airlines brought some unique personalities to CP Air. These were largely bush flying pioneers. The president was Grant McConachie, Punch Dickins became a general superintendent and later a vice-president, and Wop May was a repair depot manager for CP Air at Calgary.

Battle with TCA

CP Air battled with the government owned Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) for international and trans-continental 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.

Overseas routes

The development of the "great circle" or "polar" route to the Far East from its Vancouver base would become one of the cornerstones of the airline. Grant McConachie managed to secure flights to Amsterdam, Australia and Hong Kong which helped grow the airline's revenue from $3 million in 1942 to $61 million by 1964. 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 Sydney - Auckland (airport then at RNZAF Station Wenuapai) - Nadi - Honolulu - Vancouver - Edmonton , and non-stop via the Polar Route to Amsterdam. Another was flights 401/402 Vancouver, Mexico City, Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires, and also 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-6s internationally in the 1950s, introducing turboprop Bristol Britannia Aircraft from 1958. DC-8s 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.

Open skies

By the late 1970s, 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 trans-continental 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 and 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.


In 1987, due to sporadic profits in the 1980s, CP decided to sell its airline to Pacific Western Airlines for $300 million and assume the airline's debt of $600 million. In April 1987, PWA announced the new name of the merged airlines: Canadian Airlines International. In 2000 Canadian Airlines merged into Air Canada.

Historical fleet

*Bellanca 66-76 Aircruiser []
*Bristol Aeroplane Company 175 Britannia 314 []
*Boeing 727-100 (Ordered 1969-1974)
*Boeing 737-200 (Ordered 1966-1981)
*Boeing 737-300 (Ordered 1983)
*Boeing 747-200B (Ordered 1973-1974)
*Boeing 767 (ordered 1984-1985, later delivered to Canadian Airlines)
*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 DC-3 []
*Douglas DC-6 []
*Douglas DC-8-40 (Ordered 1959-1964)
*Douglas DC-8-50 (Ordered 1965-1966)
*Douglas DC-8-63 (Ordered 1966)
*Douglas DC-10-30 (Ordered 1977-1980)
*Lockheed 18 C-60A Lodestar [] List is incomplete and uses data primarily from the Boeing Sales Database [] .


*September 9, 1949: A 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 C-54A-10-DC 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 Airlines 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.

In addition, on 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.

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.


* []
* [ CP Air]

External links

* [ History of CP Air]
* [ Virtual Memorial dedicated to Canadian Pacific Airlines (reg.) CF-CUA passengers and crew; discussions in English & French; ]

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