Yukon Airways: An Aviation History
Yukon Airways is the sixth volume in Chris Weicht's extensive Air Pilot Navigator series about narratives on aviation in western Canada. Illustrated with rare photographs, this ca.400 page book has a forward by CAHS author, Fokker Super Universal restorer, and pilot Clark Seaborn. The CAHS is also able to offer this book via our e-shop at a flat rate of $50 + $20 shipping in Canada.
Shipped directly from the publisher after your order is placed here.
Transportation to and from the Yukon Territory has long been a difficult, expensive and time-consuming proposition. Before the construction of the Alaska Highway in World War Two the only access was by an arduous river voyage or by tedious pack trails over difficult mountainous terrain.
The coming of aviation to the north after World War One gave a potential solution to this dilemma. In 1920 the United States Air service successfully flew four deHavilland DH-4B bombers from New York to Nome Alaska via Whitehorse and Dawson City in the Yukon. This flight was the beginning of an armada of aircraft to come northward. In 1925 an American mining syndicate leased a Canadian registered Vickers Viking flying boat and flew north from Wrangell Alaska to many points in the central Yukon on a summer long prospecting foray.
In December 1928 mining engineers in Mayo, Y.T. foresaw the potential of the aircraft in resolving the Yukon’s transportation problems and started the first airline in the territory. Yukon Airways and Exploration Ltd operated scheduled flights and charters from its base at Whitehorse northward to Dawson city as well as to Champagne, Carcross and Teslin and to Atlin and Telegraph Creek in British Columbia.
In 1930 Royal Flying Corps veteran Paddy Burke was operating his companies Junkers F-13 from a base in Atlin on behalf of prospecting interests into the central Yukon. Still later after Burke’s untimely death Frank Barr operated North Canada Air Express from Atlin into the Yukon. Pioneer Stan Macmillan came north from Edmonton to assist with the salvage of Burke’s Junkers in 1931 and again in 1933 he began to transport prospectors from Fort St John into the Fort Nelson and Liard River areas in a Mackenzie Air Services Fokker Super Universal. Other Canadian and Alaskan aviators would also form the nucleus of a beginning aviation presence in the Yukon.
In 1935 the Canadian Government and the Department of National Defence began preliminary surveys to locate sites for airfields in between Edmonton and Whitehorse and initiated an airway route structure between these points.
In November 1940 the Canada-United States Joint Board of Defence met in Victoria, B.C. and the Department of Transport delegate was asked to explain how Canada’s plans for a northwest air route from Edmonton to Whitehorse and Fairbanks could be expanded to encompass a military air route. In turn this discussion resulted in a decision by the United States to build the North West Staging Route.
Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and invaded and occupied the western most Aleutian Islands on June 3, 1942. Thereafter the United States suffered defeat after defeat in the Pacific. It became obvious to US planners that there was a very real possibility that Japan might invade Alaska itself.
With the west coast sea-lanes being harassed by a fleet of Japanese submarines it was apparent that another route would have to be found to move men and material to Alaska hence, the construction of the Alcan or Alaska Highway.
Still later the construction of the North West Staging Route airfields and a seemingly endless stream of US aircraft coming and going to Alaska as well as the many thousands of aircraft proceeding to Russia via Fairbanks under the Lend Lease project would need a lot of fuel and oil and it became further obvious that a source of oil was needed to supply the demands of both aircraft and vehicles in the Yukon and Alaska.
Acting on an agreement made in August 1940 between Prime Minister Mackenzie King and President Franklin Delano. Roosevelt. the US War Department issued orders on April 29, 1942 for US Army engineers to commence a survey for the establishment of a pipeline route from Norman Wells on the Mackenzie River in the North West Territories to Whitehorse, Yukon where a refinery was to be built that would process an initial 3,000 barrels and later 20,000 barrels a day of crude oil.
At the same time US engineers and their contractors built a series of airfields along the Canol route and throughout the Mackenzie River Basin in support of the project.
But it would be February 16, 1944 nearly three years from the Canol pipelines inception that oil actually began to flow into the Whitehorse refinery at a completion cost to US taxpayers of almost 300 mullion dollars.
In post war years the pipeline was abandoned. The Canol road is still maintained to the NWT boarder by the Yukon Government but beyond the road has become a difficult un-maintained trail where all of the sixty-five bridges have been torn out by ice and floods. The route although declared a heritage trail has been largely forgotten.
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