Sunset Over British Columbia

BC Aviation History | First Flights

By Matthew Beauchamp

AirSprint Fractional Owners are part of a long Canadian aviation legacy. Its history is one steeped with persistence, determination, grit and innovation – a history that we continue to benefit from today. For more than 110 years, Canadians have been taking to the skies, and in that time, the aviation industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Impressive, right? So, ponder this… with ten major mountain ranges, how did this history play out over beautiful British Columbia?

One of AirSprint's most popular destinations is Kelowna, BC and the surrounding area. In 2019 alone, there were more than one thousand flights booked in and out of this sunshine destination. And while flights in and out of Kelowna are now comfortable and fast, it wasn't always that way. In the west, the first aviation pioneers faced challenges that pilots further east did not. For example, in the first two decades of aviation, aircraft did not possess the power to fly over the mountains nor the ability to pass blindly through the cloud cover.

On March 25, 1910, stunt pilot Charles K. Hamilton took to the air over Lulu Island near Vancouver as residents looked on. Charles pushed his tiny Curtiss pusher biplane to the limit, and the next day flew 20 miles to New Westminster and back in a flight that took 30 minutes. This exhibition of 'feats' also featured Charles racing his airplane with a car and then, in a separate race, a horse. He would lose both of those races!

By 1914, aircraft were becoming more and more familiar in the skies of British Columbia. The beginning of World War I quickly increased aviation technology and the need to train pilots, leading to the creation of flying schools across Canada, including a school at the Aero Club of British Columbia at Minoru Park in Vancouver.

It wasn't long after flight became possible that aircraft's commercial use became apparent to enterprising businesspeople. Boeing Canada started building seaplanes in the lower mainland in 1929 when they purchased a Coal Harbour shipyard in downtown Vancouver. Soon, international flights between Seattle and Vancouver, as well as Seattle and Victoria, became increasingly frequent as the demand to deliver mail and packages increased.

With the increase in demand, there also became a need for regular airfields. The first licensed airfield in British Columbia is also the spot of the first scheduled passenger service in the province – a field on Lansdown Road in Victoria. The field was purchased in 1927 by British Columbia Airways. This airfield saw heavy use and became the location for one of the province's first flying schools.

In 1938, the BC Aviation Council was formed to shape and grow the aviation sector in BC. After World War II, the airplane era boomed as many ex-Air Force pilots started their own companies, and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) sold some of their planes privately. To this day, the RCAF remains a large provider of pilots to the country.

Today, AirSprint can access many private, remote, and shorter airstrips in British Columbia, utilizing several airports that commercial airliners cannot.  This enables AirSprint Owners to travel to more areas within this beautiful province, as well as across the country and internationally. The next time you embark on a flight, we invite you to take a moment to think back on how far we have come in aviation history. ✈

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