When Do We Fly?
We fly coast to coast some time in 1938, says this writer—Cost, six cents a mile—Air speed, 200 miles per hour—Time, Halifax to Vancouver, 23 hours
A. H. SANDWELL
FOR SEVERAL years the Dominion of Canada has enjoyed the unique distinction of being, at once, the most advanced and the most backward of the great nations, aeronautically speaking. It all depends on how you look at it. In volume of freight carried by air, estimated at 13,500 tons in 1936; in bush flying; in the use of aircraft for exploration, development and mapping, Canada easily leads the world. But when it comes to the operation of interurban air services such as are possessed by practically every other civilized nation (and some not so civilized), and especially to the establishment of a Coast to Coast trunk airline, Canada hasn’t had much to show.
Air freighting facilities are the response to an insistent commercial demand, and have come into being without Government subsidy. But now we face the necessity of subsidizing interurban flying.
The Trans-Canada Air Lines, for which provision was made during the last session of the Dominion Parliament, will have to depend on post office contracts for the transportation of mail to make ends meet. With the exception of the ill-fated Prairie air mail, operated by Canadian Airways, Limited, between 1930 and 1932, and a couple of very short scheduled sendees now running in Canada, this Coast to Coast route will entail a kind of flying which is entirely new to this country. It is an immense undertaking, and must be given time to be brought to maturity. Despite promises to the contrary, Trans-Canada Air Lines will not be operating on the schedule which their name implies within much less than twelve months of the publication of this article.
You cannot inaugurate an air line with a dozen machines and a handful of pilots. You require a closely-knit organization, the minimum requirements of which are suitable machines and adequately trained personnel to fly them; a first-class meteorological and weather forecasting bureau equipped with the means—telephone, teletype and radio— to gather the essential information and relay it to the pilots in flight; a trained staff of dispatchers with an understanding of what it’s all about, and sufficient strength of character to do their duty as they see fit in spite of nerve-strain and criticism; adequate aids to navigation in the shape of radio directional beams and direction-finding or “homing” apparatus in the aircraft and on the ground; a properly trained staff of mechanics and maintenance men;
and suitable airports. No wonder a friend of mine who knows this game said the other day during a discussion of these essentials, “So far we have absolutely nothing except the desire—and we’re not too sure of that.”
Training Facilities For Pilots
TN THE YEARS since a trans-Canada air line was first
envisaged, world aviation has made many giant strides, one of the greatest being the development of ability to fly safely for long periods in dense clouds or fog; in other words, to fly “blind.” This technique is as yet confined to actual flying and occasional blind take-offs; the art of blind landing is still in its infancy. Blind flying requires special instruments, special training in their use, and above all, practice. Given these, almost any good pilot can acquire it. But even the acquisition of this technique does not necessarily qualify a man for the post of chief pilot of an airliner, though it is one of the basic requirements.
Until recently opportunities for learning and practicing blind flying were not available in Canada, which forced ambitious pilots to go to the United States. Last year, however, with the introduction of a new rating known as the Transport Pilots’ License, it became necessary to provide training facilities in this country. Instructors of several of the twenty-two Government-sponsored Light Airplane Clubs which pretty well cover the Dominion acquired the art and set about teaching other pilots.
Canadian Airways, Limited, largest operating company in Canada, supplemented this movement by having one of their own pilots trained and licensed as a blind flying instructor, and then spent some $20,(XX) sending this expert around to teach other members of their piloting staff. At the end of 1936 there were forty-two licensed Transport pilots in Canada, and by this time there must be well over double that number.
This is not to suggest that these pilots, qualified for blind flying and holding the coveted Transport ticket, are ready at a moment’s notice to take over the controls of a big air transport such as the Douglas and carry on in almost all weather conditions, as do their brother pilots in the United States. The recent regrettable series of accidents across the line indicates that, even after years of practice and the promulgation of set rules that are supposed to take care of
every emergency, pilots still find themselves up against conditions with which it is beyond their power to cope. The fact remains that the air lines of the United States are themselves so short of fully qualified personnel for modern flying conditions that it is idle to talk of a wholesale importation of pilots for the Trans-Canada Air Lines. Our own Transport pilots must be given the opportunity to fit themselves for their arduous duties, and there is no reason in the world why they cannot qualify.
Competition to be Faced
'K4’AKE NO mistake about it, Trans-Canada Air Lines have got to be a first-class show or we might as well save our money. It was laid down in the debate on Bill 74, which establishes the air lines, that they will be run in straight competition with the American lines, on which the fare averages six cents a mile for passengers. Hon. C. I). Howe, Minister of Transport, did not refer to the fact that, unless special dispensation is made, our air lines will be handicapped from the start by duties on imported aircraft with which they are likely to be equipped, and (in several provinces at least) by the imposition of a gasoline tax roughly equivalent to the fare paid by one passenger. It is already a commonplace to fly from Montreal to Vancouver, almost entirely over United States territory and in aircraft of American registry, in an elapsed time of less than twenty-three hours. In other words, one can leave St. James Street at 2 p.m. and be on Pender Street before 10 a.m. next day. The fares are $162.90 one way and $279.20 return. Fares on the Trans-Canada, at the six-cent rate, would be about $152 one way and, with the customary ten per cent reduction on round-trip tickets, about $275 return. The apparent discrepancy in the return fares is due to a reduction of more than ten per cent on a round-trip ticket over Northwest Airlines between Chicago and Seattle. The tentative time schedule indicates that the Trans-Canada will have an edge of about four hours in elapsed time over the present roundabout route between Montreal and Vancouver via the U. S. lines.
The remaining factors then are safety and regularity, which depend on weather conditions likely to be encountered en route and the perfection to which the organization of the Trans-Canada is brought. We have Mr. Howe’s word for it that the Canadian route through (he Crow’s Nest Pass is considered one of the most favorable of the four routes through the Rockies. Since that bugbear of modem flying, ice formation, is most prevalent at what is known as the “critical temperature’’ of just above freezing, .the Canadian line seems, if anything, less likely to be afflicted by this condition than those farther south! The intention to operate the Trans-Canada on wheels throughout the entire year will call for some heroic jobs of snow removal during the winter months, and here again perfect organization will be called for.
Under Control of C. N. R.
"DILL 74, brought forth amidst what Mr. Howe has publicly termed “the most persistent lobby at Ottawa I have ever seen,” creates, among other things, a first-class investment. The shareholders in Trans-Canada Air Lines are guaranteed a five per cent return on the five million dollars of capital which will be invested in the enterprise.
For some time before the introduction of the bill it had been an open secret that the projected air line was to be in the hands of the two great railway companies, the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian National. Great was the amazement, therefore, when it was learned that at the last minute the C. P. R. had dissociated itself entirely from the enterprise, leaving the C. N. R. alone in the field, or as some will have it, holding the bag. This sudden change of plan necessitated a complete revamping of the bill on the eve of its presentation.
A forlorn battle was waged during the debate to have the operation of the air lines turned over to one of Canada’s major air transportation companies (the name of Canadian Airways was mentioned) which might be expected to know something about the flying game. The Canadian National may dispose of only forty-nine per cent of the stock in the Trans-Canada, thus ensuring that it retains control; but is at liberty to operate the service itself or let contracts for its operation if it so desires. At this writing no decision on this point has been announced.
The Department of Transport undertakes to maintain and operate radio beams, beacons and illuminated emergency landing fields, and to furnish weather reports. The Post Office will set a rate for the carriage of mails up to the
end of 1939, during which initial period any loss will be made good by a direct cash subsidy from the Government, of sufficient size to permit the payment of the five per cent dividend mentioned above. From the beginning of 1940 the subsidy will cease, but the mail-contract rate will be adjusted annually according to the financial results of the previous year’s operations; an increase to wipe out a deficit, a decrease to reduce a surplus. The Government is empowered to take over the whole concern at book value, which will not include the potential value of any unexpired mail contracts, at any time. Directors must be British subjects “resident in Canada for five years prior to appointment.”
C INGE NO ONE knows whether the Canadian National ^ Railways intend to make a stab at flying the service themselves, or propose to contract it out piecemeal or en bloc, the kind of machines which may be used is equally problematical. Climatic conditions and the necessity for sufficient speed to meet American competition tend to narrow the choice down to about fourtypesof aircraft,oneof which is so new that it has not yet been flown. These are the Douglas DC3, the D>ckheed Electra, the Beechcraft Model 18, and the new, about-to-be-released Lockheed 14.
All but the last are in regular production and service, and are entirely suitable ultra-fast, all-metal, twinengined aircraft. The first carries up to twenty-one paying passengers at a cruising speed of 192 miles an hour; the second accommodates ten passengers and maintains 195 m.p.h.; the third has six dividend-earning seats and cruises at 192 m.p.h.; and the fourth, a fleet of which is on order for Northwest Airlines for their Chicago-Seattle run, will carry eleven passengers at an anticipated cruising speed of 240 m.p.h.—a mere four miles a minute! A possible contender, the Burnelli, a fourteen-passenger ship, is not yet in quantity production. It cruises at 200 m.p.h. Made in Canada? If you wish! Fairchild Aircraft, Limited, of Longueuil, P.Q., has the Canadian license to build the Electra, and is bringing out a nifty twin-engine job of its own, the Sekani. Noorduyn Aircraft, Limited, of Montreal, is expected to put down a first batch of six or more Beechcraft 18’s shortly. License to build the Burnelli in Canada is held by Canadian Car and Foundry Company, Ltd.
Guesswork centres mainly around the amount of passenger traffic which may be immediately forthcoming. It would obviously be unprofitable to operate a Douglas DC3 with fifteen empty seats when the six passengers could be carried equally well in a Beechcraft 18. On the other hand, if sufficient volume seems likely to be available, the DC3 is an outstanding machine. A sensible compromise may be to use smaller craft, dispatching two “sections” when bookings warrant.
The Trans-Canada Route
AN IMMENSE amount of unobtrusive work has been done in the past three or four years by the Department of National Defense and the Department of Transport in locating, acquiring and preparing a chain of emergency landing fields strategically situated on the route between our major cities. Radio beams and two-way vocal radio installations have been set up at many points, and an ambitious start made on the expansion and modernization of the existing weather-forecasting service. Weather maps based on the most recent information transmitted by teletype will be available along the route, and up-to-date weather information will be continually radioed to pilots in flight. Work is being rushed on unfinished fields and incomplete installations, so that the service, originally scheduled to be in operation by Dominion Day this year, may have some reasonable expectation of commencing in the spring or summer of 1938. The location of the emergency fields and radio beacons already prepared pretty well settles the route to be flown.
Let us take the map and follow this air line of ours, starting from Halifax. Our first stop is at Moncton, 120 miles away, after passing over intermediate fields at Stanley and Westbrook. Moncton has the reputation of being the most fog-free of all Maritime cities. It will have two-way radio and a radio beam. Eighty miles to the southwest lies Saint John. From here the air line follows an almost due westerly course for some 380 miles, over Upper Brock way (beam and radio), traverses a stretch of 170 miles over the State of Maine, enters the Province of Quebec near Megantic (beam and radio) and continues to Montreal.
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So far we have covered about 580 miles, say three to 3XA hours flying. It takes 27K hours, elapsed time, to accomplish this journey by the existing means of transport.
From Montreal (St. Hubert) we jump 100 miles to Ottawa. This short but important section already has a forty-fiveto fifty-minute service, flown by Canadian Colonial Airways as an extension of the line from Albany and New York. Both Montreal and Ottawa have beam and radio.
The next point of importance is Scotia Junction, hitherto shown on the preliminary air-line maps as Emsdale, radio and beam equipped and 190 miles west of Ottawa. There is little to be gained by listing seventy-odd intermediate landing fields, most of which can only be found on large-scale maps, if at all. They will be there for emergencies, every forty or fifty miles. At Scotia Junction the line from Tbronto, 135 miles south, ties in to the
main line. Here, also, the air line takes a sharp bend northward toward Cochrane. It so happens that a straight line from Cochrane to Halifax parallels a branch of the C. N. R. as far as Quebec, passes directly over that city and Saint John, and measures only 880 miles against the 1,120 miles via Montreal and Scotia Junction. This straight line is indicated by dots on the accompanying map. According to present plans, Cochrane is to have neither beam nor radio, these facilities being installed seventy-five miles farther along a new west-by-north course at Kapuskasing.
Continuing on this new course, we head for Nakina, 200 miles away, with its beam and radio. Here we swing due west to Sioux Lookout, 230 miles. Winnipeg, another 245 miles, is our next objective, flying west by south and passing over Amesdale (which name would have been confused with Emsdale if they had not changed the latter) and Kenora, where the line swings due west again. We shall have covered 1,870 miles at Winnipeg; and it may have taken us about fourteen hours, including stops. It is interesting to note, in passing, that the faster you fly, the more mileage you lose for every minute you stay on the ground. There is already a service by air to Fargo, Minneapolis and Chicago, or Seattle in the other direction, from Winnipeg, which, of course, has beam and radio.
Brandon (beam and radio), 130 miles due west, is exactly 2,000 miles from our start. Thence we head for Regina, 210 miles, with radio and beam. We make the forty-five-mile jump to Moose Jaw, then to Swift Current, 105 miles, and continue to Piapot, another forty-five miles, where there is a beam. Medicine Hat greets us with its radio seventy miles farther on, and here we swing west by south once more to Lethbridge, ninety-five miles, catching sight of the Rockies as we near it. At Lethbridge the branch line to Calgary, Edmonton, Great Bear Lake, Aklavik and points north leaves the main airway.
Westward from Lethbridge we change course continually, and the route goes by way of Fernie (radio) through the Crow’s Nest Pass to Cranbrook (beam and radio) 140 miles. Grand Forks is next, 130 miles away, and the next lap reaches Princeton (beam and radio) in about 110 miles. From Princeton to Vancouver, via Boston Bar, Hope (beam and radio), Chilliwack and Langley Prairie, is a final 120 miles, making a total on this, our transcontinental flight, of 3,070 miles. The official air-line figures are, I understand, 3,108 miles, so we have saved a fewr leagues by cutting corners or something. But what’s thirtyeight miles in a country the size of Canada? As a matter of fact, the extra distance would be more than made up if we had followed the emergency aerodromes field by field. Since this would entail continual small changes of course, it is not likely to become habitual when the line is operating.
AS IT IS NOT proposed at first to fly the Rocky Mountain section at night, schedules will be arranged accordingly. The idea seems to be that planes will leave Montreal daily at about 8 p.m., carrying the mail which left Halifax three or four hours earlier. By flying all night over the lighted airway, Winnipeg would be reached early next morning, in from ten to twelve elapsed hours from Montreal, allowing for refuelling and other stops. These stops, incidentally, will be mainly dictated by the mail contract. Seven hours later, by noon, Pacific time, the mail should be in Vancouver. This gives a conservative Montreal-Vancouver schedule of nineteen hours elapsed time, or sixteen hours by the clock. Elapsed time HalifaxVancouver, say twenty-three hours, less than it now takes from Halifax to Montreal.
Eastbound planes would leave Vancouver at noon, Pacific time (which means that the mail truck need make only one trip each day between the post office and the airport), and with the help of the prevailing wind might be expected in Winnipeg by 8 p.m. Central time, and in Montreal by 6 a.m. (E.S.T.) next morning. Elapsed time would be only fifteen hours, and clock time eighteen hours, permitting a through schedule Vancouver-Halifax of nineteen hours elapsed or twenty-three hours by the clock.
With aircraft in reserve at Halifax. Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Lethbridge and Vancouver, a once-a-day service each way, with the Toronto and Edmonton branch lines thrown in, could be operated with sixteen aircraft. If we had to skimp— which we don’t—it could be run. after a style and wdth good luck, with ten. Depending upon the particular aircraft chosen for the service, spare engines, radio and special instruments, and other stores, could run the total cost of equipment up to a sum ranging from a million dollars to well
o\ er the million and three-quarters tentatively earmarked for this contingency.
HTHE Minister of Transport announced during the debate on Bill 74 that he considered himself personally obligated to be ready to take the Empire air mail as soon as it reached this side of the Atlantic, and transport it to the Pacific Coast.
There is no need for panic on this score, for there are no heavier-than-air machines in the world today suitable for the operation of a regular scheduled air line across the North Atlantic. It is by no means settled yet whether land machines (on wheels) or flying boats will first be employed for this stormy 1,900-mile nonstop flight. With existing machines, either type will consume so much fuel en route— especially westbound against the prevailing head-wind—that the payload of mail or passengers will have to be pitifully small. It is possible, and even probable, that experimental flights will be made this year with one or more of the Short Empire boats; with the upper half of the ShortMayo composite craft (which consists of a float seaplane borne aloft at the start cn the back of one of the Empire boats and released at 10,000 feet altitude); and with the new de Havilland “Albatross” land machine. But there should be no expectation of the immediate start of a regular service. For that event, 1939 is an even more probable date than 1938. Eventually, in our time, the service is likely to be flown in really big flying boats of fifty to 150 tons gross weight. Meanwhile the great new aerodrome at Botwood, Nfid., with its long and highly developed runways, is potentially a wonderful jumping-off place for big bombers being delivered by air under their own power should hostilities break out in Europe.
So let Imperial Airways have their headaches with the Atlantic while we get our own house in order.
Still Plenty to be Done
RAST of Montreal today, no regular " weather maps are issued. Beams, radio installations, blinkers and other ground equipment for night flying are still to be set up at various places, particularly in the East. An expert staff of ground personnel — dispatchers, meteorologists, radio operators, caretakers for emergency fields and light tenders—is still to be assembled and trained, and. of course, paid. The airplanes have yet to be ordered, and their delivery awaited. You cannot buy them off the shelf these days.
Doubtless a start will be made, probably this year, with a small section of the route. Doubtless, also, there will be crashes, and questions in Parliament. As circumstances permit, this section will be expanded. And if we stick at it, one day, a year, maybe two years, hence, we shall find that we have what we started out to build — THE TRANS-CANADA AIR LINE!