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A 15-hour air mail flight across Canada

When Air Canada first took flight in 1937, the sky was the limit for the country's new national airline. Originally known as Trans-Canada Airlines, the fledgling company enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the skies. But the post-Second World War economic boom ushered in a new Canadian jet set, eager to take advantage of new airlines that offered cheaper fares. In the decades since, the embattled airline would have to endure runaway inflation, a fuel crisis, a controversial merger, and a near-fatal brush with bankruptcy before its fortunes would rise again.

It takes 15 hours and 45 minutes to fly across Canada in 1939. That's what CBC reporter Jack Peach will be doing as he hitches a ride across the country on Canada's first air mail flight. A Trans-Canada Airlines plane is set to transport about 315 kilograms of mail - or 35,000 letters - from Victoria to Montreal. Peach and the TCA staff get a grand send-off with flowers, a parade and a lineup of people mailing letters.

TCA became Canada's only national airline linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in 1937. The government-owned airline was born by an act of Parliament after years of stalling during the strapped Depression-era years. Now the engines are roaring, as heard in this CBC Radio clip. 
. On April 10, 1937, Air Canada was established as Canada's government-owned national air carrier. The company was a subsidiary of Canadian National Railways.
. Most industrialized countries already had a national airline by the early 1930s. The idea to start one in Canada was put aside by Prime Minister R.B. Bennett's government (1930-1935) because of the Great Depression.
. After Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King took office in 1935, he started the first transport department.

. Prime Minister King appointed C.D. Howe as transport minister. Howe laid the groundwork for the inauguration of TCA.
. The company got started with $5 million but didn't actually fly anywhere in its first few months.
. Instead, the airline prepared for operations: It bought three planes from Canadian Airways and scooped up staff from U.S. airlines that were already in operation.

. The first TCA flight was on July 30, 1937. Minister of Transport C.D. Howe was a passenger on the flight, which was considered more of a practice-run publicity stunt. The plane travelled for 17 hours from Montreal to Vancouver and made five stops.
. TCA didn't start commercial passenger service until Sept. 1, 1937.
. The airline's first regular route was between Vancouver and Seattle. The round trip cost $14.20.

. In December 2003, a round trip flight from Vancouver to Seattle (7-day stay) cost $499.04 on Air Canada's website.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: March 1, 1939
Reporter: Bill Herbert, Jack Peach
Duration: 4:57

Last updated: February 21, 2014

Page consulted on March 26, 2014

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