Aviation and the Mining Industry in Canada

In May 1924, Laurentide Air Service Limited inaugurated the first scheduled flight in Canada, to facilitate access to its gold deposits near Rouyn, Quebec. (Its success spurred the initiation of a scheduled airmail service soon after). Less than a year later, the discovery of another gold deposit near Red Lake, Ontario, near the Manitoba border, had an even greater impact on the history of air transport in Canada. Prospectors and businesspeople saw, first-hand, the advantages of flying into such a mining environment. Aircraft made it possible to access unbelievable underground wealth in remote locations far more quickly (a ninety-minute flight rather than a week’s journey by sleigh). While flying, prospectors could get a bird’s-eye view of the land, and would be able to pinpoint areas of interest. With an aircraft, supplies, as well as equipment to develop the site, could be transported easily. By 1925, when the last significant gold rush in Canada took place, the term “bush flying” was understood to mean flying in or over remote areas.

Some businesspeople, aware of the potential importance of airplanes for use within the mining industry, created air transport companies, among them Patricia Airways & Exploration, Prospectors Airways, Northern Aerial Minerals Exploration. Canadian pilots like Harold Anthony "Doc" Oaks, a mining engineer turned prospector, and Clennell Haggerston "Punch" Dickins gained notoriety in the Canadian North and put the spotlight on bush flying.

Arrival of first scheduled flight from Laurentide Air Service Limited, May 1924.<br /> (CAVM 12822)
Elliot Air Service provided air service to Red Lake goldfields, Ontario, during the last gold rush, March 1926.<br /> (CAVM 16563)
Pilot H. A. "Doc" Oaks (right) and Sammy Tomlinson (left) pose in front of a Patricia Airways & Exploration airplane.<br /> (CAVM 14002)
Pilot C. H. "Punch" Dickins (second from left) and mechanic Mickey Sutherland (kneeling) with the first cargo of fur bales ever flown from the North (Fort Good Hope). Edmonton, Alberta, March 1929.<br /> (CAVM 3069)