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Flyers Become Entrepreneurs

Airman returned from World War I With the proven value of aircraft as a weapon during the First World War, many believed that aircraft would play a very important role in Canada’s economy. In response to this, the federal government passed legislation in the spring of 1919 to create the Air Board to control aeronautics in Canada.

The first regulation passed by the Air Board was to prohibit dangerous flying. The Board worked quickly to set up a Certificate Branch to licence and certify pilots and aircraft mechanics.

The highly trained pilots and ground crew from the war effort returned to their homes across Canada, and many were interested in using their skills to build a new aviation industry. These desires became a reality when the British agreed to sell surplus aircraft to Commonwealth countries. Canada received critical equipment that included 80 aircraft, parts, wireless equipment, sheds, and hangars.

Veterans from across Alberta saw a future in aviation, but had to finance the cost of the Curtiss JN4s, which sold for about $2,500 each.

Many veterans were like H.H. Fitzsimmons and J.E. Palmer of Lethbridge, Alberta, who formed the Lethbridge Aircraft Company in 1920. Their prospectus set out the scope of what the two airmen wanted to do, and included everything that could be done with aircraft. They wanted to carry out summer flying demonstrations, passenger and freight services, advertising, aerial photography, surveying, instruction, and even aircraft repairs. They were able to raise the money they needed with these promises and receive their aircraft in May 1920.

Many of these early aviation companies carried out any kind of flying they were asked to do, from very daring demonstrations at summer fairs to carrying passengers. For most aviation entrepreneurs, the fees they received just covered the cost of the operation. As aircraft aged and became too difficult to maintain, and with new aircraft too expensive, many of these companies curtailed their work in the sky.
 

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