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Alberta's Aviation Heritage
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Edmonton-Calgary Airbus

The Time Air airbusWith the regulatory protection that existed to support Trans Canada Airlines (TCA), every advantage that presented itself to the smaller airlines had to be seized. One of these advantages emerged in the early 1960s when TCA wished to stop service along smaller and less profitable routes where they were using the DC-3 aircraft. One example of this was the case for TCA's Edmonton-Calgary run in 1962. Russell Baker of Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) wanted to introduce to that route the idea of the AirBus, a concept inspired by small air carriers in the United States.

The concept of the AirBus was that passengers could walk onto an aircraft like a bus and purchase a ticket on board without making a reservation. The AirBus service was to fly from Edmonton’s downtown airport to Calgary. The route fit well into the PWA schedule as the airline already provided services to points north of Edmonton from the downtown airport. These existing services could allow for expansion into a wider range of routes.

Intense negotiations had to be held by PWA with officials of TCA and the Air Transport Board. The application process carried on until 26 March 1963, when PWA finally won the right to fly between Edmonton and Calgary with their AirBus.

To make the service viable, PWA had to attract oil executives by guaranteeing that there would always be seats available. This was achieved by chartering extra planes when needed.

The first flight of the AirBus was on 21 May 1963, with a DC-4 that PWA had used in their DEW Line work. The AirBus was similar to the no frills discount airlines established today. The price of a ticket was less than any other service and the passengers had to put their own luggage on a cart to be placed in the plane. It was so successful that it flew its millionth passenger on 17 April 1971.
 

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