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Captain Earnest Hoy

Earnest Charles Hoy was born on May 6, 1895 at Dauphin, Manitoba. Captain Ernest C. Hoy

Hoy began his service in the First World War as a member of the 48th Battalion, but left the battlefield with injuries in 1917. He returned in January 1918 as a trained pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, and was assigned to 29 Squadron flying a S.E.5a. In May he was taken out of action due to illness but returned to the fight again that August.

Earnest Hoy had a record of thirteen victories before he was shot down on the German side of the line on 28 September 1918, and became a Prisoner of War for the remainder of the conflict. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross in December 1918 for his outstanding service.

The year 1919 found Hoy back in Canada, participating in aviation as a member of the British Columbia branch of the Aerial League of Canada.

The effort to sponsor the first flight over the Rockies from Vancouver to Calgary had begun and Vancouver’s Daily World, the Lethbridge Herald, and the Town of Golden, British Columbia all backed the effort. The pilot who would fly this historic flight was selected by lottery: pilot’s names were placed in a hat and drawn. Earnest Hoy won the position.

Although the flight was billed to go over the Rockies, in actual fact the plane would fly through the passes of the Rockies. The plane to be used - the Curtisss JN4 with a 90 horse power engine -could not fly high enough to go over the peaks. The JN4, or Jenny, was improved with the addition of an extra twelve-gallon gas tank placed in the front seat of the biplane. This addition gave the Jenny a total capacity of forty gallons.

The flight was to begin on 4 August 1919, but heavy cloud forced Hoy to return, where he waited for a clear day to try the flight again.

Hoy was able to take off for the historic flight early in the morning of 7 August. It was still early when he landed at Vernon to refuel. Hoy flew on to Grand Forks and then onto Cranbrook by the early afternoon. When he took off from Cranbrook on his way to Lethbridge, he faced the main range of mountains. As he carefully flew through the Crowsnest Pass, he was often only about 45 meters above the rocks and treetops. The Jenny was operating at its maximum altitude and at that height, he also had to fight the strong up and down drafts that were constantly pushing at the craft.

At 6:22 p.m., Hoy landed at Lethbridge and found a large crowd waiting to meet him, but less than a hour later he had to continue his flight to Calgary so that he could arrive before dark. He made it to Calgary and landed at 8:55 p.m. just as the sun was beginning to set. A massive crowd had gathered to witness his arrival.

Hoy had carried 45 letters with him that he had dropped off at the various locations he stopped at on his journey to Calgary. In addition to mail, he also carried Vancouver newspapers and a package of sweaters from Universal Knitting in Vancouver, intended for display in the window of the Diamond Clothing Company in Calgary.

Hoy’s return trip commenced 11 August, and was to follow a route that included Banff, Field, Golden, Revelstoke, and then Vancouver. He made it to Golden where he refuelled. As Hoy took off he was barely airborne when two boys suddenly ran out in front of him and he had to bank and turn hard to avoid hitting them. The tip of his wing touched the ground and the aircraft was destroyed.

Hoy continued to Vancouver on the train, along with the small pouch of mail that he had hoped to fly there. Ernest Charles Hoy later died on April 22, 1982 in Toccoa, Georgia.


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