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Canadian Pacific Airlines

Canadian Pacific Air Lines (CPA) started to expand, and the young airline was seeking out exceptional leaders to guide it through its toddler years of development. McConachie had been forced to sell his Yukon Southern Air Transport company, and accepted the position of manager for the western region, based in Edmonton.

McConachie pursued the idea that CPA would be able to fly over the North Pole to Europe and to Asia, but he was opposed by Trans Canada Airlines (TCA) on this unclaimed route, and by Punch Dickens, his general manager, who placed tight controls on his plans.

On 7 February 1947, everything changed for McConachie when he became president of CPA. He quickly acted on his plan to fly to Asia by travelling to Ottawa, and asking C.D. Howe for permission to fly the routes.

Since Howe was busy arranging landing rights in Europe for TCA at the time, he granted all of the requested routes to Asia to CPA in 1948. As a condition, CPA would also have to fly to Australia and buy North Stars from Canadair for these routes. C.D. Howe did not believe that the CPA president would be able to secure routes to Australia because the Australians were flying their own aircraft to Vancouver.

Using his personal powers of persuasion, McConachie attained Australian landing rights and went on to win landing rights in Japan and China.

Unfortunately, the Communist take over of China ended the route for CPA. In addition, the route to Australia had few passengers and remained very expensive to fly. There were a limited number of Japanese passengers, since few were permitted to leave the country at that time.

Just then, a profitable opportunity presented itself in Hong Kong, where a small British garrison was the only thing holding back China from invading. Many people in Hong Kong had relatives in Canada who agreed to sponsor them as immigrants, and a trend began as large numbers of people flew to Canada. Over a five-year period, CPA earned $17 million on this route.

Another opportunity for CPA arrived with the start of the Korean War in June 1950. CPA received permission to fly American troops from Vancouver to Tokyo. These flights ended in 1955, but had provided $16 million for CPA.

Using the profits from the routes to Asia, McConachie reinvested in the company, upgrading CPA’s aircraft.

When the Liberal government was removed from power by Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives in 1957, McConachie was able to win a daily domestic route that included Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal; a route previously protected for Trans Canada Airlines.

Grant McConachie died of a heart attack while in Los Angeles negotiating for a new DC6B in 1965. He left behind a legacy of success, against all odds, with the creation of an airline that rivalled TCA.

 

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