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
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