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Carl Agar

Carlyle Clare (Carl) Agar was born at Lion’s Head, Bruce County, Ontario on 28 November 1901. The Agars moved to Edmonton in 1905, where Carl received his education while his family farmed on the outskirts of the city.

After saving the money he needed to learn to fly in 1928, he became a member of the Edmonton Aero Club. By 1929, he earned his private pilot’s licence. Agar became an agricultural instructor in 1932 at Wabamun in Alberta, but returned to his own farm in 1934.

With the beginning of the Second World War, Agar applied to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), but was rejected because he was 38 years-old, placing him over the age limit at the time.

An opportunity to join the RCAF later presented itself to Agar in 1940 when there was an expansion of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan that brought a sudden increase in demand for pilot instructors. Agar was accepted by the RCAF and completed his training at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and Trenton, Ontario.

As a flight instructor, he served at Edmonton and High River, Alberta. He also taught at Abbotsford in British Columbia.

Agar was an outstanding flight instructor and was awarded an Air Force Cross (AFC). In 1945, he was discharged from the RCAF, because he had reached the maximum age allowed for aircrew.

Agar decided to move his family to Penticton, British Columbia. While there, he worked with other past members of the RCAF including Barney Bent, a pilot, and Alf Stringer, a maintenance engineer, to form the South Okanagan Flying Club.

Because they were a club, they were restricted to training and this quickly proved limiting for them. They decided to relocate to Kelowna where they formed Okanagan Air Service. The new company included training, charter flying, and crop spraying. They still did not have the business volume they needed, and in an effort to improve their profits they decided to acquire a Bell 47-B3 helicopter.

To raise the money to purchase the helicopter, Agar and his partners agreed to make their company public and sold shares. They succeeded in raising the funds they needed, and on 9 August 1947 they purchased the first commercial helicopter in Canada.

The machine was used to spray orchards with insecticides. Agar secured a contract with the Provincial Government of British Columbia spraying forests that were infected with loop worm, and to control mosquitoes in the lower Fraser Valley.

Through his work in the helicopter, Agar developed new techniques for flying in the rough, high altitude terrain of the Rocky Mountains, where sudden up drafts and down drafts combined with low density air to provide unique hazards. Agar developed effective ways to fly in the mountains that had never been seen before, including landing and taking off from small mountain ledges.

His abilities were showcased during a topological survey of the Wahleach Mountain Range southeast of Chilliwack. Piloting this survey, he was able to fly successfully at high altitudes while safely transporting people and equipment into remote mountainous areas.

In 1949, he carried out an airlift of 181,000 kilograms of equipment, materials, and personnel to an altitude of 1,066 meters, to assist in the building of the Palisade Lake Dam. In the process, he completed over 2,000 takeoffs and landings.


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