On 29 October 1929, Russ Baker received a commercial pilot’s
licence, and applied to be a pilot for Canadian Airways.
Unfortunately, they were not looking for new pilots since it was
the beginning of the Great Depression and there were few jobs
After moving to British Columbia, Russ obtained his first
real flying opportunity in 1937 when he was given a job flying a
Fox Moth for Ginger Coote. Baker ended up at Fort St. James
where he met Grant McConachie who had his own company, United
Air Transport. Coote sold his routes in the Fort St. James area
to McConachie in 1938, forcing Baker to find another position.
Baker then flew for Canadian Airways under Punch Dickins,
flying a Fairchild 71. In 1939, he sank his Fairchild when he
landed on thin ice at Pinchi Lake. He was then given the first
Junker purchased by Canadian Airways.
During his time as a bush pilot before the Second World War,
Baker was well known for flying into difficult mountainous
terrain with prospectors where no other pilot had been before.
His name was associated with daring rescues of those lost in the
His reputation brought him work during the war years from the
Americans who needed an experienced pilot to carry geologists
and engineers north to survey the route of the Alaska highway.
On another occasion, Baker rescued the crews of two American
bombers lost in the northern mountains of the Yukon.