Russell Baker founded and built Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) into
one of the strongest aviation companies in Western Canada, and
by the late 1950s and early 1960s, the company was ready to
continue expansion. Baker died in 1958, and the PWA president
who succeeded him was a man named Donald Watson. Watson was a
very savvy entrepreneur, and he moved to replace the bush planes
of the company with DC-6Bs that could be used for long distance
charter flights to destinations like Asia, the Cayman Islands,
The expansion of PWA included new C-130 Hercules and Lockheed
Electras that could be used to continue services to the north
for civilian passengers and oil companies. As a result of
federal regulations PWA could not fly from Vancouver to Toronto,
so it started flights to Buffalo, New York, and Seattle, which
brought substantial profits.
In 1974, Premier Lougheed of Alberta bought all the shares of
PWA and moved the head office to Calgary. Watson resigned and
was replaced by Rhys Eyton. With the change, PWA continued to
grow in strength.
PWA was able to purchase the regional airline Transair, and
showed record profits generated from its charter passenger
service in 1983. With such a strong showing, PWA was privatized
in 1983. PWA showed such a strong performance that it was able
to buy Canadian Pacific Airlines when deregulation came into
effect in 1986.
PWA was able to pay $300 million for Canadian Pacific
Airlines and assume its debt of $600 million. The new airline
that was formed when PWA bought Canadian Pacific Airlines was
Canadian Airlines International.