December, 1939, Canadian Aviation
He has long been such a familiar figure in Canadian flying that the chances are you’re acquainted with his name at least. T.M. “Pat” Reid, imperturbable and efficient aviation department manager of Imperial Oil Limited, a sturdy, wiry-haired and mustached gentleman with an Irish brogue, visits most of Canada’s air bases and meets many of its fliers during the course of the year.
If you don’t know him, but are a pilot using his brand of fuel, you make his acquaintance indirectly every time you fly to some out-of-the-way field after making advance arrangements for refueling. When an Imperial Oil service truck is on the field when you land, and a brisk refueling enables you to get on your way with a minimum of delay, your bouquets should be handed to him; and likewise your “brickbats” are thrown in his direction if you are kept waiting, even if the truck got stuck in a snowdrift.
Pat started out in Ireland, place of his birth, to become an engineer, but joined the Royal Naval Air Service during the Great War and so was projected into a flying career. With the Naval Air Arm he served in the Dardanelles campaign and at Salonica in Greece, as an observer and air engineer. For the last two years of the war he was stationed at Dunkirk on the French coast, on submarine spotting, convoy work and general reconnaissance. It was during this period that he was taught to fly by the pilots with whom he flew.
After the war he went into the employ of the Handley-Page Company, and co-piloted on the early Handley-Page airliners from London to Paris, Amsterdam and other European centres.
He was the manager of the Handley-Page office at Zurich, Switzerland for a year, then migrated to Canada in 1924 to take a job with the Ontario Provincial Air Services. When N.A.M.E. (Northern Aerial Mineral Explorations) was formed in 1927, Pat forsook forest patrol work for more hazardous trail blazing in the far north. After three eventful years of this he shaved off his beard and joined Imperial Oil as the first oil company aviation sales manager in the Dominion.
To this work he has successfully applied, during the past nine years, the abilities of a salesman, manager, pilot and goodwill ambassador. He finds himself superintending refueling arrangements for some special flight; meeting and looking after some prominent pilot or aviation official; taking off his coat and helping to organize a flying meet; and in the course of this work doing about 400 hours of flying per year. His understanding of the fueling, and even the mechanical problems of his customers is due to years of engineering experience.
Fifteen Years Experience
When Pat Reid studies maps to determine where his company should set up fueling bases, he is able to make the correct decisions because he has probably covered, in his fifteen years of Canadian flying, more of the Dominion than any other Canadian pilot.
Throughout the “bad years” of Canadian aviation, Pat was consistently optimistic for the future of the industry, and he persuaded his company to assist many a needy flying organization through its period of hardship, while in the meantime he was seeing to it that gas and oil, the “life blood” of flying, were being offered at every possible point where thirsty airplanes might bring near-empty gas tanks. In the early days, many a successful trail-blazing flight went through only because Pat’s men underwent hardships and overcame obstacles to establish fueling bases along the projected route.
When asked for outstanding incidents in his flying life, Pat remarks that, in these days when pilots seem to be out to get all the credit possible for their achievements, he cannot keep from saying that he was the first pilot to land a plane at many of these points in northern Canada, as for instance when he flew, in 1928, from Chesterfield Inlet on the northwestern shore of Hudson Bay, across the Barren Lands to Bathurst Inlet on the Arctic coast and thence to Coppermine, across Great Bear Lake to Fort Norman, and home to Sioux Lookout via Edmonton. This was the first time a plane had completed such an extensive trip over that hazardous country.
Pat claims the most amusing thing that has occurred to him was when he read his own obituary in the Patricia Herald although he shivers occasionally when he thinks how close the notice came to being the truth. This was in the winter of 1929-30 when Pat was sent, in company with another plane, on a search for two missing pilots who in turn had been trying to carry aid to a fur schooner which had become ice-bound on the Siberian coast.
While flying between Fairbanks and Nome, Pat and a crew of two other men were forced down in a rockbound Alaskan valley by a lowering ceiling, and in landing they broke off a wing tip. For a week they worked on make-shift repairs, watched their food supplies dwindle, and planned what turned out to be one of the most unusual take-offs in flying history.
By turning on every ounce of available power, and holding the machine down until the last moment, they cleared a steep rock wall literally by inches, with the result that the editor of the Patricia Herald had to correct his obituary notice, and Pat Reid was spared to continue supplying aviation fuel and oil where it is needed, when it is needed, and how it is needed.
This article originally appeared in the December, 1939 edition of Canadian Aviation magazine.