Article: The Air Bases at Sioux Lookout

  • OPAS Docks Sioux Lookout-640x250-copyright
    April, 1930, Western Canada Airways Bulletin
    by William Burchall, Editor

    Sioux Lookout enjoys the reputation of being the largest airport in Canada. A claim has been made that in daily arrivals and departures in summer time it is only exceeded by one other airport on the American continent. This may appear to be a big claim, but consideration must be given to the fact that in addition to the Company’s base there are also located at Sioux Lookout the bases of the Ontario Provincial Forestry Patrol and Northern Aerial Minerals Exploration Limited, while machines belonging to Consolidated Smelters, Dominion Explorers, and other mining ventures are frequently to be seen on the lake. Moreover, Sioux Lookout occupies a strategic point on the ‘ferrying’ route from east to west and is also the natural junction for routes deploying into that immense stretch of country bounded by Lake Winnipeg in the west, James Bay on the east and extending north to Churchill – Manitoba’s own seaport.

    This country is of the most difficult nature to negotiate with ground transport. Thousands of lakes with interconnecting portages form the laborious water routes in summer, while dog teams offer slow and uncomfortable method of transport in the winter.

    Sioux Lookout, unlike many aircraft bases, is not situated at ‘end of steel’ but is fortunate in being situated on the main line of the Canadian National Railway, nearer the manufacturing districts of the east than Winnipeg, which lies 250 miles west. The company has adequate docking facilities and workshops, while many members of the staff occupy houses conveniently situated on the base. The town of Sioux Lookout has a population of about 1,800 and due to the fact that it is a divisional point on the Canadian National Railway, with roundhouses and shops, the railway employees form quite a large percentage of the residents.

    The company’s activities at Sioux Lookout include mail contracts; charter trips for prospectors, mining engineers and sportsmen; and freight transport on regular routes. It is also a centre for forest fire detection and suppression, and during the summer of 1929 Western Canada Airways planes were used extensively to augment the Ontario Forestry Patrol. This was due to the unprecedented fire situation that developed during July, August and September. Mail is taken from Sioux Lookout to Gold Pines on Tuesdays and Fridays and at the latter base is distributed to the Red Lake, Jackson Manion and Narrow Lake Districts.

    Swift transport by air, practically to the very door of the Sioux Lookout hospital has in numerous instances meant another life saved. Between July and December, 1929, eighteen people were flown in by the Company’s machines alone to receive hospital treatment and with many of these a matter of two or three hours’ delay would have meant loss of life. The radio station at Sioux Lookout, operated by the Ontario Forestry Branch, is constantly in touch with the stations at Gold Pines, Red Lake, Swain Lake and Pickle Lake. As the last mentioned is 130 miles from Sioux Lookout, the vast extent of territory served by the hospital is conceivable.

    There is no doubt that the provision of facilities for repairing, docking and servicing aircraft already installed at this point will do much to attract attention to Sioux Lookout as an airport of great future possibilities. With the development of the prospective air routes to the north and ultimately over Greenland and Iceland to Europe, the position of Sioux Lookout will do much to enhance the chances for serious consideration as one of the main terminal airports in Canada.

    This article originally appeared in the April, 1930 edition of the Western Canada Airways Bulletin.

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