Article: Hudson Bay Company Goes Airborne

  • Image of Hudson Bay Company's Noorduyn Norseman, CF-BHT at Churchill, Manitoba

    September, 1954, Canadian Aviation

    The Hudson Bay Company (HBC) today conducts much of their business through the many isolated trading posts established years ago in the remote districts of Canada’s North and West. Not slow to assess the values of air transportation relative to such a vast network, the company put their first business aircraft into operation some fifteen years ago. Ten aircraft have since been utilized by the company, although operations were temporarily suspended during the war years, when pilots were released for military service. HBC is currently operating three aircraft: a de Havilland Beaver based at Winnipeg, another Beaver located at Edmonton, and a Noorduyn Norseman based at Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

    Transport of personnel, supplies and building materials to remote trading posts is affected more economically and with greater rapidity through the use of company aircraft. Freight is transported by commercial carriers whenever possible, in order to foster the development of regular air service in these remote districts. When undertaken by the company, such flights nearly always mean a one-way load and serve merely in keeping the plane and pilot usefully occupied. Inspection flights are made regularly to check supplies, collect inventory lists, audit books and to discuss changes in prices or policies. This also enables the administrative personnel to become familiar with the problems of individual posts.

    The HBC Beavers are equipped with combination wheel/ski landing gears while the Norseman has “roll-on” skis mounted beneath the wheels. After spring overhaul, the Norseman is equipped with floats. Each aircraft carries some five hundred pounds of standard extra equipment, ensuring an adequate supply of rations and survival equipment in the case of an emergency. All HBC pilots have “M” licenses, permitting them to sign out aircraft as being airworthy. Since the planes may be away from their bases for several months at a time, this is almost essential.

    The barren northern areas into which the company operates are still lacking in proper navigational and radio aids, so it is that each post must serve as a miniature airport. The duty of maintaining landing facilities rests entirely with the personnel at the posts: an unobstructed stretch of water in the summer or a snow runway in the winter. Each post has been equipped with two radios; the manager sending out regularly scheduled weather reports in addition to company business. For company use only, except in an emergency, radio beacons have been established at several posts.

    Image of Hudson Bay Company's Noorduyn Norseman, CF-BHT at Churchill, Manitoba

    Image of Hudson Bay Company’s Noorduyn Norseman, CF-BHT at Churchill, Manitoba

    This article originally appeared in the September, 1954 edition of Canadian Aviation magazine.

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