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Canadian Pacific Airlines
CP Air.jpg
Founded 1942
Hubs Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal
Focus cities Amsterdam, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Lima
Fleet size 68
Headquarters Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, British Columbia
Key people Donald J. Carty CEO 1985-1987
CP Air 737 landing at Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada in 1971

Canadian Pacific Airlines, later called Canadian Pacific Air Lines and renamed in 1968 to CP Air[1], was a Canadian airline that operated from 1942 to 1987. Based at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia,[2] it served Canadian and international routes until it was purchased and absorbed into Canadian Airlines.



In the early 1940s, Canadian Pacific purchased ten bush airlines in a short time span, finishing with the purchase of Canadian Airways in 1942, to form Canadian Pacific Airlines. While CP had a conservative railroad heritage, this collection of airlines brought some unique personalities to CP Air. These were largely bush flying pioneers. The president was Grant McConachie, Punch Dickins became a general superintendent and later a vice-president, and Wop May was a repair depot manager for CP Air at Calgary.

Battle with TCA

CP Air battled with the government owned Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) for international and trans-continental routes for much of its history. Despite early attempts to merge into one national carrier, CP Air continued to operate routes based on its previous bush flying heritage.

The federal government established limits on domestic market share and, through international agreements, limits on which countries CP Air could fly to. This barred CP Air from the traditional routes such as London and Paris and limited their access to major Canadian routes such as Vancouver-Toronto and Toronto-New York. CP was forced to develop other overseas routes.

Overseas routes

A Douglas DC-8 at London Gatwick Airport in 1977

The development of the great circle or polar route to the Far East from its Vancouver base would become one of the cornerstones of the airline. Grant McConachie managed to secure flights to Amsterdam, Australia and Hong Kong which helped grow the airline's revenue from $3 million in 1942 to $61 million by 1964. Several of the key routes in the early days were as follows: Flights 1 & 2, flying Hong Kong - Tokyo - Vancouver - Edmonton - Winnipeg - Toronto - Montreal; Flight 301/302 Sydney - Auckland (airport then at RNZAF Station Wenuapai) - Nadi - Honolulu - Vancouver - Edmonton , and non-stop via the Polar Route to Amsterdam. Another was flights 401/402 Vancouver, Mexico City, Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires, and also Flights 501/502 Mexico City - Toronto - Santa Maria (Azores) - Lisbon - Madrid. Other routes duplicated parts of the above, but from the 1959 Intercontinental Timetable these appear to be the main routes, and show the inventiveness that Canadian Pacific Airlines needed to employ; and how they developed other overseas routes for Canada. The airline was flying DC-4s and DC-6s internationally in the 1950s, introducing turboprop Bristol Britannia Aircraft from 1958. DC-8s began to replace them from 1961, but the Britannias continued on routes that were unsuitable for the new jets well into the 1960s - for example on the route to New Zealand until Whenuapai closed to civil traffic in November 1965.

Open skies

A Boeing 737-200 at San Francisco International Airport in 1983

By the late 1970s, many of the routes CP Air had pioneered such as Vancouver-Tokyo were now very lucrative and the previous distribution of routes was considered unfair. In 1979, the federal government eliminated the fixed market share of trans-continental flights for Air Canada (the successor to TCA). While this was a condition that was pressed by CP Air for a long time, it now scrambled to upgrade its fleet to expand on newly available routes and prepare for increased competition from Air Canada in its traditional territory. This required massive fleet renewal and an associated debt of $1 billion.

This debt load, the increased competition, and the economic downturn in Asia would all work against CP Air's future.


In 1987, due to sporadic profits in the 1980s, CP decided to sell its airline to Pacific Western Airlines for $300 million and assume the airline's debt of $600 million. In April 1987, PWA announced the new name of the merged airlines: Canadian Airlines International. In 2000 Canadian Airlines merged into Air Canada.

Historical fleet

List is incomplete and uses data primarily from the Boeing Sales Database [12].

Accidents and incidents

There were 12 major incidents aboard CP Air aircraft with a total of 234 fatalities.

In addition, on June 23, 1985 a piece of luggage that had come from CP Air 3 exploded as it was being transferred to Air India Flight 301; the explosion killed two baggage handlers (Hideo Asano and Hideharu Koda) in Narita and injured four other people. The same kind of bomb was transferred on to Air India Flight 182 killing all passengers. The bomb exploded just over Cork, Ireland.

Some other incidents involving CP aircraft:


  1. ^ "CP Air: Orange is Beautiful" [1]
  2. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 30, 1985. 71." Retrieved on June 17, 2009.

External links



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