Max Ward, bush pilot who turned Canadian aviation pioneer, has died

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Canadian aviation pioneer Max Ward died on Monday, CBC confirmed. He was 98 years old.Ward was born in Edmonton in 1921. He served as a flight instructor in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II before becoming a bush pilot.

In 1953 he founded Wardair in Yellowknife. In 1989, the airline would become the third largest airline in Canada.

Ward sold the airline to Canadian Airlines that year.

In a press release, the Ward family described him as “a real Alberta maverick.”

Ward started commercial service with a single 14-passenger single-engine Otter running on wheels, skis and floats, according to a biography of his 1989 induction into the Alberta Order of Excellence.

The company has grown steadily, acquiring more Otters, Beaver aircraft and Bristol Freighters, such as the one still behind the City of Yellowknife sign on Old Airport Road.

The Wardair Bristol Freighter welcomes visitors to Yellowknife, a reminder of the city’s aviation history. (Hannah Paulson / CBC)

“When DeHavilland built the Twin Otter and then the 4-engine Dash 7, Wardair was the first to operate them in Canada,” the quote notes.

Ward bought his first Boeing 727 in 1967 and added several more.

Yvonne Quick, former bush pilot and current Yellowknifer, said Ward ran “one of the best charter operations in Canada.”

Ward experienced the travel boom of the 1960s, bringing international vacations to ordinary people at good prices. Good service was its selling point, with champagne and silverware on board its flights.

WATCH | Max Ward’s impact on the Canadian airline industry:

A profile of Max Ward, who sold his airline Wardair. 4:47

It started with flights between western Canada and the UK. In the winter, he added flights to Hawaii and the Caribbean.

“Mr. Ward’s airlift pioneer in the Northwest Territories has been of immeasurable value to Alberta and has maintained for that province its position as a supply base for the western Arctic and the Yukon Territory, ”reads the Alberta Order of Excellence citation.

“Nationally, Mr. Ward was at the forefront of those advocating deregulation of the airline industry. ”

Ward inspired significant loyalty among his employees, many of whom still gather on social media to remember the company and the deceased former employees.

Quick said Ward’s contribution to the North was important.

His company made mining easier and communities more accessible by creating an aviation industry “where nothing competes.”

Since 1995, Ward has licensed the Midnight Sun seaplane flight to his property in Yellowknife every two years. The event wouldn’t have been possible without him, Quick said.

“He will be truly missed. ”

In 2000, Ward and his wife, Marjorie, survived a plane crash when his seaplane hit the water too hard near Yellowknife. Two other passengers also survived. The floats came loose from the plane when it crashed into the water, CBC reported at the time.

Yet Ward continued to steal.

He was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1975.

He holds several honorary degrees from the University of Alberta, York University, Trent University, Carleton University, Athabasca University and Lakeland University.

WATCH | Max Ward looks back on his career as a Nordic bush pilot:

In 1979, some of the bush pilots who opened up the north reflect on the early years. 23:38



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