May 28th, 2024

Commercial air travel here dates back to 1920

By Andrew Chernevich - Galt Museum & Archives on January 13, 2021.

Andrew Chernevych

Galt  Museum & Archives

In the early days of aviation, Lethbridge was poised to take advantage of this revolutionary technology. The earliest commercial airline venture dates back to 1920, long before Lethbridge’s Time Air airline was established in 1966. The 1920s aviation venture was called the Lethbridge Aircraft Company. Just like other small airline businesses in Europe and the Americas, the Lethbridge company focused on two main service areas: passenger transportation and mail delivery. Captain Jock Palmer and Lieutenant Harry Fitzsimmons were the managing directors with a recently purchased Curtiss JN-4, also known as a Curtiss Jenny, as the company’s first aircraft.

The capital to fund the company was raised locally. A public offering of 100 equal shares of $100 each was advertised in the Lethbridge Herald. The message of the Lethbridge Aircraft Company was load and clear: support your own community-owned airline or risk competitors taking over the market. The ad pointed out that twenty-odd aviation companies were already operating in Canada.

“It is a positive fact that one person out of every five will pay for a flight in Lethbridge and vicinity,”

• Lethbridge Aircraft Company Advertisement in the Lethbridge Herald.

Despite all the excitement, this ambitious project did not pan out. The popular demand for air travel that the company’s founders anticipated was simply not there. The company tried to diversify by providing occasional air shows, securing aerial survey photography contracts and emergency service for affluent clients, but these side contracts were insufficient to sustain the operation. The company dissolved in 1925.

You can discover more about the history of aviation and flying in Lethbridge by searching our extensive collection of images on our online database. You can also learn more by coming in to read the Lethbridge Historical Society’s Occasional Paper No. 13, “Wings Over Lethbridge” by Bruce Gowans in the Archives’ reference library once we reopen to in-person visitation.

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