Time Lines







Gander - 1938

by Frank Tibbo


Jan. 11 - A small DeHavilland Fox Moth equipped with ski-landing gear flew into history when it became the first aircraft to land at the "Newfoundland Airport" now known as Gander International Airport. The pilot was Doug Fraser of St. John's and he was accompanied by flight engineer George Lace. They were met by Mr. Nick Patten, en electrical engineer, and Messrs Basil Fearn and Jack Drover, both of whom were assistant engineers. The airport was still under construction at the time and it would be several months before regular landings commenced. In a 1988 interview Mr. Fraser was asked, "What was Gander like when you landed?" He answered, "Well, first of all it wasn't Gander was it? There was Gander Lake and Gander Bay and Gander River but the airport was called 'Newfoundland Airport'. Some people referred to it as 'Camp 24'. I don't know where that came from. And then some called it 'Hattie's Camp' and still others called it 'Milepost 213'. Officially it was called 'Newfoundland Airport'. That's what the sign said at the railway station, and that's what was on your mail - the post mark."


Doug Fraser

The Newfoundland Airport got its first postmaster, Everett Milley. Prior to that (1936 - 1938) the telegraph business and post office work had been handled by the Newfoundland Railway. The Posts and Telegraphs Office, which measured approximately 10' X 12' a very crude structure, was located near the railway station.


There was no telephone system across Newfoundland and all point to point communications - by telegraph key (Morse Code) - were handled by the Newfoundland department of Post and Telegraphs.

A 25-line dial telephone system, one of, if not the first in Newfoundland, was installed at the airport.

During the summer, Frank Munn, who hailed from Bay Roberts, was a full-time first-aid person. There was also a man by the name of 'Sellers' who administered first aid at one period. He was from the Bonavista Bay area and he eventually attended Dalhousie University and became a physician.

June 4 - First asphalt laid at the airport.

Nov. 30 - The first Airport Manager, H.A.L. Pattison, (Pattison Place, Gander) was appointed.

Nov. 30 - Radio Station (for aircraft communications) opened.

Nov. 30 - Official opening of the Administration Building. Airport administrative personnel worked and lived in this building which also accommodated the Airport Terminal (until 1946) Weather Office, Radio Office, Post Office, Control Tower (until 1942), recreational facilities and the Airport Club.

Dec. 7 - The Newfoundland Airport Club was established for the purpose of "providing social and athletic amenities for its members." The Objects also noted that "the Club may promote and/or assist non-profit organizations which function for the benefit of the community." The Newfoundland Airport Club's first home was within the Administration Building.

Roads were nonexistent and some workers used skiis to get back and forth to work in the winter (Ev. Milley)

H.A.L. Pattison wrote: "By 1938 there were signs that there might be land planes ready for the experimental service. To this end work was rushed at Gander in order to have at least the full length of the runways available with a hangar. However, technical developments of the land planes on both sides of the Atlantic did not fulfil expectations and the runways still remained unused. During 1938 it was realised that the main traffic across the Atlantic would be carried out by land planes, and with the permanent establishment of the Radio Station to be completed, it was decided to erect the permanent Atlantic wireless organization at Gander. Thus on the completion of the flying boat season at Botwood in 1938, control, radio and meteorological organizations, which by this time had reached a strength of about 50, moved over to Gander. It can be taken that this date, 30 November, 1938, marks the actual bringing of Gander into the world as an operational station. The move itself is quite a story of its own, as the date chosen, coincided with a particularly heavy blizzard. However, communication with the outside world showed no break, and when the key was lifted at Botwood for the last time Gander was ready to take over."

contributed by F. Tibbo


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