Time Lines







Gander - 1939

by Frank Tibbo

In January the Newfoundland Airport Club showed the first motion picture at Newfoundland Airport.

May 15 - An aircraft arrived here from Bangor, Maine, the first aircraft to land at the airport from outside Newfoundland. It was a Monocoupe 90A, registration SE-AGM. The pilot, Mr. Carl Backman was delivering the aircraft to a Mr Gunner in Leksand, Sweden. It was the first aircraft to attempt a transatlantic crossing from Gander.

"I remember Mr. Backman coming to the office. He sent two telegrams, one to St. Louis and the other to a Scandinavian country. He took off the next morning and was never heard of again." From an interview with E.J. Milley.

May 19 & 21 - Two Handley-Page Harrow aircraft, G-AFRH & G-AFRG, arrived. These aircraft played a prominent role in the history of the airport in that they carried out several in-flight refuelling flights. These flights were part of an experiment that refuelled aircraft that had departed Botwood and needed additional fuel to reach Shannon, Ireland.

"It was in May, 1939 that I arrived on the partially completed runways of the airfield with a twin engine Harrow, the largest aircraft ever to have landed on the soil of Newfoundland. Two days later, my co-pilot Atkinson, brought the second aircraft over. We took possession of the famous hangar No. 20 with a party of nine Englishmen and two Newfoundlanders. From this airfield, at which time was still under construction, we operated the aircraft for practice flying, pending the commencement of the refuelling trials with B.O.A.C., who were flying into Botwood with the Empire boats. Our task was to refuel the outgoing boat at 1800 hours local time on the Friday of each week for two months." From a letter to R.C. Goodyear from Wing Commander H.C. Johnson.

Aug. 4 - The first amphibious aircraft, a Supermarine Walrus, landed at Gander. The pilot was Lt. Commander Cockburn from HMRN "Berwick".

Aug. 17 - One of the refueller aircraft, GAFRH, refuelled flying boat "Cabot" of Imperial Airways.

Aug. 22 - The first night flying was conducted by a Waco, NC-500 owned by Dupont. It made three flights of 20 minutes each.

Aug. 22 -"August 22, 1939, Automatic telephones in operation." From the log book of Robert James Mercer, Senior Operator in the Gander Airport Power Plant, courtesy of Mr. G.C. Mercer, son of the late Robert Mercer.

"Prior to the military coming in there was a small telephone system in the Administration
Building. It was a small dial unit - and I think there were 30 to 40 lines on it. That connected places in the Administration Building as well as to the few homes on Chestnut St. When the military came in they retired that little unit and put in their own. As far as I am aware that was the first dial system in Newfoundland. There was no public dial system anywhere else in Newfoundland. We found that little unit in storage and incorporated that into our system. Billy Stoyles and Wilf French did the job along with Bert Butler our cable splicer"
From an interview with E.J. Milley.

During the year of 1939, final construction of the four runways took place and paving was complete.

contributed by F. Tibbo


top return to top