On September 30, 1941, Carl F. Burke and Josiah Anderson, despite the obstacles of wartime restrictions and equipment shortages, are able to form this carrier at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, for the purpose of linking communities by air in the Maritime Provinces. Ownership is completely private and the company is the only scheduled air transport concern in the nation not controlled by either a surface carrier or a dominion government.
Employing a Barclay Grow T8P1, the men inaugurate twice-daily service on December 8 from Charlottetown to St. John via Summerside and Moncton. The route feeds Trans-Canada Air Lines, Ltd. and Northeast Airlines at the latter point. Late in the year, a Boeing 247D and a Fairchild F-24 join the fleet.
In January 1942, twice-weekly B-247D winter frequencies are started to the Magdalen Islands. A de Havilland DH 89A Dragon Rapide joins the fleet in July. In mid-December, the U. S. Army Air Forces charters the Barclay Grow to seek a lost Boeing B-17 bomber. While landing on the sea ice at Angmagssalik, Greenland, on December 23, the plane breaks through; although the pilots escape, the aircraft is lost.
Schedules are maintained without change in 1943-1944. In the former year, a Lockheed Model 10A Electra is acquired and in August, owner Burke wins an MBE for his daring rescue of an Anson crew stranded on an ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Fairchild is sold in November. Cofounder Anderson is killed flying for the RAF Ferry Command.
A Lockheed Model 12A and a Model 10B are added in March 1945, with the former sold in July. Another Model 10B is delivered in May and a third in August, followed by two Cessna T-50 Cranes and the first Douglas DC-3 in November.
A second Lockheed Model 10A joins the fleet in January 1946. The first Douglas enters service on February 4, weekdays over a route from Charlottetown to Halifax via New Glasgow. A second DC-3 is received later the same month, followed by a third in August. Weekday DC-3 flights are begun, meanwhile, on March 11 between Moncton and Halifax via Greenwood and Yarmouth. Also in March, the Boeing 247D is withdrawn.
Enplanements for the year total 32,000.
Scheduled services, together with passenger, ice patrol, and mail charters, continue apace in 1947. An “international” service is launched by DC-3s on June 18, 1948, connecting Charlottetown and Sydney with the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Originally purchased for its engines, a Consolidated PBY-5A Canso is refurbished and placed into service in July. One of the Cessna T-50 Cranes is withdrawn and scrapped in December.
In January 1950, a DC-3 is placed into service while a Curtiss C-46As begins a year of all-cargo flights in December. A Lockheed Model 10A is withdrawn in March 1951. Three more DC-3s are delivered, one each in April, September, and October. The last Cessna Crane is withdrawn in April and twice-weekly DC-3 flights from Moncton-Goose Bay commence in June.
By 1952, Carl Burke’s airline ranks as the third largest scheduled carrier in Canada, behind TCA and CPAL. A second Canso is purchased in February, followed by a third in March. Also in March, the C-46A is sold to Air Maroc.
While en route between Brunswick and Labrador, a DC-3 freighter with a pilot and three passengers, crashes in icing conditions near Gaspe on March 22; there are no survivors and the aircraft wreckage is not located until August 27, 1953.
The Dragon Rapide is retired in April and between February and December, five additional DC-3s are obtained.
Two DC-3s are sold in January 1953. A Bristol 170 Freighter is purchased from Associated Airways, Ltd. in March. A de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver is acquired in early April and on April 23, twice-weekly DC-3 operations begin from Goose Bay to St. John’s. Owner Burke, with Fred Briggs, purchases half-ownership of Boreal Airways, Ltd. That company is now rechristened Boreal Air Service, Ltd. A third DC-3 is sold in August, but two more join the fleet in September.
In 1954-1955, the carrier assumes responsibility for most of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line work in the Maritime Provinces. To meet the capacity demand of this work, the fleet is increased by the addition of two DC-4s, a DC-3, four Curtiss C-46As, two final Cansos, and four Avro 685 Yorks. In addition, a subcontract is let to The Flying Tiger Line. Tiger official Edward Holohan leads a fleet of 7 Curtiss C-46As and Douglas C-54s north to operate from a base at Churchill. A DC-3 is lost in an accident at a DEW Line site on November 25 of the latter year.
An Avro 685 York C.1 must be written off following a bad landing at Fort Chino on January 24, 1956.
While taking off from Frobisher Bay on February 13, a vehicle shifts aboard the Bristol 170 Mk. 31 with two crew, causing it to fail its takeoff from Baffin Island and crash; there are no survivors.
International DC-4 charter flights now commence with transatlantic services, some of which bring Hungarian refugees to Canada. Two Beech 18s are accepted in May and June.
A second Avro 685 York C.1 freighter with three crew is lost 44 km. N of Fort Chimo, Quebec, on September 26; there are no survivors.
The small charter carrier Mount Laurier Aviation is purchased in December and amalgamated with Boreal Air Service, Ltd. to form a new, wholly owned subsidiary, Nordair, Ltd. Two Yorks, a DC-3, a Lockheed Model 10A, two Model 10Bs, and the Avro Anson V are withdrawn during the year.
Three DC-4s and three Beech 18s are acquired in 1957 for the Nordair subsidiary, which begins twice-weekly Montreal-Frobisher (Baffin Island) flights on May 24. The DEW Line project is completed in July, as is The Flying Tiger Line subcontract.
Enroute from Prestwick, Scotland, to Toronto under charter with Hungarian refugees on August 11, a DC-4 with 6 crew and 73 passengers crashes into a bog near Issoudun, Quebec, killing all aboard. The tragedy is Canada’s worst air disaster to date.
During the year, three Cansos, a DC-4, and an Avro York are withdrawn. Two DC-6Bs are ordered in 1958, but they will never be delivered.
The next-to-last PBY-5A Canso is withdrawn in March 1959 and sold to Nordair, Ltd. A Beech 18 is withdrawn in April along with a DC-3, while a Vickers Viscount 805 is purchased from Eagle Airways (Bermuda), Ltd. and delivered in June, entering revenue service in July. MCA is now the only operator of this Vickers type in Canada. Two more DC-3s are sold in August.
The last Canso is sold in January 1960 and is followed in February by the final Avro 685 York; in March, a Beech 18 is withdrawn.
A DC-3 crashes at Moncton on April 13, 1961. No other details are available. The company’s only DHC-2 is sold in July to Abbott Industries, Ltd.
Two DC-4s are sold to Nordair, Ltd. in March 1962. The Viscount is withdrawn in April and sold to Aer Lingus Irish Airlines. Orders are now placed for two Handley Page Herald 200s, but the request is withdrawn when a Herald is acquired from the Nordair subsidiary in November.
A C-46E is destroyed in a hangar fire at Moncton on January 11, 1963.
Older and smaller rival Eastern Provincial Airlines, Ltd. purchases MCA, merging it in September. Nordair, Ltd. is excluded from the buyout and continues to function.