CP Air through the 1970s and 80s
Vancouver-based CP Air was founded in 1942 as Canadian Pacific Air Lines as a division of the Canadian Pacific transportation empire (which included railroads, steamships, and hotels). Along with linking major cities in Canada, CP Air flew Great Circle polar route flights to Amsterdam and the Far East, as well as long runs down to Latin America and Australia. Their fleet at first consisted of four-engined Douglas propliners, then Canadair and Bristol Britannia turboprops, before entering the Jet Age with DC-8s.
Government regulations originally limited CP Air practically to where TCA/Air Canada couldn’t or didn’t want to fly to, while locking them out of lucrative destinations such as London and Paris and limiting domestic operations to the major cities. CP made up for this by developing a network across the Pacific Ocean to Asia and Oceania, which would become the carrier’s bread and butter. Once the restrictions were lifted in 1979, CP Air underwent a rapid expansion across it’s network and fleet to compete directly with Air Canada, assuming $1 billion (Canadian) in debt in the process.
These factors, along with an economic downturn in Asia, played against the airline’s fortunes until 1987, when Pacific Western Airlines bought them out for $300 million. The merger transformed CP Air into Canadi>n Airlines International, who themselves would merged into arch-rival Air Canada 13 years later – Stephan J. Cox (Photos: Geoffrey Thomas)