Maritime Central Airways took flight in 1941, connecting Atlantic Canadians for 22 years

Posted on January 28, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

Did you fly Maritime Central Airways? Though no longer in the air, this business is an interesting part of Atlantic Canadian history that began during World War II. Founded 81 years ago in Charlottetown, P.E.I., owners Carl Burke and Josiah Anderson started this venture with hopes of connecting people throughout the Maritimes and Newfoundland (not yet part of Confederation). With passenger, cargo and charter flight services, Maritime Central Airways (MCA) grew to become one of the largest airlines in Canada before being acquired in 1963.

 

Carl Burke in 1941, pilot of Canadian Airways (photo credit: Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame).

 

The Founders Meet

Born in Charlottetown, Carl Burke’s career began at a local hardware store in the 1930s. Knowing he ultimately wanted to become a pilot, Carl stretched his weekly pay cheque of $12 into savings, so he could attend pilot training and commute to Saint John for flying lessons. After years of training, Burke obtained his pilot licenses and promptly purchased a private plane to give flying lessons of his own.

In 1939, Carl became a pilot for Canadian Airways in Moncton alongside Josiah Anderson, future co-founder of MCA.

 

Maritime Central Airways hangar and airplane (photo credit: New Brunswick Aviation Museum).

 

 

Ready for Takeoff

After years of contemplating their business, Burke and Anderson finalized plans, obtained a commercial air license and MCA had its first flight on December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbour Day). In the early days, their fleet consisted of two planes servicing Charlottetown, Saint John and Moncton. Homebase was Charlottetown airport, which at the time was a station for the Royal Air Force.

By 1945, MCA’s fleet had expanded to 10 aircraft and seven destinations throughout the Maritimes and the Îles de la Madeleine. Operations eventually began to shift to Moncton, but Burke kept maintenance activities on P.E.I., later developing a subsidiary of MCA for aircraft maintenance that operated in Summerside and resulted in 200 jobs.

 

Maritime Central Airways timetable from 1943 (photo credit: Airline Timetable Images).

 

Growth & Expansion

After the war, there was an expected lull in passenger air traffic, so MCA grew creatively. They provided lobster and strawberry charters, seal surveys and governmental ice and forest patrols. The business was also successful in winning some pretty significant contracts for the Pinetree Project and DEW line.

Burke invested in a number of airlines over the years. The first addition to MCA was a small airline in Gander, and later Nordair and Wheeler Airlines. In the ‘50s, MCA also began overseas charters, which expanded operations throughout North America, Europe, India and Singapore. By 1953, MCA had grown to the third largest Canadian air carrier.

 

Maritime Central Airways pins worn by crew (photo credit: World Airline Historical Society, Inc.).

 

Remembering MCA

In 1963, MCA was sold to Eastern Provincial Airways. However, both Burke and MCA are remembered today. Carl Burke was admitted to the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame in 1981, and a small display in the Charlottetown airport was created in his memory, recognizing his achievements in entrepreneurship and advancing the regional aviation industry. In 2010, the display received a major $16,000 facelift, with additional photos and museum artifacts.

Though no longer in the air, MCA is not forgotten.


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