Maxwell Ward

Founder, WardAir International

maxward80x120.jpgBorn and raised in Edmonton, Maxwell W. Ward joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, where he received his pilot's wings and served as a commissioned flight instructor at various Canadian bases during the Second World War.

After discharge from the RCAF in 1945, Mr. Ward flew as a bush pilot in the Northwest Territories. In 1946, he organized his own company, Polaris Charter Co. Ltd., based in Yellowknife, which carried supplies and passengers throughout the sub-Arctic.

By 1953, he founded Wardair Ltd. with a newly acquired 14-passenger, single-engine Otter that could land on ice, snow or water, which revolutionized bush air transport and opened up the Arctic to Wardair. Duly licensed by the Canadian Transport Commission for the first time, Wardair carried mining prospectors, machinery, medical teams, oil exploration crews, musk ox, fish and all people and things needing transportation in Northern Canada. Ward loved the Arctic and the challenges of flying into its many unmapped areas.

Wardair expanded steadily to include a variety of planes with increasingly larger payloads capable of carrying tractors, trucks, cars, powerplants, mining machinery, small buildings, oil, gasoline, livestock, hay, and groceries at six tons per trip. When DeHavilland built the Twin Otter and then the 4-engine Dash 7, Wardair was the first to operate them in Canada.

By 1962 Wardair launched international passenger charter services between Western Canada and the U.K. A charter market was created, flying war brides and former Europeans back to the U.K. and Europe for a visit at a price they could afford.

In 1967, Wardair bought the first Boeing aircraft ever sold in Canada with the purchase of a 109-seat Boeing 727. This aircraft achieved the highest utilization of any 727 in the world and, with a refueling stop in Sonderstrom, Greenland, cut the flying time from the 20-21 hours in a DC-6 down to 9-10 hours. During winter months, the aircraft flew to Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Through constant innovation, Mr. Ward continued to expand service.

Recognized as Canada's largest international charter air carrier, Wardair offered departures to and from a variety of holiday destinations, along with scheduled flights between Canada and the U.K. and within Canada.

Wardair was not a discount airline but an airline providing good service at lower-than-average prices. They were known for their high quality meals and friendly staff. "Steak & Champagne" flights was a popular advertising tag line in the 1980's, and won various awards from magazines for their service.

A renegade and pioneer, Mr. Ward helped open up development of the Arctic and fought against the government’s restrictive airline regulations. He has received numerous awards for his contribution to Canadian aviation - including appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

True to form, Mr. Ward was unable to accept his induction into Canada's Tourism Hall of Fame personally, as he was enroute delivering supplies in remote areas of the Northwest Territories.


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