standing with a recently erected propeller from a Bristol Freighter at Northwest Regional Airport are city councillor Brian Downie

Propeller highlights northwestern B.C. aviation history

Bristol Freighter propeller on display at Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace, B.C.

Hawkair has further cemented its aviation legacy in Terrace by taking a retired propeller off of a plane from the company’s early days and prominently displaying it outside Northwest Regional Airport.

Paul Hawkins, one of the company’s founders, and city councillor Brian Downie, airport manager Carman Hendry and local historian Yvonne Moen were on hand last Thursday to watch the propeller of one of the company’s old Bristol Freighters be erected at the base of a former military bunker at the airport.

“We just felt it was important,” Moen said about preserving the propeller in addition to highlighting the role that the military bunker played.

“If we don’t do something, maybe they’ll be destroyed.”

Moen also said that placing the propeller at the concrete bunker was a good way to further preserve the remnants of Terrace’s military past during the Second World War.

“It’s part of Terrace’s history,” Moen said. “It’s all wartime history and this is a big part of it.”

Hawkair was founded in Terrace in 1994 by Hawkins and other partners who acquired several Bristol Freighters when a previous owner went out of business.

The Bristol Freighters were easily recognizable because of their bulbous nose cone which opened up to load and unload freight.

Before the company started offering passenger service, its original operations using the Bristol were freight services to remote areas in the north, such as Bronson Creek.

The company would transport items such as gold, ore, fuel or mining supplies to places that were only accessible from the air.

Hawkins said that operation went on until 1999, when the mine serviced by the company and its aircraft closed.

He said afterwards the company donated one of the Bristol Freighters to the Reynolds Aviation Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alta. in 2004.

However, the plane’s spare propeller remained in Terrace.

“I wanted to secure it because I knew sooner or later something would happen to it,” Hawkins said.

Approximately five years ago, Hawkins said he made moves to try and donate the propeller to the city or the airport society here in order to properly preserve it. Up until now, the propellor had been in storage at the airport.

He said the airport manager, Carmen Hendry, was enthusiastic about making Hawkins’ vision come true, but it was Yvonne Moen’s persistence in the last few months that really saw the project to completion.

“It has been her enthusiasm since January that has made this work,” Hawkins said. “She is the instigator.”

He also said the contributions of councillor Brian Downie should be noted, as he was integral in getting the construction work lined up that was required to properly display and install the propeller.

Another Bristol Freighter owned by Hawkair was subsequently acquired by several British pilots and flown to Britain.

Hawkair transformed itself into a passenger service in 2000 by acquiring a Dash 8-100 and established a Terrace-to-Vancouver service.

The Northwest Regional Airport itself traces its history back to the Second World War when it was constructed to form part of the west coast’s extensive defence network.