In April 2021, our MAVA secretary received an email from Peter Merchant in Calgary, AB offering a scanned copy of a photograph of the 1947 inaugural meeting of the “Maritime Aviation Association”. Mr. Merchant explained that his father, Bob Merchant, third row second from left, flew scout (sic) RCAF convoy escort / anti-submarine patrol aircraft during the Second World War and that after the war a group of 22 maritime airmen formed the “Maritime Aviation Association” to continue the camaraderie that had developed during the war. Peter wondered if the “Maritime Aviation Association” may have been the genesis of the current day MAVA and thought the photo may be of interest to its members. The notes on the back, label the photo as of the inaugural “Maritime Aviation Association” meeting held at the Cornwallis Inn in Kentville, NS on 21-22 January 1947. The notes on the back also provide a key to the names of the men in photo.

Our MAVA historian replied and thanked Mr. Merchant for his thoughtfulness and explained that the photo was very interesting because none of the MAVA members was unaware that such an organization existed in 1947. However, the photo would be a welcome addition to the MAVA website as it documented the beginning of associations to preserve the traditional camaraderie among maritime airmen. He explained that since MAVA was formed only in 2014 by veterans with comparatively recent maritime flying experience, the men in the 1947 photo were at least a generation older than current members and none would likely be familiar. Except for one!

Our historian, Ernie Cable, recognized James McRae, second row second from the left, who served with his father, Stan Cable,[1] from 1942-1945 on 162 Squadron at RCAF Station Yarmouth, NS and Reykjavik, Iceland. As a pilot, McRae was a captain of one of the squadron’s Canso crews during the Second World War. On the squadron it was customary for the squadron C.O. to rotate among his crews. On one such occasion while deployed from Reykjavik to Wick, Scotland, McRae moved over to the co-pilot’s seat to allow Wing Commander Bill Chapman, the squadron C.O. to be the pilot in command of Canso 9816 “T”. On this sortie Canso 9816 “T” was on an anti-submarine patrol in the Norwegian Sea northeast of the Faeroe Islands where the crew successfully attacked and sank German U-boat U-715 as it was surfacing. Unfortunately, Canso 9816 “T” was shot down by return fire and Chapman had to ditch the aircraft on the sea. During the nine-hour ordeal on the frigid water in their dinghy one crewmember drowned, two others succumbed to hypothermia and the remaining five, including Chapman and McRae, survived after being picked up by a rescue launch.

In 1995, James McRae was the coordinator for RCAF Station Yarmouth’s 50th year reunion and telephoned Ernie[2] to request a CP-140 Aurora fly past for the reunion. After arranging the details McRae made the father-son Cable family connection and invited Ernie to be the reunion’s guest speaker. During the reunion Ernie met McRae and Chapman and other former 162 Squadron members who served with his father for the first time.

[1] Stan Cable was 162 Squadron’s Warrant Officer in charge of maintenance.

[2] Ernie Cable was the Deputy Commander Maritime Air Group.

UPDATE May 2022

In May 2022, Don MacNeil wrote that his father, John MacNeil, pictured third from the right in the second row was also one of the the founding members of the Maritime Aviation Association (MAA). Don advised that the Association was more of a business association than a veterans group, although all members had served in the maritime world during the the Second World War.

Don reports that at the conclusion of the first MAA meeting John MacNeil of Amherst, Don Keith of Waterville and N. R. Caruthers of Saint John successfully tabled a motion calling for the following:

1) The opening of a Department of Transport office in the region;

2) Adoption of more modern and simpler aviation medical requirements;

3) Reduction or elimination of certain airport, landing and passenger fees;

4) Allow visiting airmen from out of province or country wishing to rent aircraft to do so.

In addition to the above regulatory overhaul sought by the organization these small business owners also wanted a share of government contracts which generally went to the airlines and larger aviation businesses.  They sought: local charter work flying mail; transporting government personnel on government business; providing Air Cadet flying instruction the domain of flying clubs at the time; government subsidies for civilians seeking flight instruction and a share of the aerial spraying contracts which at the time were going to larger operators. The MAA’s next step was to table these demands with the Federal government and they were successful in securing a number of meetings with Senior Federal Government officials in Ottawa including: the Federal Trade Minister the Hon. C. D. Howe, the Transport Minister Chevrier, Postmaster General Ernest Bertrand and R.A.C. Henry, Chairman of the Air Transport Board. The MAA were represented by Association President O. B. Pulsifer of Halifax, Vice-President Paul Sharpe of Charlottetown and John MacNeil who was twenty-four or twenty-five years old at the time of these meetings. In addition to the above mentioned demands the MAA also protested a forestry patrol contract awarded by the New Brunswick government to Maritime Central Airways with no consideration being given to small operators such as themselves. As an alternative they proposed dividing the province into zones with contracts going to small operators such as MAA members within each of the proposed zone. Finally, they proposed that either the Federal or Provincial governments support equipping of an aircraft in the service areas of each MAA operator with stretchers and medical supplies to facilitate emergency flights which many of the operators were already conducting. They were essentially proposing the establishment of a Provincial Medivac Service years before such Provincial services would become standard across Canada. 

John MacNeil went on to become an early RCN rotary wing pilot and OIC of HU-21 Det. 2 onboard HMCS Labrador for the 1956 season in the St. Lawrance and the Arctic and the 1957 open ocean flight deck trials conducted with an HO4S from HMCS Buckingham between Halifax and Bermuda. He is the same John MacNeil who went on to become the Chief Test Pilot for Pratt & Whitney (UACL at the time) for thirty years doing the first test flights on the first RCN Sea King 4001 and many of the subsequent Sea Kings built by UACL and building their Flight Operations Department from a one man operation to a complex R&D flight test, executive flight transport and production flight test organization with six test pilots and fixed wing pilots, office staff and aircraft maintenance staff.


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