A moment in history: Feb. 21, 1920

A moment in history: Feb. 21, 1920

· The Pulse

On this day in 1920, a short-lived Edmonton airline run by a transportation magnate was preparing to take to the sky.

The Edmonton Aircraft Company was founded in early 1920, when businessman John "Jock" McNeill bought a wooden biplane. McNeill partnered with a few others — including pilot and instructor Keith Tailyour — with the plan to create a passenger airline that connected Edmonton and Calgary, and later connected to Peace River.

While the city's aviation history stretches back to the early 1900s, the Edmonton Aircraft Company was only the second aviation firm in the city. To house his fledging airline, McNeill leased a small parcel of land north of downtown and built a hanger on it. It was the first hanger on what would later become Blatchford Field.

In July 1920, Tailyour and M.R. Jennings made a successful Edmonton Aircraft Company flight to Calgary in two hours and 30 minutes. The trip marked the first passenger flight between the cities.

The Edmonton Aircraft Company wasn't McNeill's first transportation firm. Originally from Scotland, McNeill arrived in 1910 and quickly bought the Twin City Transfer Company. Specializing in moving and storing belongings for newcomers to the city, the company found significant business due to Edmonton's booming population.

McNeill soon expanded by forming Alberta's first taxi company, which still exists as Yellow Cab. He's also credited with starting Edmonton's first private ambulance company, as well as being an integral part of the city's first bus business. McNeill's home, a two-storey brick house in Norwood, was seen as a testament to his family's financial success and is recognized as a municipal historic resource.

Unfortunately, The Edmonton Aircraft Company was not as successful as McNeill's other ventures. About a year after its founding, Keith Tailyour took a job as a flight instructor at CFB Borden, where he was killed during a training exercise. Without a pilot for his airline, McNeill sold off both his plane and the hangar. After less than two years, Edmonton's second aviation company was no more.

The aviation landscape in Edmonton is much different today than in McNeill's time. Blatchford Field is no longer an airfield but is rather being developed into a residential neighbourhood. Late in 2023, the NAIT/Blatchford Market LRT station started operating well ahead of its estimated opening in 2025.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.