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HISTORY > PIONEERS OF CANADIAN AVIATION
Men of courage and vision

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Fernand «Frank» Henley
(1922 - ... )

Fernand “Frank” Henley started as a RCAF Canso and B-24 pilot during WWII, doing two tours of operations at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Gander, Newfoundland, on anti-submarine patrol. After the war, he became a bush pilot, flying in Abitibi, Quebec for Gold Belt Air Service and A. Fecteau Transport Aérien, then Northern Wings in Sept-Îles, Quebec.

From 1951 to 1956, he worked for Maritime Central Airways (MCA), doing certification flight tests for the ski/wheel DC-3 and piloting the first cargo flight to the DEW LINE. In 1957, he combined two subsidiaries of MCA companies (Mont Laurier Aviation and Boreal Airways) to found Nordair, for which he was Vice President of Operations for fifteen years. During that time, Nordair opened many IFR routes (instrument flying routes) in the north. To replace piston-powered aircraft, in 1966 Henley selected the Boeing 737-200. Nordair then became the first carrier to operate a scheduled air service to the Canadian Arctic using jet aircraft.

From 1972 to 1983, Henley acted as executive consultant for Hydro-Québec Société d'Énergie de la Baie James (SEBJ) in connection with the huge James Bay project. As such, his responsibilities included definition of operating standards, selection of airport and heliport sites, development of communication and navigation systems, and general managing of cargo and passenger transport. During the construction phase of the dams, 4 major airports were built, 11 secondary and 47 heliports. Upon recommendation by Henley, SEBJ acquired six Convair 580s that flew close to 700,000 passengers to the sites. Henley also developed a logistic plan to support the construction of a 660 kilometer road between LG2, LG3, LG4 and Caniapiscau. The massive airlift was a huge success and the road was completed one year ahead of schedule, in part due to the use of four ice runways in the winter and the purchase of a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft in September 1973. In 1983, Henley was appointed Québecair Vice President of Operations. From 1985 to 1990, he acted as President of his consulting firm Zenith Aviation Inc. In 2000, he won the prestigious Trans-Canada/McKee Trophy.

Thank you to the Quebec Air and Space Museum for this biography.


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