Wheeler and Evergreen (Quebec)

Wheeler Airlines, St. Jovite, Quebec, and Wheeler Northland Airlines, St-Jean, Quebec

Wheeler Airlines

Wheeler Airlines played a large part in the early history of Forest Protection Limited. Together with Skyway Air Services, Wheeler supplied the first TBMs to the spray program (1958 to 1967). A biography of founder Frederick H. “Tom” Wheeler can be found at The Québec Air and Space Hall of Fame site, and is reproduced here:

Tom Wheeler (1894-1991) at the age of 6 moved from New York State to Saint-Jovite in the Mt. Tremblant Provincial Park region of the Laurentian Mountains 80 miles northwest of Montreal. His family operated the famous Gray Rocks Inn on the shores of Lac Ouimet which catered to the hunting and fishing crowd. Thinking of the plane for the transport of tourists on their domain, the Wheeler family chartered in 1921 an Avro 504K from the Canadian Aerial Services in Cartierville.

The following year, Tom Wheeler formed Gray Rocks Air Service. At the beginning, the company operated a small Curtiss JN-4 biplane. Throughout the years, the company got larger, adopting in 1946 the name of Wheeler Airlines. The fleet of Travel Air, Junkers, Fairchild, Norseman, Stearman and the other bush aircraft of the first years, grew more and more with the addition of DC-3s, DC-4s, C-46s and Cansos.

In the 1950’s, Wheeler Airlines had become one of the biggest bush operators in the country and was under the supervision of Managing Director Bob Rychlicki. The Chief Pilot of the Spray Division was George Lovatt. In 1953, Wheeler Airlines, as prime contractor, was put in charge of organizing the entire New Brunswick spruce budworm operation, which at the time used Stearmans as sprayers, over an American company. Canadian operators had objected to the use of the more experienced Americans, claiming that they too had acquired enough experience to play a larger role.

Wheeler supplied Avengers to the budworm spray program from 1958 to 1967 using Avengers purchased from the Royal Canadian Navy in 1958.

Thinking of retirement, Tom Wheeler sold the heavy division of his fleet to Nordair in 1960, keeping the light transports for hunters and fishermen. The new name was Wheeler Airlines (1960) Limited. Finally, in 1967, Wheeler sold the rest of his air operations to Power Corporation. Retired, Wheeler continued to be interested in aviation, sitting on the Board of Directors of Canadian (Okanagan) Helicopters. Of a modest and private nature, Tom Wheeler was recognized as a perfect gentleman.

Wheeler Airlines letterhead 1959

Wheeler Airlines letterhead 1959, from the FPL files.

Wheeler Airlines (1960) letterhead 1961

Wheeler Airlines (1960) letterhead 1961, from the FPL files.

Wheeler article_Financial Post_3Nov1962

From the November 3, 1962, Financial Post. [FPL files]

Wheeler article -1959 - 0273

Wheeler article -1959 - 0274

An article about Wheeler Airlines by Kenneth Owen, Flight, 1959, gives an excellent overview of the company and its facilities in Quebec.

The Original Wheeler TBMs

All of the Wheeler’s TBM registrations followed a strict alphabetical and numerical order.

Avengers owned by Wheeler Airlines from 1958 to 1975, with FPL tail numbers, with their original colours. All were purchased from the Royal Canadian Navy in 1958.
BuNo Reg’n. Tail # SOC RCN Colour FPL #
53558 FIMQ #500 1958 yellow
53610 FIMR #501 1958 yellow FPL #23
53759 FIMS #502 1958 grey/red
69347 FIMT #503 1958 possibly grey/red
69354 FIMU #504 1958 grey
85665 FIMV #505 1958 yellow FPL #26
85928 FIMW #506 1958 yellow
86098 FIMX #507 1958 yellow

In 1958, Wheeler Airlines supplied seven Stearmans and seven Avengers to the spray program [Wheeler Air Lines Ltd., Maintenance Division – Budworm, Progress Report, April 28, 1958]. The Avengers were six operational and one spare (CF-IMU, the untanked aircraft). The report states that the Avengers “are being converted by Fairey Aviation, Dartmouth, N.S. and are scheduled for completion by May 15.”

Wheeler TBM#500 wreck_JuniperNB_crashed Jun1958_L2A-04_annotated

Wheeler TBM#500 (CF-IMQ) wreck, Juniper NB, June 1958. In the early years, the Wheeler logo was red.

Wheeler TBM #504 FIMU and other Wheeler and Skyway TBMs, Fredericton NB, 1958

Wheeler TBM #504 FIMU (grey, foreground) and 4 yellow Wheeler and 2 Skyway TBMs, Fredericton NB, 1958.

ConAir TBMs parked at Fredericton NB, 5 Jul 1977

Wheeler TBMs #501 FIMR and 507 FIMX parked, 1966, sporting their yellow colours. In later years, the Wheeler logo was black.

Wheeler Northland Airways

Wheeler Northland Airways Ltd. was formed after Tom Wheeler sold his interest to Power Corporation. Based in St. Jean, Quebec and at the Montréal International (Dorval) – Montréal-Trudeau Airport (formerly called Dorval Airport). Wheeler Northland supplied TBMs to the spray program from 1968 to 1970. All were eventually sold to Evergreen Air Services in 1970.

Wheeler TBM#505 FIMV_12Nov1969_1038665

This is Wheeler-Northland TBM #505 FIMV at St-Jean, Quebec, 12 Nov 1969. She is no longer sporting her yellow plumage. [Frank Hudson, Airliners.net]

Avengers owned by Wheeler Airlines and Wheeler-Northland (WN) Airways from 1958 to 1970.
Tail # Reg’n. Crashed 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 WN
1969 WN 1970 WN
500 FIMQ Jun 1, 1958 ✓✓ x x x x x x x x x x x x
501 FIMR ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓
502 FIMS June 12, 1960 ✓✓ ✓✓ x x x x x x x x x x
503 FIMT May 2, 1963 ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ x x x x x x x x
504 FIMU Junked 1958 x x x x x x x x x x x x x
505 FIMV ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓
506 FIMW ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓
507 FIMX ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓
Total Wheeler TBMs in NB + Que 6 0 6? 5? 5 4 4 4 4 3 2 4 4
Total Wheeler TBMs 8 7 6 5 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Total All TBMs in NB 12 0 20 24 14 6 28 19 22 13 7 26 27

Evergreen Air Services

George Lovett, Operations Manager of Wheeler Airlines, formed his own company, Evergreen Air Services, in Quebec, in Roxboro and Pierrefonds, and bought the last four TBMs from Wheeler Northland in 1970. Two crashed and 2 were sold to FPL. Evergreen also had an office in Upper Blackville, NB, which is located southwest of Miramichi, halfway between Miramichi and Boiestown, in the neighbourhood of the Dunphy Airstrip.

Since FPL was not a licensed aircraft operator, an agreement was made with Evergreen Air Services Limited whereby Evergreen would “dry lease” the FPL TBMs and operate them under contract for the 1975 season. The formalities of FPL becoming a fully licensed operator were not completed prior to the 1976 season, thus dry leasing continued for another year. On 12 May, 1977, FPL was granted an Operating Certificate, which meant that dry leasing was no longer necessary. [FPL Annual Reports]

Avengers owned by Evergreen Air Services from 1971 to 1975.
Tail # Reg’n. Crashed 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975
501 FIMR ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓
505 FIMV ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓
506 FIMW Jun 10, 1975 ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓
507 FIMX Jun 7, 1974 ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ x
Total Evergreen TBMs in NB + Que 4 4 4 4 3
Total Evergreen TBMs 4 4 4 4 3
Total All TBMs in NB 45 44 18 20 32

Evergreen also owned a hangar at the Fredericton Airport, which was leased to Woodlands Aviation Limited, which conducted the maintenance of FPL’s aircraft under contract. FPL leased the hangar commencing 1 August 1985, and proceeded to carry out renovations for offices to accommodate headquarters personnel.

Likely Evergreen #506, FIMW, taking off from Sevogle NB, 1974. Dave Ray image.

Likely Evergreen #506, FIMW, taking off from Sevogle, NB, 1974. [Dave Ray image.]

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