The blog photos of Bonanza “The Flying Chef” raised the question, “At which Hamilton airport did Bob Finlayson take these photos?” Hamilton’s first permanent airport dates to 1926, when Jack V. Elliot established a flying school along Beach Road. In 1928 the federal Air Board, established in Ottawa in 1919, recognized Elliot’s airfield. In 1927, however, with funding from the city of Hamilton and International Airways, work began on a new airport about a mile from Elliot’s field. The facility was ready for use in 1930. It included two hard-surface runways, two hangars, field lighting and a navigation beacon to help guide planes flying the Detroit-Toronto mail.
The airport was owned by the city and managed by the aero club. Cub Aircraft of Canada set up a factory in the late 1930s (see below) to manufacture small Piper planes and the aero club won a contract early in the war to train RCAF pilots. However, the airport by then was waning. It had only marginal facilities and was too close to the city for expansion. Instead, the DND built a major new training base up on the Niagara Escarpment at the rural center of Mount Hope – the site of today’s modern John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (YHM).
Although outdated, Hamilton’s old airport continued through and after the war, especially with Cub and a new company, Peninsula Air Service. However the aero club had moved to Mount Hope, and urban sprawl was encroaching on all sides of the airport. In 1951 what by then was known as “Hamilton Municipal Airport” closed. Henceforth, Hamilton focused its aviation interests at Mount Hope.
In our rare heading photo of “old” Hamilton airport around 1940, you can see the same old hangar that’s in Bob photos. In his shots you can see that by 1950/51 the hangar had become the main base for Glen White’s Peninsula Air Service. Glen, however, inevitably relocated to Mount Hope, and old Hamilton Municipal Airport was ploughed under for development. The hangar to the right is Cub Aircraft of Canada, considerably expanded by 1950 since erected in 1939. In the more detailed photo of the Cub hangar (found in the rich collection of aviation photographer, the late Al Martin) you can see how Cub had raised its roof considerably, probably to accommodate wartime manufacturing and overhaul contracts. Several Hamilton-built Cubs remain airworthy in 2016.