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Member Profiles


Harold Anthony Oaks

Nickname: Doc
Birthdate: November 12, 1896
Birth Place: Hespeier, Ontario
Death Date: July 21, 1968
Year Inducted: 1974
Awards: D.F.C., The McKee Trophy

"The professional daring of his aerial expeditions into uncharted regions, led others of his breed to colonize the unknown north and bring outstanding benefits to Canadian aviation." - Induction citation, 1974

Harold Anthony (Doc) Oaks, D.F.C., B.A.Sc., was born in Hespeler, Ontario, on November 12, 1896. He was educated there and at Gait, Ontario. Oaks joined the Canadian Army in 1915 and served overseas until 1917 when he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in England. He earned his pilot's wings and a promotion to Captain, served in France as a fighter pilot with No. 2 and  no. 48 Squadrons, Royal Air Force (RAF), and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.) for gallantry. He attended the University of Toronto where he graduated as a mining engineer in 1922. During the summer months he worked as an assistant geologist for Mackenzie River Oil Company.

He worked for the Canadian Geological Survey in the field for a year, then joined Hollinger Gold Mine, prospecting for minerals in northern Ontario and Quebec. In 1924 he was hired by the Ontario Provincial Air Service after receiving his Commercial Pilot's Licence, and flew forestry patrols out of Red Lake, Ontario. Following a year of prospecting for minerals in the same area, he organized and managed Patricia Airways and Exploration Company at Sioux Lookout, Ontario, in 1926, with air mechanic Sammy Tomlinson. Their main service lines were to the gold mining regions of Red Lake and Woman Lake north of Dryden, Ontario.

Oaks envisioned the saving of time and money with low cost air transport of people and equipment over vast distances. He persuaded financier James A. Richardson, who had a similar vision, to form a new air line. In December 1926, Western Canada Airways was incorporated at Winnipeg, Manitoba. Oaks became general manager and sole pilot, flying a Fokker Universal from its base at Hudson, near Sioux Lookout. This company expanded rapidly, and became the first of Canada's major airline services.

Under Oaks' command, Western Canada Airways fulfilled a Canadian government contract in March of 1927 to airlift men and equipment from Cache Lake, Manitoba, to Fort Churchill, on Hudson Bay. Two pilots were hired for this difficult undertaking, the first of its kind ever attempted. Bernt Balchen and F.J. Stevenson flew in open cockpit aircraft through sub-zero temperatures and over alien ground, to make possible the creation of a new open port for Canada. In a month's time, they made twenty-seven round trips, transporting thirty tons (27,200 kg) of material and equipment and a crew of fourteen government engineers.  

It was at this time that Oaks and his air engineer, Al Cheesman, designed and built the first portable nose-hangar to enable mechanics to work on an aircraft's engine without freezing in the bitter cold. The small three-sided frame structure was equipped with a heater and a canvas flap which allowed the aircraft's nose to be inserted inside and kept relatively warm. Oaks was the first person to be awarded the Trans-Canada (McKee) Trophy. This was for the year 1927 in recognition of his work in organizing and operating air transport in northern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

When Northern Aerial Mineral Exploration Limited (N.A.M.E.) was formed in 1928 to search for potential mining properties in areas far removed from civilization. Oaks accepted the post of General Manager and Director of Air Operations. During this period he was involved in a number of emergency flights. One of the most notable was in the company of T.M. ‘Pat' Reid, when they flew 1,600 miles (2,575 km) along the sub-Arctic shores of Hudson Bay through inclement weather to locate a party of 13 stranded prospectors and return them to base. It was the first mid-winter flight into the area by a private company.

As one of the earliest known pilot/geologists. Oaks foresaw immense financial potential locked in the far reaches of the Canadian Shield, accessible only by canoe through twisting waterways. In 1928 he based his operation at Fort McMurray, Alberta, and flew engineers and prospectors, with their supplies, into promising wilderness locations. His pioneer flights into unmapped territory spurred other aviators to penetrate still further into the Northwest Territories. He remained with this company until 1930, when he formed his own aviation concern, Oaks Airways Limited, operating from Sioux Lookout until 1935, and from Port Arthur, Ontario, until 1943. During this time he earned his Air Engineer's Licence.

In 1943 Oaks was associated with the Clark Ruse Aircraft Company at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Central Aircraft Manufacturers at London, Ontario, as Manager of Flight Operations. From 1945 to 1953 he continued his work as a mining engineer at Port Arthur. In 1953 he became an aviation consultant to James A. Richardson and Company in Toronto. He died in Toronto on July 21, 1968.

Harold Anthony (Doc) Oaks was inducted as a Member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974 at a ceremony held in Edmonton, Alberta.

Suggested Reading: "Flying Canucks: Famous Canadian Aviators" - Peter Piggott, 1994

“Doc” Oaks was a leader in pioneering air transport in Canada in the 1920’s. He introduced the use of aircraft to fly men and equipment to outlying areas for mining and development work, at the same time helping two industries, aviation and mining, to thrive by working together.

Marion Alice Orr

Birthdate: June 25, 1918
Birth Place: Toronto, Ontario
Death Date: April 4, 1995
Year Inducted: 1982
Awards: C.M., The Amelia Earhart Medal (The 99's)

"Her firm dedication to aviation from youth, her ability to impart knowledge and encouragement to students and her determination to succeed, have all been of benefit to Canadian aviation." - Induction citation, 1982

Marion Alice Powell Orr, C.M., was born in Toronto, Ontario, on June 25, 1918. Having lost her parents at a young age, she joined the work force after completing grade eight to earn the money necessary to meet her earliest ambition - learning to fly. She commenced her flying lessons at Barker Field, Toronto, and qualified for her Private Pilot's Licence in December of 1939. During the next two years she was employed by de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited as an aircraft inspector. She earned a Commercial Pilot's Licence in December 1941, and seven months later passed the required flight tests at Royal Canadian Air Force Station, Trenton, Ontario, for a Flying Instructor's Rating, one of only six women to do so.

In August 1942, Orr was hired as Manager and Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) by the St. Catharines Flying Club in Ontario, thus becoming the first woman in Canada to operate a flying club. She was hired by No. 12 Elementary Flying School of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), at Goderich, Ontario. Here she became the second woman licenced as a control tower operator of Canada.

After World War II began. private and small commercial aviation was severely restricted. She and her friend Violet Milstead  applied to join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in the United Kingdom and were accepted. December 1942, she was hired by British Overseas Airways Limited as a pilot with the ATA, and in the spring of 1943 they boarded a ship for England. Orr flew the remainder of the war years ferrying 40 different types of single and twin-engine military aircraft, including Harvards, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Ansons, Swordfish and Tiger Moths from factories in the British Isles to the front line bases, returning with damaged machines to repair depots.

On her return to Canada at the end of the war, Orr was employed as a flight instructor with Gillies Flying Service, Buttonville Airport, Ontario. In 1947 she assumed the responsibilities of Manager and CFI of Aero Activities Limited at Barker Field, Toronto, and two years later purchased the company. Within two years she had trebled its flying hours and turned losses into profits. The sale of Barker Field for development purposes required that a new location be found for her company. In the spring of 1954 work commenced at a new site at Maple, a small town about 20 miles (32 km) north of Toronto, but only after she persuaded the residents that the airfield would be a valued addition to their town. The airfield was officially opened in September 1954, and she became the first woman licenced to operate an airport in Canada.

In 1957 Aero Activities Limited was sold and Orr returned to the flight line with Gillies Flying Service as an instructor. She also spent some time with the Sudbury Flying School where she was one of the first women to become involved in bush flying. In 1958 she left aviation for a year and returned in 1959 as the CFI of her former company, Aero Activities. In 1960 she joined Markham Toronto Airways with whom she remained for a year.

During 1961 she became interested in helicopter flying and on May 16 she was licenced to fly helicopters, the first woman in Canada to do so. Two months later she earned her Instructor's Rating, also a first for a woman in Canada, and was appointed CFI by Vendair, the helicopter school from which she received her training. In September 1961, while on an instructional flight in a Brantley B-2, the engine failed, and in the emergency landing she suffered a broken back. In June 1962, while recuperating in Florida, she received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States to instruct there on helicopters.

In July 1962, she returned to Canada to instruct at Donway Flying Service, Buttonville Airport, on light aircraft. However, her back would not tolerate the long hours of sitting in a cockpit, and in July 19'63, she decided to give up her life's work. However, she kept in practice when possible by recreational flying. Twelve years later she renewed her Instructor's Rating and returned to flying as an instructor with Toronto Airways Limited.

In 1976 her outstanding achievements in aviation were recognized by the International Organization of Women Pilots, The Ninety-Nines, which awarded her one of its highest honours, the Amelia Earhart Medal. She was named a Member of the Order of Canada (CM) in 1987. Orr died in a car accident in Ontario on April 4, 1995.

Marion Alice Powell Orr was inducted as a Member of  Fame in 1982 at a ceremony held in Edmonton, Alberta.

Suggested reading:
“No Place for a Lady - The story of Canadian Women Pilots” - Shirley Render (1992)

Marion Orr claimed she was born to fly - she never wanted to do anything else. During a career of over forty years, she logged more than 24,000 hours of which over 17,000 were as an instructor on single and twin-engine aircraft equipped with wheels, skis and floats, and in helicopters, a total of 100 different types. She taught thousands of pilots.