Wings over the West: Russ Baker & the Rise of Pacific Western Airlines
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
Ross Willmot is Executive Director of the Ontario Association for
This veteran aviation journalist, besides producing an exhaustive research study of Canada’s third national air carrier, has revealed many personal and fascinating details about the bush pilots, notably Russ Baker, who founded and developed the airline. Commissioned by PWA to write the history, Condit had access to airline files and personal records. The only censorship was “a cheek for liability.” When the time alloted for the commission ran out, the author continued research from many other sources on his own as a compulsion. The result is a major contribution to Canada’s aviation history.
The Alberta-government-owned company is now a model of responsible management, as it continues service on short but money-making routes through the North and Western Canada. Its early history, now recounted for the first time, gives many examples of bush-flying managers who guided the company’s corporate affairs as well as its airplanes over new and hazardous routes by the seats of their pants. Well-known aviation and business leaders were eased out of the airlines while Russ Baker advanced to the presidency. A mystic and expansive dreamer, Baker helped advance the company’s fortunes by his daring airplane rescues. (Whether these number in the hundreds, as he claims, is uncertain, given his acknowledged skill at prevaricating.) Among those who publicized Baker’s and the airline’s exploits was Pierre Benton, who in a foreword describes the early PWA as Baker’s “improbable little airline, which is now one of the country’s largest.”