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The Yukon's Deal-maker

The Yukon's Deal-maker

Grant McConachie could wheel and deal on the fly
By Daniel Campbell
Aug 18
2016
From the August/September 2016 Issue

When Grant McConachie first landed in Whitehorse in 1937 flying a beat-up old Ford Trimotor, he certainly didn’t look like the man who, 10 years later, would become president of the second-largest airline in Canada. 

In Bush Pilot with a Briefcase: The Incredible Story of Aviation Pioneer Grant McConachie, author Ronald A. Keith describes how McConachie bargained his way into bush flying in the Yukon. He’d swung a deal for the $55,000 Trimotor, getting it for a mere $2,500 from a man in Fort Erie, Ontario, then using the big plane to haul fish for two winters in Northern Alberta. It was the biggest commercial aircraft available in Canada, but it was ill-suited to flying off water and frozen lakes. McConachie was interested in getting an air service in the Yukon started, so he needed to ditch the plane. He made another deal: he’d fly the Trimotor up to Carcross, Yukon, where George Simmons of Northern Airways would trade him for his Fairchild FC2W2, worth about $10,000—plus give McConachie $8,000 cash. 

Simmons apparently wasn’t too happy when he saw the well-used Trimotor in Whitehorse, but agreed on the deal after McConachie showed him how much it could haul. 

Little did Simmons know, he’d just been drawn into a “McConachie deal,” as such transactions would become known. A government inspector grounded the Trimotor after the trade, and the plane sat for repairs the whole summer. Meanwhile, McConachie moved his planes to the Yukon and took over Simmons’ contracts. 

McConachie would go on to become president of Canadian Pacific Air Lines in 1947, where he advocated for trans-polar air routes, fought the monopoly of government-owned Trans-Canada Airlines, and pioneered transatlantic and transpacific flights from Canada. He died of a heart attack in 1965 in Long Beach, California, at the age of 56.