This week in history: Seaplane starts first air service in city

June 19, 1930: Norine Patterson, eldest daughter of Mayor A.M. Patterson, cracked a bottle of wine over the nose of a Junkers F.13 to christen the plane "The City of Prince George."

The seaplane was owned by the Air- Land Manufacturing Company and was to be based as Six-Mile Lake.

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"The christening of the 'City of Prince George' would not only show the friendly relations existing between the city and the Vancouver company, which would make Six-Mile Lake the base for its air service for the interior of the province, but would secure for the city more advertising than could possibly come from the expenditure of hundreds of dollars through the ordinary advertising channels," The Citizen reported in a summary of Patterson's remarks. "Speaking for the City of Prince George, he wished the 'City of Prince George' and her popular pilot every success in their venture to establish an air travel base to serve for the development of those sections of the interior which, as yet, are not reached by the ordinary means of communication."

Patterson said he believed that Canada Post was in the process of looking for the most favourable passes through the Rocky Mountains to establish mail routes. The establishment of an air service out of Prince George, "could not fail to direction attention of the postal authorities to this city, and the Yellowhead and Peace River passes."

Pilot Bill Joerss told the crowd of 500 people gathered to watch the christening said that before he recommended Prince George as a base for the service he "made a careful study of the situation, and felt confident he had made a wise choice."

"The initial flight of the afternoon was then undertake with Mayor Patterson and his two daughters, Norine and Georgina, and city clerk V.R. Clerihue and Mrs. Clerihue as passengers," The Citizen reported. "The plane taxied down to the end of the lake and turned around. It then raced through the water, gaining speed, for nearly one-half mile, when it lifted from the lake and rose rapidly into the hills at the northern end."

After circling over Pineview the plane gently landed back on the lake. A second flight was made with several dignitaries, including R.A. Renwick of The Citizen.

"From the beginning to the end of the making of a flight is a delightful experience. With pilot Joerss at the controls one has to be on the watch to note when the plane leaves the water, and on the finish of the trip the pontoons are dropped into the lake so gently that there is no semblance of shock."

The second trip took a longer jaunt, including a tour over the city.

"Although the machine was travelling at an average of eighty miles (per hour) there was very little sense of movement," The Citizen reported. "Instead of the plane travelling there was a the feeling it was hanging in the air and that a panoramic view of the terrain was unfolding beneath it."

"(One might say a comprehensive view of Prince George can only be had from the air. The little town certainly has some class viewed from above. Its streets are clearly etched out as they make their way through the forest growth which has come in the sixteen-year interval since the townsite was cleared. The homes, for the most part, are attractive and the flower gardens and boulevards are much more numerous and pleasing in appearance than most residents are aware," The Citizen reported.

Joerss said he will offer sightseeing flights of the area for $25 for up to five passengers at a time, with flights to "local points" offered at $1.50 a mile for up to five passengers -with a $50 extra charge if an overnight stop is required.

(ITALIC) The German-made Junkers F.13 was the first all-metal transport aircraft, with an advanced cantilever-wing monoplane design. It was a single-engine aircraft with a heated passenger compartment for four, plus a semi-enclosed cockpit and its landing gear could be switched out with pontoons for water landings.

The 158 horsepower, six-cylinder engine gave the plane a range of 1,400 kilometres at a cruising speed of 160 km/h. The planes were produced from 1919 to 1932, and a total of 322 were sold.

Of those, only a handful remain today - and the City of Prince George, or at least part of it, is one of them.

The Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology) in Berlin has the fusilage of a Junkers F.13 on display, still clearly marked with the words "Prince George."

The Citizen and city councillor Albert Koehler attempted to contact the museum to find out more about the plane, and how it came into the museum's collection. No response was received as of press time. (END ITALIC)

To explore 100 years of local history yourself, visit the Prince George Citizen archives online at: pgc.cc/PGCarchive. The Prince George Citizen online archives are maintained by the Prince George Public Library.

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