The Boeing 707 saw a surprising amount of service time in Canada flying charter services of one kind or another despite the fact that both Air Canada and CP Air preferred the Douglas DC-8. The Canadian regional scheduled airlines did a brisk trade in long range charters during the 1960s and early 70s with Pacific Western, Transair and Quebecair all operating 707s at times (albeit often series 100s).
Above: 707-100s from Quebecair and Pacific Western
Like the two major international airlines Nordair preferred the DC-8 but the charter airline Wardair Canada also operated 707s between 1968 and 1978. The withdrawal of the regional airlines from much of their charter networks during the mid-70s probably made it look like there was a decent niche for new charter operators and in 1976 Ontario Worldair was formed by a Jim Mclean led group in Toronto.
It took a few years to get the airline off the ground and the first service wasn’t initiated until December 1, 1978 using a single Boeing 707-338C registered C-GRYN. This aircraft was reasonably new having been only delivered on February 6, 1968 to Qantas as VH-EAC. Her first service was to Christchurch on March 3rd and 27 days later she had the honour of flying the Queen and Prince Phillip between Auckland and Sydney. In fact during her career she flew two Australian Prime Ministers and Princess Margaret. Nonetheless in 1975 she was leased to British Caledonian as G-BDKE for around 3 months. Her final flight with Qantas was on October 28, 1978 between Sydney and Denpasar.
With a total time of 34,772 hours and 13,040 landings she was sold to ITEL Capital Service Group and repainted in Sydney into the Ontario Worldair scheme, who had leased her services. She departed to Toronto, via Honolulu and Vancouver, with a fifth engine pod fitted on November 24, 1978.
C-GRYN’s first service was to Montego Bay, Jamaica and her initial service was a selection of flights to various Caribbean, South American and European destinations for Sunflight Tours. Following her first summer season GRYN was chartered by the Canadian government to transport Vietnamese refugees from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to Montreal and Toronto. Within one year the aircraft had visited an impressive 68 cities in 31 countries.
Ontario Worldair grew to a two aircraft operation in January 1980 when a second 707 was leased. This aircraft was an ex-Northwest 707-351C leased from the Belgium charter carrier Abelag S.A. but had previously seen service in Canada as C-FPWJ with Pacific Western. With Ontario Worldair she became C-GRYO. The charter programme for that season was the usual mix of sun seeker trips but increasing fuel prices for the thirsty 707s didn’t help the fledgling airline’s profitability.
Hadj pilgrimage flights between Kano, Nigeria and Jeddah in October were a useful diversion for the low season but the contract ended prematurely when Nigeria Airways successfully pressurized the Nigerian government into ending it. The impact on Ontario Worldair, which was already struggling financially, was too much and the airline entered receivership on November 6, 1980. The second 707 was returned to Abelag (since renamed Air Belgium) but operations with C-GRYN continued until January 13, 1981 when hopes of a bail out by travel agencies collapsed.
By this time 707s hardly represented the ideal aircraft for charter duties but despite spending a few months in storage C-GRYN was successfully leased once again, this time to the Canadian charter airline Worldways Canada. Keeping her existing identity, she operated her first service for them on June 21, 1981. In fact the 707 was a major step up for Worldways, which although having existed since 1973 had up until then operated piston DC-4s and Convairs. Worldways was a lot more successful than Ontario Worldair and added another pair of 707s to its fleet in November 1981 and January 1982 respectively.
Nonetheless the 707s ended up only being a stopgap type for the growing Worldways and the acquisition of a trio of ex CP Air DC-8-63s signalled the end of 707 service in Canadian civil passenger service. C-GRYN operated her last service, between Acapulco and Toronto on May 19, 1983.
Worldways itself grew into a major presence on the Canadian charter scene and acquired a fleet of Lockheed L-1011 Tristars and Boeing 727s to add to its DC-8s. Unfortunately it struggled to survive the downturn of the late 80s and ceased operations in November 1990.
Meanwhile C-GRYN was still going strong into the 1990s and beyond, albeit in military service, having been handed over to the Royal Australian Air Force on June 17, 1983 as A20-623. Named ‘Clarendon’ she flew with the RAAF as a transport, and later an air refueling tanker, for over twenty years until being retired on May 8, 2007. At retirement she had flown 56,675 hours of which 11,104 hours was in RAAF service.
Even then her career was not fully over as she was sold to Omega Air in 2011 where as N623RH she is still held in long term storage in case Omega’s fleet of tankers needs to grow further.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: