Quebecair started life in 1946 as Rimouski Aviation but was renamed in 1953 when it merged with Gulf Aviation. Prior to the 1966 government decision Quebecair had, since the mid-50s, already been operating scheduled services when it started flying into Quebec City. True regional status was received in 1958 when not only was Montreal introduced but the airline took delivery of its first Fairchild F-27 turboprop (CF-QBA).
Quebecair's first Fairchild F-27 arrived on September 17, 1958. She was only the eleventh F-27 built and was registered CF-QBA. With her delivery Quebecair became the first regional airline in Canada to accept prop-jets. She was followed into service by two further F-27s registsred CF-QBZ (cn 14) and CF-QBL (cn 47). Quebecair grew through the 1960s taking over several smaller airlines as it went. The F-27s continued to be the fleet flagships alongside Douglas DC-3/C-47s of which there were 5 in 1968. The F-27 fleet itself was supplemented in 1966 with the addition of CF-QBD (cn 27) and in 1968 by CF-QBE (cn 40). QBE had formerly been an Aloha Airlines machine and her time with the airline was limited as she was leased out long term in December 1970.
Oddly in 1968 the airline rolled out a new livery which seemed half done (see photo below to right). An orange/red cheatline was the primary component with almost invisible titles low near the front and an all white tail. Thankfully this scheme lasted less than a year and was I believe only ever worn by some of the F-27s.
Timetable images above are from the collection of Bjorn Larson from http://www.timetableimages.com
By May 1969 as well as the 5th F-27 a pair of DHC-6 Twin Otters had also joined the fleet assisting with the replacement of the DC-3s. Initially for its jet requirements the F28 was favoured however the eventual order went instead to another European manufacturer when the F28 was deemed too small. That manufacturer was the British Aerospace Corporation. Two One-Eleven 400s joined in 1969 making Quebecair the last of the regional airlines to operate pure jets. The One-Eleven was a slightly unusual choice since all four of the other regionals had chosen the larger Boeing 737-200, however that type was deemed too large and low purchase price, equipment availability and ease of training assisted the British manufacturer to win the contract.
In 1969 Quebecair benefited from a strike at Air Canada and put its One-Elevens into service ahead of time temporarily operating the national carrier's routes in northern Ontario and Quebec, including between Montreal and Toronto. As well as being profitable this gave the small airline great exposure and the One-Elevens were very well received by the travelling public. The One-Elevens also enabled expansion of the inclusive tour operations undertaken at the weekends to destinations such as Miami, Freeport in the Bahamas and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Despite the success of its initial jet operations and a wish to expand Quebecair's growth was restrained by the regulatory landscape. The airline was unable to expand at Montreal or acquire interborder routes to the USA, whilst attempts to merge with either Eastern Provincial or Nordair came to nothing. These issues would eventually compound to cause financial troubles at the airline and the 1960s was in retrospect perhaps Quebecair's most successful period.
In the next instalment we'll take a look at Quebecair into the 1970s:
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: