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Canadian Airlines of the Past - Part 1

C-GFAP Fairchild Aerospace Metro II of Air Toronto
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) - 02 September 1989

C-GFAP Fairchild Aerospace Metro II of Air Toronto at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) - 02 September 1989 © Caz Caswell 1989

Photographic Copyright Caz Caswell © 1989-2008

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Notes by Caz Caswell and Douglas Holland with additional information from Rob Mauracher
(any errors are ours not Rob's):

Like many Canadian Airlines Air Toronto had a complex genecology and even in its short history there were complex twists and turns.

Soundair Corporation & Commuter Express     Commuter Express to Air Toronto     End of Soundair Corporation
Air Toronto Inc - A False New Dawn     Related Pictures & Notes     Metro Aircraft - External Links

Soundair Corporation and the formation of Commuter Express
In 1973 Owen Sound Air Services (OSAS) was formed as a flying school and charter airline. However OSAS developed into a contract based Cargo Airline working for Purolator Courier and then adding Airborne Express and Emery Air Freight.

In 1984 OSAS was taken over by Soundair Corporation. Soundair also took over Aero Trades Western, which unlike OSAS was Passenger oriented, including scheduled services and used the DC-3s and also Douglas DC-4. Two years later Convair CV-580 replaced the DC-4s and also the DC-3s were disposed of in favour of the Fokker F27 Friendship. Soundair progressively moved out of Passengers Services to become primarily a Contract based Cargo Airline.

In 1986 (?) Soundair saw a gap in the market decided to move into passenger commuter operations and formed a new subsidiary Company called Commuter Express and acquired Fairchild Aerospace Metros for the fleet. The Cargo Operations continued as before except under the Soundair Express name.

Soundair also applied for Canadian Licences to start Passenger Charters serving Holiday Destinations, with the initial application stating the planned equipment would be DC8 and Boeing 727 Aircraft, this eventually resulted in the formation of the third Soundair Corporation Airline, Odyssey International For Information see:
C-FNBC Boeing 757-28A of Odyssey International and Associated Notes . In addition Soundair Corporation also went (briefly) into Aircraft Leasing, having ownership of Douglas DC8F-55 C-FCWW when it was operated by Air Charter Systems (ACS)
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Commuter Express to Air Toronto
The Commuter Express operation was different to most, if not all other Canadian Commuter Airlines of the time, as it concentrated exclusively on high frequency Canada-US trans-border markets with no domestic Canadian Routes! This strategy proved very successful and by the third quarter of 1987 six aircraft were serving four US Cities and a seventh was on order.

Air Canada were impressed enough to bring Commuter Express into the Air Canada Connector Scheme, with the commercial agreement being signed in November 1987. One of the main aims was to link the Commuter Express services into the already extensive Air Canada Ontario Commuter Network operated by Air Ontario.

In 1988 the Aircraft were repainted in Air Canada Commuter livery and at the same time Commuter Express was re-branded Air Toronto.

The Metro Fleet was being out grown (it appears some were transferred to Soundair Express for light cargo work) and replace them with Jetstream 31 Aircraft which were ordered in early 1988, plus a single Convair Cv-580 Aircraft was brought onto the Fleet.

Turbulent Times and the end of Soundair Corporation
Soundair's aggressive expansion started to go wrong towards the end of 1989 with an economic recession resulting in lower bookings for Air Toronto and a major reduction in charter demand at Odyssey, plus the loss of an important Soundair Express Freight Contract. As a result Soundair found itself in difficult financial situation. In April 1990 Soundair Corporation ceased all operations, with debts of C$85 Million.
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Air Toronto Inc - A False New Dawn
But Air Toronto was too important to Air Canada for it be allowed to disappear. It immediately launched a rescue bid but despite an apparent agreement to the Sale, Air Canada did NOT end up owning the company, which restructured itself as Air Toronto Inc.

Although at the end of its first financial year as an independent entity in early 1991 Air Toronto Inc declared a profit, this disguised what was happening behind the scenes.

The effects of the First Gulf War were still impacting Airlines worldwide and small independent companies like Air Toronto were more exposed to its effects than perhaps similar Airlines backed by one of the majors. Therefore it is not surprising that in May 1991 Ontario Express (now fully owned by Canadian Airlines International through its subsidiary Canadian Regional Airlines ) began Takeover negotiations.

But even as these negotiations progressed, Air Toronto was being restructured internally with unfortunate results and in July 1991 Air Toronto Inc was forced to cease operations.

Although Ontario Express was already in takeover talks, Air Canada briefly entered the fray, as it wanted to claim the route network. But Air Canada lost out and despite the takeover not actually being completed Ontario Express was tasked with starting integration of assets.

One of the first steps Ontario Express took was to send its then CEO and President Ron Patmore to speak to the Air Toronto staff, that happened to include a certain Caz Caswell.

Air Toronto now entered a strange twilight existence, whereas it was betwixt and between, being considered part of Ontario Express, whilst not actually taken over.

A deal was finalised in September 1991, but ownership was not effectively transferred until 01 November 1991, but even then some issues remained outstanding and dragged on until formal completion in 1992.
So ended the complex, if relatively short story of Air Toronto.
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Related Pictures and associated Notes
More Air Toronto Pictures:
C-GQRO Bae Jetstream 31 of Air Toronto post Ontario Express Take over (Next Picture)
C-FICA Convair CV-580 of Air Toronto on 15 January 1990 - Toronto Pearson International Airport Album

Ontario Express:
C-GJPX Bae Jetstream J31 of Ontario Express and associated Ontario Express Notes

See Also:
C-GFAD Beechcraft 1900C of Frontier Air - Another Airline taken over by Ontario Express

Soundair Corporation the founding company of Air Toronto also owned a third Airline - Odyssey International:
C-FNBC Boeing 757-28A of Odyssey International and associated Odyssey International Notes

Fairchild Aerospace Metro Family External Links
Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner or the Fairchild Aerospace Metro - Wikipedia Entry
Also see:
Fairchild Aircraft - Short History of the various Fairchild Companies and Products - Wikipedia Entry
M7 Aerospace - Heirs and Successors to the Fairchild Companies
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