|Lt Gov McGibbon, Gene, Yvon|
A whole varied fleet of big yellow monsters was crawling all over the place at the Chapleau Municipal (now Eugene Bernier) Airport when Margaret 'Maggie' Costello paid it a visit in the Spring of 1973.
Writing in the Sault Star, Maggie noted that Gene Bernier and Yvon Martel were "happy men" to see construction on the airstrip begin as it had been a long road since the airport idea had first been suggested and they had worked "untiringly with senior governments and others" to provide Chapleau with an airport.
Although Chapleau had an airport by 1970, the construction taking place in 1973 was in preparation for the introduction of NorOntair service daily to the community.
Maggie's big yellow monsters were flattening out the terrain preparatory to giving it a 12-inch topping of crushed rock. In the planning stages was a terminal building too.
Upon completion, Maggie predicted that the runway as well as NorOntair service would be a "boon and a blessing in more ways than one" for Chapleau.
By the Fall of 1973, the new airstrip and a new access road to the airport had been completed. .
A celebration of sorts was held when a DC-3 Dakota with Steve Herniak of Austin Airways as the pilot came from Timmins, "floated down from the clear blue sky onto the hard and solid crushed rock runway for a short visit." It was the largest aircraft to land thus far on the new runway.
The flight had been arranged by Bill Cram, the pilot for the Ministry of Natural Resources. Included in the welcoming committee were Gene, Yvon, Walter Broomhead, Jack Russell, William Ward and others. Pilot Herniak treated a number of citizens to a flight around the area.
|First scheduled NorOntair flight 1974|
The next step was to bring NorOntair service to Chapleau.
Application had been made by the Fall of 1973 for an airport license and to Ontario Hydro for construction of a power line.
By early 1974, the township council and airport commission had held a meeting to review developments at the airport and plan for the introduction of NorOntair service in July.
|Opening of terminal building 1975|
Gene told council that a permanent terminal building would not be required at the time that the license was granted as long as one was forthcoming soon. It was completed in 1975.
The capital expenditures for the entire airport project, from the time Gene, Yvon and others undertook it in 1963, was paid for by federal and provincial government grants and volunteer labour and equipment. In 1972, the municipality entered into an agreement with the federal Minister of Transport, and the township would be responsible only for maintenance at the airport. It was a prime example of volunteerism for the betterment of the community at its best, and involved a commitment to the project daily for more than 10 years.
On March 14, 1974, the first NorOntair flight, not scheduled, brought dignitaries to Chapleau for a day of meetings with the council and airport commission to make sure that all improvements required had been met prior to the introduction of daily NorOntair service.
"For Gene Bernier... Yvon Martel, Stan Deluce (White River Air Service) and many more who have been involved, it brought a dream to nearly final realization.," Maggie wrote.
By the summer of 1974, Chapleau had daily NorOntair service which continued until 1996 when the government of Premier Mike Harris closed it down.
In 1975, Premier Bill Davis visited Chapleau, landing at the airport on the very day he had called a provincial election. He was visiting to visit the Chapleau General Hospital site and discuss municipal projects. In 1978, Gene and Yvon were on hand to welcome Ontario Lt. Gov. Pauline McGibbon when she arrived to officially open the Chapleau Civic Centre on June 28.
|MJ greeted by Bud Park|
CELEBRATING THREE YEARS OF CHAPLEAU MOMENTS
This column marks the third anniversary of Chapleau Moments in the Chapleau Express. Wow, I never thought it would last three months after Mario Lafreniere invited me to write it. Thanks to everyone who has helped in any way, and to all those who talked with me about it at the CHS reunion, your comments are much appreciated. I am following up on story ideas, but if I do not contact you, please email me at email@example.com