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Brandon airport to restore McGill Field name

Ed McGill and his wife Eve after Brandon’s airport was officially named after the local aviation pioneer in 1970.

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Ed McGill and his wife Eve after Brandon’s airport was officially named after the local aviation pioneer in 1970. (FILE PHOTO)

An artist’s rendering of expansion plans, above, calls it the Brandon Municipal Airport, even though the facility was renamed after aviation pioneer Ed McGill some 44 years ago. Now, thanks to city officials and McGill’s family, the airport will be rededicated in his honour.

Enlarge Image

An artist’s rendering of expansion plans, above, calls it the Brandon Municipal Airport, even though the facility was renamed after aviation pioneer Ed McGill some 44 years ago. Now, thanks to city officials and McGill’s family, the airport will be rededicated in his honour. (PRAIRIE ARCHITECTS INC. AND AIRBIZ)

Ed McGill

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Ed McGill (FILE PHOTO)

Brandon airport officials say they will take advantage of planned upgrades to rededicate the facility as McGill Field.

Although big white letters across the terminal building currently spell out "Brandon Municipal Airport," the airport was officially renamed after local aviation pioneer Ed McGill in the early 1970s.

A plaque that’s still installed in the airport commemorates the redesignation from Dec. 31, 1970, but use of the name dwindled in the 1990s after regular jet service pulled out of Brandon.

"I’ve only been here five years, but it’s always been ‘Brandon Municipal Airport,’" said Tim Sanderson, the city’s director of transportation and airport manager. Sanderson works out of the airport and says he’d like to see the McGill Field name brought back.

"McGill Field has a better ring to it, and it links to history," he said. "Airport terminals are public terminals and this is an opportunity — as a municipality — to convey our history."

Businessman Bob Mazer, who was McGill’s son-in-law, says he brought the oversight to the city’s attention recently after a sign bearing the McGill Field name was taken down and replaced by one that said WestJet.

Mazer says his wife Patti was driving up to their cottage at Clear Lake when she noticed her dad’s name missing from the airport’s sign, just off of Highway 10 north of Brandon.

That’s when Mazer said he made a few phone calls to find out what was up.

Sanderson says the sign swap was just an oversight.

"It was old, dated and cracked," he said, and the backlit sign needed to be replaced anyway. Since the sign was also proclaiming service from Perimeter Airlines, it seemed natural to add that WestJet was flying into town as well.

Now, though, he says he is committed to ensuring that the McGill Field name finds prominence at the airport, especially as the city prepares for an $8.8-million overhaul of the aging terminal.

"There are other signs at the airport that need to be updated," he said. "As the terminal project proceeds, (we’d like to) do something permanent and official."

In the meantime, city manager Scott Hildebrand says they’re readying to put up a temporary sign that will restore McGill’s name to the airport.

"It’s the right thing to do," Hildebrand said. "It was just a simple oversight … we want to get this right."

Mazer said that his family feels better knowing that a new sign will soon replace the missing old one — and says that they would gladly chip in when it’s time for an all-new sign after the airport renovations are finished.

"We’re very proud of what he did," Mazer said. "He flew many missions in the war, and he was going to go into law until some friends of his talked him into being general manager of the flying club."

McGill’s later political career was marked by soft-spoken politeness, Mazer recalled. McGill was a three-term Progressive Conservative MLA for Brandon West. He died in 1996.

"I always called him a statesman," Mazer said. "We don’t have very many of those in politics."

City officials say that returning the name McGill Field to prominence will not only help them remember a statesman and pillar of the community, but will also help their current-day efforts to promote the airport as a regional hub for all of Westman.

"The airport’s not Brandon’s," Sanderson said, noting that the Brandon Municipal name doesn’t reflect the facility’s actual reach. "It’s used equally by the region as a whole."

Sanderson added that the daily WestJet Encore service at the airport remains strong.

WestJet Encore flies in from Calgary every day at 12:50 p.m. before turning around and heading back. Those flights depart from McGill Field at 1:20 p.m.

» ghamilton@brandonsun.com

Some confusion

Although a plaque at the airport says it was renamed McGill Field, the signage is heavily weighted towards calling it "Brandon Municipal Airport" instead.

Through much of the city’s attempts to woo regular air service through WestJet, it was referred to as the Brandon Municipal Airport. The airport’s official website, at airport.brandon.ca, refers to itself as the Brandon Municipal Airport. Both Wikipedia and flight-tracking websites call it the Brandon Municipal Airport, although Wikipedia notes the alternate name.

A Google search for "McGill Field" will bring up dozens of results for McGill University athletics programs before anything about Brandon’s airport.

Of course, with only one airport in Brandon, there’s little need for differentiating between McGill Field and any other Brandon airport.

There is also some debate whether the renaming to McGill Field was actually made official through Transport Canada, although a Brandon Sun article from early 1971 notes that Don Jamieson, the federal minister of transportation at the time, approved the change.

Staff at Transport Canada weren’t able to dig up any archival information about the airport’s official name before deadline yesterday.

The airport’s International Air Transport Association station code will remain YBR.

» Brandon Sun

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 23, 2014

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Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 3 Commentscomment icon

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Bob Mazer has it right, Ed McGill was a statesman. He was also a man of impeccable integrity and someone of whom Brandon should be particularly proud. His service to his country, to the city of Brandon and to the province of Manitoba has been overlooked for too long. He was instrumental in developing the Brandon airport, devoting twenty five years of his life to forming The Brandon Flying Club, founding Maple Leaf Aviation, managing both the club and airport as well as taking on the role of chief flying instructor. Naming the airport McGill Field on his retirement in 1970 was a fitting tribute. Brandon and southwestern Manitoba should be honoured to have their airport named after Ed McGill.
Jack R Miller
Pitt Meadows, BC

Hi Arlene, I guess I would just like to point out that McGill field is being used by non-Brandonites too. The entire corner of the province would rather fly from Brandon than do the drive to Winnipeg. I personally have taken a few flights out of Minot and Grand Forks and truth is the flights are generally a fair bit cheaper but when you factor in 4 to 6 hours of round trip driving, parking, and some times the need for a hotel, I am not sure if it has really saved me much. If the airport at Brandon can keep its current service level with WestJet Encore and hopefully attract something to link us to perhaps Toronto, then the city will definitely need the terminal they are planning for.

I would bet the city would be able to count on some kind of revenue stream with restaurants, shops, & hotels seeing boosted sales from air travelers coming through.

It sounds like the planned upgrades are a given, what if the Feds don't deliver? Will the city still correct their error in taking down the McGill Field sign? What a slap in the face to the McGill family!

Winnipeg airport is losing passengers to the United States but our city officials think that if our airport is expended three times the size that people will flock to fly out of our city? Who is doing the thinking in our city? Despite bridges and roads in dire need of repair the two top priorities for the Building Canada Fund is the airport and the fibre optics line running up the "McGill Field" Seriously?

Arlene Saito

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Brandon airport officials say they will take advantage of planned upgrades to rededicate the facility as McGill Field.

Although big white letters across the terminal building currently spell out "Brandon Municipal Airport," the airport was officially renamed after local aviation pioneer Ed McGill in the early 1970s.

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Brandon airport officials say they will take advantage of planned upgrades to rededicate the facility as McGill Field.

Although big white letters across the terminal building currently spell out "Brandon Municipal Airport," the airport was officially renamed after local aviation pioneer Ed McGill in the early 1970s.

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