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.
(PRAIRIE ARCHITECTS INC. AND AIRBIZ)
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.
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