At the suggestion of the Brandon Flying Club and the unanimous approval of what was then the Airport Management Board nearly 44 years ago, Brandon’s municipal airport was rechristened McGill Field by the City of Brandon.
The honour was a fitting tribute to Ed McGill, a Second World War veteran pilot who had returned to his adoptive community of Brandon after the conflict and devoted his time and effort to retaining the city’s airport facilities before the government’s Crown Assets Corporation could sell them off.
McGill, who would later serve three terms as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Brandon West, was chief instructor of the Brandon Flying Club, and served for more than a quarter-century as its secretary-manager. He also helped form Maple Leaf Aviation and helped organize satellite flying schools around Westman.
Without Ed McGill, it’s quite likely that Brandon’s airport would look much different these days, if it were to exist at all. Thus it made sense four decades ago to honour a man who can easily be considered an aviation pioneer for this community.
And it still makes sense today.
A plaque that bears the McGill name still hangs in the airport terminal, though the moniker has fallen out of use by city staff in recent years.
That fact was driven home last week when McGill’s daughter, Patti Mazer, wife of local businessman Bob Mazer, noticed that a sign bearing the McGill Field name had been taken down and replaced by one that said WestJet.
And after making a few phone calls to the city and the Sun, a flurry of activity has followed at the airport to restore the McGill Field name.
Whether it really was just an oversight by city staff, we are glad to see that the city is attempting to make amends and ensure the McGill name becomes a permanent fixture of our municipal airport with a new sign after the airport renovations are finished.
As you can read in today’s Sun, what the final wording of the airport name will be now has some added bureaucratic confusion after staff found a letter from the federal Department of Transport that denied a request by the city for the government to approve McGill Field as the official name of the Brandon airport.
“Airports are now named after their respective communities or area that they serve and, with all due respect to Mr. E. McGill’s contributions to the Brandon Airport and aviation in the area, an exception cannot be favourably reviewed,” the letter read.
And so McGill Field still carries the official title of Brandon Municipal Airport, in spite of efforts so many years ago to honour Ed McGill.
But more than four decades on, it would appear that the reasons given for denying the request have changed. Exceptions to the no-personal-names rule can be finagled for some airports, for some reasons — Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport being a nearby example.
As Brandon airport manager Tim Sanderson told the Sun this week, however, any name still needs to have a geographical designation. How the city ultimately chooses to remember McGill after the airport renos are complete is still up in the air, but we suggest it finds a way to incorporate the McGill name in the official airport designation, not just for the improved terminal building.
Brandon’s airport is truly a regional facility that serves not just Brandon residents but all of western Manitoba. We think the rejuvenation of McGill Field offers a great chance for city planners to reflect that reality.
On-site buildings could be named after two other important Westman citizens who have made contributions to the airport:
• Wes Agnew, a Hartney-area farmer and airplane collector who helped found the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum;
• And late Boissevain native Art Peters, an enthusiastic, community-minded individual who became a tireless booster for the installation of an Instrument Landing System at Brandon’s airport, which helped pave the way for the return of commercial passenger service.
There are no doubt countless others who have made contributions to the airport over the years. If readers have any other suggestions, we’d love to hear them.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 29, 2014