On February 7, 1968 a Canadian Pacific Airlines flight from Honolulu was on final descent into Vancouver when it hit a small fog patch just above the runway. The Boeing 707 touched down, swerved out of control and smashed through light planes, trucks and a workshop before crashing into a concrete building. Martinus Verhoef, a 33-year-old flight attendant from West Vancouver was crushed to death in the buckled fuselage near the front of the plane, and Elmer Nedcalf, a 44-year-old airport employee from Richmond died in the wreckage from the workshop.
All sixty passengers and crew survived.
This was the first crash at the airport involving a major aircraft and a rough start to the year for YVR.
It was also the same year that the airport opened a new terminal building designed by local architect Zoltan Kiss to handle all domestic, US and international flights. It was one of the few airports where aircraft could pull up to gates attached to the terminal and where passengers could load and unload via a bridge.
If you’ve taken a plane from Vancouver to any other point in Canada—you’ve walked through this terminal. You’ve also likely noticed the two large air-intake towers that flank it. These concrete towers were an engineering feat back in 1968 and replaced the old system which had the air intake in the roof. When the wind would blow the wrong way, employees and passengers would complain about the overpowering smell of aviation fuel.
YVR officially opened in 1931 when the City of Vancouver invested $600,000 in a runway and a small wood framed building topped by a control tower after US aviator Charles Lindbergh refused to visit because there was “nothing fit to land on.”
Big changes happened in the ‘60s after the City sold the Airport to the Department of Transport. By 1968 the airport sat on more than 4,000 acres of land, and the spanking new terminal building served close to two million passengers in its first year of operation.*
Half a century later, more than 24 million passengers pass through YVR.
And, while air travel today generally sucks, the good news is that not one person died in an accident on a commercial passenger jet last year —making 2017 the safest year ever.
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