Fifty Years Ago: Vancouver International Airport

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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.

Thanks to Angus McIntyre for passing along this photo that was published by the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board in 1969. The caption read: “A modern jet-age terminal opened on Sea Island. Giant boarding arms reach out to serve air-age travellers to all domestic points and exotic foreign centres around the world.”

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.

A recent view of YVR, courtesy Angus McIntyre

Kiss worked for Thompson Berwick Pratt, the firm that served as an incubator for such other up-and-comers as Arthur Erickson, Ron Thom, Barry Downs and Fred Hollingsworth.

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 in 1967. Photo courtesy Vancouver Airport Authority (air-intake tower at left of frame)

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.*

“I remember how large and modern it was compared to the old (now South) terminals. You could drive your car up to the departure level, park and pay 25 cents at a meter,” says Angus McIntyre. Photo courtesy Vancouver Airport Authority.

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.

Before and after. Photo courtesy Vancouver Airport Authority

*see SFU: The history of Vancouver International Airport


© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.



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  1. I love YVR! My first plane ride was in 1982 for our honeymoon to Hawaii. We sat on an upper level, and the plane was huge. Alas, smoking was allowed back then and I nearly croaked. My Mom has never been on a plane. I think our airport is one of the prettiest in the world.

  2. Yes, I agree Loretta, I don’t have the privledge to travel often , but , i Love and Respect our YVR as one of the nicest Airports that I have been to ! I remember this airport back in the 60’s .. my Father , traveled often for his work , and when we would go to pick him up., we could watch from the viewpoint, as they had to walk from the plane across the tarmack into the building, and we would, does, that make me old or what ? lol

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