By the time of his retirement in 1966, air engineer Albert Hutt was responsible for the maintenance of nearly half of the bush flying aircraft in Canada. Born in the small township of Halton, Ontario in 1901, Hutt joined the Royal Flying Corps at the age of 18 to do his part in the Great War and was sent to Texas, where training could continue during the winter months in the finer arts of aerodynamics and engine maintenance. By the time his training was complete hostilities in Europe had already ended and Hutt was sent to High River Air Station in Alberta.
In 1924, Hutt transferred to the newly formed Ontario Provincial Air Service where he served aboard Curtis H2SL Flying Boats as an air engineer and photographer tasked with surveying the vast hinterland of Northwestern Ontario. During long sojourns into the bush, Hutt made a lifelong friendship with pilot Leigh Brintnell.
In 1926, Brintnell traveled west to pursue a greater opportunity. James A. Richardson’s fledgling Western Canada Airways Limited (WCA) was expanding its operations and hiring the best and brightest from around the country at premium rates. Brintnell was swiftly appointed Operating Manager of the company’s new state-of-the-art Brandon Avenue air base, located on the bank of the Red River near the heart of Winnipeg. In 1928, Brintnell convinced his old friend Al Hutt to join him in Winnipeg as Chief Mechanic at Brandon Avenue. The Hutts moved their three young sons into the Brandon Court apartments, a short walk away from the air base.
By the 1930s the Brandon Avenue facilities had become the most extensive civilian aerodrome in Canada. “At Brandon Avenue we had to stock all of the engines, instruments and accessories – it would take three weeks to a month to get the stuff from the factory,” Hutt recalled in an interview in 1974. In addition to engine overhaul, Brandon Avenue was also equipped with wood, metal and cloth workshops for rebuilding wings and even whole planes when necessary. This meant WCA engineers had to be jack-of-all-trades. “A good engineer has lots of ambition and is a good gambler,” Hutt explains, “You have to read the book but you’ve got to use a lot of common sense too!” Brandon Avenue was busiest during the autumn freeze-up and spring break-up, when dozens of planes from around the country would arrive for annual overhaul. Despite all this activity, Hutt would spend much of the peak flying seasons traveling between other WCA bases, such as Lac du Bonnet and Sioux Lookout, to service grounded airplanes.
During the Second World War, Al Hutt continued to keep Canada’s civilian bush planes flying. His responsibilities were increased in 1942, when Richardson’s company amalgamated with other bush flying services into Canadian Pacific Air Lines. Al Hutt eventually transferred with his family to the new company headquarters in Vancouver where he was eventually promoted to Director of Maintenance and Engineering for the newly expanded national fleet. He continued with Canadian Pacific until his retirement in 1966, after 49 years at the cutting edge of Canada’s aviation industry. Albert Hutt passed away in 1991 and is remembered with Hutt Lake in Northern Ontario, named to honor his substantial role in opening Canada’s northern skies.
To learn more, please visit the Brandon Avenue Image Gallery, now on display at the museum.