Sherman Fairchild became interested in aircraft while working as an aerial surveyor with his company Fairchild Aircraft Ltd. located in Longueuil, Quebec. Fairchild found the aircraft available in the early 1920s unsuitable for use in remote areas due to their open cockpits and a lack of accommodation for bulky camera equipment. To remedy this, Fairchild founded the Fairchild Aviation Corporation in 1925 in Farmingdale, New York. The first plane manufactured by Fairchild’s company, the FC-2W2, had accommodation for seven passengers or a payload of 625 kg (1,400 lb) and was readily adaptable to operate on skis or floats. The “Razorback,” as it became known due to its triangular fuselage shape, was first flown in 1928 and quickly became popular as a general-purpose aircraft throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
One early production, FC-2W2, registered CF-AKT in 1928, was one of the first mail planes in the Montreal area. Purchased by Canadian Airways Limited in 1930, AKT continued flying local airmail routes and even set an international delivery speed record in 1931, when it carried mail to Montreal from Rimouski, Quebec, the same day it had arrived by ship from England. Canadian Airways Limited engineers upgraded AKT in 1932 to bring it up to the standards of Fairchild’s new model, the FC-71C. These upgrades included an expanded cabin and wings which could fold back against the fuselage to facilitate storage at landing sites without enclosed hangars.
Still in service during the Second World War, AKT was used on the Alaska Highway as an aerial “pick-up truck,” hauling supplies and personnel along the construction route between British Columbia and Alaska through Yukon Territory. During a routine cargo flight in 1943, disaster struck pilot Stan Emery when his engine failed 65 kilometers northwest of Watson Lake.
AKT was equipped with floats that day and, without a body of water in sight, Emery was forced to land in a heavily wooded area. Just before touchdown, the starboard float hit a tree and flipped the aircraft onto its back. Miraculously, Emery walked away without injury, aside from the badly swollen feet he suffered during his three-day trek back to base at Watson Lake.
CF-AKT languished, forgotten in the bush for 30 years until it was donated to the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada in 1974 by BC-Yukon Air Services. Thanks to a generous donation from George Richardson, President and CEO James Richardson & Sons Limited, the museum’s ground retrieval team readied the wrecked fuselage for helicopter pick-up. It was then moved to Watson Lake, where a Canadian Armed Force’s Hercules could pick it up and deliver it to Winnipeg for restoration. Stan Emery, who had retired from Canadian Pacific Airlines as a Douglas DC-8 captain, attended the re-dedication of CF-AKT in 1991, where he and his plane were reunited after 48 years.
CF-AKT is on display as part of the permanent collection at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.