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Abandoned airfield played a role in Canada’s aviation industry

July 2019

On Gilmore Road in Fort Erie, Ontario, behind the Fleet Canada plant, sits an abandoned 2500 foot runway that once served as a private airfield for one of Canada’s oldest aerospace manufactures:  Fleet Aircraft of Canada, Ltd., the predecessor company of Fleet Canada Inc.

Fleet Aircraft of Canada officially opened for operations on 23 March 1930, designing and manufacturing bi-planes from their factory on Gilmore Road.  Many of these early airplanes currently reside in aviation museums across Canada, including the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.

For over 88 years, Fleet has been involved in the manufacturing and assembling of a variety of aerospace structures and related components, including satellites for NASA, along with a variety of non-aviation related products.  Some of Fleet’s non-aviation production includes CabinCar trailers, Twin Coach buses, ship board aluminum furniture, Fleetlite windows and doors, baby furniture, counter tops, kitchen sinks, Astral refrigerators, Feather Craft boats and components for radar antennas used at the former RCAF Pinetree Line radar stations that once stretched across Canada.

Fleet Canada was very active in airplane and airplane components manufacturing during World War II, producing Cornells for U.S.-based Fairchild, the deHavilland designed the DHC-2 Beaver and CS2F-1 Tracker, A.V. Roe Canada’s CF-100 and Canadair’s F86- Sabre Jet.

A 2500 foot runway was built on the south end of the property, providing executives with the ability to fly in from other Magellan divisions and for customers to fly their own planes for convenience.

Fleet was a part of manufacturing the first helicopter in Canada, the LZ-5, in 1955 through its partnership with Doman Helicopters Inc. of Danbury, Connecticut.

Operating out of a 500, 000 square foot manufacturing facility, “Fleet Canada Inc. supplies the global aerospace industry, including industry leaders such as Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Viking Air.”

In 1996, Fleet Industries was renamed Magellan Aerospace.

Magellan closed the facility in December of 2005 and sold the assets to a local group led by Glenn Stansfield. The new company, Fleet Canada Ltd., re-opened the doors in February of 2006 with 14 employees, all of whom were shareholders in the enterprise.

The airfield is abandoned and the tarmac is cracked and crumbling. The runway still has FLEET at the east end and a third of the way further along, you can still see “28”, indicating the runway was 28-10.

Sources:  http://ourairports.com/airports/CNJ3, http://www.fleet.ca/site/history-areospace-ontario


About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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