Captain Douglas Cowan Fraser
Site hosted by Build your free website today!


Aviation in Newfoundland

This page is dedicated to the Memory Of
Captain Douglas Cowan Fraser C.O.F.

pioneer aviator in the Dominon of Newfoundland



During Easter Holidays 1922 a young student of 17 years From the Dominion of Newfoundland took a joy ride  in a  small aircraft. This collection of Photos Show highlights of a fifteen year aviation career. 1930 - 1945






SOLO FEBUARY 2/1930 1.00 PM
           TIME IN THE AIR   15MIN.

Captain Douglas Cowan Fraser was born in St. John's, Newfoundland,Great,Great,Grandson of Rev. Donald Allan Fraser of Torosay,Mull,Scotland son of Dr. Nutting Stuart (N.S.) and Maude Cowan Fraser. He was educated at Bishop Field College, St. John's; Framlingham College, Suffolk, England and Sir George Williams Business School, Montreal.

Douglas first developed an interest in aviation while observing the operations of the Aerial Survey Company and its pilots Sidney Cotton,Sydney Bennett and Alan Butler. In 1921 in England while attending Farmilingham, a pilot from the Cricklewood Airport took him up for his first air ride.

Upon completing his education with Framlingham, Douglas returned to Newfoundland, where he worked for the Newfoundland Butter Co., a local Bank and Bert Hayward's automotive garage.

Douglas moved to Montreal where he secured employment with Curtiss-Reid Aircraft Manufacturing Company as a mechanic. The next year he received a private pilot licence, number 526 and in 1930 a Canadian Commercial Pilot's licence, number 720; he flew a Curtiss-Reid Rambler aircraft for the Company.

Later in 1930 Douglas was returned to St. John's to convalesce following a serious battle with pneumonia. It was at this time that he was approached by Arthur Sullivan to ferry a plane which Sullivan had purchased in Toronto, to start an aviation business in Newfoundland.

Sullivan had no flying experience. Douglas readily agreed to Sullivan's proposal and joined him in Toronto to fly Sullivan's newly purchased Gypsy Moth CFAGL to Newfoundland. En route he was to teach Sullivan how to fly. They left Toronto on November 4, 1930 and arrived in Montreal after four hours of flying.

After two days in Montreal they ``hopscotched'' to Quebec City and Woodstock, New Brunswick for refueling. From there it was on to Moncton and Sydney, Nova Scotia, where after three attempts they were finally able to take off for Stephenville Crossing in Newfoundland. The aircraft was on wheels, so the flight over Cabot Strait was particularly dangerous.

On the next leg of their flight on November 18, they landed in a cabbage patch in Grand Falls. The following day they completed the trip by landing in Mount Pearl. The journey, which had taken only 21 hours 55 minutes of flying time, had lasted fifteen days. The Aircraft carried the 'first foreign airmail' from Canada into Newfoundland.

CF-AGL Landing Mount Pearl Nov.19th,1930

For several months after his return, Douglas conducted excursion flights over St. John's, with passengers paying five dollars each for the ride. The money earned from that enterprise enabled Sullivan to purchase floats for the aircraft. Douglas instructed Sullivan in flying with floats and shortly afterward the association was dissolved.

In 1931 Fraser purchased a Curtiss-Robin float plane and established his own aviation company, Old Colony Airways. He arrived in St. John's from Montreal with the plane on May 19 and began operations from Quidi Vidi Lake.



Immediately Douglas began compiling an impressive list of first in Newfoundland aviation. On 09 June 1931, he provided the first 'shore-to-ship' mail service, when he air dropped newspapers to the S.S. Nova Scotia, 16 km (10 mi) off St. John's.

In 1931,he made the 'first recorded flight'to Parsons Pondon the Great Northern Peninsula when he flew geologist G. Hopkins of Imperial Oil into the drilling site located there.

On 01 November 1931, he flew one of his many mercy flights, one from St. John's to Middle Arm, White Bay, where a man was suffering from blood poisoning. He picked up a Dr. Pritchard at Bay Roberts along the way. Bad weather forced the plane down at Burlington, Green Bay. The following day they arrived Middle Arm where the patient was treated. On the return trip they ran out of fuel and were forced to land on Wigwam Pond, about 16 km (10 mi) from Grand Falls. Fraser and Pritchard walked to Grand Falls but when Douglas returned to the Pond with fuel several days later he found the pond frozen and was unable to takeoff using floats.

On December 7, Douglas with his mechanic, Bert Clayton, returned to Wigwam Pond and successfully removed the floats and replaced them with skis. In attempting a takeoff, however, the plane hit thin ice and went through the ice. Douglas and Bert managed to reach safety but the plane was lost. Nevertheless, they were able to salvage the engine.

From December 7, 1931 to July 10, 1932, Fraser was without his own plane and was forced to disband Old Colony Airways.

In June 1932 he flew as part of a rescue mission near St. Anthony. His friend, Arthur Sullivan had been lost on May 30 when his plane went down off St. Anthony, and Douglas spent several days in the area searching for his old friend but to no avail.

On July 10, 1932 Fraser acquired his second aircraft, another Curtiss-Robin, which he purchased from a defunct flying school in Massachusetts. Fraser flew back to St. John's via Boston, Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax. With this purchase, he began his second company, Fraser Airways.

Over the next two years he made numerous mercy flights and flew airmail for the Newfoundland Government. On April 15, 1933, he made two reconnaissance flights in search of the migrating seal herd which he found off Bacalou Island, north of New World Island. On June 30 of that year, he made a flight to Buchans, having as his passenger the noted Hans Lundberg, discover of the new ore body which continued to give Buchans mine many decades of prosperous life.

On July 29, 1933, he flew Lt. John Aorisi to meet General Italo Balbo and his Italian Air Armada off Shoal Harbour. On this flight he carried mail from Italy's Fascist Premier, Mussolini, to Balbo.

In 1934 Fraser sold his operation to the Newfoundland Commission of Government, which in turn leased it to Imperial Airways of London, England. Fraser was employed by Imperial Airways as a pilot and made the first official flight, for that company in Newfoundland on November 3, 1934 in a Fox Moth.

As an employee of Imperial Airways Fraser flew forest-fire patrols, timber surveys, inspections of road and bridge construction, geodetic, geological and meteorological surveys and mercy missions to all parts of Newfoundland.

In June 1935 he was part of a survey established by the Geodetic Survey of Canada to determine triangulation points, tying Newfoundland on the map with the rest of North America. In August, he made the surveys which led to the establishment of Gander, the western terminus for the transatlantic air service. Those flights also led to the selection of Botwood as a seaplane base.

The two Fox Moths, VO-ABC, VO-ADE which Imperial Airways operated in Newfoundland were damaged in a severe storm in September 1935; one was completely put out of operation while extensive repairs were needed to make the other airworthy.

Imperial Airways transferred Fraser to London, England where, after completing training for blind flying in a Tiger Moth, he was made a Co-pilot on the Company's London-Paris route, flying a Handley. (Page 42). In January 1936 he was transferred to the London-Brussels route as Co-pilot on a DeHaviland 86 Rapide; later he became Co-pilot on the same type of aircraft on the London-Liverpool-Ireland-Scotland route.

He returned to Newfoundland with the rank of Captain. In February 1936, Douglas went to Montreal and from there returned to Newfoundland in a Fairchild 71 float aircraft. He used that plane to collect meteorological data, in conjunction with similar flights by other pilots around the British Empire, to determine weather patterns. At altitudes of up to (16,000 ft), with no oxygen equipment, he continued daily flights with the meteorography equipment attached to the aircraft wing. The information he gathered in those flights was invaluable in the establishment of a transatlantic service. Using the same aircraft, he determined the calibrations which led to the establishment of the wireless direction-finding stations at Botwood and Gander, also important in the establishment of the transatlantic service.

On January 11, 1938, Captain Fraser made the first official landing at Gander International Airport(formerly known as the Newfoundland Airport).

During 1939 he aided in the determination of the calibrations for the instrument-landing system installed at that airport. In late 1940 he flew survey missions for the United States Government, which led to the establishment of the American military bases at Argentia and Stephenville.

He also advised the Canadian Government on the site for an airport near St. John's in early 1941. He recommended it be built near Cochrane Pond, an area which had little fog, but contrary to his advice the airport was built near Torbay north of the City.

On February 24, 1941 Fraser made a flight to northeastern Newfoundland where a Lockheed Hudson had crashed near Musgrave Harbour. On board the aircraft was Dr. Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin. Captain Douglas found the crash site. (Captain Frasers eye witness account of this incident brings to light the only regret of his flying career).

Banting's briefcase was forwarded to London, but it did not contain the top-secret information detailing the results of his experiments. Experiments from which Banting had a plan to reduce pilot blackouts during aerial combat.

During World War II, in order to test the radar-defense system which had been installed at Torbay Airport, Captain Fraser flew low-altitude test flights over St. John's.

Captain Fraser severed his connection with Imperial Airways in 1942 when they wanted to transfer him to Sierra Leone, Africa.

Soon after, he retired from flying and became the owner operator of Cloverdale Farm in St. John's. Subsequently becoming Managing Director of Sunshine Dairy in St. John's.

In November 1979 Fraser boarded a Gypsy Moth for the first time since 1945 when he flew with Backup Pilot Watt Martin in a re-enactment flight from Gander to St. John's. The 1979 flight was part of a film the Memorial University of Newfoundland Extension Service was making on Fraser's career. The film, scheduled for release in 1982, was to be made available to schools and the general public, but was never completed or released.

In honour of his service to pioneer aviation in Newfoundland, Memorial University conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree upon Captain Douglas Cowan Fraser at its Spring Convocation, on May 29, 1982.

On the 05 June 1987, Captain Douglas Cowan Fraser was inaugerated into the Canadian Aviation Hall Of Fame with the following Citation: "His exceptional flying abilities coupled with scientific interest in aviation have made him an honored member of Canada's flying fraternity and earned him a prominent place in Newfoundland History."

In his native Newfoundland he was hailed by his colleauges as


A CIGARETTE GIVEN TO CAPT FRASER BY ITALIAN PILOT GEN BALBO CLARENVILLE JULY 1932 ______________________________________________

History of The Moth click here



Newfoundland Photographic Legacy click here

these images are the property of Fraser's Antique Photography 2000, all rights reserved, and may NOT be reproduced elsewhere in any format without prior written permission. your cooperation is appreciated in respecting this request regarding use.