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Alberta Order of Excellence member Max Ward

Dr. Maxwell William Ward O.C., LL.D.

Born and educated in Edmonton, Maxwell W. Ward joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, where he received his pilot’s wings and served as a commissioned flight instructor at various Canadian bases during the Second World War.

After discharge from the RCAF in 1945, Mr. Ward flew as a bush pilot in the Northwest Territories. In 1946, he organized his own company, Polaris Charter Co. Ltd., based in Yellowknife, and with one two-passenger, single-engine Fox Moth aircraft, carried supplies and passengers throughout the sub-Arctic.

In 1953, he acquired a 14-passenger, single-engine Otter that operated on wheels, skis or floats and, duly licensed by the Canadian Transport Commission for the first time, launched Wardair Ltd. into commercial service. The Otter revolutionized bush air transport, opening up the Arctic to Wardair, which carried mining prospectors, mine machinery, medical teams, oil exploration crews, musk ox, fish and all people and things needing transportation in Northern Canada. Ward loved the Arctic and the challenges of flying into its many unmapped areas of those earlier years.

Wardair expanded steadily. Its fleet of Otters increased, Beaver aircraft were added, then the larger Bristol Freighters, capable of carrying tractors, trucks, automobiles, powerplants, mining machinery, small buildings, oil, gasoline, cows, horses, hay, and groceries at six tons per trip. When DeHavilland built the Twin Otter and then the 4-engine Dash 7, Wardair was the first to operate them in Canada.

Wardair stepped up to 4-engine Douglas DC6AB aircraft in 1961, carrying 14-ton payloads to the then-developing airstrips in the high Arctic. The year 1962 saw the beginnings of what Wardair is today, when international passenger charter services were launched between Western Canada and the U.K. A charter market was created, flying war brides and former Europeans back to the U.K. and Europe for a visit at a price they could afford.

In 1967, Wardair bought the first Boeing aircraft ever sold in Canada with the purchase of a 109-seat Boeing 727. This aircraft achieved the highest utilization of any 727 in the world, and flew between Western Canada and Europe and the U.K. with a refuelling stop at Sonderstrom, Greenland, cutting the DC-6 flying time from 20 to 21 hours per crossing down to 9 to 10 hours. During winter months, the aircraft flew to Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Wardair went on to purchase a 189-seat Boeing 707 in 1968, and another in 1969. In 1972, Wardair purchased its first 456-seat Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

By 1988, Wardair operated an international wide-bodied fleet of three Boeing 747-100 aircraft, three McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 aircraft, and 12 Airbus A310-300 aircraft.

Recognized as Canada’s largest international charter air carrier, Wardair offered departures to and from a variety of holiday destinations, along with scheduled flights between Canada and the U.K. and within Canada.

Mr. Ward’s pioneering of air transportation in the Northwest Territories has been of immeasurable value to Alberta and has maintained for this province its standing as the supply base for the western Arctic and the Yukon Territory. On the national scene, Mr. Ward was in the forefront of those urging deregulation of the airline industry.

Among the honours Max Ward has received are the following:

  • The Billy Mitchell Award (1971)
  • Companion in the Order of Icarus
  • the Trans-Canada McKee Trophy, considered Canada’s highest award in the field of aviation (1973)
  • Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame (1974)
  • Officer in the Order of Canada (1975)
  • Royal Canadian Air Force Association’s Gordon R. McGregor Trophy “in recognition of outstanding and meritorious achievement by Canadians in the field of air transportation” (1979)
  • the George Orsaki “Marketing Executive of the Year” Award, by Sales and Marketing Executives of Toronto (1981)
  • and the “International Marketing Award” by the Sales and Marketing Executives International (1986).

Mr. Ward holds honorary doctorate of law degrees from the University of Alberta, York University, Trent University and Carleton University, and honorary doctorate degrees from Athabasca University and Lakeland University.