In 1933, a couple of brothers in Ontario took an interest in aviation, an interest that still carries a legacy in Northern Ontario. Jack and Chuck Austin had something of a dream when they entered the aviation business in Toronto in March 1934, as Capreol and Austin Air Services. Not too long after, this would change to Austin Airways. Linking northern communities from Sudbury to Hudson Bay was a large part of that dream.
Their first two aircraft were Waco cabin biplanes, CF-AVL and CF-AVN. One of the aircraft arrived with a new feature - a removable panel on the port side behind the cabin facilitated the loading of a stretcher. This aircraft became Canada's first commercial air ambulance. In the coming years it would make numerous trips with ill and injured northern passengers to hospitals in Sudbury and Toronto.
Early on, mining personnel were the main clients of the new air service. Lake Ramsay at Sudbury would become their primary base in 1935 and would remain so for 20 years. The 1936 season featured plenty of large forest fires in northeastern Ontario. Austins, like several other air service operations, spent considerable time under contract to the Department of Lands and Forests.
Austin soon established bases at Chapleau, Gogama and Biscotasing, in addition to a summer base at Temagami. Early names that would become aviation legends in Northern Ontario included Phil Sauve, Jim Bell, Rusty Blakey, Jimmy Cairns, Frank Fisher, Frank Russell and Jeff Wyborn.
In 1937, Jack Austin was paying his pilots about $200 a month and a dollar a flying hour. He often chuckled that they had the slowest planes in the sky. When he changed the bonus system to so much a mile, the planes suddenly seemed to start moving a lot faster.
Life in remote native communities like Fort Hope, Ogoki Post and Osnaburgh House took on a new dimension with the arrival of the Austin airplanes. Fish hauling became a lucrative business. The aircraft also meant a dependable supply-line for the communities.
By 1941, they were opening bases in South Porcupine and Nakina. Regular flights into James Bay were soon to follow. Austin Airways aircraft became a regular feature on both sides of Hudson Bay.
Over the years, scheduled services served over 40 cities, including some destinations in the United StatesIn 1973 it merged with White River Air Services but continued to operate as Austin Airways.
In June 1987 it merged with Air Ontario Ltd to form Air Ontario Inc. In turn Air Ontario became part of Air Canada Jazz in 2001.