The history of Kamloops Airport stretches back to June 1931 when the City of Kamloops leased 46 acres (19 hectares) from B.C. Fruitlands at the present site. Work on the runway got under way in 1936 and the gravel runway was completed in 1938. In that year, the City bought the land plus another 30 acres (12 hectares).
In 1939 the Department of Transport granted money to the City for airport development and the runway paved in that year. On April 13, 1939 Cyril Jackson, piloting an Aeronca, made the first official landing. Also in August of that year, the airport was designated as a port of entry under the Customs Act.
The war years brought more activity. In April 1942, Gilbert Flying School moved here from Vancouver as all civil flying was cancelled on the coast. The RCAF developed the airport as an alternate for the US Air Transport Command who were ferrying aircraft to USSR. An additional 861 acres (385 hectares) of land was purchased, the runway was rebuilt and taxiway and apron were added. After the war, surplus land was sold to the Department of Agriculture and the airport was reduced to 570 acres (231 hectares).
In May 1964, the Governor General of Canada, the Earl of Athlone, named the airport Fulton Field in remembrance of Wing Commander John Fulton, DSO, DFC, AFC, a native of Kamloops who was first commanding officer of 419 (City Of Kamloops) Squadron. The RCAF passed the airport over to the Department of Transport in August 1945 and in 1947 the City of Kamloops leased it back.
There we some famous names among the early airlines to serve Kamloops. In 1950 Canadian Pacific Airlines began daily service with a DC-3 connecting to Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George and Vancouver. Russ Baker started Central BC Airways here in 1951 and in the following year he moved the company's headquarters to Vancouver and changed the name to Pacific Western Airlines.
In 1961, the Department of Transport took over the airport and began an expansion program. 1963 saw Runway 08/26 extended to 5,500 feet and that brought an upgrade to the Canadian Pacific Airlines fleet with Convair service. 1963 saw the terminal building and maintenance garage built then in 1966 the Aeradio station was moved from Ashcroft. In 1967 the first air traffic controllers arrived, working from a car in the early days. 29,200 passengers were served that year.
In 1968 the Boeing 737 jet arrived on scene with Pacific Western Airlines taking over the service from Canadian Pacific Airlines. In those years, relocation of the airport due to poor visibility during the fall and winter was under active consideration, but no suitable location was found. With the decision to stay here, the air terminal building was extended in 1969.
1972 saw a significant flood threat with staff working around the clock to construct dykes. Rip rap was added to the river bank to prevent erosion in 1984 & 85. Runway 08/26 was lengthened out to 6,000 feet in 1973 and in the following year, work was also done to extend the air terminal building and maintenance garage. By 1974 149,027 passengers were served at the airport.
In order to improve reliability, a track guidance localizer, a middle marker, an outer marker and a non-directional beacon were installed in 1975/76. In 1977, the telecomunications equipment was moved to a separate building and a staff lunchroom was added. In that year 235,600 travelers used the airport. 1983 saw a few more projects such as enlargement of the combined services building and and phase 1 of the new air terminal building. An additional component to the track guidance localizer was also installed (DME - Distance Measuring Equipment) that lowered landing limits and increased reliability for air carrers.
Work on the new air terminal building began in earnest in 1984 and was completed in 1985. Kamloops was being served by Air BC, Time Air and Pacific Western Airlines. In 1986/87 the former air terminal building was rennovated to serve as an operations builidng and the southside road was reconstructed. A major reconstruction of a portion the main apron also completed. The 1986 opening of the Coquihalla Highway began to have an adverse impact on the number of travelers using the airport and in 1988 the number had dropped to 137,579.
During the 1990's Transport Canada began a program to transfer ownership of small airports to local entities and the Kamloops Airport was transferred to the Kamloops Airport Authority Society. A lease agreement was concluded with Kamloops Airport Ltd. to operate the airport and in August 1997, the airport passed into commercial operation.
*with a lot of help from the book - History of Canadian Airports by T.M. McGrath
Wing Commander John "Moose" Fulton DSO, DFC, AFC
John Fulton is an alumnus of the Class of 1929 at Kamloops Secondary High School. While growing up in Kamloops, John became enamored of flying. For a short while he tried banking, but he had a longing for something more. After only a year he abandoned banking and went down to the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California.
He was attracted to the military way of life and in 1934 travelled to England to join the Royal Air Force. In 1935 he received his commission as a Pilot Officer with a bomber transport squadron. He was deployed to Egypt and stayed there for just over two years.
With the start of hostilities of World War 2, he came back to England and flew with a bomber squadron. As the pace of operations intensified John flew over twenty missions in three months. In September 1940 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross then in January of 1942 he received the Air Force Cross and in August of the same year he also received the Distinguished Service Order.
When the RCAF decided to organize its own 419 Squadron, the first senior officers were Canadians on loan from the RAF. John Fulton was the first Commanding Officer. He enjoyed great popularity among the officers and men of the squadron. Indeed, his Squadron often referred to themselves as “Moosemen” after the John’s nickname.
On the night of August 2, 1942, the Squadron went to Hamburg. On the way home, John’s aircraft was set upon by enemy fighters. A single message was transmitted by the aircraft - “Wounded … fighters … five hundred feet.” The aircraft was lost over the sea.
The high esteem in which the men of No.419 Squadron held their missing leader was demonstrated by the adoption of his nickname as their own thus immortalizing the first commanding officer of "Moose" Squadron for all time. No. 419 was the only Canadian squadron to be named after a person.
Today 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron conducts the NATO Flying Training Canada program for Canada, Denmark, Italy, Singapore and the Royal Air Force at 4 Wing in Cold Lake, Alberta. This program prepares future fighter pilots for training on CF-18 class aircraft. Members of the Squadron continue to refer to themselves as “Moosemen.”
On May 29, 1964, the Kamloops Airport was "Dedicated in Honour of Wing Commander John Fulton, D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C., and the men of the air service from Kamloops and District" by His Excellency Major General Earl of Athlone K.G. Governor General of Canada. The airport now bears the additional title “Fulton Field.”
Vickers-Armstrong Wellington III Z1572 served with No. 419 Squadron RCAF
This aircraft was probably flying from its base at Midenhall When this photo was taken in mid-1942