Full size replica of the Queen of the Yukon

Ryan B-1 monoplane. Grey in colour with skis for landing gear. Marked on the door with 'Queen of the Yukon'. Body of plane is marked 'G-CAHR'.

'Queen of the Yukon' was the sister ship to the 'Spirit of St. Louis', flown on the first non-stop transatlantic flight from North America to Paris by Charles Lindbergh on May 20, 1927. The Sprit of St. Louis was a redesigned Ryan M-2, known as the Ryan NYP. It had a larger wing span and large reservoir in order to hold the 450 gallons of fuel needed to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The Ryan Brougham series of planes were modeled after the Spirit of St.Louis. They were advertised as a 'sister ship' of the Spirit of St. Louis, with an "interior completely upholstered in mohair,…[were] roomy, [with] comfortable seats, perfect visibility and easy access." Of course Lindbergh's vassal was cramped as most of the room was taken by fuel, was equipped with minimal instruments, and was extremely unstable, as he hoped the frequent turbulence would keep him awake during the long flight. Lindberg even had the plane installed with an uncomfortable wicker seat to keep him alert during the 30 hours it would take to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

On May 5, 1928, pilot Tommy Stephens with two passengers on board, was attempting to land the Queen of the Yukon in a gusty crosswind at Whitehorse. On his second try, he bounced once and crashed into Billy Puckett's Model T ford Truck. Passenger Elizabeth McDougal Titus was seriously injured in the crash, while the second passenger Mrs. Tommy Stephens and Pilot Stephens sustained minor bruises. The plane was beyond repair. They ordered another Ryan Brougham and in the interim flew an open cockpit biplane. The Queen of the Yukon II was in possession of the company for three months before the plane went down in Mayo due to engine failure. On November 2, 1929, Yukon Airways pilot John Melvin "Pat' Patterson died in the crash of the Queen of the Yukon II, making him the first aviation fatality in the Yukon. This plane is a replica that was built for an exhibit in the Yukon Pavilion during the transportation themed Expo '86 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Commercial aviation came to the Yukon in the late 1920s. In early 1927 a Dawson based RCMP corporal named Andy Cruickshank left the police force to partner with American prospector Clyde Wann to establish the first commercial service in the Yukon. By spring they had formed the Yukon Airways and Exploration Company and placed an order for a Ryan B-1 Brougham airplane. The aptly named 'Queen of the Yukon' arrived in Mayo, Yukon on October 26, 1927.

Pilot Tommy Stephens was at the helm of the Ryan B-1 in May 1928 when he went down and wrecked the plane in a landing accident at Whitehorse. For the next 15 months, until a second Ryan could be purchased, an open cockpit biplane was used to serve the growing demand for air service. On August 17, 1929 the company received their new Ryan. A few months later, The Queen of the Yukon II crashed on take-off at Mayo, killing the pilot. Less than four weeks after the fatality, the old biplane had engine failure and was wrecked in the forced landing near Carmacks. The Yukon's first commercial air service was out of business permanently.

Some five years later, The White Pass and Yukon Route set up its Canadian air service. Soon its air division British Yukon Aviation, which was also called White Pass Airways, became the largest airline in the territory. In 1938, the company's assets were transferred to Yukon Southern Air Transport, which later became part of Canadian Pacific Airlines. Currently in 2007, two commercial airlines fly to the Yukon, namely Air Canada and Air North, Yukon's Airline.


Yukon Transportation Museum, Whitehorse

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