Born into a Chinese family, Al Mah was born in British Columbia (lived briefly in China as a teenager). As war approached, Mah traveled to California to learn to fly but was later refused by the Royal Canadian Air Force because of his origins. In 1941 he found a job as a civilian instructor in Edmonton, at school no. 2 of the BCATP (British Commonwealth Air Training Plan) led by the famous “Wop” May. In 1942 Mah was transferred to school no. 8 of the Ancienne-Lorette, operated by Quebec Airways. He will subsequently settle in Montreal. In 1943, worrying about his family back in China, Mah joined the China National Aviation Corporation. This group of volunteers (nicknamed the "Flying Tigers") was tasked with establishing an airlift over the Himalayas in support of the invaded China by Japan. On this road considered the most dangerous in the world, Mah completed 420 transport missions between India and China, piloting unpressurized DC-3 and C-46 at an altitude of nearly 20,000 feet. To alleviate the tension of the flights, Mah played the saxophone on the crews radio frequency! Following in his footsteps, his younger brother Cedric also piloted on this line. In 1944, taking time off, Al Mah infiltrated behind the Japanese lines and organized the escape of his sister (pretending to be deaf and dumb to hide the fact that he did not speak Chinese). In 1946, his plane crashed on a routine flight from North Bay to Montreal, leaving Mah with a fractured skull and two broken legs. After a three-month recovery, Mah joined the Central Air Transport Company, an organization supporting Chinese nationalist forces. In 1949, he and Cedric were the last pilots to leave Shanghai before the Communist victory.
Mah became involved again during the Korean War. As vice president of the National China Aviation Association, he recruited pilots and worked to organize two fighter squadrons in Taiwan. He also trained NATO pilots in Gimli, Manitoba. On the civilian side, Mah flew in the Far North on the DEW LINE project and for Hydro-Quebec, during the construction of dams in James Bay. A business partner of Tommy Wong (Won-Del Aviation), he was also a highly regarded instructor at the Montreal Flying Club in Cartierville. Conversing in both English and French with his students, Mah always insisted on the importance of doing a rigorous pre-flight inspection. Likewise, he said, "don't steal according to the book, steal to survive ... and close the ashtray before you attempt anything extravagant." An article dated 1982 still described him as a chief pilot in an air service in the Far North.
Interview with Albert Mah