Founder of Wheeler Airline
Native of Chazy in the State of New York, Tom Wheeler moved to Saint-Jovite in the Laurentians at the age of 6. His family operated the famous Gray Rocks Hotel there, a paradise for hunting and fishing much appreciated by the American tourists. During the First World War, the young Tom enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp. The armistice arrived before the end of his pilot’s training. The war had promoted a spectacular development of aviation. Thinking of the plane for the transport of tourists on their domain, the Wheeler family chartered in 1921 an Avro 504K of the Canadian Aerial Services in Cartierville, piloted by the renowned Hervé St-Martin. The following year, Tom Wheeler formed (with St-Martin as pilot) Laurentian Air Services, known later under the name Gray Rocks Air Service. At the beginning, the company operated a small Curtiss JN-4 biplane. Wheeler then purchased a Curtiss Seagull seaplane, reconditioned by St-Martin. Throughout the years, the company got larger, adopting in 1946 the name of Wheeler Airlines. The fleet of Travel Air, Junkers, Fairchild, Norseman, Stearman and the other bush aircraft of the first years, grew more and more with the addition of DC-3s, DC-4s, C-46s, Cansos, etc.
In the 50’s, Wheeler Airlines had become one of the biggest bush operators in the country.
Henceforth, the activities of the company did not confine themselves any more to the simple local transport of fishermen and hunters, extending beyond the Arctic Circle, in the Labrador and even across the Atlantic. In the 50’s, Wheeler Airlines had become one of the biggest bush operators in the country. It was also one of the main sub-contractors of Maritime Central Airways for the transport of material intended for the construction of the Dew (Distant Early Warning) Line. A large-scale project, this line of military radars was across all the northern part of the continent from one ocean to the other. Thinking of retirement, Tom Wheeler sold the heavy division of his fleet to Nordair in 1960, keeping the light transports for hunters and fishermen. Finally, in 1967, Wheeler sold the rest of his air operations to Power Corporation. Retired, Wheeler continued to be interested in aviation, sitting on the Board of Directors of Canadian (Okanagan) Helicopters. Of a modest and private nature, Tom Wheeler was recognized as a perfect gentleman.