Canada’s First Control Tower Celebrates Anniversary

It was in 1939 that the first air traffic control tower was built in Canada, and Nav Canada is celebrating its 85th anniversary at the Saint-Hubert airport.

Within a year of its opening, the tower’s workload increased dramatically in 1940 as the airport in the Montreal suburb was made into a military training base to support Canada’s Second World War effort.

The airport has marked several milestones over the years, including the hosting of a stopover in 1985 for the Paris to New York air race. Transport Canada had just built and opened a new control tower.

In 2004 Transport Canada ownership of the airport was turned over to Développement de l’aéroport Saint-Hubert de Longueuil (DASH-L). Last year Porter Airlines of Toronto announced plans to build a passenger terminal at the airport, and earlier this year DASH-L announced the renaming of the airport to the Montreal Metropolitan Airport, or “the MET” for short.

His Majesty’s Airship moored at the Saint-Hubert aerodrome. Photo courtesy of the Quebec Aerospace Museum.

Interestingly, the tower mentioned above was not the first tower built on those grounds. Going back to England in 1926, Canada’s then-prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie-King, was attending the Imperial Conference in London. At that time, Britain was proposing an airship service for the British Empire and wanted Canada to contribute an airship base. So, the first tower built on this site was a 208-foot-tall mooring tower, completed in May 1930.

It hosted His Majesty’s Airship (an R-100 airship) in 1930, at that time the largest airship in the world.


This led to the establishment of the country’s first aerodrome at Saint-Hubert to serve nearby Montreal, at that time Canada’s largest city.

The giant airship flying over Toronto’s Canadian Bank of Commerce. Photo courtesy of the Toronto Archives.

The airship stayed in Canada for 13 days, touring various locations in Quebec and Ontario. Three times longer than a Boeing 747, it could carry 100 passengers in a level of luxury more associated with first class travel on trains and ocean liners of that period.