Eagle Profile

Captain C. H. “Punch” Dickins, who was born in 1899, is a Canadian ace of World War I and one of his country’s most famous pioneer bush pilots. In 1917 he transferred from the infantry to the Royal Flying Corps and flew 83 combat missions in the DH-9 reconnaissance bomber. He was credited with destroying seven enemy aircraft in the air and, in 1918, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1927 when he began to fly as a bush pilot for Western Canada Airways. In a lifetime dedicated to flying, “Punch” Dickins chalked up many “firsts ” in Canadian aviation.

He opened country’s first municipal airport in 1927 and flew the first flight over the desolate Barren Lands of the Northwest Territories in 1928. In the following year, he delivered the first furs by air and piloted the first commercial flight along the McKenzie River basin and to points north of the Artic Circle. Operating in temperatures as low as minus 62 degrees Fahrenheit, Dickins also pioneered new airmail routes, carried out several rescue missions, and flew into numerous locations where inhabitants had never seen an aircraft.

Although the Eskimos called him “Tingmashuk ” (birdman), they were often very skeptical of his airplane because “the wings don’t flap.” Prior to his retirement in 1966, he held positions ranging from pilot to vice president and director in several aviation companies, including Canadian Pacific Air Lines and the de Havilland Aircraft Company of Canada. Endowed with uncommon courage and an explorer’s spirit, “Punch” Dickins won the Trans-Canada “McKee ” Trophy in 1928 and was selected as one of the first elected members to Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Years Honored:


1983 Lithograph

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On 28 August 1928, "Punch" Dickins departed Winnipeg on an exploratory flight that gained him a permanent place in Canadian aviation history. Flying a Fokker Super Universal Seaplane with markings G-CASK, he made the first reconnaissance flight across the largely unmapped and unexplored Barren Lands of Canada's Northwest Territories. He followed a route with few known landmarks and often had to use the sun as his primary navigation aid since the magnetic compass was unreliable in the northern latitudes. Upon his return 12 days later, he had covered 3,960 miles in 37 hours flying time. Previous modes of travel would have required 18 months to cover the same route. "Punch" Dickins was awarded the McKee Trophy in recognition of this pioneer flight.