Groome, Lieutenant Roland John
World War I Flight Instructor, Commercial Aviator
July 10, 1897 -1935
Lieutenant Roland J. Groome, Canada's first commercial airline pilot, was an aviation pioneer. He was tragically killed in a 1935 plane crash. City of Regina Archives Photograph Collection, CORA_RPL_A_155
Lieutenant Roland J. Groome was an aviation pioneer who held several firsts in the field of Canadian aviation and brought Regina national attention with his aeronautical achievements.
Lieutenant Roland J. Groome was a flight instructor with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. After the war ended, he returned to Regina with 2 wartime buddies, Edward Clarke and Bob McCombie. The men formed an aviation company, the Aerial Service Company, in 1919 and laid out an airfield near the corner of what is now Hill Avenue and Cameron Street. This was the first licensed aerodrome in Canada.
While Groome was set to become the first licensed commercial aviator in Canada, his partner McCombie received the first Aviation Engineer's Certificate and one of the company's airplanes, a JN-4 (Can) Canuck, became the first licensed commercial aircraft in Canada (registration number: G-CAAA).
Groome flew the first intercity airmail in Saskatchewan between Saskatoon and Regina. (The letter was from Saskatoon's mayor to Regina's mayor.) He celebrated the Queen's Birthday on May 25, 1919 by flying 3 miles to the RCMP training depot and then taking dignitaries, including the RCMP commissioner, on local flights. The Aerial Service Company flew passengers and fr8 around the province and provided flying lessons to eager would-be pilots. In 1927 Groome expanded his aviation business by founding Universal Air Industries with Jack Wight. The 2 men built a second airfield, the Lakeview Aerodrome, on the site where the Golden Mile Shopping Centre now stands.
Also in 1927, the Regina Flying Club was formed and some land west of the city was purchased by the group with the aim of creating a more modern airport for the city. By 1929, Groome's Lakeview Aerodrome was closed and all aircraft moved to this new site. In 1930, the Regina Municipal Airport officially opened on the same site where the Regina Airport now stands.
Although most air mail contracts were cancelled and overnight flights to the city stopped during the Depression, by 1932 paving of Regina's runways began. For many years Regina's airport boasted the only paved runways between Montreal and Vancouver. (This was necessary because Regina sits on extremely rich and fertile topsoil which, while it is excellent for growing crops, is not good for the wheels of aircraft.)
Groome's business continued despite the grim economic times, but in 1935 tragedy struck. On September 20, 1935 Groome was on a training flight with a student when the plane they were flying in crashed at the Regina Airport; he did not survive.
Roland Groome's name lives on in aviation circles, however, with the Roland Groome Award, awarded yearly by Transport Canada to an organization that shows excellence in the field of aircraft maintenance. His accomplishments have also been honoured by the City of Regina; Groome Avenue honours the achievements of this aviation pioneer.