header logo

COPA grows: 1957 to 1962


This is the second of a series of articles “Looking back” at the history of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

The year 1957 saw COPA growing and shifting from a mostly volunteer organization to one with paid staff and a proper office in Ottawa. Secretaries Joyce Else and Norma Girard had been hired the year before. In January 1957, temporary Manager Robert Thomas tendered his resignation. The board sought a permanent manager for the association. William “Bill” Peppler started work at on July 2, 1957 beginning a 39-year run as manager of the association.

In 1957, COPA organized a civil air search group in Ottawa called “Emergency Air Corps.” This was patterned after the Civil Air Patrol in the United States and similar groups in Canada. Meetings were held with Royal Canadian Air Force personnel to coordinate plans and efforts for civil aircraft and pilots to join in searches for missing aircraft.

COPA launched group aviation insurance for its members engaging Donald C. Miller Ltd. of Montreal to administer liability and hull coverages.

In 1957, the COPA membership fee was $10 per year. Corporate Memberships were launched at $25 per year.

In 1958, COPA agreed to act as an umbrella organization for the newly formed Canadian Business Aircraft Operators, the forerunner of the current Canadian Business Aircraft Association. COPA provided administrative services for the new organization from its new office on 77 Metcalfe St. in Ottawa.

The COPA Annual Meeting in St. Jovite in 1959 include a celebration of the 50th year of powered flight in Canada.

In 1960, Margaret Carson ended her time as COPA’s secretary/treasurer and as publisher of the Canadian Flight magazine but continued volunteering and promoting the association for several more years. John Bogie took her place on COPA’s executive committee. COPA manager Bill Peppler became the magazine editor assisted by Art MacDonald.

In 1961, COPA’s Annual Meeting moved to Muskoka Sands Inn in Gravenhurst, Ont. north of Toronto as the St. Jovite site was becoming too small for the up to 400 members flying to the event. 


Bill Peppler

In 1957 COPA Past-president John Bogie recalls telling Keith Hopkinson that Bill Peppler, an Ottawa-based pilot working for Spartan Air Service, might be interested in a job that involved less travel. “At the time, Spartan had Bill flying away from home and family ten months of the year,” Bogie said in a recent interview. Peppler flew his Bellanca Crusair to Toronto to meet with COPA President Sid Sampson and was hired. The photo of Peppler sweeping the snow off the de Havilland Beaver is dated 1952.

Photo courtesy COPA archives






Gray Rocks Inn and St. Jovite Airport

COPA’s Annual Meeting in 1957 was held in October at Gray Rocks Inn in St. Jovite, Quebec. St. Jovite is in the mountains equidistant (north) of Ottawa and Montreal. The October venue provided a spectacular showing of fall colours for COPA members flying in. Nearby Lac Ouimet offered a floatplane base.

This began a long association between the organization and the inn. Fall annual meetings and then COPA Fall Rendezvous were held there until the early 1990s when the landing strip near the inn became unavailable.

Photo courtesy COPA archives

COPA executive and directors 1957

President: S.F.D. “Sid” Sampson
(Sampson served in that position until the end of 1960. When he declined to continue, Douglas Wagner,
serving as vice-president by then, was appointed as president starting in 1961.)
Vice-president: Carl Millard
Secretary/treasurer: Margaret Carson
Past-president: John Bogie
Russell Bannock
J.C. Charleson
Maurice Fallow
Keith Hopkinson
Douglas Pickering
R.P. Purves
Douglas Wagner
Edward Zalesky
R.D. Velts
Jack Scholefield
John Caron
Charles McEwen



The American Owners and Pilots Association in the United States proposed the formation of an international council of AOPAs in 1958. IAOPA was chartered in 1962 with COPA as a founding member organization.



The AOPA Silver Tray Award winners 1957 to 1962

The Tray was presented annually to, “the person who contributed the most to the advancement of private flying in Canada.”

1957 – Margaret Carson
1958 – D. D. “Des” Murphy
1959 – Carl Millard
1960 – Major Robert Dodds
1961 – Gordon Swartz
1962 – J. N. Leggatt


Canadian Flight 1958

The Aug-Sept 1958 copy of Canadian Flight featured one of the new era of business aircraft on its cover, the early twin-engined version of the Lockheed Jet Star. Until then, corporate aviation had been flying converted warplanes from the Second World War.

Inside the issue, Bill Peppler targeted the provinces in Canada for doing “little if anything to launch a nationwide community airstrip program” in his Editorial Comment. There was an article on the Volunteer Air Patrol, a civil search group formed the year before in Winnipeg, Man. Trudy Armstrong, wife of future COPA director Neil Armstrong, wrote about flying to Tofino, B.C. for the Aero Club of B.C. Fly-in and Crab Hunt. Syl Panagapko described Anchorage, Alaska as “World’s most airminded city” in an article that declared there was one aircraft for every 110 people. “Bush flying is fun” was an article by COPA member Berna Studer who took her holidays from a bank in the winter so she could fly around Saskatchewan in her Taylorcraft on skis with her sister.

The Flight report section of “spot news” included a picture of COPA founding director Carl Millard demonstrating a bracket he had developed for his Grumman Widgeon that allowed the mounting of a 5-hp outboard motor for manoeuvering the aircraft after shutdown and for trolling.

The Up and Coming section featured a picture of the new Agricultural Chipmunk from the de Havilland Aircraft in Toronto. The 145-hp version of the military trainer could carry up to 560 lb in a hopper built into the aircraft ahead of the rear pilot seat. The hopper could be replaced in “less than half an hour” with a cargo box or front passenger seat. Cessna introduced its Cessna 150, “a two-place airplane available in standard, trainer and inter-city commuter models ranging in price from $6,995 to $8,545.” A government advertisement sought “Civil Aviation Inspectors.” A starting salary of $6,060 was offered.


Carl Millard
Photo courtesy COPA archives

Cessna 150
Photo courtesy COPA archives