I also sell YQR stickers on my RedBubble store.
So what is “YQR”? You probably already know it's the airport code for the Regina International Airport. Every airport in the world has an airport code, like Toronto's YYZ, Calgary's YYC, New York's JFK, London's LHR, and Hong Kong's HKG.
Some of those make sense. New York's is named after former US President John F. Kennedy. London's airport is named after London Heathrow. Hong Kong's airport is well, named after Hong Kong.
But there's no "Q" in Regina, nor "Z" Toronto, nor "Y" Calgary. What's going on?
It starts with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Well, no, not really, but that's a good place to start. Prior to his assassination and the subsequent Great War, airplanes weren't very common. The first air flight occurred in 1903, only 11 years prior. By the time 20-year-old, Gavrilo Princip fired his gun in what would be called "the shot heard around the world", air travel was still in its infancy. But because war is a synonym for innovation, airplanes gave global militaries a whole new dimension of destruction they could use.
Four years and twenty million lives lost later, the world had a whole bunch of seasoned aviators who had nothing to do. It was after the war that the first international flight happened from London to Paris. Little hops with airplanes were all they could manage, and nobody really knew what was to come of this new technology.
Back home in Saskatchewan, Lieutenant Roland J. Groome used his newfound skills to start a business called Aerial Service Company. His airfield was near the corner of Hill Avenue and Cameron Street. (It's okay if you didn't know that -- there's nothing there to say it ever existed.) Groome flew his plane around Saskatchewan delivering letters, food, and materials. He operated an unofficial airport outside of Regina for several years until the federal government realized, that hey, maybe we should regulate air travel. They then went across Canada and visited all the makeshift airports, getting an idea of who was doing what.
It was through their findings that they awarded Lieutenant Groome with Canada's first pilot's licence, Canada's first commercial pilot's licence and his airfield became Canada's first "air harbour". At the same time his mechanic Robert McCombie was given Canada's first air engineer's license.
In 1927 Groome set up his second company "Universal Air Industries" at a new airfield called "Lakeview Aerodrome". It was located where the Golden Mile Shopping Centre is. Just like the Aerial Service Company, there's nothing to say it ever existed either. It wouldn't last long though, as in 1929 it was closed, and the airplanes were moved to a new piece of land that, in the following year, would become home to the Regina Municipal Airport.
This is all very interesting… but what about YQR?
I’m getting there, don’t worry.
The 1920s were a boom for air travel, and what would become Transport Canada was getting real airports set up across the country. With a lot of machines flying around in the air, it was important to keep a close eye on the weather, and many airports had weather stations attached to them. (The Regina International Airport still has a weather station.) They would designate airports with a letter if they had a weather station - "Yes", for "yes", or "W" for "without". As time passed, the International Air Transport Authority standards were adopted, and Canada claimed the letter "Y" for all their airports to be registered under it.
(With some exceptions, like Yakima, Washington (YKM) and Yuma, Arizona (YUM).)
What about the other two letters? Well, there's a lot of debate on what they symbolized. Some say they were radio call signs, some say they were telegraph call signs, some say it was railroad call signs, and some say it was just random letters.
There may have been call signs for Regina's railway, radio, or telegram offices, but the QR stands for (wait for it) "The Queen City of Regina”.
Yup. The same word, but in two different languages. Some people hate the overuse of the airport code, but others love it. I’d say we should just embrace it. After all, it originated as our municipal call sign to the world, and now we use as our call sign on the Internet.
But there's more.
What? Really? How?
Well, it isn't the 1930s anymore and the world is bigger. With a bigger world, there are more airports, and we are running out of airport codes. To remedy this, the International Civil Aviation Organisation is introducing new four-digit airport codes instead. All the airports in the US will now start with "K", such as KJFK, or KLAX, while all the Canadian airports will now start with "C", as in CYYZ or CYYC or CYQR.
But with all that said, I don’t see "YQR" going anywhere, anytime soon.
If you’re interested in where other airports come from, I recommend the website AirportCod.es. However, I must warn you, YXE’s explanation will disappoint you.
Have you ever wondered where YQR came from? Do you remember any of the old airports? Let me know in the comments below!
The images of the airport taken in circa 1920, 1955 and 1960 belong to the Regina Archives. All other pictures were taken by the lovely Jessica Nuttall.
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