Pem-air from (1970 until 2002) was an aviation company based out of the Pembroke Airport. Pem-Air began flying as a Class II scheduled airline in 1970. Its first employee was John Smithman, a former RCAF pilot from Montreal, who had been flying as a captain with Royalair Ltd. a short-service airline based at the Montreal's Dorval airport. Royalair had been providing passenger services for Pembroke until it went bankrupt in 1969. John was a captain with Royalair and when he heard that Del O'Brien, a Pembroke Lawyer and 9 other investors wanted to build an airline to replace Royalair's services, he drove to Pembroke to meet with Del O'Brien. He offered to help Del and his partners obtain the appropriate licenses from Canada's Ministry of Transportation.
Within a few months, the licenses were issued and the airline began flying daily flights to and from Toronto. They purchased one Beech 18 aircraft and leased another as backup from St. Catherines' Meisner brothers. John hired and trained 3 pilots to provide the four pilot crew needed to fly two flights a day to Toronto.
Three events were significant for promoting the new airline.
1. Stubby Ross, owner of TimeAir Ltd., an Albertan Class II airline based in Lethbridge Alberta called John one day and offered to help in any way that he could. Stubby offered a Beech 18 aircraft at an affordable price. John, along with Pembroke Airport Manager Dick Wigston, flew to Lethbridge to pick up the aircraft and fly it back to Pembroke for painting with the white and blue colours of Pem-Air.
2. After receiving a call from John Smithman, Air Canada agreed to include Pem-Air in their media event promoting their new 747 aircraft in 1970 at the Toronto Pearson Airport. "We took our new stewardess Carol Suter in her attractive light blue uniform with us to Toronto and parked our beautiful small aircraft under the right wing of the 747 for press photos. The photos showed up in newspapers across Canada as an example of Canada's biggest and smallest airlines," commented John. "Air Canada rewarded our crew by taking us up for a spin over Toronto in their brand new 747 that day."
3. After hiring pilots Bud Mason, George Staples and Myron Sikora, John conducted type training by taking them up to fly formation over Pembroke to promote the arrival of Pem-Air to Pembroke. Within 3 years, passenger loads had climbed to 2000 a month; and the airline was established. Our biggest clients were Petawawa Army Base, Chalk River Atomic Energy, and Eddy Match Company.
After 31 years, in 2001, the company ended its route between Pembroke, Ontario and Toronto Pearson International Airport, after failing to reach an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada (that was responsible for two-thirds of its business) the commercial airline service was discontinued to refocus on its flight school an aviation service operated jointly in partnership with Algonquin College. Over its 31-year history the airline operated several other routes for shorter periods of time including flights from Ottawa to Kitchener; Ottawa to Hamilton Certain routes out of Ottawa operated under the Trillium Air brand.