Brian Dunn, Editor, OAES, NAAN, YYZ News and Canadian Aviation News, 1947 – 2019

The past week the aviation hobby lost two long-time greats – Eddy J. Gual of Miami and Brian Dunn of Toronto.

Both were my friends. I will miss them dearly.

Brian Dunn’s funeral was held today.

I asked Jeffrey Ward, his long-time fried, to write this tribute for Brian, who was a long time editor of airline news publications for Canada and the Toronto area (YYZ) in particular.

Thank you Brian for your aviation passion and friendship.

Bruce Drum

Brian Dunn

I first met Brian, like so many others, while watching airplanes from the upper level of the parking garage of the old Terminal 1 of YYZ, Toronto’s airport, in late 1973.  

I was a 17-year-old with access to my Mum’s car, and I had met Garry Donovan, aged 14, while “spotting” aircraft a month or so earlier.  Garry had met this “dude” who knew a lot about aircraft and airlines and had put together an aviation pamphlet, and one day while we were spotting, he pointed to Brian and said, “That’s the guy I was telling you about.”  So I went over and introduced myself.  I was privileged to learn about Brian’s career with Air Canada and his early introduction to aviation.  As a kid, for example, Brian rode his bicycle from mid-town Toronto to the then Malton Airport, just to watch airplanes!!

Thus began a lifelong friendship between Brian and myself.  I had already amassed a collection of aviation photos, postcards, timetables, and the like and Brian had a similar collection, so we got together at his place in Bramalea and had a blast going through all of our respective collectibles. Brian asked me to help with a newsletter he was putting together and in fact recruited a few other “enthusiasts” to work on it.  

This was the beginning of the Ontario Aviation Enthusiasts’ Society in December, 1973, of which Brian was the “unelected Chairman” and Paul Ritchi the Vice-Chair. Their aviation news pamphlet soon grew into the O.A.E.S. newsletter, which we published monthly.  It was a lot of work!  The newsletter sometimes reached 30-32 pages – I can’t tell you how many pages of aircraft movements I typed on any given evening.  The newsletter sometimes took three or four nights to produce.  

This was also when Brian earned his nickname “Colonel.” During one of my recent visits to the hospital, as a matter of fact, I asked Brian if he remembered how he earned that title. It was because if you volunteered to be at his place to help in the production of the newsletter, you had better show up and be on time or you’d definitely get an earful from him! Luckily, given that I was an airline employee working for American Airlines, I never got rebuked!

At this point, however, I must add that when Brian began dating Marg in the late ‘80’s the adherence to punctuality was somehow ignored – need I say more?

Along with the newsletter, Brian had an idea to host “gatherings”, both informal and formal.  One of the guys in the west end would host us aviation enthusiasts, a.k.a. “geeks”, for an evening of slide presentations from our various collections.  Mike Ody and Trevor Ogle hosted the most evenings along with others; it was nothing to have 20 of us in someone’s basement “oohing and aahing” at airline liveries, defunct airlines and old aircraft types.  

More formally, then, Brian began hosting slightly larger groups at hotel venues, with the events being publicized in the airport, area eateries, hangars, and the local newspaper.  Name a hotel on the airport strip and we probably had an enthusiasts’ event there; anywhere from 30-100 people would gather to swap and display airline memorabilia.  Unbeknownst to us, another similar group was meeting and doing likewise in Ohio.  Word started to spread and O.A.E.S. members were invited to the very first Airliners International Convention held in Cincinnati, OH., by the World Airline Hobby Club under the leadership of Paul Collins. Paul, Brian and several of us became fast friends and during that event, Brian convinced some of us that we should host the next Airliners International Convention, which we did in 1978.  It was a HUGE success and word spread throughout Canada and the U.S.A. about this group of enthusiasts. The rest is history – again, under Brian’s leadership, Toronto hosted an Airliners’ Convention in 1989. Airliners International Conventions continue annually to this day, with Phoenix set to host in 2020.  

With the news spreading to other cities, the name Ontario Aviation Enthusiasts Society was no longer apt for the magazine.  We had contributors sending reports from YUL, YOW, YWG, YHM, Southern Florida, etc.  We also featured news regarding to airlines serving Canada from the U.S.A. and Europe, and so it made sense for a name change – thus, North American Aviation News came into being in 1976.  The term O.A.E.S. was reserved for those of us locally who met at hotel events usually three or four times per year and for paid subscribers. 

While we carried on producing the magazine monthly well into the early ‘80’s, it continued to grow and became almost impossible for us as volunteers to maintain. Brian joined up with two friends from south of the border, Bruce Drum and Glenn McClain, and formed DDM Productions.  They sold aviation-related memorabilia, mostly slides of aircraft and eventually took over the production of the N.A.A.N. magazine.  

Brian’s career with Air Canada saw him working in Passenger Services (Sales was the AC term), then leading the Charter Team, as a specialist in System Terminal Operations Control and then managing Gates. He also helped develop and implement ARMs, which was an automated gate allocation for aircraft at Terminal 2.  After a 34-year career with AC from 1969-2003, Brian then worked for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) in Gate Control from 2003 until he retired in 2010.

After retiring, Brian continued to organize monthly luncheons, always at ZET’s, a famous burger and fast food restaurant located directly across from the Air Canada hangars.  Brian was also instrumental with the set up and running of Toronto’s Airport Watch, a security service made up of aviation enthusiasts with the full support of the RCMP and Peel Regional Police.  Embracing new technology, Brian then set up a blog entitled YYZNEWS and helped with the introduction of the Toronto Airport Spotting Network on WhatsApp.

In addition to his passion for aviation, Brian was a devoted family man. Marshall, as a brother, Brian always held you in the highest of esteem; both you guys were devoted sons to your Dad and especially your Mom who lived beyond 100! 

Brian was a very proud father to his daughter Beth and son Rob.  When Brian separated from his first wife, he became one of the very first men in Ontario to seek and be granted sole custody of his children.  I know; I was there every step of the way as Brian navigated skillfully through the agonizing family court system.  

As mentioned earlier, Brian began dating Marg in the late ‘80s.  They courted for at least six years before getting married.  There is a true story as to why it took Brian so long to convince Marg to marry him – all I will say is ask Marg!  

Okay, I’ll share a little: let’s just say that two years into their dating when Brian first proposed, he commented to Marg that she likely wouldn’t get any better offers.  Marg was not flattered by this, and, being one determined lady, made Brian wait for four more years before saying yes and getting married in June 1993. I was honoured to be the best man at their wedding and as I drove a Cadillac at the time, I took the newlyweds to their airport hotel. It will surprise very few of you to know that Brian loved the fact that he didn’t have to spring for a limo. 

In Marg, Brian found the true love of his life – the person he wanted to spend the rest of his days with – with lots of traveling, especially to Honolulu. Brian also became a stepdad to Kevin and Keith and later, their respective families.  Brian loved being a grandad – who wouldn’t?  You can spoil the grandchildren with sweet sugar treats and then hand them back to their parents!

My close friendship with Brian continued to grow and deepen over many years, as he and I travelled extensively throughout North America and Europe attending Air Shows and visiting airports and airlines. When Brian met Marg, she, too, became one of my dearest friends. We got together regularly, often with my beloved mum and other friends, and we even managed to socialize from time to time without talk of aviation. 

I know several of you here today also have fond memories of “the big guy” with stories similar to mine.  May Brian be remembered as a great guy and as a YYZ aviation legend!

Thank you Jeff.

Below Photo: Some of Brian’s aviation friends at the funeral.

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