book in the Air Pilot Navigator series deals with the
development off aviation in Western Alberta. In general it
follows the growth of the air activity after World War One.
Prior to the Great War of 1914-1918, aviation in Alberta was limited to flights often flown by American pilots demonstrating their primitive aircraft at exhibitions. During the war most civil flying in Canada was restrained with the exception of American aviatrix Katherine Stinson, a twenty year old who flew her various aircraft flawlessly and without major incident at six locations within Alberta in 1916, 1917 and 1918.
With the end of the war, a great many Canadian pilots, who had served with the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, wished to remain in aviation in the post war period. The only possibility for this in Western Canada was to acquire a war surplus Canadian built Curtiss JN-4 (CAN) Canuck trainer and start “barnstorming” their own territory offering rides as well as giving the opportunity to learn to fly. At this point there was no aviation regulation in Canada and to some extent, chaos resulted from uninhibited “joy riding” and stunt flying by many former air force veterans.
On June 6, 1919 the Canadian Government enacted the Air Board Act, which created an agency to control all flying in Canada. Another function of the Air Board was to establish air stations across the country with a compliment of ex-air force aircraft and veteran pilots. These air stations would carry out specific flying needs of both the provincial and federal governments.
In Alberta, a station was established in the summer of 1920 in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Morley, The mandate of this air station was primarily to patrol the forests along the Rocky Mountains and report forest fire activity. The location at Morley, however, was found undesirable due to strong, gusty winds, and the following spring (1921) the station relocated to High River.
By 1924 the Air Board had become the Royal Canadian Air Force, but activity from High River continued to be strongly related to forest fire patrols, although the station was also responsible for the licencing and testing of Alberta’s pilots and their aircraft.
During the late 1920’s and early 1930’s the High River Air Station carried out numerous surveys for the establishment of the Prairie Air Mail.
The Prairie Air mail had become a reality in 1930 serving Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton, but with the onset of the economic depression, federal government cutbacks forced it to come to an end on March 31, 1932.
With war clouds on the horizon in the late 1930’s the Department of Transport was created and was ordered to locate sites for air training stations. In Alberta the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan would dominate aviation throughout the war years with no less than thirteen different air training schools.
The American entry into the Second World War on December 7, 1941 brought a tremendous growth to the airfields of Alberta. Thousands of aircraft were ferried up the North West Staging Route from the United States, passing through Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton. The legacy left by the BCATP and the North West Staging Route was an infrastructure that would vastly assist the development of aviation in post war Alberta.
Air Pilot Navigator ( Volume Seven)
Chris Weicht. Creekside Publications. (2009)