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Let's Fly

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1122

The Airport, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (circa 1940s?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 1122

We’re pursuing the theme of Mavericks this season, partly because of our inaugural One Book One Calgary celebration and partly, I think, inspired by the results of our recent election, where Calgary voters surprised the world with their “maverick” choice for mayor. Interestingly enough, the mavericks I had in mind for this week’s blog entry, were the aviators; people who took to the skies when flying was still in its infancy. Reaching for a segue, I suppose I could mention that Mayor Nenshi wants very much to provide access to the Calgary airport by finding ways to build a tunnel under the new airport runway (well, it is a stretch, but…)

One of the first manned heavier than air flights in Calgary was a truly maverick operation. Two young men, Alf Lauder (15 years old) and J. Earle Young (12 years old) designed a kite like flier powered by a motorcycle engine. It would not lift off, however, so they borrowed a two-cylinder Buick car and towed the contraption and finally did manage to get it off the ground.

Prior to World War I, most flying in Calgary was done for entertainment. Fliers exhibited their skills at the Calgary Exhibition and at air shows. After the war, though, flying took off, so to speak, and Calgary, with its typical can-do attitude soon had an aircraft company, the McCall Aero Corporation Ltd which was founded by Freddie McCall in 1919. An Aero Club was established in 1926. This club trained more pilots under a scheme by the government of Canada that saw flying clubs earn $100 for every pilot’s certificate its graduates attained. Sixty people graduated from the ground school in 1928, with a girl at the head of the class.

Calgary served as an RCAF air base during the Second World War Lincoln Park air base was built. It housed the Number 3 Service Flying Training School and the Number 10 Repair Depot. One of the hangars currently houses the Calgary Farmers Market. Also during the war, Calgary’s municipal airport was leased to the RCAF. It was not returned to the city until 1949.

The history of flight in Calgary is as interesting as the rest of our rogue history. If you are interested in finding out more about flight in Calgary, join us during our Heritage Weekend, November 5, 6 and 7. We are hosting two aviation related programs. On Friday November 5 at 7:00 in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library, Stephane Guevremont, from the University of Calgary, will be talking about Calgary’s Forgotten Heroes: 403 Squadron. Another program for aviation buffs, From Triumph to Tragedy, F is for Freddie recounts the electrifying story of the Mosquito bomber that flew more missions than any other in WW2 with Richard De Boer. It is also in the John Dutton Theatre, on Saturday November 6 at 11:00. You can register for these or any of our other Heritage Weekend programs online at www.calgarypubliclibrary.com (click on Programs and then search either the name of the program or “heritage weekend” to see all of the programs). You can also register in person at your local branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620

PC 1871

RCAF Photo 79, over Calgary, circa 1940s

Postcards from the Past, PC 1871

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