Alberta played no small
part in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
It was home
to 18 training schools, No.
4 Training Command, No. 3
Manning Depot, Recruiting
Depots and No. 7 Release Centre. In training aircrew that could compete with Germany’s Luftwaffe,
Britain looked to its Dominions for air training space with
which Canada was much blessed. Far from Europe and German
bombers, Canada was the perfect place for training aircrew,
and when it came time to begin choosing the sites, various
locations in Alberta were considered.
The lengthy and rigorous process of site selection was
left to the Department of Transport (DoT) as well as the
Aerodrome Development Committee
(ADC), a group of Royal Canadian Air Force officers who
had previously been through the process of selecting aerodrome
sites. Although many have insinuated that political patronage
played a substantial part in base selection, recent research
seems to indicate otherwise.
determining the suitability of a site, the Department of
Transport would study topographical
maps in an attempt to find approximately one square
mile of level land. Beyond that, different terrain was suited
to individual types of training. For pilot school, mountainous
regions were ruled out. On the other hand, a navigation
school was preferably located close to all types of terrain
and large bodies of water, while a bombing
and gunnery school required a great deal of
space to prevent harm in their practice.
a suitable section of land was found, the department would
investigate the site by air and, if found to be level, dry
and accessible, it would be examined by foot and a report
drawn up. This preliminary report would be turned over to
the ADC, who would subsequently check it over and request
another more detailed report if the site looked promising.
Surveyors and engineers would descend upon the site and
design hangar and runway plans in order to calculate the
construction costs. If the Department of Transport approved
these plans, they were forwarded to the Minister of
National Defence for Air, C.G.
Power, and finally, back to the ADC. While it was
necessary for each proposal to be approved by C.G. Power, there is not a case on
file recommended by the ADC that he declined.
the flatlands of Alberta were ideal for flight training
and allowed for airstrips to be fashioned with relative
ease, there were additional reasons the government was encouraged
to build here. As the BCATP came to fruition very quickly,
access to existing facilities was attractive. In some cases
flying clubs were appropriated and built upon for RCAF purposes.