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Alberta's Aviation Heritage
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World War I

It was about ten years from the first flight by the Wright brothers to the beginning of the First World War in 1914, and few understood at the time just how important a part aviation would play in the war.

Frank EllisBalloons and aircraft were used to observe the battlefield below, and report back to commanders on the ground such vital strategic information as troop movements and the placements of artillery. This information was critically important, but as time passed the aircraft became an important weapon, bombing or firing at troops or other enemy ground targets below, or shooting down enemy scout or attack planes in the air.

As aircraft became more important to the conduct of war, the need for pilots  increased. The two British air services, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, looked to their allies—countries such as Canada—to provide the expertise necessary to train new pilots.

Canadians played a crucial role in these wartime developments. Many Canadian volunteers obtained their air pilot training in the United States, or from newly established schools like Aero Club of British Columbia or the Curtiss Aviation School in Toronto.

These schools were replaced with larger and more advanced centres as the demand for trained pilots rapidly increased. The Royal Flying Corps came to Canada and established many successful flying schools.

Alberta made an extraordinary contribution of mechanics and pilots to the war effort. Many of the top Canadian airmen during the war came from a distinguished list of Alberta volunteers that included aces like Captain Wilfrid Reid (Wop) May of Edmonton, and Roy Brown, Donald McLaren and Fred McCall of Calgary.

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Alberta's Aviation Heritage

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