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Flying Clubs

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Flying Clubs

By the mid-1920s, rapid development of aviation in Alberta had slowed as it had across Canada, due to a lack of business for the fledgling companies that had raised enough money to buy surplus aircraft at the end of the First World War. There were no longer cheap aircraft available from the government and not enough revenue to replace the aging Curtiss JN4s.

Gertrude de la Vergne The federal government was aware that aviation was in decline, and even those expert pilots who had been trained for the war effort were not flying regularly. At the same time, the British government had responded to the decline by establishing a system of aero clubs to provide pilot training, acknowledging the importance of aviation to the economy and future war efforts. Canada sought to establish the same kind of aero club system that had been established in Britain.

Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) established a program where it would provide two free aircraft to every club that had a good landing field, a hangar, a qualified flying instructor, an air engineer, licensed pilots, and thirty members who wanted to learn to fly. In addition, the DND would provide free aircraft for every aircraft the club purchased. For the first 30 pilots that graduated, a club would receive an additional $100 each. The sole purpose of the clubs was to train new pilots, so no club was allowed to participate in commercial activities.

Students and instructors were active in CalgaryThe program by the Department of National Defence brought a new interest in flight to Alberta with the immediate establishment of clubs in Calgary and Edmonton. By 1928, the Northern Alberta Aero Club had 100 students enrolled in ground school that would soon graduate as pilots. In Edmonton, like many communities across the country, the municipal government agreed to provide funds to improve the airfield, build hangars, provide electric lighting, and other equipment as needed. All these improvements to local airfields assisted local commercial air companies as well. The success of the aero club was seen when Edmonton contributed $35,000 to upgrade Blatchford Field in 1929.
 

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