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Alberta's Aviation Heritage
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Busiest Airport in North America

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Busiest Airport in North America

Under the federal government, Blatchford Field lengthened and improved runways and increased construction of taxiways. Larger hangars were constructed, and a new administration building was built. Air traffic increased considerably between 1939 and 1945, as the British Commonwealth Air Training Schools, defence activities, and the Northwest Staging Route brought increasing demands on the airport.

In March and April of 1942, there was an additional demand made on Blatchford Field when the American government pressed ahead with the construction of the Alaska Highway, which added a land-based transportation route north. Air transport of personnel and supplies was a factor in the rapid building of the Alaska Highway, allowing work to take place at several places at the same time. Airfields at Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray also saw significant increases in air traffic during this time.

Another development that added to the air traffic in Edmonton, Peace River, Embarras, Grande Prairie, and Calgary was the construction of the Canol Pipeline, which would run from Norman Wells to Whitehorse. Crude oil from Norman Wells was to be sent to a new refinery at Whitehorse and then moved by additional pipelines to where it could be used on the Northwest Staging Route and the Alaska Highway.

During a 24-hour period at the Blatchford Field in June 1942, there were 500 landing aircraft reported. One of the busiest days, 29 September 1942, saw over 850 arrivals and departures. In 1943, Blatchford Field held the record as the busiest airfield in North America.

By the summer of 1943 the demand had increased so much at the Edmonton airport that a new airfield known as Namao was built 11 kilometres north of Edmonton, and was operated by the Americans until the end of the war.

Walter Bennett
Wartime Airfield Construction Part 2: Building Up the Hangar – Walter Bennett
Mr. Bennett explains the order of construction and how all the pieces of the hangar went together.
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Source: Myers, Patricia A. Sky Riders: An Illustrated History of Aviation in Alberta 1906-1945. Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1995.
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