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Alberta's Aviation Heritage
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A helicopter is working on the Mid-Canada radar lineThe Mid Canada Line was planned in 1951, but was not operational until 1958. It ran from the Alaska border to the Atlantic, and was made up of eight central stations and 90 unmanned stations. This system continued to operate until new technology replaced it, with the western half shutting down in January 1964 and the eastern section stopping in April 1965.

To facilitate the building and maintenance of the Mid Canada Line, there were two major and ten minor airfields built, along with a large number of helicopter pads. Transportation into the remote sites of the Line was possible by air, tractor train, and in some cases, by sea. Helicopters became the clear choice for the majority of transportation needs on the Mid Canada Line. There were not enough civilian helicopters to carry out such a large project, so the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was given the task.

To provide such a large helicopter force the 108 Communications Flight was established at Bagotville on 1 June 1954 with Squadron Leader T.R. Heaslip as the Commanding Officer. Heaslip was the most experienced helicopter pilot in the RCAF. Eighteen helicopters were needed, including Six Piasecki H12s and six Sikorsky H34s that were ordered and another six H12s were brought in from Search and Rescue units that were spread out across Canada. The RCAF was also able to get six more helicopters form the USAF. The work began with the use of the Sikorsky H19 (S55) helicopters. After an accelerated training period for the members of the new RCAF helicopter unit, the work of transporting equipment and men started on 31 May 1955. By September, there were four detachments, including one in Grande Prairie. Supplies needed for the building and ongoing operation of the Mid Canada Line were delivered to points at the end of the rail line and transported north by helicopters operated by the RCAF. The effort to bring supplies for the building and maintenance of the Mid Canada Line provided opportunity for the RCAF to build a strong contingent of helicopter pilots that remains an effective component of the air force today.

The Pinetree Line was not constructed along a uniform latitude like the DEW Line and the Mid Canada Line. It was a series of radar facilities that were spread out across the more highly populated southern Canada and northeastern United States regions.

The massive efforts to create and maintain the DEW Line and the Mid Canada Line assisted in creating a strong air industry and air force in Canada that could reach into the far north and around the world.

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