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Polar Wings: A Century of Flying the North.

Polar Wings: A Century of Flying the North by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. Toronto: Dundurn, 224 pp., illus., colour, soft cover, $28.99.

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Although there was a balloon ascension in Dawson City in 1906, aviation did not really get its start in the North until after World War I. In 1920, six members of the Alaska Air Expedition flew from New York to Nome, Alaska, introducing the North into heavier than air craft. They were followed by a spate of "barnstormers"--ex-servicemen with surplus military aircraft putting on shows for public entertainment.

One of the first corporations to realize the advantage of flight was Imperial Oil which, in 1921 obtained two Junkers-Larsen JL-6s. Meanwhile, Edmonton became the jumping off place for the North and local aviation companies quickly appeared in the city. Such companies as May-Gorman Aeroplanes, Mackenzie Air Service, and Canadian Airways Limited were soon providing service to the far North and the term "bush pilot" became part of Edmonton's lexicon.

In passing years air mail service was offered, and strikes of gold and uranium resulted in a steady traffic of aircraft into the North. Names such as Matt Berry, Punch Dickens, Wop May, and Pete Derbyshire became familiar to anyone who knew the North.

World War II brought more changes, with the construction of the Northwest Staging Route, the Alaska Highway, and the CANOL Project all relying on Canadian and American aircraft as did the later DEW line. Aviation proved to be the key that opened the door to the Far North.

This is an excellent book. It is thoroughly researched, very readable, profusely illustrated, and effectively covers the whole gamut of aviation in the North.

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Publication:Alberta History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2015
Words:278
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