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Pioneers of The Air

Aircraft Line.

Airplane engines first echoed over the lakes and forests of northern Saskatchewan in the summer of 1924. In that year, the Royal Canadian. Air Force flew the first aerial photography surveys over the Reindeer Lake and Churchill River regions of northern Saskatchewan.

One of these RCAF flying boats landed at Stanley Mission to refuel at the Hudson's Bay post. As pilot Squadron Leader B.D. Hobbs and his crew of a mechanic, an observer, and a cameraman stepped out of the airplane, they were welcomed by an. an excited crowd who had never before seen an airplane. Later that summer, the survey crew flew into Prince Albert from northern. Saskatchewan. An enthusiastic Daily Herald reporter described the scene as Hobbs and his crew arrived that August evening:

Soaring through the skies and swooping downwards from the heights above the pine crested hills miles north of Prince Albert four intrepid aviators descended upon the city at seven o'clock last evening in their twelve-cylinder Vickers-Viking hydroplane on the shores of the North Saskatchewan slightly east of the fire hall, where a great gathering of Prince Albertans greeted them as they moored alongside the river's edge at that point where once was the wharf which was the haven of doughty riverboats in the years now history.... Half an hour after the plane was first sighted the boat had been moored and the birdmen were on their way to the hotel and comfort.

The arrival of Vickers Viking G-CYET.

The arrival of Vickers Viking G-CYET at Prince Albert in August 1924, after its historic flight over Northern Saskatchewan. The crowd welcoming Squadron Leader B.D. Hobbs includes
John Diefenbaker, in the centre, wearing a fedora hat.
Photograph courtesy of National Archives of Canada.


Treaty Parties

As part of their treaty responsibilities, the federal Department of Indian Affairs sent parties of representatives every summer to the main trading posts across Canada. In northern Saskatchewan, these treaty parties travelled for months by canoe to the scattered settlements, distributing annuities, groceries, ammunition, and fishnets. The treaty party honoured the occasion with a colourful ceremony, and each community reciprocated with its own celebrations. The communities spent days preparing for the event.

The treaty party arrived at Lac La Ronge in four or five good-sized canoes and included the federal officials, a doctor, a clerk, a Mountie, and a cook. Later, the treaty party traded in its paddles in favour of motors. The communities would greet the visitors with a volley of shots fired skyward. John McKay told about treaty days at Lac La Ronge before the airplanes:

There would be a big celebration. They used to camp here in front of the hospital, a nice place beside the sawmill. After the people got paid, they would show us what was in the canoes. They used to have anything you could think of, anything you might use or need in the bush - gunpowder, shot, shells. They used to have the brass shells that you could load yourself, and reload them again and put the cap on it.

There would be a big dance, two nights for sure, and they played quite a few games, like running and paddling races.

The Department of Indian Affairs was one of the first federal agencies to make use of airplanes. In the early 1920s, some northern people no longer eagerly watched for the treaty party to appear on the horizon of the lake. Instead, they scanned the sky for the tiny black speck of the "flying gasoline canoe." They did not realize at the time how much their north would change because of the airplanes they were welcoming at their shores.

Joe Mirasty of Brochet, Manitoba, remembered the early days when the treaty party arrived by airplanes at Brochet. In those days, the airplanes arrived and out stepped the Indian Affairs official, the pilot, and a Mountie in a red coat. The government official told of the benefits of the treaty and of being a treaty Indian. He pointed to the sun and a rock out in the lake, declaring, "This treaty will stand as long as the sun shines and as long as that rock is there."

"A couple of years later," recalled Mirasty with a smile, "they built the dam at the south end of Reindeer Lake and covered up the rock. They've been trying to change the treaty ever since."



Squadron Leader B.D. Hobbs.

Squadron Leader B.D. Hobbs and the crew of Vickers Viking flying boat G-CYET during the
summer of 1924. From left, Corporal Alex Milne, Squadron Leader Hobbs, R.D. Davidson,
and Flying Officer J.R. Cairns. Photograph courtesy of National Archives of Canada.

Airplanes had landed at Prince Albert before, but the fact that the airplanes arrived from the north and was of such size gave the event great importance. The sight of the airplanes drew hundreds of spectators. Some helped the "birdmen" moor the airplanes, reporters eagerly sought interviews, and other onlookers marvelled at the size and equipment of the aircraft.

The Viking airplanes, designed by the Vickers company in Britain, was assembled for the RCAF by Canadian Vickers Limited in Montreal. It was designed to land on the water on a boat-like hull, which made it exceptionally well suited for use over the uncharted lakes of northern Saskatchewan. The Daily Herald reporter described the "hydroplane" as a marvel of intricacies. It had a twelve-cylinder engine suspended from the top wing above the pilot. It was 10 metres long, with a graceful, yacht-like body of mahogany. The wings had a span of 15 metres and were made of spruce and covered with a fine linen fabric.

Hobbs and his survey crew had the thrill, of being the first to see and photograph the lakes and lands of northern Saskatchewan from the air. Their work was the base of the first reliable maps of the area.

In April 1.925, Ottawa announced that aerial surveys of a further 207,200 square kilometres of land across Canada would be undertaken during the summer. This survey was a co-operative effort between the RCAF and the Department of the Interior. In Saskatchewan, Prince Albert and Battleford areas were photographed, providing a valuable addition to the previous year's survey of the Churchill River-Reindeer Lake region.

RCAF photographing and mapping activity increased dramatically over the next few years. The areas that showed the greatest potential for mineral development were photographed and mapped first. A mineral discovery at Rottenstone Lake and a mine development at Flin Flon had created a demand for maps of the northern region.



Aerial Photography

In the 1920s, the Royal Canadian Air Force aerial photographers took two kinds of photographs: vertical and oblique. Vertical. photographs are taken with the camera pointing straight down. This method is used almost exclusively for map-making today, and the Canadian government has not used oblique photography since 1947. Vertical photographs taken from aircraft and satellites at altitudes never dreamed of in the 1920s now provide map-like photographs with great ground detail.

Oblique photography, on the other hand, was done with the camera pointed at an angle to the ground. The method had several drawbacks. Ground distance measurements were difficult to make on the photograph. Also, aerial obliques had "dead ground" hidden behind hills, ridges, and other sharply rising features.

However, obliques had some distinct advantages over verticals. First, and very important considering so little was known of the northern lands, oblique photography could cover large areas very quickly. Second, a series of overlapping oblique photographs gave a gradual unfolding of the landscape. These views were not only helpful to map makers but to prospectors, road builders, foresters, and others who wanted to literally "see" what the land looked like.

To photograph the north, the government divided northern Saskatchewan into blocks of about 100 kilometres square. Each block was laid out with flight lines ten kilometres apart.

In airplanes like the Vedette and other flying boats, the photographer, strapped into the front, stood with his camera mounted on the small deck in front of him. The pilot and co-pilot sat behind the photographer and had to concentrate on maintaining the heading and a fixed altitude between 1,000 and 1,500 metres.

As the pilot began flying a track, the photographer took three overlapping oblique photos: one straight ahead, one 45 degrees to the right, and one 45 degrees to the left. The photographer had no time to sit and watch the scenery. Every two kilometres, or approximately once a minute when travelling at about 130 kilometres an hour, he had to be ready to take the next set of three photos.

As a young boy, Norman MacAuley of Lac La Ronge loved airplanes and would occasionally ride with the photo crew. He sat down in the hull below the deck between the photographer and the pilots. The photographer was always busy changing film and soon he had young MacAuley helping him. MacAuley recalled:

That's what I did for them, change these little [films] ... take them out of one box, give it to him and put (the exposed one] in another box. The photographer was just pushing it in all the time and then he'd take a snap. He was busy all the time and his hands were always going.

In all, a 9,600 square kilometre block required at least 20 hours in the air and more than 2,500 photographs.


The day's work did not end on landing. The photographer then had to develop and print his day's shooting. If a picture did not turn out, the location was marked and he had to return on the next flight for another shot.

Once the pictures were in the hands of the cartographers, a tool called a perspective grid was used to measure distances. Using these distances, along with the compass direction of the photograph, the cartographers could begin to make a map of the area. Distances were re-measured and checked as physical features came closer to the camera. Finally, ground surveyors would go to the area and make actual measurements, giving greater accuracy to the maps. Only then could a topographical map be released to the public.



Mineral discoveries were seen as a means of developing a little known and untravelled wasteland into a productive part of the province. Prospectors were eager for any new maps that might lead them to that once-in-a-lifetime claim. By 1927, the entire Churchill River basin had been photographed, although the maps were not issued for another two years. In 1928, the RCAF used a fleet of 18 airplanes to photograph 259,000 square kilometres of unmapped forest districts across Canada, including the Cold Lake, Lac La Ronge, and Reindeer Lake areas. They took 88,000 aerial photographs that summer.

At the same time, the RCAF adopted the new role of aerial patrolling to spot forest fires in northern Saskatchewan. These timber-producing areas always faced the threat of fire. The airplanes brought about revolutionary changes in controlling forest fires: fires could be detected sooner, firefighters could be delivered to the scene more quickly, and more valuable timberland could be saved.

Up until this time, forest protection work was carried out by forest rangers. The forestry department had built many lookout towers and kilometres of telephone lines. In the northern region, 28 forest rangers patrolled the forests, each ranger patrolling about 4,000 square kilometres. Their task involved tedious and back-breaking travel by canoe along rivers and wind-swept lakes. Only the forests south of the Churchill River system, roughly the 56th parallel, were patrolled. The lands north of the Churchill River were too far away for practical fire control, and the timber stands were of little commercial value. Without roads, rails, or waterways, it was too expensive to bring the lumber out to the south.

In 1927, J. Smart, Inspector of the Forestry Branch for the province of Saskatchewan, announced that the forestry department would increase the efficiency of its fire protection by using aircraft. It was to be a co-operative venture. The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals would provide essential radio communications. The RCAF would supply the aircraft and personnel. Two Vickers Vedettes and a Vickers Varuna would be based at Ladder Lake to support forest protection, while two more Vedettes would be assigned to photographic work, particularly in the Prince Albert National Park area.

That same year, the RCAF established a permanent airbase on Ladder Lake near the small community of Big River. Big River, about 100 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert, was inside the southern edge of Saskatchewan's timberland and was ideal for an airbase during the 1920s. It was a northern frontier town, but it was also a centre of activity, especially during the winter months. Freighters with horses and sleighs hauled supplies into the villages and outposts of northwestern Saskatchewan. There was commercial fishing and logging in the area, and the town was directly linked to Prince Albert by rail.

The base itself was at the southeast end of the lake and had a sandy beaching area. Soon the base developed into an important facility. Ladder Lake was ideal for the flying boats. The long, narrow lake lined up directly with the prevailing northwest winds, helping the RCAF flying boats lift off the water.

The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals radio station on the base was part of an Atlantic-to-Pacific radio network. The base office handled the business of Ladder Lake, and flight reports went from there to Ottawa and the Forestry Service. The nearby aviation - stores building provided almost every supply needed to keep the airplanes flying, while the forestry-stores handled fire fighting tools and water pumps and also had a weather office. At the centre of the compound were two 22,700-litre fuel tanks. By 1930, other buildings included officers' quarters and mess, men's winter quarters, a cookhouse, recreation room, fire pump station, bathhouse, workshop, and lighting plant. Today, not a trace of these buildings remains.

Two sub-bases were established at Lac La Ronge and Ile a la Crosse to further penetrate and patrol the northern forests. Aviation fuel had been freighted to these bases during the winter of 1926-27. Later, bases were built at Reindeer Lake and Waskesiu. The base at Waskesiu accommodated the RCAF fire patrol aircraft as well as commercial companies operating in the north. The commercial companies found it was a convenient stepping stone to the northern mineral areas.

The fire patrol routes, as described by Inspector Smart, were to be like a large three-leafed clover with the centre being Ladder Lake. The eastern patrol flew over Montreal Lake to East Trout Lake, then refuelled at Lac La Ronge. The western patrol left Ladder Lake and flew to Ile a la Crosse where they refuelled. The central patrol flew from Ladder Lake north to Lac La Ronge, west to Pinehouse, and back to Ladder Lake. Normally, each route was to be patrolled on consecutive days unless weather or hazardous conditions required more flights.


Vickers Vedette flying boat G-CYYA.

Vickers Vedette flying boat G-CYYA from Ladder Lake
on forestry patrol over Northern Saskatchewan in 1930.
Photograph courtesy of Dick Bird, Ray Crone Collection.

Like guardian eagles the planes of the Royal Canadian Air Force hover and soar over northern Saskatchewan's forest lands, ever on the alert for the first signs of the forest's greatest enemy, fire," praised the Herald. The forest rangers, who had once paddled the northern water routes patrolling for fires, now remained at their headquarters and relied on the RCAF flying boats to patrol, detect fires, and transport fire fighting crews.

Basic patrol work was carried out with the small Vickers Vedettes, a single-engine biplane that chugged along at about 130 kilometres an hour. They may have been slow, but they were dependable and met the short take-off requirement for forestry work. The small flying boat was designed at the Canadian Vickers plant in Montreal specifically to meet Canadian forestry requirements for a patrol aircraft. The hull was made of elm and covered in cedar planking. The wings were constructed of wire-braced wood. Although they could carry up to three people, the low-powered Vedette normally carried just the pilot and one passenger, with very little baggage. The crew sat exposed to the weather, with the pilot sitting, just below and ahead of the engine which was suspended from. the top wing. There were no mufflers on these early airplanes engines and they were very loud. The observer sat in the front cockpit and braved the elements. However, he had the best seat in the house with an unobstructed view to the left, right, and straight ahead - and straight down if he cared to lean out that far.


Three types of RCAF flying boats.
Three types of RCAF flying boats lined up at the Ladder Lake dock in 1929, including
four Vickers Vedettes, one Vickers Viking and a Vickers Varuna.
Photograph courtesy of Saskatchewan Archives.

One of the firefighters who was transported by the Vedettes was John McKay, a young man from La Ronge. He recalled what it was like to be part of the early airborne fire suppression crews:

They moved the Vedettes in here for fires, and I went in those planes lots of times. There were no safety belts or anything. They put the fire fighting supplies at the back and the sides, and you got a grip on it.

Of the Vedettes, he said:

Oh boy, they are noisy. The motor's right close with no mufflers. We worked on lots of fires. The last one I was at, they took us over to Brooks Island, on the south end of it. That's where the fire was. There were only three of us.

Raising his hands high, he explained:

This fire was just going up like that. We worked on it the first night till midnight, and it started raining. Once you got the fire out, you had those pack sacks with water, and anywhere the fire was we sprayed water on it.

McKay recalled the Vedette pilot who delivered food to the firefighters as "that crazy pilot!" McKay said the pilot was a young fellow who had been in the First World War, and he used firefighters' food parcels for bombing practice. Instead of landing at a nearby sand beach close to the camp, the pilot threw the first two parcels, circled, and threw the last one. McKay recalled, "He just missed the water. He would fly by and throw it out - and he knew how far to throw it."

The Vedette flying boats were well-liked by RCAF personnel who used them to fly the forest patrol routes and the aerial photography surveys. However, they were too small for transport work in northern areas.

At the RCAF's request for a flying boat capable of transporting men and equipment to forest fires, Vickers Limited designed the Varuna by enlarging the Vedette model. The Varuna was built for heavy hauling. The twin-engine biplane carried a pilot and as many as seven passengers. During times of high fire danger, it would remain on standby at Ladder Lake, ready to transport men., equipment, and supplies to a water landing area nearest the fire. The crews off the Varuna, however, were limited by the airplane's low power and speed and were restricted to flying only from large bodies of water.

The Vedettes were equipped with wireless radio transmitters. As they patrolled, they radioed the location of fires to ground stations, and within minutes the Varuna would be airborne with a crew of fire fighters. If the fire was near Big River, it brought a local crew. For fires farther out, it went to the fire ranger nearest the fire and picked up fire fighters from that area. The Varuna also carried another innovation: small gasoline water pumps which were transported into the fire area with the crews. The fire rangers and fire fighting crews were also provided with two canvas panels 6 metres long and 1 metre wide. The canvas panels were used to signal to the patrol. airplanes above them to bring more men and supplies or advise the pilot on when to pick up the fire crews. The aircraft were put to use in the summer of 1927, and much valuable timber was saved.

In the spring of 1928, the Saskatchewan Air Patrol, as it was then called, was ready, although it only had four airplanes available that year. One was a little de Havilland Moth used for fire detection with the Vedettes. The Moth was small and light. It could be used for patrolling much earlier in the year than the Vedette flying boats, since the Moth could be equipped with skis for flying before spring break-up.

By mid-summer the airplanes were carrying extra crew: homing pigeons. The Herald explained that the homing pigeons were "the airman's `friend in need.' If everything else fails him he can trust his pigeons to help him out of a tight place." If the pilot had to make a forced landing, he could simply attach a little tube to the pigeon's leg and place a note inside telling of his location and problem.

The 1928 fire season was a bad one. By mid-August there had been 170 fires, compared to 62 the previous year, but the timber loss was much less. The Saskatchewan Air Patrol had proved the effectiveness of airplanes in the north.


Radio Comes to the North

Not only was this period the beginning of the era of aircraft transportation, it was the beginning of radio communications as well. In 1927, when the Saskatchewan government first began using aircraft for forest fire patrol, it combined the new radio-telegraph signal with a communication system that had been around for a very long time - the heliograph, a mirror device that flashed the sun's rays to send messages.

Heliographs were used each morning to signal weather reports from lookout towers to the north, east, and west of the city into Prince Albert. Reports were relayed in from tower to tower from as far away as 120 kilometres. In Prince Albert, the fire danger rating was determined and then transmitted by radio to Ladder Lake where all the patrol aircraft were based. Appropriate patrols were then made.

The two Ladder Lake fire patrol airplanes were equipped with radio-telegraph transmitters, but not receivers. The portable radio transmitter weighed 50 kilograms and had a wire antenna trailing behind the airplane with electrical power provided by a tiny wind generator. If a fire was spotted, its location and any other necessary information was keyed to Ladder Lake. The larger fire suppression airplane was quickly dispatched with men and equipment to the fire area. After dropping the men at the fire site, the airplane returned to home base at Ladder Lake.

Later, long distance radio communication came to northern Saskatchewan. Station-to-station radio had already been in use for some time in Manitoba. During the summer of 1928, the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals erected two towers in Prince Albert which supported an 85-metre antenna to maintain radio contact with the station at Cormorant Lake, Manitoba. The increase in communication capability was intended to aid in the suppression of forest fires between Prince Albert and Cormorant Lake. The public, though, could send personal messages for a nominal fee.

To prepare for station-to-station communications, other radio-telegraph stations were constructed that winter at strategic sites across northern Saskatchewan.

In April of 1929, the pilot tapped his message on a telegraph key and the signal was received at all five northern radio-telegraph stations: Prince Albert, Ladder Lake, Ile a la Crosse, Lac La Ronge, and the most distant station, Pelican Narrows. The importance of this was that now suppression aircraft could be based at the new radio-telegraph stations rather than at Ladder Lake. After receiving radio instructions from a patrol airplane, the suppression aircraft could reach the fire more quickly. As well, the patrol pilot had the comfort of knowing he was always in contact with a ground station in case he was forced down because of weather or mechanical problems.

The airplane reduced the time to relay important information between points in the north from weeks to just hours. The radio further reduced this time to mere seconds.



<b>A Vickers Vedette Mark II, G-CYZN.</b>

A Vickers Vedette Mark II, G-CYZN, refuelling at Deschambault Lake in 1930.
Photograph courtesy of Dick Bird, Ray Crone Collection.

In March 1929, the forestry air patrol returned to Ladder Lake, and the forests were already dry. Now, however, the air patrol was more certain of their mission and their job. Flight Lieutenant G.F. Mason Apps, who had been in charge of the Dominion Topographical Survey in Saskatchewan, was the new base commander, taking over from Flight Lieutenant G.A. Mercer.

Originally from England, Apps had been a tough combat pilot during the First World War and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. He came to Canada and served with equal peacetime honour in the RCAF.

Commander Apps was given five airplanes: three Vedettes, the Varuna, and a de Havilland Moth. He immediately put the Moth on skis for early spring fire detection. The Varuna had not arrived yet, so he brought in a Fairchild from Winnipeg for suppression flying on skis. Although the Fairchild was small and low-powered compared to the airplanes that would follow, it immediately became popular with the RCAF as well as private aircraft operators. The Canadian subsidiary of Fairchild Aircraft had been influential in designing the aircraft to suit Canadian. conditions and RCAF requirements. The Fairchild was designed with a heated and enclosed cabin and increased load carrying capacity. It had excellent visibility forward as well as low rear cabin windows to permit oblique photography. Aside from these improvements, the Fairchild could easily be converted from wheels to skis or floats. This feature alone made the Fairchild attractive to aviators in northern Canada.

As soon as the ice was gone from Ladder Lake, Apps moved the Fairchild and Moth, both on skis, farther north, and the flying boats were put into the water. Once the entire north was clear of ice, the Fairchild and Moth went on floats. The plan was to base the Varuna, one Vedette, and the de Havilland Moth at Ladder Lake, and two Vedettes at Lac La Ronge. He stationed 13 men at the Ladder Lake base, including 2 officers, a sergeant pilot, a radio operator, and mechanics. An officer, a sergeant pilot, a mechanic, and a rigger formed the team of four men that was stationed at Lac La Ronge.

The fire season of 1929 picked up where the previous season ended. There was little rain during the early part of the season. Fires raged near Christopher Lake, the Torch River area, and the region north of Nipawin. The Fairchild and a Vedette were marshalled to the Beaver River area north of Meadow Lake and Green Lake. The Varuna, registered as G-CYZR and piloted by Sergeant Winnie, finally arrived in the north on June 2 from its Winnipeg base, freeing the Fairchild for service elsewhere.

That year, the airplanes made 242 flights, totalling 930 hours of flying time and logging 98,000 kilometres. They did not have a single mechanical accident during the season, as they photographed and patrolled. In the fall, the airplanes were either parked at Ladder Lake or returned to their winter bases in Manitoba.

The next year, they prepared to go farther north to patrol for forest fires. In February 1930, Brooks Construction and Transportation Company freighted in supplies from Prince Albert for an RCAF base at Reindeer Lake. Later, Brooks' sleighs carried two 22,700-litre fuel tanks and floats for the Moth to Lac La Ronge base. A heavy snow cover that winter delayed the spring fire season, though the crews of the Moth and Fairchild were spotting some fires by mid-March.

Apps and his men awaited a new airplane: the Vickers Vancouver. This biplane was to replace the Vickers Varuna that had served faithfully since the beginning of Saskatchewan Air Patrol. The Varuna, however, had problems with low power and speed which had constantly vexed the RCAF pilots. As a result of discussions with the RCAF, Canadian Vickers Limited built a new aircraft from an entirely new approach. The Vancouver had greater power, a steel hull, carried ten men, and flew higher than the Varuna. The Vancouver was an improvement in transportation for fire suppression work, since it could take off easily with a full load on, lakes from which even the little Vedette could not be flown.


A Fairchild airplane at H.B.C.

A Fairchild airplanes at Island Falls near Sandy Bay in 1930.
Photograph courtesy of Dick Bird, Ray Crone Collection.

However, the promised Vancouver had not arrived by June, and the summer weather was a scorcher with temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius. Apps had to face the growing number of fires with four Vedettes, a Moth, and the Fairchild. Finally, on August 1, the Vancouver arrived. There was no time for a welcoming party. The pilot headed the Vancouver directly for the fires burning in the Lac La Ronge area.

The summer was doubly difficult for Apps and his men. Besides the dry conditions, they knew it might be their last year in Saskatchewan. Up until this time, the federal government had retained control of Saskatchewan's natural resources in order to regulate settlement and railway expansion. In return for relinquishing control over the land, Saskatchewan received a yearly compensation payment from the federal government. However, Premier Anderson had negotiated with the federal government for provincial control of all natural resources in Saskatchewan. The transfer date was August 1, 1930. Federal employees and departments such as forestry and fisheries would be retained until the provincial government had its own administrative organization in place.

The province would now have to contract for forestry air patrol services because it had no airplanes of its own. The contract could go to the RCAF if its price was low enough. But the contract could go to any other operator who offered a good price - and Western Canada Airways won the contract.

In the fall of 1930, Apps closed the door at the RCAF's Saskatchewan Air Patrol Ladder Lake base for the last time. He was transferred to Camp Borden, Ontario, after being in charge of Ladder Lake for over two years. The following year, Apps was killed when his Fairchild struck a tree while engaged in a navigational training course at Peterborough, Ontario.

The RCAF maintained a presence at Ladder Lake during the next few years, mostly to provide forestry patrol and other air services for the federal government within Prince Albert National Park. As well, when Western Canada Airways spotted a fire, the RCAF also sent in fire fighters.

By the winter of 1931-32, Saskatchewan was in the grips of the Great Depression. The federal government had established relief work programs for men at Prince Albert National Park. RCAF Fairchild aircraft were stationed at Ladder Lake to ferry winter supplies to relief workers, who were surveying and cutting a boundary line around the park.

The first period of northern. Saskatchewan's aviation history was over. In seven short years, aviators had done more than take pictures and spot fires. The whole effort proved that the airplane could penetrate the remote areas of Saskatchewan, hundreds of kilometres from their bases at the "end of the road." Unlike earlier fly-over operations, the RCAF aircraft and their personnel were a continuing presence in northern Saskatchewan. As they travelled their air routes, aircraft became less a novelty and more a part of northern life.


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