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Bush Pilots

Saskatchewan Government Airways Norseman airplane at Cree Lake. The Norseman planes were used for freight hauling, and also for smoke jumping.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-B327-7

It was in August 1924 that the first aerial survey pilots flew into northern Saskatchewan. The challenge they faced was to photograph the uncharted areas of the Churchill River and Reindeer Lake in open cockpit Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) flying boats. Many of these early bush pilots in northern Saskatchewan received their wings with the Air Force in World War I. However, aircraft that flew north in the 1920s and 1930s were often mechanically unreliable and not well designed for the task: with no radio communication, reliable maps or weather reports, bush pilots relied on their ingenuity to fly into northern regions. By 1940, many of the early bush pilots were recruited by the RCAF to train young pilots for service in World War II through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). After the war, many among this next generation of pilots headed north to participate actively in the growth of mineral exploration and resource development in Saskatchewan. Improved aircraft reliability and radio communication provided the opportunity to fly in better conditions and open up new areas of the north.

Doug Chisholm

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University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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