Blatchford Field might not have come to be if not for the efforts of legendary bush pilot, Wilfred "Wop" May.
"My dad was flying out of Mayfield, about a mile west of here as early as 1919," says May's son Denny, the official keeper of the family history since his father's death in 1952. By 1924 the elder May decided the old field was too small.
"He talked to the mayor, Ken Blatchford, and said 'Could we get this Hagman Farm and convert that into an airport. It would be really handy. It's along Portage Avenue (now Kingsway) which is a nice road.' Ken Blatchford and my dad pushed the thing through city council and it became Blatchford field."
The field opened for flying in 1927, but it would take a momentous event almost two years later for the airfield to prove its worth.
"My dad got a call from Dr. Bow, the provincial deputy minister of health, saying 'We need diphtheria antitoxin flown up to Fort Vermillion,' " says May. "My dad and a new pilot, Vic Horner, got in their (open cockpit) Avro Avion on January 2, 1929, and headed down to Peace River. It became a nation-wide and a North America-wide phenomenon. They sent a photographer here from New York to cover the story. They got the serum to Fort Vermillion. There were 10,000 people here to greet them at the airport when they landed."
After that, Edmonton City Council approved money to improve the airport and Edmonton went on to become the aviation gateway to the North. May went on to establish Commercial Airways, flying all over northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. When World War II started, he turned his attention to helping train Commonwealth air crews. He served as general manager of Number 2 Air Observers School (AOS), based at Blatchford in the very hangar that is now home to the Alberta Aviation Museum.
Wop May's son will be the keynote speaker at the museum's Blatchford Field 90th Anniversary celebration, June 24 from 10 am to 4 pm.
The event will have many family-friendly activities including a chance for children to have their pictures taken dressed up as bush pilots and fighter pilots. Visitors also will get access to the cockpits of airplanes normally closed to the public.
We'll also be staging a re-enactment of the opening of Blatchford Field. This is an event you won't want to miss. Keep your eyes on our web site and Facebook for more exciting details.